Waitomo Caves

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From spectacular underground caves to the wild coast, Waitomo and its surrounding landscape offer an experience that is unlike any other.

Destination Waitomo

The magical underground world of Waitomo can be found just an hour south of Hamilton. This is a land of immense beauty and variety as rolling hills, unspoilt native forest and rich farmland gives way to glowworm filled subterranean limestone caverns.

Magical caving experiences

Waitomo sits atop a caving paradise formed naturally over millions of years, creating an utterly unique underground world unlike anything most people have ever experienced. 

Adventure on bush walks to explore open caves, enjoy guided cave tours through Ruakiri Cave and Aranui Cave, glide on underground boat rides through the radiant grottos of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves or the Spellbound Glowworm Cave, descend into the awe-inspiring Lost World or get your adrenaline fix with the thrill of black water rafting. There’s a wide range of caving experiences available to suit all ages, abilities and approaches to fun at Waitomo.

The tourism companies guiding visitors through the caves are deeply committed to protecting the fragile ecosystem and enjoy sharing their work with visitors. Hear some of the stories about their efforts to protect and enhance the environment they operate within on our Tiaki in Waitomo page.

Waitomo Caves Museum and Discovery Centre

New Zealand’s one and only speleological museum provides an educational deep dive into caves, the creatures within them, and the rich history of caving in Waitomo and around New Zealand. While you’re there, don’t miss the fun-filled ‘cave crawl’ challenge – an opportunity to climb and squeeze through cracks around the Discovery Centre

This is the perfect place to discover the geological processes that created the Waitomo area’s unique caves, and to learn about the history of the area and the local iwi (Māori tribe), which has cherished the caves for generations. Some of the iwi’s treasures are safeguarded here as well as a nationally significant collection of fossils and sub-fossils, making the museum a place of significance for a host of reasons. 

Ruakuri Bush Walk

Put on a good pair of hiking boots and venture into the kingdom of Tāne Mahuta (the Māori god of forests and birds) on this walk filled with birds and natural features including tunnels, caves, naturally sculpted cliffs, low limestone arches and an incredible forested gorge. 

This 1.6 km track is an excellent showcase of the unique landscape of the Waitomo area and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. Considered one of the best walks in the North Island, entry is free and the entrance can be found 4 km from Waitomo Village on Tumutumu Road.

Keep an eye out for forest birds including kererū (native wood pigeon), tūī, pīwakawaka (fantail), kārearea (New Zealand falcon) and tauhou (waxeye). Alternatively, visit by night with a torch to discover parts of this walk transformed into an otherworldly landscape, dotted with the luminescent lights of thousands of tiny glow worms. 

Near the car park you’ll find picnic tables, toilets and a grassed area for children to play on. There’s also a coin operated BBQ available for public use.

Marokopa Falls Walk

Stroll for 20 minutes through native tawa and nikau forest to reach the 35-metre-high Marokopa waterfalls.

The falls are only a short drive from Waitomo Caves and, with a reputation as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand, they’re well worth making a detour for. Wearing a decent pair of walking shoes or tramping boots is a good idea as the tracks can be slippery.

The viewing platform for the falls has been removed and a new viewing area is coming soon. Remain behind the barrier at the falls viewing site and take care on the walk as the trail may have been damaged due to recent severe weather.

Piripiri Cave Walk

This short family-friendly five minute walk leads you through native bush and past limestone outcrops to Piripiri Cave. Steps allow you to descend into the depths of the cave and marvel at the unusual ecosystem it houses.

Wearing a decent pair of walking shoes or tramping boots is a good idea as the tracks can be slippery and a torch will come in handy for negotiating the steps.

The Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk is only 4 km away for those who want to explore the natural wonders of Waitomo further.

Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk

Stroll through an ancient limestone gorge and marvel at the 17-metre-high natural bridge formed by the arch of a cave structure studded with stalactite-type formations. It’s an easy pushchair-friendly five-minute stroll to the base of the bridge and there’s also a 20-minute loop walk available that provides an opportunity to take in the stunning scenery and discover 25-million- year-old fossils preserved in the limestone outcrops. 

At present the walk is only partially open. Barriers are in place at the closed sections because it’s currently unsafe to be directly underneath the natural bridge. Wearing a decent pair of walking shoes of tramping boots is a good idea as the tracks can be slippery. 

The entrance to the track can be found on Te Anga Road, 25 km from Waitomo Village. The Piripiri Cave Walk is only 4 km away if you’d like to explore the natural wonders of the Waitomo further. 

