What are the Best Cave and Glowworm Tours in Waitomo?
By now, you probably know about the marvels that hide beneath the rolling farmland of Waitomo. The Waitomo caves are among some of the most popular attractions in New Zealand, but many travellers only discover just how many glowworm cave tours there are once they get to Waitomo, by which point, you’re already booked onto the first cave tour you came across. There are five different companies taking you into the caves of Waitomo to either do some caving, walking or floating in a raft, boat or even a rubber tube. Don’t get stuck with taking the first cave tour you hear about- there are many options to suit a range of budgets, ages, abilities and personalities.
So, pick the best Waitomo experience for you with this list of the best Waitomo cave tours. Plus, while you’re here, you might want to plan the rest of your trip starting with The Complete Guide to Waitomo.
1. The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.
Combine the adrenaline adventure that New Zealand is famous for with the majesty of the Waitomo caves networks on a cave tour with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. Go cave tubing complete with underground waterfall jumps on the three-hour Black Labyrinth tour or go all out on the five-hour Black Abyss tour with abseiling, waterfall climbing, ziplining and more. Both options give you the opportunity to see small clusters of glowworms, as well as a few interesting limestone formations along the way. All in all, this activity is all about the adventure. See how the tours compare in What is the Best Black Water Rafting Tour in New Zealand?
Location: 585 Waitomo Caves Road
2. Cave World Waitomo
Escape the crowds of Waitomo’s more popular caves on a small-group experience with Cave World Waitomo. This 1h15min walking tour ventures through native bush and waterfalls to the breathtaking Footwhistle Cave. The cave scenery is dimly lit, just enough for you to admire the stunning limestone formations and glowworm displays. The tour concludes with a traditional New Zealand kawakawa tea in native forest surroundings.
Location: 23 Waitomo Village Road
3. Ruakuri Cave
One of the most accessible cave tours in Waitomo, the Ruakuri Cave is not only suitable for all ages but is also wheelchair and stroller accessible. After delving down a spiral walkway, the 1h25mins experience takes you through tunnels to various chambres displaying some of the most impressive stalactite formations in Waitomo. You’ll have the opportunity to see small glowworm displays glowing on the ceilings, as well as close-up. The tour is a good option to enjoy a comprehensive glowworm cave experience without getting wet.
Location: Tumutumu Road
4. Glowing Adventures
See the Waitomo caves exactly as nature intended on the glowworms cave tours with Glowing Adventures. There are no concrete floors, no walkways or artificial lighting in this cave network on a family farm giving you an authentic caving experience. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t magnificent features to behold, in fact, it’s quite the opposite with what looks like limestone waterfalls frozen in time, stalactites and, of course, beautiful displays of glowworms. Groups are limited to six people, while private tours and even photography tours are available. We list this experience in the 9 Luxury Activities in Waitomo.
Location: 1199 Oparure Road, Te Kuiti
5. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Easily the most popular cave tour in Waitomo, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is affordable, quick and has one of the best glowworm displays in the country. Delve into a giant limestone chamber known as Cathedral Cave where you’ll experience the amazing acoustics, before getting a quick chance to marvel at some of the glowworms close up. The highlight of the 30 to 45-minute trip, however, is the gentle float in a boat underneath one of the largest known displays of glowworms in New Zealand – just magical!
Location: 39 Waitomo Village Road
6. Waitomo Adventures
Offering the largest array of adventure activities in Waitomo, Waitomo Adventures is the perfect option for travellers who want to get into the true New Zealand spirit of adventure. Six different tour options allow you to experience some or all of Waitomo Adventures’ underground challenges among giant caverns, such as a 100m (328ft) free-hanging abseil, waterfall abseils, gentle ziplines, tubing (also known as black water rafting), climbing, scrambling and more. The caves are full of dramatic stalactites, as well as clusters of glowworms to admire. On-site is also the children’s activity the Troll Cave, a cafe and a day spa. Find out more about the Troll Cave in the 10 Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids.
Location: 1227 Waitomo Valley Road
7. Spellbound Glowworm & Cave Tours
One of the best-value cave tours in Waitomo, Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours offers an incredible 3h15min experience seeing breathtaking glowworm displays and admiring awe-striking limestone formations. Their combined glowworm and cave tour takes you to two separate caves, starting with the Spellbound Cave where you’ll gently float on a raft down an underground river with a galaxy of glowworms above your head. Next, it’s the Spirit Cave with stalactites, tomo and sinkholes, as well as the chance to see the remains of the long-extinct moa. Tours to see just the Spellbound Cave, as well as private tours, are also available.
Location: 15 Waitomo Village Road (in the general store)
8. Aranui Cave
Last, but by no means least, the Aranui Cave is an intimate cave experience that offers something a little different from glowworms. With no running stream through the cave, you’ll instead find intriguing creatures like the giant native insect, the weta. You’ll follow the boardwalks to narrow chambers awash in magnificent limestone features, long stalactites and even various shades of colour. This cave tour is definitely a must for those more interested in seeing spectacular cave landscapes than glowworms.
Location: 39 Waitomo Village Road.