Waitomo Cave tours

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Top things to do in Waitomo

Waitomo Glowworm Cave Tours | New Zealand's 30 Million Years Old Bioluminescent Underworld 

Deep within the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island lies the Waitomo Glowworm Caves — an intricate network of subterranean passages dating back over 30 million years. It’s not just any cave system; it's a constellation of shimmering glowworms native only to New Zealand, majestic rock formations, and ancient Maori legends. Its discovery in 1887 by Maori Chieftain Tane Tinorau unveiled a hidden world, forever etching the Waitomo Caves onto the map of New Zealand's must-see destinations. Did you know that Waitomo is a compound word in the Maori language meaning water (wai) and entrance or hole (tomo)?

Read on to find everything you’ll need to plan your perfect Waitomo journey. From choosing the right tour to discovering hidden points of interest, and other essential information— we’ve got you covered.

Why tour the Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

Glowworms hanging from the ceiling at Waitomo Caves

Thousands of glowworms, native only to New Zealand

Picture yourself gliding under thousands of tiny glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa, that drape the caverns in an ethereal blue-green luminescence, It’s a starry sky trapped beneath the earth. And the best part? You’ll only find this species here.

Waitomo Caves

30 million years in geological making

See how geological activity has played a part in making over 300 limestone caves. Watch stalactites and stalagmites that have been slowly and naturally sculpted by water alone, for over 30 million years. Fun fact: The average stalactite grows only one millimeter every 100 years and they are very delicate.

Maori performers at Waitomo Caves

Learn Maori lore, directly from the source

Led by a descendant of Chieftain Tane Tinorau, discoverer of the caves, your tour will unveil stories of taniwha, guardians of underworld rivers, atua, Maori gods shaping the caverns, and Tane, god of forests, illuminating the caves with glowworms, adding cultural richness to your experience.

Ruakuri Cave

Curated adventures for every spirit

Thrill seekers, assemble! Navigate heart-pounding rapids in Ruakuri Cave with only your headlamp. Nature lovers, witness the bioluminescent ballet of Glowworm Grotto. History buffs, learn Maori legends from the discoverer's descendants. Cinephiles, explore the Lord of the Rings set! Waitomo offers adventures for every explorer.

Blackwater rafting, Waitomo Caves

Daredevil’s delight: Guided blackwater rafting, abseiling, & ziplining fun

While the glowworms are the highlights, Waitomo also beckons bold adventurers. Brave the Black Abyss's churning rapids on a blackwater rafting expedition. Zip through hidden canyons, with sunlight slicing through darkness. Challenge yourself with an exhilarating abseil descent, headlamp piercing the pitch-black darkness.

Things to know before booking your Waitomo Glowworm Cave Tour

  • If you’re staying in Auckland: Go for a guided Waitomo day tour with transfers.  Get more bang for your buck and choose to visit the geothermal valleys of Rotorua & Te Puia or see the sets of Hobbiton. 
  • If you’re staying at Waitomo: Join your guided tour and adventure activities directly. For a seamless experience, you can choose a combo experience including a cave-guided tour with rafting, and ziplining.
  • Tricky Waitomo roads: Navigating from Auckland to Waitomo involves winding roads through rolling hills and farmland. Make the most of the scenic views on the way with hassle-free round-trip hotel transfers (private transfers available) from Auckland. You won't have to worry about navigation or parking.
  • No prior experience is required for adventure activities: Your tickets and tours come with expert guides who’ll be with you every step of the way. You don’t need to be familiar with caving, rafting, or ziplining. Also, all equipment will be provided.
  • Adventure activity restrictions: Some adventure activities may have certain restrictions, Please check the height, weight, age, and other requirements during your booking process. Pregnant women may not be allowed on some adventure activities.
  • Accessibility: The Ruakuri and Aranui caves are wheelchair accessible.
  • Above-ground delights for travelers with constraints: If you have concerns about extreme claustrophobia or darkness, go for aboveground adventures that offer an equally enriching and comfortable experience.

Gloworms, the Black Abyss, Ruakuri & Aranui Caves — what to expect during your Waitomo Glowworm Cave tour

Waitomo isn't just a place, it’s an intersection of geology, biology, adventure, and culture. But with so much to see, where do you begin? Let's dive into the heart of this subterranean wonderland and the treasures you’ll uncover during your visit.

Top things to do at Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Caving Guided Tours

Caving Guided Tours

Explore fascinating caverns adorned with shimmering glowworms. Learn about geological wonders and Maori legends from a descendant of the Maori Chief who discovered the caves.

Black Water Rafting, Waitomo Caves

Black Water Rafting

Navigate churning rapids in Ruakuri Cave's hidden abyss, lit by headlamps. Discover glowworm chambers in this thrilling adventure.

Waitomo Caves Zipline


Glide along a 280-meter zipline, reaching speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour. Witness the passage illuminated by glowworms from an aerial vantage point.

Abseiling at Waitomo Caves


Test your courage rappelling down sheer cliffs within the Ruakuri Cave system, feel the cool spray of cave waterfalls as you conquer the challenging descent.

