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The best Māori experiences in Rotorua: Which should you book?

A Māori experience is top of the wishlist for many travellers visiting New Zealand. But which one is best for you? How do they differ?

Join us as we share the highlights and differences for each of the main Māori cultural experiences in Rotorua.

Rotorua is widely considered the best place for travellers to book a Māori experience. Though other spots in New Zealand offer Māori performances and tours, nowhere else offers such a wide variety of options.

Combine these with the region’s unique geothermal activity (that made life easier for early Māori) and you’ve got an awesome tourist experience for those interested in our unique culture and heritage.

With so many options on offer though, which is best?

Join us as we share our tried-and-tested thoughts on each of the main Rotorua Māori experiences…

Delicacy served on a shell.
Kai (food) is a significant part of Māori culture. Try local flavours at many of these experiences.

The best Māori experiences in Rotorua

Though we’ll share the differences between each local Māori cultural experience in Rotorua later in this article, we’d rounded up the best of the best here.

Because sometimes you want a quick answer – we get it.

Best day-time experience
Steaming rocks and waters in the geothermal valley of Te Puia.

Te Puia

Explore Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley and see the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere, while learning from your local Māori guide.

Best evening experience

Te Pā Tū

Dine on modern Māori cuisine, learn stick games, the haka and poi and marvel as their award-winning kapa haka group. This is an incredibly authentic experience.

Best budget-friendly evening experience

Mitai

If you’re travelling on a budget, check out Mitai for a cultural show, delicious hāngī and even the opportunity to see some glow worms.

Day time Māori experiences

Whakarewarewa – The living Māori Village

If you’d like a glimpse into what traditional life was like for Māori living in villages, a visit to Whakarewarewa is a must.

It’s known as ‘the living Māori village’ because it offers visitors the chance to tour a village in Rotorua where Māori whanau (families) still live.

As a guided tour through a real village, Whakarewarewa is unlike any other cultural experience on this list.

Your visit will include a self-guided walk around the geothermal park, including views of hot spring lakes, mud pools and Pōhutu Geyser (which is in neighbouring Te Puia).

You’ll also learn about how the region’s geothermal activity is harnessed for cooking and bathing and about a range of intriguing Māori customs on your guided tour.

Should you wish, there is the option to add on a cultural performance. These are available at 11.15 am every day and 2 pm on occasion.

Drive time from Central Rotorua5 minutes
Transport offeredNo
Best for✅ People who want to tour a Māori village
✅ Those without their own transport (uber/public transport available)
✅ Combining geothermal and culture
✅ Those travelling on a budget.
Price$-$$
A Māori lady in traditional dress, cooking corn in a bubbling hot pool in Rotorua.
Māori culture is authentically showcased in Rotorua at places like Whakarewarewa.

Day and night tours

Te Puia

Te Puia [promo code NZTT] is the one Rotorua venue that offers daytime and nighttime tours.

Located in Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, next to Whakarewarewa, this is home to Pōhutu Geyser – the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere and one of the most active in the region.

As all tours are guided, you’ll learn about Māori culture from locals and will be able to ask questions of your host – whether you choose to visit by day or night.

Te Rā

During the day you’ll have the opportunity to watch carvers and weavers demonstrate their skills at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, and to visit our national treasure, the kiwi bird (at the Kiwi Conservation Centre).

A fantastic optional Māori show can be added to your daytime ticket, including a pōhiri (traditional Māori welcome), waiata (songs), mōteatea (traditional chant), poi dances and the world-famous haka (war dance).

Geyser by Night

By night, the geothermal landscape is lit beautifully by bright coloured lights. To walk through the park in the evening really is a magical experience.

While on your evening tour, you’ll also hear stories from your Māori guides and try a geothermally-cooked steamed pudding. Our guides even brought a guitar with them and treated us to stunning waiata (songs).

And, of course, you’ll see Pōhutu Geyser go off in all its glory, lit up by the moon and Te Puia’s vibrant lights.

