Contemplate the Power of the Huka Falls.
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Schedule of the Visit.
- 1A Day at the Huka Falls.
- 2The Power of the Falls
- 3An Adrenaline Overdose (Huka Falls Jet).
- 4Ten Minutes Before the Flood!
- 5Travel on Another Planet.
A Day at the Huka Falls.
Impossible to narrate a journey to the legendary Huka Falls of New Zealand, without explaining their apocalyptic origin.
The "apocalypse" word may seem exaggerated, but it is, however, the scientific term used by the volcanologists to classify the most powerful and destructive eruptions of all time.
And 26,500 years ago, the Oruanui eruption devastated a surface of 1000 km2.
The northern part of the New Zealand Island was entirely covered by burning ashes.
Many species have become extinct, and the entire planet’s climate was affected.
Today, the lush vegetation conceals all the evidence of such a cataclysm.
Then, another violent eruption in 130 A.D. gave birth to Lake Taupo on the North Island.
The Waikato River, who leaves the lake to meet the sea, seems peaceful. But the calm appearance is deceptive. Soon the riverbed made of volcanic rock narrows to create a bottleneck.
The flow becomes stronger and stronger. Furious waters suddenly fall with an incredible strength. Welcome to the Huka Falls! Here, the visit is not limited to the contemplation a fall, even if it is a spectacular one... This area of New Zealand also delivers some surprises that will remain for a long time engraved in your memory.
The Power of the Falls
The Huka Falls are a true jewel of New Zealand. The water which is so pure and the strong concentration of oxygen bubbles explain its turquoise color.
In Maori, the word "Huka" refers to both the scum and the sugar: it is perfectly suited here.
This is a show that can literally hypnotize you. In summer, under the heat of the sun, you can be easily captivated by the sparkling brilliance of the turquoise waters.
You would not be the first travelers to feel the desire to dive into the falls. It would be forgetting how these waters are dangerous...
The Huka Falls could fill an Olympic swimming pools in few seconds!
The height of the falls is not extraordinary (only eleven meters), but the water flow is breathtaking. Imagine that 220 m³ is being poured every moment (about 220,000 liters). The Huka Falls could easily fill Olympic swimming pools in few seconds!
Some brave (crazy?) people have attempted to cross the fall. Few survived the experience.
The first to try was the legendary Explorer Maori Tamatea. Considered as the Marco Polo of New Zealand, he had explored the largest part of the country. His adventure (and his life) stopped there: he was killed during his attempt.
The great feat was, however, accomplished by Greg Oke and Nick Kirkham in 1981. Aboard their kayak,, they crossed the falls and survived.
Other overtrained sportsmen also emerged unscathed. They all describe a sensation of a free fall. One has the impression to be literally sucked up by the current!
You will have understood what I intend to say: this is not a place where you may swim. From the observation deck that overlooks the falls, the sight is impressive.
One hardly dares to bend over to take some pictures. Please note that a gazebo located a little further offers another point of view.
It is the most visited location of the country (even if it is not the most interesting in my humble opinion). Fortunately, the place is far from the commercial exploitation that one can deplore at the Niagara Falls.
There is just a single shop selling ice cream and postcards, and it also serves as an information center.
In summer, you should come early in the morning to admire the falls. Otherwise it is difficult to take a picture without having another tourist just in front of you. The parking is vast, but can be crowded quickly.
Fortunately, most visitors only come to admire the falls from the observation deck because it's free. They will continue their journey after a fifteen minutes stop. It should be noted that access to the falls is facilitated by the proximity of Taupo.
But we did not come only to admire the falls from above. To truly enjoy the experience, one has to be closer to the falls. Of course, you might get soaked, but trust me and book a Huka Jet tour: you won’t regret it!
An Adrenaline Overdose (Huka Falls Jet).
A little further down on Falls Loop Rd, you’ll find the jetty of the Huka Falls Jet company. To be honest, I was a little bit afraid when I came here the first time.
The principle is simple: we will navigate on the Waikato River up to the Huka Falls.
Since an ordinary boat would face difficulties withstanding such a powerful current, we will board on a powerful jet boat capable of reaching 90 km/h. Imagine yourself driving at this speed on a highway... excepted that this time it won’t be a highway but a raging river!
I don't want to hear any excuses like the classic: “The weather is not so warm today, and I don't want to get soaked ...”
Huka Falls Jet stands among the Kiwipal rating of the best jetboats activities in NZ. Discover the best jetboat tours in New Zealand.