Top activities in Waitomo

top pick Discover Waitomo
from
$33
Waitomo Valley

Ruakuri Cave

Ruakuri Cave offers a captivating blend of Waitomo's most compelling subterranean experiences. Journey down through the spectacular spiral entrance, and marvel at the softly folding shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries. Hear the distant thunder of the subterranean waterfalls and get up close to the glowworms. Ruakuri Cave is New Zealand's longest guided underground walking tour and an experience that must be seen to be believed. It will leave you open-mouthed, awe-struck and humbled by the sheer majesty of nature. With clever and innovative design, Ruakuri Cave has full wheelchair and pushchair access.
top pick Corin Walker-Bain
from
$20
Waitomo Caves

Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours

Our first priority is to take you in a small group so we can personalize your experience, our next is to give you the best possible opportunity to see and appreciate everything these exceptional caves offer. A close look at glowworms is a great way to start the tour, our guides can explain and show you everything. Giving you lots of time with the lights out, your eyes will fully adjust to the many thousands of small lights above, then an unhurried boat ride beneath them will simply amaze you. Short walks and warm refreshments are a great way to appreciate the beautiful surrounding above the caves and lastly a visit to the Cave of the Spirit is a really wonderful way to picture Waitomo’s treasure trove of ancient mysteries and stories.
top pick Waitomo Adventures Ltd
from
$425
Waitomo Caves

Lost World Half Day Option - 100m Abseil & Cave Exploration

The descent takes around 20 minutes of 4 hours required. Abseil alongside your instructor who provides information, reassurance and a backup safety tether. Imagine freehanging in a massive void bouncing a bit & turning - look into upper levels of the cave. Weird plants & formations cling to the sheer walls and the roar of the Mangapu River echoes up from far below. One guide looks after up to 4 people - who all make their unforgettable descent together down through the surreal mists and eventually landing in the base of this massive cavern. Once down, take in the awesome views before starting on an even more amazing trip back to the surface. Climb over massive slabs of rock and a series of ladders.
top pick Discover Waitomo
from
$28
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Waitomo region is home to unforgettable sightseeing attractions. Enjoy the world famous boat ride under thousands of magical glowworms and become a part of over 125 years of cultural and natural history. Our expert guides will draw you into this awesome environment, sharing the Caves' historical and geological significance. World renowned and a magnet for both local and overseas visitors, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occupy a high placing in the New Zealand vacation wish-list. More than 30 million years ago, the legend of Waitomo began with the creation of limestone at the bottom of the ocean. Now these limestone formations stand as one of New Zealand's most inspiring natural wonders and a must-see destination.
top pick Waitomo Adventures Ltd
from
$160
Waitomo Caves

Black Water Rafting - TTT

Black Water Rafting at its best. People love this. Blackwater Rafting is not like white water rafting. It's much gentler and you use car inner tubes instead of white water rafts. This trip spends about twice the underground time of any comparable blackwater trip. Explore the cave by walking, wading as well as swimming and tubing. There is lots of fun to be had along the way. See stalactite & stalagmites plus weird rock sculptures. Parts of the cave are lit by thousands of New Zealand's legendary glowworms. No prior experience is required and it is suitable for children down to 12 years old (minimum 40kg). Your wet-suit gives you lots of flotation - so you don't need to be a great swimmer. No abseiling on this option.
top pick Legendary Black Water Rafting Co
from
$130
Waitomo Caves

Black Labyrinth

What began as a special treat for a brave few has developed into an incredible and unique caving tour that gives visitors the chance to weave, jump, climb, and float through a glowworm-studded subterranean wonderland at Waitomo Caves. Visitors can jump off cascading underground waterfalls as experienced and trained guides take you safely through the stunning underworld of Ruakuri Cave.
top pick Rotor Work
from
$600
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Helicopter Experience

Fly to and from Waitomo and land on farmland with a small walk to the caves. Shut down for a few hours. You are spoilt for choice in this stunning part of New Zealand. Explore the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, or you might prefer to book a tour at the Ruakuri Cave or the Aranui Cave. There is the option of the Spellbound tour or for the thrill seekers, the Legendary Black Water Rafting Co is a must do. Learn loads about the area at The Waitomo Discovery Centre, or if you’ve never been zip lining before, the Waitomo Caves Zipline Park is waiting for your visit. The options are endless, along with the beautiful café restaurant, Huhu. Depending on what you choose to explore, we can vary the times of your visit.
top pick Tom Archer
from
$179
Waitomo Caves

Eco Cave Tour in Waitomo - Off the Beaten Track

Arrive at our farmhouse, and we'll outfit you from head to toe for this unforgettable journey. Experience an authentic eco-adventure for small groups (8 or less). Your 3-hour guided tour begins in lush native bush, climbing boulders, and wading through a stream into our untouched, natural caves. Here at Down to Earth, we're all about keeping it natural. Our caves remain untouched, with no concrete paths or flashy electric lights. It's the real deal – an authentic eco-adventure into the heart of New Zealand's enchanting glow worm environment. We're selfie-approved. Bring your small camera to capture the magic. Plus, we'll gift you a collection of photos, free of charge. Don't wait. Join us.
top pick Discover Waitomo
from
$249
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves Experience - Small Group Tour From Auckland By ExperienceKart

