The famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves are one of New Zealand’s top tourist spots. Many visitors stopover for a short time completing only the guided tours and excursions at a premium cost. Not to take away from these unique and popular caves. See Black Abyss Tour and Glowworm Guided Tours for a behind the scenes look at our personal experiences.
There are amazing free walks all over New Zealand if you take time to find them. The Ruakuri loop walk in Waitomo is worth the extra half hour (ish) depending on your walking speed. We took children and lots of photos so roughly an hour for us. The trail includes a few stairs to watch out for and a couple of caves to manage head clearance. Overall walk grade: Easy
The 1 kilometer trail weaves through beautiful forest with moss-covered trees and follows along the Waitomo stream.
Towards the beginning of the walk we crossed over a bridge with cave entrance. There we saw a black water rafting tour, fit with wetsuits, emerge from the dark and cold cave. We heard lots of laughter and it reminded me of the natural high I felt after our own tubing experience. Highly recommend black water tubing if you are the adventurous type.
My suggestion would be to take a torch for cave viewing. If you attempt the walk in the early morning or at dusk there is a good chance you will spot glowworms. They are best seen along the banks of the track according to the Waitomo website, especially visible around either side of the main bridge. We noticed a unique tree lying along our walk which had what looked like a heart shape.
There is an option to enter a high ceiling cave for an up-close look at the stalactites and stalagmites. The stairs lead down to a viewing platform overlooking the rushing Waitomo stream below.