Aranui Cave

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aranui Cave is set in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, 5 minutes drive from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. It is named after Ruruku Aranui, the local Maori man who first discovered this previously hidden gem back in 1910.

Aranui Cave has a natural cave entrance and is the smallest and most delicate of Waitomo's three main caves. As a dry cave without a river running through it, it houses very little life past its entrance.
However, just inside the entrance is a colony of native New Zealand cave wetas and further into the cave is the most beautiful collection of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and decorative formations.

Aranui Cave is a magical, mystical place that is steeped in Maori myth and legend.

As such, it occupies a very special place in the hearts of the people of the Waitomo district. Visit soon to see the richly varied cave formations within close-up view and enjoy an experience you will never forget.​



A guide will take you along safe boardwalks into narrow chambers to see the finest cave formations of all the caves in Waitomo. The high chambers, magnificent limestone formations and the pale brown, pink and white shades of the huge stalactites in the Aranui Cave are truly spectacular.


Cave Weta
New Zealand Cave Weta
- Aranui Cave

Just inside the entrance to Aranui Cave is a colony of cave weta - large insects unique to New Zealand, which date back to the dinosaur age.  Wetas are closely related to the cricket and locust and the word literally translates from Maori as the 'ugly one' or the spiny one. 

Cave wetas differ from other wetas in the size of their limbs and antennae, in relation to their bodies.

They have very long legs and antennae, to help them find their way around their dark habitat.

They do have eyes but these are only really used to avoid light. Leaving the Aranui Cave at night they will forage on the forest floor for food. If there is a full moon, they will not leave the shelter of the cave as there is too much light.

Tour Departures

Hours of Operation:

  • Aranui Cave is open 364 days per year and is closed Christmas Day (25 December).

Additional Tour Information:

  • Bring comfortable walking shoes and a warm jacket.
  • Please note: Aranui Cave does not have wheelchair access and is therefore not suitable for visitors with mobility problems.Ruakuri Cave is wheelchair friendly.
  • You're welcome to bring cameras & GoPro's on this tour.
  • You must all check in 30 minutes prior to departure on this tour.



In November 1910, a young Maori, Ruruku Aranui was chasing wild pigs that had strayed into a local reserve. His dog chased a pig down a steep hill and the pig suddenly disappeared and so too did the dog.

The dogs barking led Ruruku to a small hole in the side of the hill. He then crawled inside and with a match found them both in a high chamber that continued into the darkness. Ruruku Aranui went to Waitomo and told the manager in charge of the caves. They both then re-entered the caves exploring it further, absolutely fascinated by its great beauty.

Aranui main entrance
Aranui Cave

The discovery of a new cave in Waitomo caused much excitement around the country.  The cave was much easier to develop than the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, and in just over a year it was ready for tours. 

In February 1911, there was an official opening by the Minister of Tourism.  Originally the cave was to be called Ngutuhihi (the beak of the stitch-bird), but because pronunciation was difficult, it was decided by the Minister to name it Aranui Cave.

Aranui Cave is one of the most richly decorated caves in Waitomo.  There is very little of the ceiling in this cave that has not been decorated by the dripping water.



Find out more about the Aranui Cave tour, its inhabitants and its Maori myth and legend as we take you through to show you what it is all about!




Tours of Aranui are led by experienced guides who provide interesting information on the geology of the formations and the cave history.  Tour groups are small to provide visitors with an up-close and personal encounter with nature not to mention some magical memories to take away.


Delicate straw formations
Delicate straw formations,
Aranui Cave

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.

Over the years the guides have given many of the limestone clusters affectionate nicknames, which help to bring the cave to life. The entrance to the cave, for example, is known as the butchers shop, because the formations (with a little imagination look like sides of beef and a sheep hanging from the ceiling). Further in, narrow chambers reveal carrots, cauliflower, cheese and a parsnip, as well as Snow White who is accompanied by a few more than her original seven dwarves!


It is the aim of the Aranui Cave staff to ensure 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.
  • No smoking in the cave.
  • You're welcome to bring cameras & GoPro's on this tour.​

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.
  • You're welcome to bring cameras & GoPro's 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.​

Quick info

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Departure Times

Regular tours run daily from 9:00am with the last tour at 4pm (bookings are recommended). Allow 1 hour.
Pricing Regular Price
Adult ticket$53
Child ticket$24
Family ticket$131
Extra Child ticket$18

Find the right cave experience for you here​

​Add world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour to your experience for only $26 Adult, $11 Child, or $38 for a family pass​