You should watch the faces of the passengers who complete the jetboat tour just before us. They look like they did a roller coaster instead of a trip on a river.
Seems like everyone is smiling! Which usually means that the activity was great. And I can assure you that you won't be disappointed by the journey.
Aboard the Huka Jet, the best seats are at the one in the middle row.
Everything begins with the distribution of oilskins and life jackets. The jetboat can accommodate 15 people including the pilot. You can take a seat wherever you want in one of the four rows.
The most fearless among us should sit at the front. Do not think that sitting at the bottom will prevent you from being soaked! The best seats are actually at the center of the jet boat.
There is a security bar which you can hold exactly as in a roller coaster.
A great news for you: these security bars are heated. Anyway, in summer the water temperature is around 22°C.
People wearing any kind of hats are requested to remove them. If you fear the cold, you should wear a wool cap instead. In any case, you should remove your glasses if possible before the trip.
The jetboat is very handy, as it is almost able to fly at the surface of the water.
And here we go! This is just incredible to see how fast the jetboat can move in just a few seconds!
At every bend, I have the impression that we are going to come crashing against a rock or hit a tree.
The jetboat is very handy, and our Kiwi pilot is a true champion.
As evidence, he executes a perfect 360° rotation (people with a fragile stomach should select another kind of activity). We slalom while going up the river and we are shaken a lot.
At full speed, the wind is so strong that you'll almost find it hard to breathe. With 180-degree turns and surprise accelerations, it's will blow your mind!
The excursion on the river also gives you the opportunity to discover of the history of the region.
While screaming or laughing (sometimes both at the same time), you lose track of time.
I think it's the adrenaline rush which kills the fear... unless it is the incredible landscape that diverts your attention from the danger?
The pilot checks regularly if everything is fine on board, and tells us a few hilarious anecdotes about his job, the river and the region.
We approach the Huka Falls and we feel the water furiously banging against the hull.The Jet approaches the waterfall, to the great surprise of the tourists watching us from the belvedere.
Cameras which were kept safe under oilskins reappear as by magic. The pilot manoeuvres our jetboat so we can easily immortalise the moment on a film.
The return journey is as crazy as the outward journey! You will disembark with shaky legs, but with a large smile on your face!
The price is quite high, but the outing lasts 35 minutes.
In the end, 35 minutes of fun cost about $100 ($65 for children). It may seems expensive at first sight, but compared to a rollercoaster lasting two minutes, it worth the price. I remember meeting an old couple (who was celebrating a second honeymoon in New Zealand), who told me that “it was a far better experience than a gondola ride in Venice”.
For practical details, Ben the Kiwi is at your service at the end of this article. He will tell you anything you need to know to book a Huka Falls Jet tour. But the adventure in New Zealand is not over yet! There is another wonder close to the Huka falls that you must not miss before leaving!
Ten Minutes Before the Flood!
You could contemplate the Huka Falls for an eternity. I have often wondered how the river bed looks like, and it would be great if you had the magic power to stop the waters flow for a moment.
It is almost what I'm offering you to discover right now. Icing on the cake, this activity is free and unknown to most tourists in the region.
The Aratiatia Rapids are only 50 meters away from the falls. Legend says that a Maori priest named Tia priest discovered this mighty river surrounded by steep cliffs.
At first sight, it appears to be a dried-up river bed. The landscape is nice indeed, but there are no rapids to be seen here... but do not be fooled!
A blockbuster movie is not your sole opportunity to witness a flood If you follow the dry river, you'll finally reach a great dam.
Several times a day, the valves open up to dump the overflow of the Lake Taupo in the Aratiatia river bed.
By security measure, a siren sounds a few minutes before the opening. The spectacle is very impressive!
Sheltered at a safe place in the heights, we are witnessing an unbelievable metamorphosis... The furious rapids suddenly appear at an inconceivable rate of 90,000 liters per second!
The water rushes down the river bed at breakneck speed. A person who would have inadvertently found himself there would have been swept away instantly.
It does not frighten few well-trained sportsmen who await the rapids in their kayak! I advise everyone not to try such madness! Unless you have ten years of practice and a Red Bull logo tattooed on your forehead, you should observe the phenomenon from a safe place instead.
Only high-level athletes can survive in these rapids.
To be honest, such phenomenon is not actually natural: it is triggered by man, but it exists elsewhere in New Zealand and can be very dangerous.
