Nz waitomo glowworms 2 solo easygoing
Nz waitomo adventures lost world 2 partner adventure
Nz waitomo glowworms 1 solo easygoing
Nz waitomo glowworms 3 solo easygoing
Nz waitomo glowworms 2 solo easygoing
Nz waitomo adventures lost world 2 partner adventure
Nz waitomo glowworms 1 solo easygoing
Nz waitomo glowworms 3 solo easygoing
Discover a world of caves and underground rivers

Waitomo Caves

The name Waitomo comes from the Maori words wai (water) and tomo (hole.) Beneath the rolling green hills of Waitomo lies another world of caves and underground rivers. It's a place so magical that it has been described as one of New Zealand’s best natural attractions. Take a boat ride, abseil or zip-line into the darkness and as the glowworms light up the way, marvel at the wonder of nature.

Where are Waitomo Caves?

Spectacular glowworms cave Waitomo | New Zealand holiday
Take a boat tour and experience a starry night underground
A person standing in a cave lit up by glow worms
Discover a magical world of glowing light

Glowworm Caves

The Waitomo Caves are on the North Island of New Zealand and they are easily accessible from Hamilton, Auckland, Tauranga and Rotorua. In this mysterious world of connected river systems and stalactite and stalagmite formations, three main caves make up the Waitomo Cave network: The Glowworm Caves, Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves consists of a 400-metre tunnel and tours range from one to three hours.

A world 30 million years in the making

The Glowworm Caves are the most famous of the three caves, which have been an attraction for more than 130 years. The glowworm, Arachnocampa Luminosa, is exclusive to New Zealand, making it a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience. A walking or boat tour is the best way to explore the caves. As you silently (glowworms don't like noise) manoeuvre through the glowworm grotto, and the tallest Chamber, the Cathedral, these tiny living creatures radiate the luminescent light of a starry galaxy.

Tip: The temperature inside the Glowworm Cave is 16-17 degrees Celcius all year round. Bring a warm jacket and comfortable shoes.

People on a boat gliding through caves
Go on a multi-cave tour to get the full experience
Two people walking through an underground river into a cave
Enter into a labyrinth of caves and rivers

The largest Cave in the Waitomo area

The Ruakari Cave was first discovered almost 500 years ago and is the largest in the area. This cave is wheelchair accessible and is made up of a vast system of limestone formations and crystal tapestries. You'll get to see the glowworms up close and personal in this cave.

Discover an enchanted cave

The Aranui Cave doesn't have any glowworms but it is home to a mixture of brown, pink and white-hued stalactites and stalagmites. Enter a sparkling, shimmering world that you might believe is a fantasy if it were not real.

Tip: Carry a camera with a low light setting for the best pictures.

A tour group look at brown rock formation
Marvel at limestone formations
© Tourism Holdings
A person with a head lamp on in a cave of stalactites
Discover caverns of stalactites and stalagmites
© Absolute Adventure

Things to do

There are many things to do around the Waitomo region which include a walk to the 35-metre-high Marokopa Falls, a scenic drive to Mangapohue Natural Bridge as well as a visit to the Waitomo Museum of Caves.

For something truly quirky, attend a local farm show in the evening, or visit the nearby town of Piopio to see the filming location of The Hobbit. If you need to get your thrills in, experience Black Water Rafting where you'll swim, crawl and float through caves on a rubber tube.

A green forest and mountain with a waterfall
Take a walk to the beautiful Marokopa Falls
A long brown walking bridge in a forest of green trees
Wander over the Mangapohue Natural Bridge and visit limestone cliffs and arches
Two dolphins jumping out of the ocean

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Best travel time

The best time to visit the Waitomo Caves is during the warmer months of November through to April. In other months it can get cold in the actual caves. In summer be prepared for warm and humid conditions.

Two people in red abseil into a dark cave
Have an adventure and abseil into the dark caves
Explore the caves in Waitomo | New Zealand holiday
For a heart-stopping experience, try Black Water Rafting

How to get there

The Waitomo Caves are a one-hour drive from Hamilton, a two-hour drive from Rotorua and a two-hour forty-minute drive from Auckland. The nearest airport is the Hamilton airport but there are also options to fly to Auckland or Tauranga.

Aerial view of a green  forested cliff and ocean
The Waitomo Caves are a short drive from Hamilton
© TravelEssence
Stunning beach views | New Zealand nature
Enjoy a scenic drive from Tauranga to the Glowworm Caves

Where to stay?

Make your trip extra special by experiencing a unique stay from our large collection of hand-selected accommodations in New Zealand. Your travel specialist will match you with accommodation that suits your wants and needs. A journey where your accommodation is an experience in itself.

Off the grid glamping in Rotorua
Be at one with nature on a glamping trip in Rotorua
Comfortable accommodation for families | New Zealand holiday with kids
Relax in a stunning beach villa with sea views

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