Hāngi: A Traditional Māori Feast

Rotorua is the best place to experience a hāngi, a traditional Māori feast featuring food cooked over steaming vents. Several local venues offer the opportunity for you to try this slow-cooked treat, paired with a concert—an evening that may remind you of a Hawaiian luau.

As a manuhiri (guest), you'll typically get the full treatment, beginning with a powhiri, the awe-inspiring Māori welcome that generally includes the wero (challenge), the karanga (cries of welcome), and the hongi, or pressing together of noses, an age-old Māori gesture that shows friendship.

While the meal cooks, a show begins with haunting harmonious singing, foot stamping, and poi twirling (rhythmic swinging of balls on strings). The performance might raise the hair on the back of your neck—but this will be assuaged with food, glorious food. The lifting of the hāngi will produce pork, sometimes lamb and chicken, kūmara (sweet potato), vegetables, and maybe fish and other seafood, followed by dessert.

Cultural enclaves like the Living Thermal Village (17 Tryon St.07/349–3463 www.whakarewarewa.com NZ$66) and Te Puia (Hemo Rd.07/348–9047 www.tepuia.com NZ$116) are only two of the places where you can get a true taste of local flavor.

The Holiday Inn Rotorua also has an excellent cultural performance and hāngi (10 Tryon St.07/348–1189www.holidayinnrotorua.co.nz NZ$69); and the Matariki Hāngi and Concert combines an informative, enthusiastic show with ample, delicious food (Tutanekai St.07/346–3888www.accorhotels.com NZ$69, NZ$39 concert only).

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