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Rotorua Travel Guide | What to do, must sees, travel tips and costs

Rotorua is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the North Island of New Zealand† Tourists have been visiting Rotorua since the 19s to bathe in its hot geothermal springs. The dynamic geothermal landscape makes for exciting nature walks, Maori cultural experiences, trips to stinky geysers and baths in luxurious spas.


Everything from restaurants to lodging is centrally located within a few blocks as it is a small town. Since it is a small place, you only need a few nights here to have your fun. To get started, watch the video at the top of this page first!

Also read: Round trip New Zealand | All the beauty of the world in one country

What are the 5 must-sees in Rotorua?

1.Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest is a sprawling 5.600 acres of forest and provides a beautiful setting for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, and more. The Redwood Grove has endless hiking trails, while the variety of landscapes make for epic views and bike rides (there are over 70 trails!).

2. Rotorua Museum

This museum is located in an old bathhouse and has exhibits about the culture and history of the area and houses many Maori items. Admission is $20 NZD (12 euros) for adults, with discounts for seniors and children.

3.Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve

Yes, try saying that! Did it take several tries myself? The Whakarewarewa Maori Thermal Village is located in an area of ​​erupting geothermal activity. The reserve is split into two parts, with the more touristic, in Puia, closest to town. Prices start at $45 NZD (27 Euros) for adults and $20 NZD (12 Euros) for children. Tours are included.

4. Tamaki Maori Village

If you want to get to know Maoris, this area is the best to do it. The cultural tours are all similar. Some are smaller and cheaper, some have better food, some have longer durations, so be sure to pick one there's a lot of choice! The Tamaki Maori Village Tours are highly recommended and cost around 80 to 150 euros depending on duration, guide and lunch.

Tamaki Maori Village
Tamaki Maori Village

5. Zorbing

No this is not a place, but this is something to do! This New Zealand-invented activity is popular with backpackers. You will be stuffed into a giant transparent ball and rolled down a hill. You also have the option to add water to your ball. Zorb experiences start at $45 NZD (27 euros) per person. A lot of fun to do!

Zorbing in Rotorua
Zorbing in Rotorua

Other things to see and do in Rotorua

Velocity Valley Adventure Park

Time to throw some money! We'll bite the bullet later. Get your adrenaline pumping in Velocity Valley, home to the world's only human-powered monorail racetrack where you can race your friends in the shweeb racer. You can also use the Rotorua Bungy try it, hop aboard the Agrojet for the fastest jet boat experience in the country, or take a free fall in the wind tunnel at Freefall Xtreme. Tickets start at $85 NZD (50 euros) for two journeys.

Hike around Mount Tarawera

Mount Tarawera is an awe-inspiring mountain, known for its violent volcanic eruption in 1886. Today, the sleepy mountain and lake serve as a haven for those looking to hike or kayak. Since the Maori consider the mountain a sacred place, you should book a tour with Kitiaki Adventures as they are the only company allowed to drive up the mountain. Their crater walks and geothermal tours start at $164 NZD (100 Euros) for a five-hour tour.

Mt. Tarawera
Mt. Tarawera

Kurau Park

Located on the north side of Rotorua, Kuirau Park is New Zealand's only public geothermal park. Follow the hiking trails that lead down to bubbling, steaming pools of geothermal activity and observe nature at work from behind the safety of the fences. Take advantage of the free foot baths in Kuirau Park.

The Lakes of Rotorua

Although Lake Rotorua is the largest in the area, there are 14 scenic lakes surrounding it that make for many aquatic adventures. Hop aboard a traditional paddle steamer and cruise around Lake Rotorua: tickets for a one-hour cruise on the Lakeland Queen start from $37 NZD (22 euros). Swim, relax and barbecue with friends at Lake Tikitapu, a small circular lake known for its vibrant blue color, 15 minutes' drive from Rotorua. You can enjoy the warm water beach and geothermal pools at Lake Tarawera. It is also a wonderful place to simply watch the sun go down after a delicious BBQ. The lake often turns into a colorful mirror in the evening.