Waitomo Trail Run

Waitomo Trail Run

Waitomo Trail Run stands out for its scenic routes through farmland, native bush, and even caves, offering diverse challenges and a unique underground adventure for runners of all levels.

Waitomo Falls

Waitomo Falls

Navigate a challenging caving expedition through interconnected chambers in Ruakuri Cave. Master tight squeezes and climbs, discovering hidden formations unseen by most.

Black Labyrinth

Black Labyrinth

Black Labyrinth in Waitomo Caves challenges experienced cavers with tight squeezes, hidden wonders, and technical maneuvers, offering an intense & thrilling subterranean adventure.

Plan Your Visit to Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Getting there
Return transfers
Timings for Waitomo Caves
  • Waitomo Glowworm Cave guided tours: Slots from 9:20 AM to 5 PM (daily)
  • Guided Tour with Black Water Rafting & Zip Lining: 9 AM and 2:30 PM (daily)
  • Black Water Rafting: 9 AM and 2:30 PM (daily)
  • Ruakuri/Aranui Cave guided tours: Slots from 10 AM to 3:30 PM (daily)
  • Waitomo Cave Zipline Park: Slots from 9 AM to 2 PM (daily)
  • Day trips from Aukland (with transfers): Departures from 6 AM, 7 AM, 8 AM

Best time to visit: For sunny adventures, visit Waitomo Caves in spring or summer, but expect more people. Autumn is pleasant with fewer crowds. In winter, enjoy thrilling caving and great deals, though it's cooler. Early mornings maximize glowworm brilliance, and evenings enchant with a transition to bioluminescence.  Ultimately, the perfect time for you depends on your priorities – choose warmth, solitude, or specific activities to plan your dream Waitomo getaway!

Getting to Waitomo Caves

Address: 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Caves 3977, New Zealand

Find on Maps

  • Auckland day-trip transfers: Forget planning, and enjoy end-to-end transfers from Auckland to Waitomo Caves with luxury coaches or private vehicle options. Also, get hotel pick-ups and drop-offs.
  • By train: The Northern Explorer runs once per day from Auckland to Wellington, stopping at Otorohanga station near Waitomo. Shuttle connections to the caves are available. This option takes longer, though. 
  • By plane: Taupo Airport is the nearest regional airport with connections from major cities. Hire a car or book an airport shuttle to reach Waitomo (an additional 1.5-hour drive).
  • By car: Navigate a  3-hour scenic route via SH1 and SH3 providing stunning landscapes. From Rotorua, a 1.5-hour drive via SH5 is faster.
Man getting in car

Forget logistical juggles, embrace Waitomo with ease! Here's why you should consider an Auckland to Waitomo day trip with transfers:

  • Door-to-Cave convenience: Skip transport stress! Opt for hotel pick-up in Auckland and arrive relaxed, and full of energy to explore the caves.
  • Reserved round-trip bliss: With the convenience of just 1 ticket, enjoy seamless transfers in spacious, modern coaches. Your journey becomes part of the thrill, not a pre-adventure hurdle.
  • Luxury at your fingertips: Prefer going privately or solo? Opt for exclusive vehicle transfers and experience Waitomo on your terms.
  • Unrivaled views. Guaranteed comfort: Gaze at rolling hills, farmlands, and dramatic cliffs. Plush seats keep you comfy as you soak in the scenery. And, you get to recharge with additional complimentary snacks and drinks.
  • Go beyond the caves: Craving more Kiwi magic? Enhance your trip with add-ons like geothermal wonders at Te Puia, Rotorua's bubbling mud pools, or even a whimsical sojourn at the Hobbiton movie set.
Food options around Waitomo Caves

If you’re looking to explore the F&B scene at Waitomo, here are some places to check out:

