Article summary: Discover the Best Free (and Cheap) Hot Pools in Taupo and Rotorua!
The North Island of New Zealand is chock-full of natural hot springs, thanks to a volcanic landscape that’s created an abundance of geothermal activity. The regions of Taupo and Rotorua are particularly rich in geothermal wonders, including some incredible hot pools that are out in the wild, easy to access, and free of charge.
A soak in hot water helps ease stress and promote blood circulation, and the silica and sulfur specifically found in natural hot springs are said to be beneficial for chronic pain, inflammation, and many skin conditions. What better reason to go for a warm dip when you’re traveling around New Zealand?
Whether you’re looking to detox and heal your body or just wind down for a while, visiting a hot spring is sure to provide you with some respite and relaxation.
We’ve spent a lot of time soaking in hot pools around Taupo and Rotorua, and in this guide we’re sharing our favorite free and low-cost hot pools in the area.
So read on to discover the best hot springs in Taupo and Rotorua!
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Table of Contents
Map of Hot Pools in Taupo & Rotorua
Hot Pools in Taupo
1. Otumuheke Stream (Spa Park)
Location (GPS Coordinates): -38.66924645435852, 176.08551758650677
This natural hot spring is one of Taupo’s gems! It’s situated in a space where two rivers converge: the mighty, freshwater Waikato and the steaming hot, mineral-rich Otumuheke Stream.
You can soak in the hot stream with little waterfalls pouring over the rocks whilst looking out at the rushing Waikato river passing by. When you get too hot in the springs, a dip in the cold river will awaken and refresh you.
Spa Park has recently undergone an upgrade and there are bathrooms, a changing room, and a little coffee stand. This is a popular place, so we recommend a sunrise visit to avoid the crowds.
2. Wairakei Thermal Pools
Cost: $15-$25 per person
Location: 671 Wairakei Drive, Wairakei, Taupo 3384
Restrictions: Children under 14 not allowed
This is our favorite hot spring in Taupo. While Wairakei requires an entrance fee, it’s so worth the money for the oasis that awaits you!
The water in these pools is mineral-rich and some of the bluest we’ve ever seen. There are several pools, all of varying temperatures, so you can get super hot in one and cool off in another. Repeat until you’re a prune.
We like to visit Wairakei in the evening—if you arrive just before sunset, you can see the amazing blue color in the light and then relax under the stars.
Top tip: Before you go, look online for deals to the Wairakei Thermal Pools. You can book $25 tickets directly on Wairakei’s own website, but we often find specials on Book Me for around $15 per person.
Hot Pools Between Taupo and Rotorua
3. Butcher’s Pool
Location (GPS Coordinates): -38.45321406645538, 176.34296781349323
A rectangular, man-made pool holds natural hot spring water at this special spot. This is a no-frills but tidy hot pool. It has a community feel to it and there are bathrooms there.
Butcher’s Pool is right off the main road between Rotorua and Taupo, so it’s well worth a visit if you’re driving this route.
Hot Pools in Rotorua
4. Kerosene Creek
Location (GPS Coordinates): -38.33442308908903, 176.38627540574916
Likely the most well-known hot spring in the area, Kerosene Creek is a popular spot! This is for a good reason, as this hot spring is in a beautiful setting.
From the parking lot, you’ll walk through a fern-laden forest along the steaming hot river for a few minutes until you reach the main pool, which is just below a waterfall. There’s also a smaller pool up above that’s a great spot for a soak.
Kerosene Creek is a wonderful place for a free dip out in nature, but if visiting here please ensure to not leave any valuables in your car! The parking lot here is known for break-ins, unfortunately.
5. The Bridge (Hot ‘n Cold) Pool
Location (GPS Coordinates): -38.355718280846936, 176.36420754177965
Just down the road from Kerosene Creek is this wonderful hot pool, which is in an equally gorgeous setting but is slightly less well-known (in other words, it’s not quite as busy).
The great thing about this spot is that it’s at the convergence of two rivers—a hot one and a cold one (if the name didn’t already give that away!). When you get too hot, you can float over to the cold river to cool off: the perfect combination for pure bliss.
6. Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
Cost: $22 per adult; $12 per child
Location: 648 Waikite Valley Road, Waikite Valley
Waikite Valley is a wonderfully-constructed commercial hot pool complex, with entirely natural hot spring water. In fact, you can take a 5-minute walk from the hot pools up to the main source of the thermal waters, which we highly recommend! It’s an easy walk through a lush, Jurassic Park-esque setting and it’s so neat to see where the water springs up.