Some rivers are subject to sudden floods, often triggered by torrential rain upstream. The level of the river may increase of several meters in few minutes. This is the main reason why camping in a riverbed is strongly discouraged, even if the river seems to have gone for many years.
I recommend you to read our special guide about hiking to learn many practical advice.
Remember to take pictures before and during the flood in order to compare the difference later. It is, of course, even better if you can shoot a video instead.
Not to miss the show, you have to be here on time (Ben the Kiwi will give you the opening hours of the dam at the end of this article).
Half an hour later, the valves close up and the river returns to its peaceful appearance... waiting for the next flood!
Don't forget to take pictures when the rapids invade the riverbed!
The entire walk takes about 4 hours (round trip) to complete.
To save time, renting mountain bikes at Taupo is perhaps the best solution. Please note that you are not obliged to follow the full itinerary.
There are three observation deck perfectly indicated. The first one is located only half an hour from the departure.
There are still plenty of things to discover before going back.
Travel on Another Planet.
All these activities can be done out in a few hours. If you do not want to try the Huka Falls Jet, there is an alternative. You can also come close to the falls by boat.
The Huka Falls River Cruise “Maid of the Falls” navigate on the Waikato River up to the falls during about one hour and a half. This is an excellent alternative for those who are not too fond of strong sensations.
Essentially, this tour gives more time to take pictures in good conditions. One can sit inside to listen to the explanations of the captain regarding the river. I'm always impressed to see staff keeping its enthusiasm day after day.
At the end of the tour, coffee and tea are offered on board, and the whole experience is far less expensive than the one at Huka Falls Jet.
The “Huka Falls Walkway - Spa Park” is a trail that leaves from the Taupo City to reach the falls. Easily accessible, it follows a flat track most of the time. It harbors a little secret near a bridge close to a waterfall: a thermal spring of hot water allows you to bathe in all weathers. Remember to bring your swimsuit and refreshments for the trip.
The “Huka Falls Prawn Park” is close to the Huka Jet wharf and it is the only shrimp breeding in New Zealand.
By harnessing the geothermal heated river water, it is possible to breed huge shrimp. The certified world record is 68 cm!
The restaurant can cook them for you, but you can also fish some shrimps by yourself.
Do not forget to visit the famous Huka Falls Craters of the Moon. Just follow the road for a few kilometers after the Huka Falls car park. Expect to be transported into another dimension.
Between craters of boiling mud and steaming sulfur, the circuit offers a foretaste of Rotorua. Alas, the access to the park is no longer free, and you will have to pay about $8 for an adult ticket.
The Huka falls are near the Craters of the moon.
You just need half a day to contemplate turquoise waterfalls, navigate on a river at 90 km/h, contemplate a deluge or swim in a hot spring...
And to consider that you could have done like everyone else, and missed all those wonderful activities!
I am sure you will take a hundred pictures of this part of your journey in New Zealand. Do not forget to send us the most spectacular ones! We will be published them on Kiwipal. Ben The Kiwi has great advice (on the shrimp fishing and every activity in the region). Being a true expert guide, he can also give you the daily schedules of the Aratiatia Rapids dam.
PS: Do not forget that New Zealand owns some of the highest waterfalls in the world. The Lady Bowen and the Stirling Falls at the Milford Sound or the Browne Falls near the Doubtful Sound are among the most beautiful.
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? Here is some free advice: before you visit the small hot spring and its pretty waterfall, make sure there are not too many people on the trail. Because there won't be room for everyone!
- All topics ... 46 answers in total
- Huka Falls Jet 11 answers
- Transportation and Practical Information 10 answers
- Excursion to Aratiatia 7 answers
- Excursion From Taupo 5 answers
- The Waikato River and Fall 4 answers
- Huka Prawn Park 4 answers
- Huka Falls River Cruise 3 answers
- Weather 2 answers
Huka Falls Jet
- How much does it cost?
Lately, the rate was $110 per adult, and $65 per child. With a family rate for 2 adults and 2 children at $295. It seems that a 50% rebate is granted from the second tour (prices may vary). Visit the official website to book online:Huka Falls Jet Booking
- How to get to Huka Falls Jet departure?
The transfer from Taupo is free, a shuttle will pick you up at the hotel. If you are coming by car, it is 10 minutes north of the city, in the Wairakei Park.
- How does the jet engines work?
The particularity of these craft is their very low draft. They are propelled like the jet skis, thanks to turbines.
