Rotorua is the first stop I will be spending a longer chunk of time – four nights to be exact. It’s known for the highest percentage of Maori (indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) and having a sulfuric (rotten egg) smell.
If you know me, you know I am a major participator. This made Rotorua very challenging for me. There was too much to do and see and not enough time. I had to keep telling myself to chill out and really pick and choose my activities. There was no need to do everything and still plenty of New Zealand to see. So I definitely missed out on some things, but it’s an excuse to go back, right?
Here are some of my highlights from Rotorua:
Redwood Forest. I haven’t been to the California version so I can’t compare them, but it was really magical. The trees somehow grow and mature 20 years faster than in California. It’s actually not “somehow” it’s totally because of the volcanic soil, but they are massive. I went with our whole group for a short loop on our first day, but then I returned and did a longer loop myself. They have a treetop walk with suspension bridges (for a cost) and in the evenings they are lit up with lights and projections. It was absolutely beautiful and worth going.
Rafting. Sooooo cool! This was my first time rafting and I’m obsessed. Such a cool feeling and the company did a fantastic job making everything run as smooth as possible.
Polynesian Spa. A geothermal hot springs spa with natural pools and spa therapies. I went on a rainy evening and enjoyed jumping between the mineral hot pools (four alkaline and one acidic between 36-41 degrees Celsius). It was truly a relaxing experience.
Cat Cafe. Yep, I went to a purebred cat cafe and I don’t regret it. I would say I’m definitely more of a dog person, but it was still a nice experience. These are resident cats so not up for adoption and they thrive here. For $15 NZ (under $10 USD) you have a choice of a coffee drink and an hour with the cats.
Night Market. I am a sucker for markets/fairs/festivals – anything outside of the traditional shop. On Thursday nights there is a night market in town complete with tons of food vendors and music acts. I couldn’t have asked for a better first night.
Waitomo Caves. You can do a day trip to the caves if that’s something you’re interested in.
Rotorua is a must stop while on the North Island. Just prepare yourself for the smell.
I’ve become pretty familiar and comfortable with YHA’s so I pretty much knew what to expect going into it with this one. Spending four nights at a hostel you better like it. I walked into my room and there was an older gentleman on one of the beds….umm okay I thought I was in a female dorm. Guess not. He didn’t realize either and actually commented and then said he didn’t speak much English. Okay let me sort this out. Well I went downstairs and asked nicely if there was another female coming into the dorm or if there was a female only dorm I could move into. The reception worker says, “you’re in luck” and hands me a new key. Well I was moved to a glorious double bed private room. Thank you!
When we returned from Raglan I stayed at the YHA again, but alas no private upgrade this time. One of the best parts of this hostel is the central location and the fact that almost all buses pick up directly from here so no schlepping your stuff. The kitchen/hang out area is also really nice. Even though I’ve had a top bunk (which I hate) for three nights I’m still enjoying my stay.
I’ve mostly heard horror stories about the other hostels in the area. I don’t know firsthand so I won’t name them, but from what I hear the YHA is the way to go in Rotorua.