The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are an absolute must see on any trip to New Zealand. They are the best Glow Worm caves in New Zealand. I can honestly say that I have never had another experience even come close to what this tour was like!
Seriously, nothing compares to descending through caves into and underground river and boat ride lit up by cool blue glowworm light.
What to expect on a Glowworm Cave Tour in New Zealand
There are so many elements of this tour that make it worth seeing, but the fact that they can all be crammed into one day is truly amazing.
Once you arrive you make your way through the lush forest to a big cave. You climb down into the caves and almost immediately get to see breathtaking caverns featuring beautiful formations (and stalactites that I was convinced were going to fall down and crush my head).
After a quick trek, you arrive at an underground river where you can go even deeper into the caves. The boat tour is unreal as you led from pitch black caverns into rooms that are lighted by thousands of glowworms.
The cool blue light of the glowworms is eerie and intoxicating all at the same time.
My head was swimming as I was trying to figure out if I really was in an underground cave, or if I was swirling through a star-system in outer space.
Quick Facts about the Waitomo Caves
- The Waitomo Caves are on the north island of New Zealand; they are about a three hour drive from Auckland. It is quite easy to make (so long as you are comfortable driving on the left side of the road).
- The forest, the caves, the river, and the glowworms are all worth seeing. Even though the official tour goes make sure you leave extra time to explore.
- The caves are close to one of the Lord of the Rings tours if you want to plan other stops on your trip (locals are extremely proud of the Lord of the Rings, so if you aren’t a fan, I recommend keeping it to yourself).
- The caverns are big enough to be commonly used for weddings and concerts; the guides often ask for volunteers to sing to show off the natural acoustics.
- The glowworms official name is arachnocampa luminosa and are found almost exclusively in New Zealand.
- The glowworms are actually a gnat that looks a lot like a mosquito. They glow during the larval and adult stages. The glow is used to attract their prey.
The 3 Most Popular Waitomo Cave Tours
There are a number of different Waitomo Cave tours available. Tours are available year round and are always led by a local Maori tour guide. The guides are hilarious and obviously well-informed on everything about the caves.
We did one of the quick and cheaper options, but feel like we could have loved one of the longer and even more immersive ones.
Here are the Waitomo Glowworm Cave tours with the highest ratings:
Waitomo Glowworm Caves 45-Minute Guided Boat Tour – This is the most popular option and the tour that we took. We loved it! This one included the hike and tour of the upper caves as well as the quick boat ride through the underground river.
Waitomo Caves Black Labyrinth Black Water Rafting Experience – On this tour you will float down the underground river in rubber tubes while admiring the amazing glowworm displays above. After your tour they include a hot shower to clean off and warm up as well as complimentary snacks. You will have access to their equipment, which includes the tubes, wetsuits, boots and a helmet. Participants must be at least 12 years old or weigh at least 45 kilograms (99 lbs).
Waitomo Caves Black Abyss Ultimate Caving Experience – A 3 hour rafting tour that involves getting into a full wet suit. The guides are amazing and everyone loved the tour.
Ruakuri Cave 1.25-Hour Guided Tour – The Ruakuri Cave is the longest of Waitomo’s underground caves. Enjoy a 75 minute walking tour with amazing guides.
Can you take photos in Waitomo Caves?
Photography and video are NOT allowed on the Waitomo boat tour that we were on. It was honestly kind of a bummer. However, photography is allowed on the Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave tours.
At most of the tour locations they do sell photos of the Glowworm Caves. I know it isn’t the same as taking your own, but this option is available if you want it.
Are Waitomo Caves worth it?
100% yes! I couldn’t recommend them more.
How much does it cost to go to Waitomo Caves?
Pricing will vary depending on which tour. But you can expect to spend anywhere from $40 to over $100 USD. Check current pricing for The Waitomo Caves here.
Waitomo Caves Map (& surrounding areas)
Waitomo Caves Location
Location – Waitomo Glowworm Caves, 39 Waitomo Caves Rd, Waitomo Caves, Otorohanga 3943, New Zealand
Where to stay in New Zealand:
We ended up staying about an hour away from the caves in Hamilton and drove down in the morning. We stayed at the Quantum Lodge Motor Inn. It was perfect for what we needed and was under $100 a night.
You can check prices or book here.