- Can we get wet during the ride on the river?
Probably. Especially if you are sitting on the sides or at the back. You will be given waxes, but as a precaution, plan to change clothes (one never know). A wool cap would be great. The water is not cold in summer (22 ° C), but it reaches just 10 ° C in winters. Upon return, guests can enjoy a hot drink at the bar next door.
- Is there a minimum age required to participate?
There is no minimum age, but the minimum size required is one meter.
- Is Jet Boat safe or is-it dangerous?
Since 1993, there have been more than 150,000 passengers, aged between 5 and 89! To my knowledge, there has never been an accident. Staff are trained twice as long as usually required to operate a jet boat. And they have been practicing for years. It is an activity perfectly run-in and the only one of its kind that is authorized on the river.
- What is the Huka Falls Jet schedule?
There are about 4 departures per day. Check the official website for exact timetables.Huka Falls Jet Schedule
- Is it necessary to book the Jet tour on the river?
In summer, I recommend it. During the low season, you should take a decision on location depending on the weather.
- Can we bring back a souvenir of the Jet tour?
There are cameras on the course and the pilot will take a picture of you near the falls. The images are transmitted by Wi-Fi to the reception, and you can buy the video at the end. The video lasts only a few minutes, but is quite good. But this option seems unimportant if you have already taken your own pictures.
- Are there other similar activities in New Zealand?
Yes, the Shotover Jet of Queenstown, and the other one at Wanaka are just as extraordinary.
- Does the Huka Falls Jet really worth its price?
It is a bit touristy, a little expensive, but unforgettable. That said, if you've ever done paragliding, or practiced extreme sports, this may be too peaceful for you. It's up to you.
Transportation and Practical Information
- Can we come by bus?
There are several coach lines serving the Huka Falls. I consider the best to be the "Taupo Hot Bus". It costs $15 per person and stops at many tourist points in addition to this one. Departure from the i-Site, several times a day, in Tongariro Street, at the north of Taupo.
- How to reach the Huka Falls?
Leaving Taupo, take the SH1 towards Rotorua. After 2 km you will arrive at the falls. There is a superb honey shop on the way which deserves a stop. If you are coming from Rotorua, take the SH1 towards Taupo, and stop 2 km before reaching the city (it is very well indicated). The falls are located in the Wairakei Tourist Park.
- Is parking free of charge?
It's free but can sometimes be crowded in high season. Do not be discouraged, there is a lot of passage. Attention, however, it closes at 17:30! You may find yourself stuck.
- Is the car park under surveillance?
It is not. Do not leave visible business inside your vehicle. New Zealand has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. But this does not keep you safe from thieves, especially if the car park is little frequented during the low season.
- Is there a lot of people on site?
In the summer, come early in the morning. This also makes it possible to observe the numerous Tuis (blue pigeons of New Zealand). In the middle of the day, it's hard or even impossible, to take a picture without having another tourist in the frame. The falls are on the way to Rotorua. Many tourist buses stop there for a few minutes.
- Are there any toilets on site?
Yes, but they cost 20 cents. The real problem is that there can be a lot of people.
- Can we picnic on site?
Yes, this is the perfect place. There are picnic tables. Personally, I prefer to have a picnic at the geothermal waterfall or near the Aratiatia rapids.
- Can we fish near the Huka Falls?
The current is so powerful that it prevents the migration of trout. Nor are there the famous giant eels of New Zealand, nor any other species of fish.
- Do you recommend the Huka Lodge?
It is one of the most famous luxury hotels in the country, even booked by Her Majesty the Queen of England. I won't tell you the rates, you can find them on the official website. But a single night is probably as expensive as your entire stay in New Zealand.Huka Lodge booking
- Can we overfly the falls?
If you have a very large budget, you can opt for the Helipro Scenic Tours. To book, visit this page:Helicopter Flights above the falls
Excursion to Aratiatia
- What are the opening hours of the Aratiatia dam?
October to March: 10 AM, 12 AM, 4 PM
April to September: 10 AM, 12 AM
Please arrive 10 minutes early!
- How to explain the presence of rapids?
The opening of the dam is at the origin. And the river follows a steady slope over a kilometer.
- Can one picnic near the rapids?
Yes, there is a picnic area in the Aratiatia Reserve.
- Can we get to the dam by car?
Yes, following State Highway 5 to the Aratiatia dam. Continue on Aratiatia Road for 5 km.
