Waitomo Glowworm Caves

​World-renowned and a magnet for both local and overseas visitors, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occupy a high placing in the New Zealand vacation wish-list.

The glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand. Thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light as our expert guides provide informative commentary on the Caves' historical and geological significance.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a must-see for any traveller. Enjoy the world famous boat ride under thousands of magical glowworms and become a part of over 120 years of cultural and natural history.


Marvel at Mother Nature's light display as you glide silently through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto. Meander underground along the Waitomo River and gaze in silence at the myriad of glow-worm lights that make up the Glowworm Grotto. As you enter this galaxy of tiny living lights, you'll immediately experience a serene ambience and be fascinated and intrigued by tiny glowworms that light your way.


​Travel Date​Operation Hours​Tour Iteration
1 Dec - 7 Dec​9:00am - 5:30pm​Tours depart every 30 minutes
​8 Dec - 14 Dec​8:30am - 5:30pm​​Tours depart every 15 minutes
​15 Dec - 25 Dec​8:30am - 7:00pm​​​Tours depart every 15 minutes
​26 Dec - 10 Jan​8:00am - 7:00pm​Tours depart every 15 minutes
​11 Jan - 31 Jan​8:30am - 7:0​0pm​​​​Tours depart every 15 minutes​

Summer Season Departure Times:

Regular Departure Times:

  • Tours currently depart every 15 minutes daily.
  • Tours depart every half hour daily from 9am-5pm daily from 01 April - 31 October.

Hours of Operation

  • Open from 9am daily, 365 days a year.
  • Summer Hours: 8.30am - 5.30pm (01 November - 31 March)
  • Winter Hours: 9.00am - 5.00pm

Additional Tour Information

  • Bring comfortable walking shoes and a warm jacket.
  • The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are accessible to those with reasonable mobility, with good handrails and paths.
  • Please note: the Waitomo Glowworm Caves do not have wheelchair access. However Ruakuri Cave is wheelchair friendly.
  • Sorry, cameras and GoPro's can't be taken on this tour.  ​
  • You must all check in 30 minutes prior to departure on this tour.



Chief Tane Tinorau Chief Tane Tinorau

The massed delicacy of the millions of stalactites in Aranui Cave is probably without equal in the world. The cave was formed on an earthquake fault, which means the rain water that creates the limestone crystals enters more readily. As a result, almost every corner of the roof and walls is adorned with fragile, sparkling forms in pale brown, pink and white. There is very little of the ceiling that has not been decorated by the dripping water.

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves were first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor Fred Mace. Local Maori people knew of the Caves existence, but the subterranean caverns had never been extensively explored until Fred and Tane went to investigate. They built a raft of flax stems and with candles as their only lighting, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground.

As they entered the caves, their first discovery was the Glowworm Grotto with its myriad of tiny bright lights dotting the cave ceiling. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they saw a multitude of lights reflecting off the water. Looking up, they discovered that the ceilings were dotted with the lights of thousands of glowworms. Debris and logs littered the waterway, but by poling themselves toward the embankment they were able to leave the raft and explore the lower levels of the cave. Here they found themselves surrounded by the glorious cave decorations.

Fred Mace
Fred Mace

Jubilant at their discovery, they returned many times to explore further, and on an independent trip Chief Tane discovered the upper level of the cave and an easier access. Only after many subsequent visits did they discover an entry point on land. This is the same entry point used today by thousands of visitors annually. By 1889 Tane Tinorau had opened the cave to tourists. Visitor numbers soared and Chief Tane and his wife Huti escorted groups through the cave for a small fee. In 1906 the administration of the cave was taken over by the government.

The Caves Today - 100 years later

In 1989, almost 100 years later, the land and the cave was returned to the descendants of the original owners.  Many staff employed at the caves today are direct descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau and his wife Huti.



Find out more about the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from the first exploration over 120 years ago to its magical glowworms that continue to mesmerize visitors!





Knowledgeable guides, many of whom are local people whose parents and grandparents have guided in the caves, lead each tour group. Through their story telling the history, features and legends of the cave are brought to life.


Formed over 30 million years ago there are two levels to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves which are 16 metres apart. The upper level is dry and includes the entrance to the cave, and formations known as the Catacombs, the Pipe Organ and the Banquet Chamber. The lower level consists of stream passages and the Cathedral.

The Cathedral
Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Cathedral

The Cathedral is on the lower level of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and, at 14 metres in height, this is the largest cavern. It is world-renowned for its superb acoustics, which are due to the enclosed shape and rough surface. Many famous singers and choirs have performed here and have been delighted with the purity of the sound.

The Tomo

The Tomo is one of the wonders of Waitomo, it is a 16 metre vertical limestone shaft which marks the course of an ancient waterfall which today on flows during heavy rains. The dramatic vertical drop is carefully lighted to show the scalloped walls and the layers of limestone. The Tomo was the last feature of the cave to be formed and links the upper level to the Waitomo River below.


A special Scientific Advisory Group protects the many hundreds of thousands of little glowworms at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. 
Sophisticated automated monitoring systems check air quality, rock and air temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide. Data is downloaded to a central computer, analysed by specialist staff throughout the day and then reviewed. Using this information, the advisory group determines the management of the cave environment including deciding when air flows should be altered and the number of people who can visit each day.


It is our aim to provide the best service possible to all cave visitors. We seek your co-operation fulfilling these aims and ask that you follow the guidelines listed below.

  • Please do not touch formations. Stalactites and stalagmites take a long time to form. They are easily discoloured by people touching them and the more fragile formations can break. Please help us protect the beauty of the cave.
  • To protect the cave atmosphere and for the enjoyment and consideration of others, we ask that you do not smoke in the cave.
  • All photography is strictly forbidden. This includes non-flash photography and video. 
  • Keep quiet at all times, especially in the boat and on the jetties.

Booking Conditions

  • Rates are in NZD and are valid from 1st October 2018 - 30th September 2019 and are inclusive of 15% GST.
  • Child prices are for 4 -14 years old inclusive (proof may be required).
  • Children under 4 years of age are free.
  • Theatre is included with all cave tickets shown above.
  • Sorry, cameras and GoPro's can't be taken on this tour.  ​
  • While children (infants) under 4 are free, you will need to add them to your total booking number requirements to secure their position on the tour.​

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Departure Times

Every 30 minutes from 9am, plus additional tours in summer (to be confirmed at booking). Allow 45 minutes.
Pricing Regular Price
Adult ticket$53
Child ticket$24
Family ticket$131
Extra Child ticket$18

​Find the right cave experience for you here

Twin Cave Combo Upgrade: ​ add Aranui Cave, Waitomo's best kept secret to your experience for only $26 Adult, $11 Child, $38 for the family pass