Ruakuri Cave

​According to Maori legend, Ruakuri Cave (rua meaning den, and kuri meaning dog) was first discovered 400-500 years ago by a young Maori hunting for birds. He was attacked by wild dogs just outside the original cave entrance. Re-opened in 2005, this cave is now an amazing example of engineering and natural cave structure.

Ruakuri Cave offers a captivating blend of Waitomo's most compelling subterranean experiences. Journey down through the spectacular spiral entrance, and marvel at the softly folding shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries. Hear the distant thunder of the subterranean waterfalls and get up close to the glowworms.

Ruakuri Cave is New Zealand's longest guided underground walking tour and an experience that must be seen to be believed. It will leave you open-mouthed, awe-struck and humbled by the sheer majesty of nature.

With clever and innovative design, Ruakuri Cave has full wheelchair and pushchair access.

Hours of Operation:

  • Open 364 days a year. Closed Christmas Day (25 December)

​Additional Tour Information:

  • Bring comfortable walking shoes and a warm jacket.
  • Ruakuri Cave is fully wheelchair accessible. 
  • ​You're welcome to bring your camera on this tour. 
  • You must all check in 30 minutes prior to departure on this tour.



According to Maori legend, Ruakuri Cave was first discovered 400-500 years ago by a young Maori hunter spearing birds for food.  A pack of wild dogs inhabited the entranceway and the cave was subsequently named Ruakuri ('rua' meaning den and 'kuri' meaning dogs) Cave.

Inside Ruakuri Cave
Inside Ruakuri Cave

Tane Tinorau the elder, Chief of Kawhia, had crossed the country with a war party to attack the local Ngati Hau Tribe and gain land in the Waitomo area. A hunter was sent to spear birds for food and he discovered the entrance to the cave which was occupied by a number of wild dogs. The wild dogs attacked the hunter who dropped his catch and fled.

Later, traps were set by the war party to capture the dogs and they were killed and eaten. Shortly afterwards on success of his attack Tane Tinorau took his people to live near the cave. The cave entrance was used by Maori as a burial ground (wahi tapu) and it is this sacred area that has now been protected with the construction of the spiral entrance a safe distance away.

Ruakuri Cave was first opened to visitors in 1904 by James Holden, an ancestor of the family that still owns much of the land above the cave system.

It was the second cave in the region to be opened as a visitor attraction and was quickly announced by early visitors to be visually impressive and an experience that was almost spiritual.

The Government claimed ownership of Ruakuri Cave and the attraction was then operated by the former Tourist Hotel Corporation until February 1988, when a legal and financial dispute forced its closure.

Ruakuri Cave was closed for over 18 years and was officially reopened for underground guided walking tours by the New Zealand Prime Minister in July 2005. This followed extensive redevelopment by Tourism Holdings Limited and an agreement with the Holden Family Trust of Waitomo. The re-opening marked the culmination of 18 months of underground construction work on walkways, bridges and a new spiral entrance way.




Find out more about the Ruakuri Cave tour from its old Maori legend to its reopening in 2005 as we take you through to show you what it is all about!





Ruakuri Cave
Ruakuri Cave Guided Walk.
Looking down on The
Legendary Black Water
Raftering adventurers.

Our guides are expertly trained for the tours they run and place your safety as paramount. All guides are trained and practiced in emergency procedures and evacuations and have current advanced Outdoor First Aid Certificates.


Ruakuri Cave has displays of glowworms and is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites formed over millions of years. Points of interest include softly folding shawl-like formations (formed by flowing rivers) and even fossilised seashells, which indicate how the caves were once part of the seabed.

Major features include Holdens Cavern, named after James Holden who first opened the cave to the public, The Drum Passage, The Pretties, and The Ghost Passage.


Ruakuri Cave has always been a spiritual place for local Maori, who, amongst other things, originally used the cave as a sacred burial ground (or wahi tapu).

The original public entrance to the cave went right through the burial ground but the new spiral entrance ensures todays visitors do not disturb this sacred place.


  • 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.
  • Photography and video are permitted in selected areas of the cave.

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 your camera 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

Book Now

Departure Times

Tours depart daily at 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm & 3:30pm. Allows 2 hour
Pricing Regular Price
Adult ticket$76
Child ticket$30
Family ticket$186
Extra Child ticket$20

​Find the right cave experience for you here​​

Add world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour to your experience for only $18 Adult, $5 Child or $18 for a family pass