Rotorua is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the North Island. It’s the launching ground for nature walks, Maori cultural experiences, trips to smelly geysers, and getaways to luxury spas. Everything is centrally located around a few streets as it is a small town. There is really not much to do in town other than a few bars and a handful of restaurants and shops. The real fun is all the activities you can do from the city.
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms cost between 23-30 NZD per night. A private room will cost around 55-90 NZD for a double bed. Free WiFi is common, though don’t expect any hostels here to offer free breakfast. Kitchens are available at most hostels for those looking to cook their own food. For those traveling with a tent, there are campgrounds in the area. Yo’ll pay between 13-36 NZD per night for a basic plot.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels start around 70 NZD per night for a double room, but average closer to 100 NZD. Free WiFi is generally included, and many hotels also offer free breakfast. Airbnb is available in the area, with shared accommodation starting around 32 NZD per night. For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay at least 100 NZD per night.
Average cost of food – A typical restaurant meal with cost about 20-30 NZD (or more!). You can find sandwiches around for 8 NZD and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King costs around 11 NZD. If you choose to cook your own food, plan to spend between 65-80 NZD per week. A beer out at the bar will cost you around 8 NZD.
Transportation costs – The city is really small and can be walked around very easily (it takes about 20 minutes to walk from end to end). If you don’t mind a stroll, there are some two-hour walks that include the lake and nearby hot springs. For intercity travel, buses are your cheapest option. A one-way ticket to Wellington will cost between 30-60 NZD, while a one-way ticket to Auckland generally costs between 22-44 NZD.
Suggested daily budget – 70 NZD / $50 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
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Money Saving Tips
- See the free geysers – A lot of people go visit Te Puia but while the hot springs and geysers there are nice, you can walk around town and see plenty for free. Save your money for a Maori show.
- Cook your own food – Restaurants in New Zealand are not cheap. If you want to save your budget try cooking your own meals.
Top Things to See and Do in Rotorua
- See the Whaka Thermal Reserve – If you like geysers, then the thermal reserve is a good place to see some as well as to learn about the natural history and geology of the area. The reserve is split into two parts, with the more touristy one, Te Puia, closest to town. Prices start at 46.80 NZD for adults and 23.40 NZD for children. Guided tours are included in the price.
- Marvel at the lake – Rotorua sits right on a lake. Walking around is good way to spend an afternoon. You can’t rally go swimming in the lake but there are a number of trails and green spaces around it.
- Go Zorbing – This is a popular activity with backpackers. You get put into a giant see-through ball and rolled down a hill. It’s pretty expensive for the 5 seconds you get. You also have the option to add water into your ball, which is probably really like being in a washing machine. Two rides will be 80 NZD, while a three-ride package will cost 99 NZD.
- Soak in the hot baths – All the sulfurous springs in the area means that there are lots of hot springs in which to relax. There is the big Polynesian Spa where you pay for all-day access and drinks. The Blue Baths also have a heated pool. If you just want a lazy day relaxing, a heated pool/spa day is the way to go. Prices begin at 19 NZD per person.
- Get to know Maori culture – There are a variety of cultural shows and educational tours in the area. If you are going to learn about Maoris, this area would be the easiest in which to do so. The cultural tours all are similar (some are smaller, some have better food, some are different length) and you learn and see a lot of the same stuff. The Tamaki Maori Village tour is highly recommended.
- Explore Whakarewarewa Forest – A 15-acre grove of majestic redwoods is filled with spectacular walks, mountain bike tracks (59km in total!) and riding trails. It’s a good way to get away from the stinkiness of the city (which comes from the sulfur of course!).
- Visit the Buried Village – Self-descriptive, this village was swamped with ash by the nearby Mt. Tarawera in the massive 1886 eruption which killed 153 people. You can see the remains at this historic site and learn about the era and the eruption here. Admission is 30 NZD for adults, with discounts available for families and children.
- Wander through the Government Gardens – This is a beautiful park near the Sportsdome. The Blue Baths can be found here as well as the city museum.
- Check out the Agrodome – This is an agricultural park. There are a few shows to check out in addition to a tour of the farm and a Freefall Experience simulator. Otherwise, if you are craving more adrenaline the highest bungy jump of the north islands is here. For a farm show and tour, tickets are 66 NXD for adults. Bungy jumping is 119 NZD per person.
- See the lakes – There are 14 scenic lakes throughout the area. There is a cheap 90-minute tour which traces along the edge of several of them. If that isn’t your idea of a lake trip, rent a car and visit them one by one so you can spend more time at each of them. Fishing is a big attraction here.
- Visit Rotorua Museum – Located inside the beautiful old bath house building, this museum has exhibits on the culture and history of the area and houses many Maori artifacts. Admission is 20 NZD for adults, with discounts available for seniors and children.
- Do a canopy tour – If you haven’t had a chance to do one elsewhere, consider going on a canopy tour. These three-hour tours take you on ziplines and swing bridges through a forest with 500-year old trees. Groups are small, always fewer than ten people. Expect to pay around 150 NZD per person.