Waitomo Caves is one of the must-see natural attractions in the North Island of New Zealand. There’s so much to do. Above ground attractions combine with underground attractions to create two landscapes and twice the fun. Fresh air, rolling green fields and untouched native forest await, but the real attractions lie out of sight, in the huge cave system.
top pick Kyle Barnes
from
$702
Waitomo Caves

Footwhistle Glowworm Cave Private Tour

Exclusive access to Footwhistle Glowworm cave, situated 3km south of the Waitomo Caves village. It is surrounded by over 60 acres of native bush, now vested into QE2 Trust. Caveworld has proactively planted and re-established native bush around the cave to ensure food sources for the glow-worm habitats are maintained within the cave environment. This cave tour and traditional Ponga tea hut, has been developed for high end customers that demand personal service and an authentic offering. Since its inception we have focused on understanding our customers and filling a niche that is not catered for in Waitomo. A family business Our 6 Staff have collectively over 150 years’ experience in the industry and are local residents of Waitomo.
top pick Waitomo Adventures Ltd
from
$195
Waitomo Caves

Haggas Honking Holes

Ever wondered what it would be like to be flushed down the loo on a rope, well this is it - and what an amazing facility it is. See stalactites and stalagmites; columns and delicate straws. NZ's famous glowworms make an appearance - see them up close & personal. This trip is a blast. Participants are brave & moderately fit but you don't need any prior experience. All training & equipment is supplied. With over 33 years of operation, Waitomo Adventures Ltd is Waitomo's leading independent adventure operator, remains family owned. Loads of fun and an empowering experience.
top pick A Great Backyard - Corin Walker Bain
from
$2
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves Museum

The Waitomo Caves Museum is New Zealand's only specialist speleological museum. Of course we are - there are hundreds and hundreds of caves in Waitomo Caves - it's all in the name. This award-winning centre shows you the treasures of Waitomo above and below ground. We have glowworms and fossils and skeletons of birds and animals. Learn about our local community and history. Understand the geology and development of our caves and limestone (karst) landscapes. We show movies free of charge, there are activities for children and we have a cave crawl for the adventurous.

Top accommodation in Waitomo

top pick Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park
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$25
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park

An award winning park, within walking distance to the glow-worm caves and all Waitomo's activities. Accommodation ranges from motels to cabins, motorhome/caravan and tent sites. We have a swimming pool, hot tub, playground, wifi, covered barbecues, trampolines, and lots of space. Communal Sky TV Lounge and adjoining reading/relaxation room. Stay here while visiting the glowworm caves, black-water rafting, abseiling, ziplining, hiking local bush walks or, just come for a relaxing break. With great eateries all within a stroll you'll be sure to find something to suit. The award winning HuHu Cafe next door, The General Store Cafe across the road and Tomo's bar just round the corner.
top pick
from
$140
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Village Chalets

All Chalets are northerly facing and positioned to maximise sun, privacy and the spectacular rural vista. The property is walking distance to a family friendly pub, village eateries and the local museum.

The Waitomo Caves, and all the adventure tourism activities that Waitomo offer are close by.

top pick Mt Ruapahu
from
$350
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Boutique Lodge

Welcome to Waitomo Boutique Lodge & Cosy Cottage, your luxury Waitomo farm holiday retreat. Waitomo Boutique Lodge Farmstay is the home of the Miln family, who have cared for this large traditional working farm for three generations. The family's hospitality is famously generous and guests are welcome to participate in farm activities or make the most of the absolute comfort, quiet and relaxation of this wonderful estate. Montrose is a working farm. Guests can enjoy a farm tour, walks & picnics by prior arrangement. The farm also has 120 hectares of original natural bush with good walking tracks – enjoy a day out & be back at the estate in time for dinner. There is also hunting available with guides available by arrangement.
top pick Canopy Camping Escapes
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$290
Waitomo Caves

Canopy Camping Escapes - Wai Dome O

Positioned on the top of a steep hill, the views over the rolling farmland hills and native bush are breathtaking. In the distance, you can see the Ngaroma Hills, Mt Pureora and even the grand Waitomo Caves Hotel. The Dome is a large geodesic structure with front-row seats to soak up the views over the valley. A comfortable queen-sized bed, a small lounging area and a dining table are located inside. The toilet can be found a few steps outside the dome, while the kitchen and shower areas are located in their own separate buildings a few metres away. All of these structures were built using beautiful Lawson timber from the heart of the farm itself. During the day, take advantage of all the amazing activities in the region.
top pick Maea Media
from
$1320
Te Kūiti

