Orakei Korako

Ruatapu Hydrothermal Cave

Useful Information

Location: 45 min form Rotorua and 25 min from Taupo. Reached from Tutukau Rd, turn off on Orakei Korako Rd, then drive to the end of the road. (38°28'25.7"S 176°08'34.9"E)
Open: Davlight Saving daily 8-16:30.
Winter daily 8-16.
The times give first and last boat to the geothermal area.
Fee: Adults NZD 36, Children (6-16) NZD 15, Families (2+*) NZD 92.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=45 m, VR=26 m.
Waiwhakaata pool water: pH=2.1-3.0, T=44 °C.
Guided tours: self guided walk 1-2 h.
Photography: Allowed
Accessibility: not suitable for wheelchair or stroller.
Address: Orakei Korako Cave & Thermal Park, 494 Orakei Korako Rd, Reporoa 3083, Tel: +64-7-378-3131, Fax: +64-7-378-0371.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


15-DEC-1937 opened as a tourist resort.
late 1950s Ohakuri Dam constructed.
1961 Ohakuri Dam finished.


Orakei Korako (Place of Adorning) is called a Hydrothermal Park. Another name is the Hidden Valley. It is a series of thermal springs, rimstone pools, mud pools and so forth. The hot water of the volanically heated springs contains a lot of minerals, which are deposited while the water flows downt the shallow valley to Lake Ohakuri. The whole area is developed with trails and wooden walkways. There are numerous similar areas on New Zealand, which may be visited, but this one is said to be the biggest and most interesting.

Orakei Korako is reached by a ferry. The road leads to a parking lot and jetty on one side of the lake, the springs are located on the opposite side. The boat trip is part of the experience and included in the ticket. This lake was created in 1961 by the construction of Ohakuri Dam, which was then the Southern Hemisphere's largest earth dam.

But thats not the reason why we listed the site, as we concentrate on underground sites. There is also a cave on site and with electric lights and trails we categorized it as a show cave. However, it is definitely not the average show cave.

Ruatapu Hydrothermal Cave or simply Ruatapu Cave (Sacred Cave, Twice Blessed Cave) is also known as Aladdin's Cave. At the bottom of the cave lies a turquise lake called Waiwhakaata (Pool of Mirrors). There is a saying that the water of the lake is able to clean jewelry. The water is acidic (pH between 2.1 and 3.0) and the acid actually removes oxidated metals, so the saying is obviously true.

There are two theories how the cave was formed, but which one is correct could not be determined by now. Theory one says, there where heat and steam under pressure below the tufa rock which caused a steam eruption forming the cave. The problem is, that such eruptions throw material out of the crater which then formes so-called hydrothermal eruption breccia. And here no such breccia can be found.

The second theory seem a little more likely. Steam and hydrogen sulphide gas (H2S) rise from the pool surface, which is actually a fumarole. This acids condensates on the walls, in cracks and fissures and dissolves the tuff. Collapsed rocks are dissolved by the water of the lake. So this would be a solutional cave created by the acids of the thermal water.

This cave was a place of importance to the Maori women, who used it for ceremonies. Maori men were not allowed to enter. During the ceremonies the women were singing waiata (songs) which could be heard clearly on the other side of the river. This is a result of the shape of the cave, which focuses the sound. Most ceremonies were connected to child birth and marriage.

The people of Ngati Tahu left Orakei Korako at the end of the 19th century. Most likely the went after the destructions of Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886. Only two families stayed in the area. The place became known to the European travellers because this place was located at the route between Rotorua and Taupo. And soon the geothermal area was established as a visitor attraction. In the early 1900s a tapu-raising ceremony was held to allow men to enter the cave.

The tourist site was opened in 1937. A Rotorua company called Orakei Korako Ltd obtained a 21 year lease with the right of renewal for another 21 years. They improved the road, installed a punt to transport visitors across the river, and developed trails in the park.