- Is access to the rapids free of charge?
It's completely free.
- Should we come to see the rapids if it rained the day before?
In case of prolonged bad weather, the dam valves remain permanently open. You will see the rapids, but not their training. It would be a shame !
- Where is the start point of the trek to the rapids?
The route begins to the left, on the other side of the bridge overlooking the fall.
Excursion From Taupo
- Can we walk from Taupo?
You can follow the Huka Falls Walkway - Spa Park. From Taupo city center, go up to the north on Tongariro Street then turn right into Spa Road. You will reach the parking lot of "Spa Thermal Park". This is the starting point for the hike toward the Waikato River.
- Is it long to come on foot?
I ended up discovering that the people of Taupo are avoiding the car. Most printed guides announce a 2-hour stroll. In reality, it lasts about 45 minutes (the falls are only 2 km from the city). Note that bicycles are not allowed on the track.
- Would you recommend coming here on foot?
For the hot spring all alone, this worth a try, indeed. But it is especially a beautiful walk, in an exotic forest that runs along the river. The terrain is flat most of the time. You can even consider coming up with a stroller for the little ones. The rumbling of the falls grows as you advance. Some cliffs overlook the river and you can see the famous Huka Falls Lodges Hotel.
- Is it easy to bath in the hot spring?
You will have to go down a few rocks, which can be difficult for the younger ones. The water is warm and very pleasant. Beware, however, of the waterfall which can be burning.
- How to find the thermal spring?
Leaving Taupo, it takes 20 to 30 min (depending on your level) to reach a bridge that crosses a spring and a small waterfall.
The Waikato River and Fall
- Can you tell me more about the Waikato?
Located on the northern island, it is the longest river in the country. It takes its source at Lake Taupo and flows over 425 km!
- What is the height of the fall?
The cornice is about 6 meters, but the height of the river is 5 meters. It can be considered that there are between 9 and 11 meters according to the opening hours of the dam.
- How can such power be explained?
The river passes from a width of 100 meters to only 15 meters. It rushes into a narrow gorge. These are the largest falls on the Waikato River.
- Is it possible to get wet?
Usually not. But some trails can be muddy in times of rain and sometimes slippery.
Huka Prawn Park
- How to fish giant shrimp at the Huka Prawn Park?
Some time ago, I would have advised you not to go out. Shrimp fishing is a difficult activity if you do not know how to do it. In general it is the children who want to try, and they are quickly disappointed not to catch anything. Recently, they added a guide offering a course of about ten minutes to teach the basics. This has greatly improved the chances to catch shrimps.
- Where is the Prawn Works Bar and Grill?
It is located right next to the jetty for the jets that go up the river. Find the full address and itinerary on the official website:Prawn Works Bar & Grill
- What prawns are served at the Prawn Works Bar and Grill?
Giant shrimp are a tropical variety native to Malaysia. They are raised in captivities in large basins heated by geothermal energy. The restaurant produces more than 32 tons of shrimps every year!
- Do you recommend the Prawn Works Bar and Grill?
They serve good shrimps. They are not the best in the world, but they should please amateurs. If you have visited the park and fished some shrimps, you can enjoy them at the restaurant. Attention, however: they won't be cooked for you! You will have to cook them yourself in a large bowl of boiling water on the spot. Children often love fishing, it is rarer they appreciate this part...
Huka Falls River Cruise
- How much does the Huka Falls River Cruise cost?
Approximately $35 per adult and $15 per child. Family rate at $85 for 2 adults and 2 children. For more information, visit the official website.Huka Falls Jet Pricing
- Where to find the Huka Falls River Cruise Pier?
North of Taupo, follow the State Highway 5 towards Rotorua for 2 km. Turn right onto Aratiatia Road. You will see a sign indicating, "Aratitia Rapids & River Cruise". Continue up to the Aratiatia dam for about 2 km. Parking is located just after the bridge.
- What are the departure times for the Maid of the Falls?
Departure at 10:30 am, 12:30 am and 2:30 pm every day. An additional schedule is sometimes available in summer. Inquire on the official site:Booking Maid of the Falls
- Where can we check the weather?
Weather is available on this page:Huka Falls weather
- How to get there?
If you plan to make excursions, it is better to have good weather. If you go to Rotorua, a fifteen-minute stop will be enough during the trip. In the rain, the fall is even more impressive.
On the Country Map
The Huka Falls are located in the Waikato region of ??the North Island.
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