How to Visit Waitomo on a Budget
Waitomo, with its caves of breathtaking limestone features and glistening glowworms, is one of the top destinations in New Zealand. However, the adventure-fuelled caving tours and tubing through the caves are not the kindest on your wallet. So how can you save money when visiting Waitomo? We go through the budget stays, the free and cheap activities, and even the cheap places to eat in this travel guide to Waitomo on a budget.
Budget Tips for Waitomo
- Visit Waitomo in the low season (May to September) to see some discounts on accommodations rates and sometimes (rarely) on cave tours
- Bring your own food to Waitomo and stay in self-catering accommodation, as there are limited choices for cheap eats
- Stay in Waitomo’s cheapest accommodations, as listed in the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Waitomo
- Homestays in Waitomo are also a good option to save money on accommodation
- Take one of the walking or boat tours of the Waitomo Caves to get your cheapest glowworm cave experience
- Look out for combo deals, such as the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Ruakuri Cave which you often see for around NZ$100 per person saving you 25%.
For more general money-saving tips, take a look at the 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Waitomo
While you might have adventures like Black Water Rafting (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Glowing Adventures (on Viator and Tripadvisor) caving on the bucket list, Waitomo’s free activities will help you discover more of Waitomo while sticking to your budget.
A must is the Ruakuri Bushwalk, just a short drive or walk from Waitomo Village. The bushwalk features some small caves and limestone formations among the lush New Zealand forest. Go after dark and you’ll have the opportunity to also see glowworms – take a torch! The walk can also be combined with the Waitomo Walkway, which begins opposite the Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre. Learn more in the 5 Best Walks in Waitomo.
If you have your own transport and don’t mind spending a little on fuel, then a great road trip full of natural attractions lies ahead from Waitomo. Take the Te Anga Road toward the coast where free sights along the way include Mangapohue Natural Bridge, Piripiri Cave and Marokopa Falls! You could even venture all the way to the coast to walk through the Waikawau Tunnel onto a sandy beach then visit Kawhia Hot Water Beach (Te Puia Springs) to dig your own hot pool in the sand. Check out the 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo for more information on all these attractions.
A little closer to Waitomo, visit the nearby town of Otorohanga, the Kiwiana Capital of New Zealand! Don’t know what Kiwiana is? Learn more about all things New Zealand down the Ed Hillary Walkway, a free museum-like walkway off Main Street with displays on pieces of New Zealand culture and heritage.
Get more freebie recommendations in our 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo.
The Cheapest Tours in Waitomo
If your budget is tight, you might not want to splurge on Waitomo’s more expensive cave tours. No worries because there are some cheaper ways to experience the Waitomo caves, as well as a few other activities you could be experiencing.
One of the cheapest tours of the Waitomo Caves is the experience called the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This 30 to 45-minute tour takes you through the large camber of Cathedral Cave before you embark on a short boat tour underneath one of the grandest displays of glowworms in New Zealand. See Viator and Tripadvisor for more details on the tour.
Similar to this tour is the Spellbound Glowworm Cave tour, which has a cheaper cave-only tour where you float on a raft down an underground river beneath the glowworms. Their longer tour, the Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tour is a more complete experience incorporating more limestone caves and only costs an extra NZ$15. Both the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Spellbound Cave tours cost around NZ$50 each per adult.
While not as exciting as a real cave in Waitomo, a cheap educational experience awaits at the Waitomo Museum of Caves, which is a good place to learn about the glowworms, limestone formations and even see some ancient bones from extinct giant birds. Costing only around NZ$5 per adult, it’s an experience that’s too cheap to miss.
Cheap Eats in Waitomo
Waitomo isn’t exactly a bustling hub for foodie experiences. We recommend bringing your own food supplies and cooking meals in self-catering accommodation during your stay in Waitomo. However, if you are looking for affordable places to eat, you have limited options.
In Waitomo Village, you might not suspect that the Waitomo General Store (15 Waitomo Village Road) serves food, but indeed, it does! Step inside and you’ll find a well-kept cafe serving the usual cafe suspects in New Zealand, from cabinet food to hot meals.
Toi Toi Coffee (3162 Te Anga Road) is along the road to Marokopa Falls, giving you an affordable lunch stop on your road trip as mentioned above and in the 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo. The cafe serves sandwiches, pies, sweet treats and a range of drinks.
In Otorohanga, get something tasty and marginally healthier at the Sushi Corner (86 Maniapoto Street). Pick up a tofu or beef donburi for under NZ$15 or pick up a sushi pack for a lighter and cheaper meal.
More About Waitomo
- 10 Amazing Things to Do in Waitomo
- 6 Ways to Take On the Waitomo Caves
- Waitomo – Guide for Backpackers
- The Complete Travel Guide to Waitomo
That’s it from the travel guide to Waitomo on a budget. Check out even more money-saving tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget.