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Which is the best geothermal park in Rotorua? A practical comparison to our natural wonders

Nestled within New Zealand’s geothermal heartland, Rotorua is renowned for its geothermal attractions.

Visitors from all around New Zealand and the world visit this region to visit both paid and free geothermal parks.

Each offers a unique lens into Earth’s inner workings.

Join us as we share the differences between Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu, Hell’s Gate, Te Puia and a number of free geothermal parks.

A man and a woman bathing o the steamy waters of hot springs while covered in therapeutic mud.
Hell’s Gate is a unique geothermal experience in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Paid geothermal parks in Rotorua

A quick comparison

Te Puia

  • Guided tours run all day
  • See kiwi birds
  • Māori arts & crafts
  • Large geyser
  • Day and night experiences
  • Less focus on geothermal
  • No coloured water

Drive time: 7 minutes

Hell’s Gate

  • The only swimming experience – hot pools and mud pool soak
  • Mid-sized geothermal park
  • Guided walk on offer twice a day, self-guide at other times
  • Limited times for guided walk
  • No coloured water

Drive time: 20 minutes

Wai-o-tapu

  • Coloured water and bubbling mud
  • Three walking tracks to choose from
  • Small geyser
  • Further from the city
  • Self-guided

Drive time: 25 minutes

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

  • Beautiful coloured water
  • Walk, boat & bus combo
  • Mostly downhill and flat walking
  • Commentary on the boat
  • Further from the city
  • No bubbling mud

Drive time: 25 minutes

A detailed comparison of these geothermal parks

Te Puia

If you’re staying in Rotorua, Te Puia will be the most convenient geothermal park to visit.

It works well for people that don’t drive as it’s such a short distance by Uber.

With full-guided tours that teach visitors about Māori culture and heritage, along with the region’s rich geothermal activity, these diverse tours are a hit with our members.

There, you’ll see the Pohutu Geyser – the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere – bubbling mud pools and hot springs.

It is also home to the Kiwi Conservation Centre and the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute, ensuring these special taonga (treasures) are protected for generations to come.

Steaming rocks and waters in the geothermal valley of Te Puia.

Hell’s Gate

With geothermal hot pools and a mud spa, Hell’s Gate is perhaps the most unique geothermal park on this list.

Not only does it have the largest hot waterfall in the southern hemisphere and a range of bubbling mud pools, it also offers guided walks twice a day (at no additional cost), where you’ll learn about the region’s rich cultural history and the science behind the geothermal activity.

At the time of writing this post, the 1.5-hour guided tours leave daily at 10.30am and 2.30pm, though we suggest you check with our friends at Hell’s Gate to be sure.

There’s no need to prebook a spot on one of these tours – just arrive before your chosen tour departs, having purchased [discounted] tickets to the park.

And when you’re finished on your tour (or before, if you’d prefer), hop in your togs (swimsuit) and relax in their beautiful mineral pools and mud spa – an experience that’s totally unique to this spot in New Zealand.

The combination of the hot pools, mud spa and easy nature walk makes Hell’s Gate one of our favourite geothermal parks in Rotorua.

Steam coming out of the ground while family and tourist groups pass by in Hell's Gate, Geothermal Park.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the world’s youngest geothermal area, forming as a result of the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption.

This park is unlike any others on this list because it offers a unique transport soltuion.

You’ll begin by walking up 4 km (mostly downhill or fairly flat) to the lake edge. As you walk through the park, you’ll see stunning coloured hot springs, including Frying Pan Lake (the largest hot water spring in the world) and Inferno Crater Lake (which is a stunning blue colour), and a beautiful hot waterfall/creek that stains the landscape with coloured minerals.

When you pass through the wetlands and reach the lake, you’ll have the option to join a guided boat trip (which we highly recommend).

This takes you out to the steaming cliffs and geyers, while you learn about the Pink and White Terraces – these were believed to be the largest silica deposits on Earth and a major tourist attraction prior to the Mount Tarawera eruption.

And when all is said and done, you’ll board the bus and ride back up the hill, where the cafe has cold drinks, ice creams and snacks to help you refuel.

Pro tip: If 4km is a bit far for you, most of the best geothermal activity is in the first 1.5 km. You can then hop on the bus to go through to the lake.

Tourists standing at the corner of a wooden platform while watching the steamy waters of Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

Wai-O-Tapu

Last but not least on our list is Wai-a-tapu – the most colourful thermal area in the country

Like Waimangu, this park is a little further out from Rotorua so it works best for people with a rental car.

Enjoyed by many, Wai-o-tapu is the most diverse park of geothermal activity, with coloured water, bubbling mud and a geyser.

While there, be sure to check out the Champagne Pool, Lady Knox Geyser, and numerous distinctive volcanic features.

We suggest going with enough time to complete all three parts to the nature walk too, along with the mud pools by the entrance.

Did you know? Wai-o-tapu is also spelt Waiotapu. Both spellings are correct.

The Champagne Pool at Waiotapu with it's orange rim and greeny blue hot waters.

Did you know? There’s another awesome geothermal park as you get closer to Taupō. Check out Orakei Korako if you’re staying there.

Free geothermal parks in Rotorua

Kuirau Park

Kuirau is the only geothermal park right in the centre of Rotorua.

With its bubbling hot pools, mud pools, foot baths and a playground, it’s a convenient (and free) way to enjoy the region’s geothermal activity.

A wooden walkway surrounded by the steaming Kuirau Park during sunset.

Sulphur Point & Sulphur Bay Wildlife Reserve

Located on the Southern end of Lake Rotorua, an easy walk from the city centre, you’ll find Sulphur Point.

This gentle boardwalk wings through a number of interesting geothermal features (including bubbling mud pools, stream vents and sulphur flats) and a wildlife sanctuary, so be sure to keep an eye out for beautiful birdlife.


With a range of unique geothermal parks, both free and paid, Rotorua is a popular spot to visit.

Which will you add to your itinerary?

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