The Waitomo Caves are the most popular attraction in the Waikato region and a major stop on the tourist trail in New Zealand. The extensive cave system features limestone formations and the magical, bioluminescent glow-worms, which hang like little fairy lights from cave walls and ceilings.
Many tourists take a fairly sedate tour and boat trip through the caves, but there are loads of adventure activities centred around the caves as well. Caving, abseiling and black water rafting are all popular among backpackers; some of the adventure packages can get pretty extreme and can last several hours.
Waitomo is the village closest to the caves. It has a couple of hostels, one bar and a few eating and shopping options.
For such a small village, you can easily spend a few days in Waitomo. There are three main caves Aranui, Ruakuri and Waitomo Glowworm Cave that you can tour (buying a ticket to all three is the best value way to see them), plus smaller caves and a good selection of cave-related activities.
Cave-related activities can be broadly split between ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ tours.
‘Dry’ tours refer to activities where you don’t get very wet. These activities can include abseiling and rafting in a regular raft (not an inner tube).
Many ‘wet’ trips involve rafting in an inner tube, also known as Black Water Rafting, although some ‘wet’ trips involve swimming or abseiling down waterfalls. Some of the more tame ‘wet’ trips are just a leisurely float through the cave, but there are some that also involve other more adventurous activities such as abseiling or rock climbing.