Te Pō Indigenous Experience

If you like the sound of visiting Te Puia at night (and you should!) but you’d like a tour that includes a full dinner and cultural performance, then Te Pō is just the ticket.

Your cultural performance takes place inside a beautifully carved wharenui (meeting house) and the evening culminates with hot chocolate under the stars overlooking Pōhutu Geyser.

🍲 Even if you don’t tour Te Puia, you’re welcome to dine at Pātaka Kai Restaurant, Bar and Café. They serve a hāngī buffet and a selection of Māori cuisines, all while overlooking the geothermal area.

Drive time from Central Rotorua5 minutes
Transport offeredNo
Best for✅ Trying hāngī at any time of day
✅ Those without their own transport (uber/public transport available, with shuttles for Te Pō – the full evening experience)
✅ Māori arts and carving
✅ Combining geothermal and culture.
Price$$
A shirtless and tattooed native man going nose to nose with a woman tourist as a form of greeting.
A traditional Māori greeting (hongi) at Te Puia. Photo credit: Fraser Clements

Night-time Māori experiences

Mitai

Mitai hosts a large number of manuhiri (guests) each night, making it the most affordable evening dinner/cultural experience in Rotorua.

Enjoy a full hāngī buffet, a cultural performance (including singing, haka and traditional skills) and a memorable waka entry.

With plenty of time to ask questions (in the wider group) you’ll come away with a greater appreciation of Māori culture.

What’s more, you’ll even get to see glow worms on the bank of the river, along with beautiful Māori carvings.

If you’re looking for an affordable Māori dinner and show, Mitai is hard to beat.

Did you know? Both Mitai and Te Pā Tū serve halal meat and pork-free products, making them Muslim-friendly dining options.

Drive time from Central Rotorua8 minutes
Transport offeredYes (limited)
Best for✅ Budget travellers that want a full hāngī and cultural show
✅ Those that don’t mind being in a larger group.
✅ Those without their own transport (book the shuttle in advance)
✅ Evening activities
Price$$
The locals paddling a traditional wooden boat of Mitai Maori Village in Rotorua.

Te Pā Tū

Te Pā Tū (formerly known as Tamaki Māori Village) operates just out of central Rotorua, but thanks to the included bus transfer, you won’t need your own transport.

This experience includes the most authentic pōwhiri (welcome) of all the evening experiences and a fire ceremony, ensuring you feel welcome from the moment you step foot into the village.

Just went a couple days ago – it was fantastic! Whatever time slot you can get, don’t miss it.

Laurie Miholer-Zachritz, NZTT member

With smaller groups, interactive games and the opportunity to try your hand at poi or the haka, you’ll come away not only with a greater understanding and appreciation of the Māori culture, but with some new skills yourself.

What’s more, because they serve a mini-hāngī, complimented by a range of modern Māori cuisines, the meal really does suit all tastes.

Though Te Pā Tū is the most expensive of all the Māori experiences in Rotorua, we think it’s money well spent and highly recommend it.

I just wanted to come on here and say this experience is INSANE! It is one of the only things I have gone to multiple times in NZ because it’s so, so, so good!!

You learn so, so much, the food is amazing and the people running it are some of the nicest most amazing people I’ve ever met. Love the boys, they recognised me last time I went.

Elle Allen, NZTT member

Did you know? Both Mitai and Te Pā Tū serve halal meat and pork-free products, making them Muslim-friendly dining options.

Drive time from Central Rotorua15 minutes
Transport offeredYes (encouraged)
Best for✅ People wanting an authentic, interactive experience
✅ Those that want modern Māori food and a small hāngī taster.
✅ Those without their own transport (transfers included for all)
✅ Evening activities
Price$$$
A woman standing wearing a cultural dress.

With a wide range of authentic Māori experiences, Rotorua is the best place in Aotearoa New Zealand for visitors to soak up our beautiful culture.

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