Sunset at Rotorua Lake
Sunset at Rotorua Lake

Kaituna River | Rafting

Just outside Rotorua, the winding Kaituna River offers class 5 whitewater rafting. Thrill-seekers can fly over the seven-meter-high Kaituna Waterfall, the highest waterfall in the world with rafting. There are several rafting companies to choose from, with excursions starting at $95 NZD (60 euros) per person.

Bathing in the Polynesian Spa

Soaking in the therapeutic waters of Rotorua has drawn tourists to the area for over 200 years. There are 28 different pools to enjoy at the spa, including private pools with a view and a full range of spa services. Entrance fees start at $32 NZD (20 euros).

Government Gardens

This is a beautiful public park near the Sportsdrome (a sports arena) and is considered an important place for the local Maori. The Maori people gave 50 hectares of land here to the Crown, which has been transformed into a large garden and nursery. It is also home to the Blue Baths, an elaborate Elizabethan Tudor-style bath house that has existed for over a century and now hosts local weddings and events. You can enjoy the ornate geothermal pools daily (unless there's an event going on) from $11 NZD (6 euros) per person.

Government Gardens, Rotoroa
Government Gardens, Rotoroa

Visit the Buried Village

This village, a 20-minute drive from Rotorua, was inundated with ash when nearby Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886, killing 153 people. Here you will see the remains of the village while learning about its history and the eruption. Admission is $30 NZD (17 euros) for adults, with discounts for families and children. Grumpy's offers transfers from $7,5 NZD (4,5 euros) per person.

Do a canopy tour

These three-hour tours take you on zip lines and swing bridges through the nearby forest of 1000-year-old trees. Along the way you will learn about the native birds and plants found in the forest. Groups are always less than ten people. Expect to pay around $150 NZD (90 Euros) per person.

How much is accommodation in Rotorua?

Hostel prices – During peak season (December to February), a bed in a four to six bed dorm costs $29 NZD (17 Euros), while an eight to ten bed dorm costs $22 NZD (13 Euros). A private room costs about $70-100 NZD (40-60 Euros) for a double bed.

During the low season (June to August), a bed in a four to six bed dorm costs $25 NZD (15 Euros), while an eight to ten bed dorm costs $19 NZD (11 Euros). A private room costs about $55-90 NZD (35-55 euros) for a double bed.

Hostels here don't really offer free breakfast. However, kitchens are available in most hostels. For those traveling with a tent or motorhomes, there are campsites in the area. You pay between $13-36 NZD (8 and 20 euros) per night for a basic plot.

Prices for budget hotels – Budget hotels start at around $70 NZD (40 euros) per night for a double room in a three-star hotel, but are closer to $120 NZD (75 euros) on average.

Airbnb – options are available all over Rotorua, with shared accommodation starting at around $20 NZD (11 euros) per night, while a private room costs around $100 NZD (60 euros) per night. For an entire house or apartment, expect to pay at least $200 NZD (120 euros) per night.

How much does food and drink cost in Rotorua?

Eating out doesn't come cheap in New Zealand and Rotorua is no exception. A typical meal with a drink costs about $35-40 NZD (23-28 Euros). You can buy sandwiches for $8 NZD (5 euros) and even in a small place like Rotorua there are many inexpensive Chinese, Thai and sushi restaurants ranging from meals for $10 to $15 NZD (7-9 euros). Fast food like McDonald's or Burger King costs about $11 NZD (6,5 euros)

The scarce, more expensive eateries in Rotorua offer three-course dinners from $60 NZD (36 euros), while a traditional Maori Hangi dinner and show starts at $100 NZD (60 euros).

A beer at the bar costs about $9 NZD (5 euros).

If you choose to cook your own food, take into account $65-80 NZD (45-44 euros) per week to spend on basic groceries.