Wild Canvas - Pōhutukawa Tent

Perched on top of a hill, the glampsite enjoys breathtaking 360 degree views which can be appreciated through the tents' generous windows and doors. You will be toasty warm all year around as the insulated tent has under floor heating, double glazed windows and doors, and a magnificent double sided fireplace. Step outside and you will find a seating area, BBQ and pizza oven nestled into the west side. Over to the eastern side you will find a fire pit to toast your marshmallows over and tell stories around, and a hot tub to relax in while you enjoy the outstanding panoramic views of the rolling hills. The sunken outdoor areas are the perfect place to watch sunrise and sunset, or partake in some stargazing.
top pick Mike Patton
from
$105
Te Kūiti

Motel Te Kuiti

Home of Hospitality. If you need accommodation in the heart of the king country your hosts Mike and Therese welcome you to stay at Motel Te-Kuiti. Offering twelve cosy well-appointed units, that suit your needs perfectly. Six Studio units have tea/coffee/ fridge/microwave facilities and six one bedroom units with kitchenettes. All units have 50+ Sky channels to choose from and free WiFi. Fully equipped guest Kitchen is also available, including laundry facilities. The Great Colin Meads Statue, shopping and dining options are within walking distance, or if you care to venture a bit further, the wonders of the wider Waitomo district awaits.
top pick
from
$140
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge

Situated right in Waitomo Caves village, next to Waitomo General Store, opposite award-winning Huhu Cafe. A short walk to The 'Tomo', Waitomo Discovery Centre, i-SITE & Waitomo Glowworm Caves. 8 ensuite studio units in a beautiful garden setting with lovely views. 2 rooms with queen bed, 3 with queen & single bed, one with queen & 2 single beds, one with queen, king single and a pull out trundler, and one with 2 single beds. Children 3 years and over are welcome. Large buffet continental breakfast is included. Each unit has; Freeview TV, hair dryer, heater & electric blanket, tea and coffee making facilities & insect screened windows. Free Wi-Fi, laptop available. Laundry facilities, fridge, BBQ & microwave available for guests.
top pick Ripples Retreat
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$365
Piopio

Ripples Retreat

Nestled in the tranquil Mangaotaki Stream's crook, Ripples is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills framed by rugged limestone cliffs.  Our guests love the peace and tranquillity and it truly is an intimate and healing sanctuary. Come Summer or Winter, it is a place to relax, chill out and explore- and it's exclusively yours. Under 3 hours from Auckland, we have designed Ripples to be our ultimate Zen like retreat. It is designed to be lived in and touched and to envelop you with lots of texture, details, film history, handmade and homemade items and original artworks. It's fully equipped for self-catering and there's so much to do from this central location you can easily spend a week here having a new adventure every day. Kids aged 5+
top pick Waitomo District Council
from
$20
Te Kūiti

Te Kuiti Holiday Park

Welcome to Te Kuiti - Shearing Capital of New Zealand. This holiday park is within walking distance to Brook Park reserve, local retail outlets, supermarket, and only a short drive glow-worm caves and all Waitomo's activities. The Holiday Park is operated as a KIWICAMP Facility, that allows freedom campers to pay for facilities using the KIWICASH payment service. You must have a KiwiCash key before you arrive. There are ten motorhome/caravan sites available within a secure site. We have facilities available cooking and laundry facilities, toilets, showers, recycling, and Free Wifi. The dump station is free to use. Stay here while visiting the greater Waitomo region - Timber Trail, Piopio and our beautiful coastal villages.
top pick Maea Media
from
$490
Te Kūiti

Wild Canvas - Kōwhai Tent

There are two outdoor bathtubs with breath-taking 360-degree views, as well as a pizza oven, fire pits and a projector to watch your favourite movies on. The kitchen features a BBQ, Buschbeck wood fired pizza oven, as well as gas hob to cook on. The kitchen features a few complimentary items - marshmallows and biscuits (for toasting on the firepit), butter, 750ml milk (Puhoi Valley), organic eggs from our farm, and a loaf of homemade bread. There is no electricty at the Kowhai Tent. The water in the bathroom, kitchen and outdoor baths are heated by gas. There is mobile phone and 4G coverage. ​
top pick YHA New Zealand
from
$30
Waitomo Caves

YHA Waitomo

Waitomo has been entertaining guests for decades with its deep caverns, luminescent glowworms and dark waterways for generations. YHA Waitomo offers the perfect base to experience all this spectacular place has to offer. The hostel is situated on a farm and has stunning views and native forest as your backdrop. Relax in a hammock by our large swimming pool and unwind from the adrenalin activities on your doorstep. Fully-equipped kitchen, large lounge with comfortable couches and DVD collection, dining area, great views from the balcony, WiFi, small convenience store, swimming pool, and room types to suit individual travellers or families. Enjoy a slice of serenity with us!