How to Plan a Cheap Trip to Rotorua
Rotorua might be home to some of the most popular attractions in New Zealand, from Maori cultural shows and dinners to white water rafting over waterfalls. But they aren’t exactly known for being cheap. No worries, because Rotorua is packed with free and cheap attractions too! Many of Rotorua’s geothermal features are free to enjoy, while budget motels, hostels and holiday parks make your stay in Rotorua extra affordable. Want us to prove it? Just check out the details in this travel guide to Rotorua on a budget.
6 Tips for Visiting Rotorua on a Budget
- Visit in the low season (May to September) to find discounts on accommodation and activities
- Stay in budget accommodation so you can save more for activities
- Fill up some of your itinerary with free and cheap activities
- Book into self-catering accommodation to save money on food
- Be choosy about the paid activities you do. Check out some of the Rotorua must-dos and plan what you’re going to do before your visit to reduce the chances of regretful impulse buys
- You don’t need a car to enjoy the attractions of Rotorua, with many in the city centre and public buses taking you to attractions like the Skyline Gondola, National Kiwi Hatchery, Whakawerawera Redwood Forest, Te Puia and more.
For more advice, check out the 20 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Rotorua
With geothermal attractions, amazing forest reserves, lakes and a whole bunch of walks to experience them all, there are plenty of free ways to enjoy Rotorua.
Free Hot Pools
Get in on some of the geothermal action by dipping in one of Rotorua’s free natural hot pools. One of the highlights is Kerosene Creek (Old Waiotapu Road) with a picturesque waterfall dropping off into a steaming hot pool. The Bridge (Waiotapu Loop Road) or “Secret Spot” near the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park is also a good option for a free dip after you’ve wandered around one of Rotorua’s most affordable geothermal attractions.
Warning: don’t put your head underwater at any geothermal pool, as there is a risk of contracting amoebic meningitis.
Find more free hot pools and their locations in the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.
Free Geothermal Park
The cheapest geothermal attraction, however, can be found right in the city centre of Rotorua at Kuirau Park (Kuirau Street). It’s so cheap, it’s free! Wander around the park and see pools of bubbling mud, a steaming lake and some geothermal foot baths. See more attractions like this in the 10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua.
Free Walks in Rotorua
Also on the itinerary for a budget trip to Rotorua should be one of the many amazing walks. The Whakawerawera Redwood Forest (Longmile Road) is a popular option with a wealth of walk and bike trails among the Californian redwoods and New Zealand ferns. We also like Maunga Kākaramea (Rainbow Mountain) (1 h 30 mins one way) for its views of a steaming cliff face and summit views of the surrounding countryside.
If you’re feeling fit, why not try the Tarawera Trail (5 hours one way) along Lake Tarawera and all the way to a campsite with yet another free geothermal hot spring flowing into the lake. Boat transport with Totally Tarawera is available to return you back to where you started. For more ideas, check out the 15 Must-Do Walks in Rotorua.
Plus, for more free activities, head to the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.
Cheap Activities in Rotorua
If you have some room in your budget, then these paid activities won’t set you back too far while still providing tons of fun.
Wingspan, The National Bird of Prey Centre
Check out Wingspan, which is the National Bird of Prey Centre (Paradise Valley Road). For only around NZ$30 per adult entry, visitors can see rare New Zealand birds of prey close-up in the rehabilitation centre, such as the New Zealand falcon, morepork (dwarf owl) and harrier hawks. Admission also includes access to a mini-museum, as well as birds of prey flying displays to see these impressive birds in action.
For an off-the-beaten-track nature experience and some of the clearest pools of water you’re ever likely to see, head to Hamurana Springs (773 Hamurana Road). Enjoy a self-guided walk of various lengths for under NZ$20 to see lush native forest, the crystal clear freshwater springs and learn about the culturally significant sites of the area. On-site is also a 9-hole golf course which requires an additional but another affordable fee.
The only mud spa in Rotorua, Hell’s Gate (351 State Highway 30) is a geothermal activity in Rotorua with a difference. Experience the mud, which you lather on yourself to open your skin, and wash it off in the sulphur mineral water that has been used by the local Maori for more than 800 years. The experience starts at around NZ$40 but optional transport from your Rotorua accommodation is available. Book your entry to Hell’s Gate on Viator, Klook or whatever you prefer!
For more cheap experiences, check out the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.
Cheap Food in Rotorua
While the cruise mentioned above could be considered one of the cheap eats in Rotorua, there are plenty more for dining experiences and trying the local goodies.
For classic Kiwi favourites, head to the Patrick’s Pies Gold Star Bakery (89 Old Taupo Road) for their hearty savoury pies. Also try out Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour (1092 Tutanekai Street, Eat Streat) where there are more than 50 ice cream flavours, Danish waffle cones, sundaes, smoothies and more.
For an affordable lunch, check out Rotorua’s very own French cafe, Le Cafe De Paris (1206 Hinemoa Street) for affordable crepes and breakfasts. And for dinner, get irresistibly cheap eats at Sobar (1104 Tutanekai Street, Eat Streat) with nightly meal deals on things like nachos, pizzas, chicken wings and more.
For more recommendations, check out the Cheap Eats in Rotorua.
More About Rotorua
That’s it for our guide to Rotorua on a budget, but not the end of our Rotorua advice! Check out these other guides that might not necessarily fall under the “cheap” category, but are still pretty useful:
- The Travel Guide to Rotorua for Families
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Rotorua
- The Food Guide to Rotorua: Places to Eat & Food Tours
Finally, check out even more money-saving tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget, as well as how to plan the rest of your travels around the North Island in the North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks and North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 1 Week.