Back to the hot pools, though! The pools at Waikite cater to all ages. There are larger, warm swimming pools for kids to splash around in and smaller hot pools overlooking the valley that are great for adults to relax in.
Top tip: Waikite Valley has a campground, and if you have a tent or campervan we highly recommend staying here overnight! The camping fee is $28 per adult for an unpowered site or $32 per adult for a powered one, and this includes hot pool admission.
The best part about camping here is that you can go in the hot pools in the evening after the crowds have left—or even better, wake up at dawn and go in the pools first thing in the morning. The best!
Want More Rotorua Hot Pools?
If you have it in your budget, there are some awesome Rotorua hot pool experiences to splash out on.
From soaking in lakeside pools filled with mineral water to relaxing in a cedar tub in the forest, Rotorua has got a whole lot of options for hot spring-seekers.
We recommend checking out these hot pool experiences:
Some Tips and Warnings for Visiting These Natural Hot Springs
- You can contract amoebic meningitis from natural hot springs, not just in New Zealand but in hot springs worldwide. While incredibly rare in New Zealand, this is a serious, life-threatening disease. The solution for this problem is simple, however: don’t stick your head under the water in a hot spring and you’ll be just fine. More information can be found here.
- Don’t leave anything valuable in your car when visiting any of the free hot springs; Kerosene Creek in particular has an unfortunate amount of car break-ins. Don’t leave anything around to tempt the thieves.
- The tannins in natural hot springs can sometimes stain swimsuits, so wear a black swimsuit in them or one you don’t care about too much. Same with silver jewelry—don’t wear it in hot pools, as the naturally-occurring sulfur can tarnish silver! (Tip: if you forget to take your silver jewelry off beforehand and it does tarnish, you can clean it with toothpaste).
- Wearing water sandals or water shoes in the pools will protect your feet from any sharp rocks or potential broken glass, and it also makes some of the muddy pool bottoms feel less mucky on your toes.
- Remember to leave no trace at these amazing natural places, and pack out anything you bring in. When visiting the free hot pools around Taupo and Rotorua, we like to bring a rubbish bag to collect trash left over by other less respectful visitors (as unfortunately, they do exist). We encourage you to do the same!
And there you have it—an overview of the best hot springs in Taupo and Rotorua. Whether you visit one of these spots or all of them, we hope you have a great time enjoying these natural wonders.
What to Pack for a Trip to These Taupo & Rotorua Hot Pools
Swimsuit – All of the commercial hot pools in this guide require that you wear a swimsuit. As for the free hot pools, the rules are less clear, but we personally have never encountered nudity in these pools. Come prepared with a swimsuit!
Water sandals or water shoes – You won’t need these in the commercial hot pools, but we recommend them in the free ones. You just never know if someone has left behind broken glass or if there are sharp rocks underfoot. Tevas are our go-to!
Water bottle – Make sure you stay hydrated while soaking in hot pools. We always pack plenty of water to sip on while we soak. The Camelbak Eddy water bottle is our fave.
Quick-dry towel – A quick-dry microfiber towel is an awesome item to pack for a trip around New Zealand, especially if you plan to soak in hot pools or hit the beach!
Where to Stay in Rotorua and Taupo
Rotorua: Aura Accommodation
Whenever we’re in Rotorua, we stay at Aura Accommodation. It ticks all of the boxes for us: affordable pricing; a central Rotorua location within walking distance to town; clean, tidy rooms; friendly staff; and onsite hot pools!
Yep, you read that right—they’ve got hot mineral pools right at the motel! Motel guests can use the hot pools free of charge.
Aura Accommodation also has a swimming pool, free BBQs & a steam box cooker for guests to use, and an awesome commitment to sustainability,
Check motel prices:
Taupo: Beechtree Motel
The Beechtree Motel is our go-to accommodation in Taupo; we’ve honestly stayed here so many times, we’ve lost count.
Their rooms are well-priced, clean, and modern. While it’s not a lakefront motel, the Beechtree is located on a quiet street that’s just a 5-minute walk to the lake, and lots of the rooms have lake views.
In particular, we recommend booking one of the rooms with a spa bath!
Check motel prices:
Want More New Zealand Travel Inspiration?
After you get your hot pool fix, why not try some of these other free things to do in Rotorua?
For some amazing hikes not too far from these hot springs in Rotorua and Taupo, read our guide to hiking in the Whirinaki Forest.
Want more hot springs on the North Island? Head over to Hot Water Beach on the stunning Coromandel Peninsula!