What budget do you have left for Rotorua?

Backpackers budget | 60 euros

If you are backpacking or have a motorhome in Rotorua, expect to spend $100 NZD (60 euros) per day. This budget covers a hostel dorm, public transportation, cheap meals and/or cook your own food, and about one attraction per day. You can reduce this amount even further by not drinking alcohol and only cooking yourself.

Average budget | 175 euros

An average budget of about $305 NZD (175 euros) per day covers staying in a budget hotel, eating out for all your meals, a few attractions a day, lots of drinks and public transport with regular Uber or Taxi.

High budget | 430 euros

On a luxury budget of about $750 NZD (430 Euros) or more per day, you can get a XNUMX-star hotel, any meal you want, drinks, lots of attractions (like shows or tours) and Taxis.

Tips for Saving Money in Rotorua

As in the rest of New Zealand, costs in Rotorua can add up quickly. Activities and eating out are your two biggest expenses here. Here are a few ways to save money during your visit!

Stay in a motorhome!

Exploring New Zealand by motorhome is a popular way to save money and Rotorua is very motorhome friendly. There are a number of holiday parks to choose from ranging from $25-75 NZD (15-40 Euros) per night. Download the Campermates app to find campgrounds, gas stations and dump stations.

Rent a motorhome in Rotorua
Rent a motorhome in Rotorua

Avoid the high season

Prices will be higher during the summer months (December to February), so avoid peak season if you can!

Cook your own food

Restaurants in New Zealand are not cheap. If you want to save your budget, try to cook your own meals as much as possible. Go to supermarket chains PAK 'N SAVE and Countdown for cheaper groceries.

Visit the free geysers

Many people visit Te Puia, but while the hot springs and geysers are nice, you can walk around town and see a lot for free. Save your money for a Maori show.


WWOOFing is a great way to work for your lodging and food. In exchange for working on a farm or B&B you get free food and costs. It is a popular activity with travelers because it allows you to stay in one place cheaper and longer. You can do it for a few days or a few months. Keep in mind that most farms require some experience as too many inexperienced workers have caused problems in the past.

Stay with a local

While there aren't many Couchsurfing hosts available in the area, there are still some. Try to stay with a local to save on your housing costs. You'll also get some valuable insight into the area from a local resident - and that's priceless!

How do you get around Rotorua?

The center of Rotorua is small and can be easily walked around (it takes about 20 minutes to walk from start to finish). If you don't mind walking, there are some two-hour hikes that include the lake and nearby hot springs.

bus – The bus system is called the Rotorua Urban with 11 bus lines that run seven days a week. A one-way ticket costs $2,80 NZD (1,5 euros) for an adult and children under 5 ride for free.

Taxis – Taxis start at $3 NZD (2 Euros), with a normal fare of $3 NZD (2 Euros) per additional kilometer. Since the city is small, you don't really need to order a taxi unless your accommodation or activity is a little way out of town.

Ubers and Carsharing – Uber has just launched (mid-2020) in Rotorua, so there are only a few cars offering the service. It's the best way to get around if you don't want to wait for the bus and it's cheaper than a taxi. You can also arrange carsharing with other travelers to split the cost, it is very common in New Zealand, especially in the tourist areas like Rotorua.

When is the best time to visit Rotorua?

The summer – Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed in Rotorua. High season summer occurs during the months of December to February and it is the most popular time to visit with an average daily temperature of 20-25 degrees. Kiwis also go on holiday during these months – be warned that tours and adventure activities are often fully booked in Rotorua during this period. Velocity Valley Adventure Park will be particularly busy.

The winter – is from June-August and the best time to visit if you like snow sports, but temperatures in Rotorua stay between 9 and 16 degrees. The most pleasant time of year to visit is from March to May when the crowds have abated, but due to New Zealand's temperate climate and constant heat from the hot springs, there's never a bad time to visit Rotorua.

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