North Island's West Coast: Places to Explore



A short drive from the main highway, Waitomo is a small but busy rural village catering to tourists visiting the region's famous cave systems. There's a small but good selection of cafés and a tavern in town. To explore the caves there's a dizzying range of options: some 20 different tours include experiences ranging from gentle walking on well-lighted pathways to rappelling, tubing, and climbing underground waterfalls. Aboveground, the surrounding hills are a mix of native bush and verdant farmland, and everything in the small village is within walking distance.

The Waitomo Caves are part of an ancient seabed that was lifted and then spectacularly eroded into a surreal underground landscape of limestone formations, gushing rivers, and contorted caverns. Many of these amazing subterranean passages are still unexplored, but four major cave systems are open for guided tours: Ruakuri, Spellbound, Aranui, and Waitomo Glowworm Cave. Each has its own special characteristics, and you won't be disappointed by any. Your guides might be descendants of local chief Tane Tinorau (who discovered Waitomo Glowworm Cave); they will certainly be local caving experts who have spent years exploring the amazing network of shafts and passageways around Waitomo.

There are two visitor centers in Waitomo village. Bookings for all cave tours and activities can be made with the individual tour operators, or at the Waitomo i-SITE Visitor Centre. Bookings for Waitomo Glowworm Cave, Ruakuri, Spellbound, and Te Ana o Te Atua caves can also be made at the Waitomo Glowworm Cave Visitor Centre.