  • Waitomo Homestead: Take a break at this cafe with gardens as you enjoy the scenic view of Waitomo. Be sure to try their pies. 
  • Tomo Bar & Eatery:  Lively and stylish, this spot offers delectable modern cuisine, cocktails, and craft beers. You also get to grill your food at the table. Enjoy live music on weekends. 
  • Te Kuiti Bakery: A local favorite, this bakery offers classic Kiwi pies, sandwiches, and sweet pastries. Perfect for a quick and satisfying bite.
  • King Street Kitchen:This takeaway shop offers affordable fish & chips, kebabs, pizzas, and burgers. Ideal for a quick and budget-conscious meal.
Facilities at Waitomo Caves
  • Visitor information office: Obtain needed information from here.
  • Lockers: Lockers are offered at the visitor center, but they may be limited in number, especially during peak season. Consider bringing a small day bag for valuables you want to keep with you.
  • Showers and changing rooms: Showers and changing rooms are primarily available for black water rafting participants and other water-based activities.
  • Safety equipment: Helmets, life jackets, wetsuits, and other safety gear are provided for black water rafting, abseiling, and other adventure activities. Guides provide instructions and safety briefings before each activity.
  • Gift shop: Find souvenirs, books, and glowworm-themed goodies.
  • Public restrooms: Well-maintained restrooms are available throughout the property.
  • Car park: Plenty of parking is available on-site.
  • Picnic area: Enjoy a packed lunch amidst the scenic surroundings.
Rules at Waitomo Caves
  • Flash Photography: Flash photography is strictly prohibited. It can harm the glowworms and disrupt their bioluminescent activity.
  • Photography Restrictions: Photography may be restricted in certain areas. Always follow any posted signs or instructions from guides,
  • Don't touch anything inside the caves: This includes cave formations, glowworms, and any wildlife you may encounter.
  • Use provided equipment properly: Wear helmets, life jackets, and any other gear provided for specific activities. Follow instructions from guides and ensure your safety throughout the tour.
  • Stay on Marked Paths: Don't venture off designated walkways. This helps protect the cave environment and prevents accidents. Stick to the guided paths and appreciate the formations from safe distances.
  • Food and Drink: Eating and drinking are prohibited inside the caves. This helps maintain cleanliness and prevent harmful waste from entering the delicate ecosystem.
  • Smoking and Vaping: Strictly prohibited anywhere on the Waitomo Caves property.
Waitomo Caves essentials
  • Warm layers and gear: It can get chilly at the cave with temperatures 12-14°C (54-59°F), so pack a sweater or fleece jacket, especially if you tend to get cold easily. Pack a raincoat or waterproof jacket in case of rain.
  • Extra change of clothes: Especially for more adventurous activities like black water rafting, bring a dry set of clothes and towels for afterward.
  • Comfortable shoes with good grip: You'll be walking around inside the caves, so choose sturdy shoes with good tread to navigate damp surfaces. 
  • Compact backpack: Bringing a small backpack allows you to carry essentials like extra layers, snacks, medicines, and water.
  • Waterproof pouch/dry bag: Protect your phone, camera, and valuables from accidental splashes with a waterproof pouch or dry bag, especially important for river tours.
  • Baby carrier: The caves aren't stroller-friendly, so bring a comfortable baby carrier if you have young children.
  • Cashless transactions only: The shops at Waitomo Caves only accept digital cashless transactions. Ensure your digital wallet is loaded in case you need to make a purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions about Waitomo Glowworm Cave Tours

What types of Waitomo Glowworm Caves tours are there?

There are various tours, including guided cave explorations, black water rafting, ziplining, and abseiling at Waitomo Caves. You can also opt for a guided tour from Auckland with transfers and add-on sights like Te Puia and Hobbiton movie set tours. Each caters to different preferences, from serene walks to thrilling adventures.

How long does a Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour last?

Tour durations vary. Guided cave tours typically last around 1 hour to 90 minutes. Adventure activities like black water rafting or ziplining may take longer, depending on the chosen package. Day trips from Auckland to Waitomo typically last anywhere from 7 hours to 12 hours, depending on your type of tour.

What is included in a typical Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour?

Depending on your choice of tour, you get to enjoy benefits like a guided tour of the caves led by a direct descendant of the Maori Chief who founded the caves, adventure activities like black water rafting or ziplining, and access to specific caves such as the Waitomo Glowworm Cave, Ruakuri Cave, or Aranui Cave.
If your tour is from Auckland, you’ll enjoy luxury transfers with private transfer options, hotel pick-ups & drop-offs, additional sights, expert guides, complimentary snacks & beverages, and more.

How much does a Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour cost?

Costs vary depending on the type of tour and activities chosen. Guided cave tours usually start from NZD 75.

What should I wear on a Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour?

Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy, non-slip shoes. For adventure activities, bring a swimsuit, towel, and an extra change of clothes. Also, carry warm layers as caves can get chilly, and a waterproof jacket in case of rain.

What should I bring with me on a Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour?

Bring essentials like a compact backpack, water, snacks, extra layers, and a waterproof pouch for valuables.

What are some adventure activities I can participate in during a Waitomo Glowworm Cave tour?

For thrill-seekers, engage in blackwater rafting through the churning rapids of the Black Abyss, zip-line through hidden canyons with glowworms illuminating the path, or experience an exhilarating abseil descent into the depths of the caves, with your headlamp cutting through the darkness.

Are Waitomo Glowworm Caves tours suitable for people with disabilities?

The Ruakuri and Aranui caves are wheelchair accessible. Aboveground adventures provide a comfortable experience for those with concerns about claustrophobia or darkness.

What's the best time to take a Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour?

For sunny adventures, visit in spring or summer. Autumn offers pleasant temperatures with fewer crowds. Winter provides thrilling caving experiences and the best deals, though it's cooler. Early mornings maximize glowworm brilliance, and evenings enchant with bioluminescence.

Are there any restrictions on photography during the Waitomo Glowworm Caves tours?

Flash photography is strictly prohibited as it can harm the glowworms. Follow the guides' instructions on photography restrictions in certain areas.

Do Waitomo Glowworm Caves tours operate in all weather conditions?

Yes, tours generally operate in various weather conditions.

What languages are the guided commentaries on Waitomo Glowworm Caves tours in?

Guided commentaries are typically available in English.

How can I get to Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

Access Waitomo with a day-trip transfer from Auckland. Go for private vehicle transfers or luxury coaches offer convenience and scenic views. You can also go by car, train (Northern Explorer), or via plane (via Taupo Airport).