Every time we take visitors down to Rotorua it’s been difficult to pick which things to visit. It isn’t especially cheap and some of the expereinces on offer are not very good value for money. Let’s face it, some operators have stuck a few paths around the thermal activities and a shop selling tacky stuff at the entrance. You can visit a few places but really it can get a bit monotonous.
If you don’t want to spend days there – and you don’t need to – I’d suggest visiting three places. Rainbow Springs, Te Puia and the Polynesian Spa.
Rainbow Springs has just been redone, and is well presented. But if you aren’t interested in seeing caged native birds, don’t bother.
Te Puia is first class. Last time I was down they had the work on the new center underway, and now it’s finished. The whole thing is slickly presented. The cultural performance was sensitively and enthusiastically presented, and more often than not these are cringe inducing. All the staff were friendly, welcoming and helpful. The facilities are world class. The only odd thing was the hall with the audio visual presentation, it was all a bit confusing. I think it was a missed chance to present a time line of Maori history in NZ. Rotorua is often the only place tourists bump into Maori culture and using the audio visual stuff alongside physical exhibits and written explanations would have been more interactive.
The thermal activity has everything you need to see. Te Puia is good value for money and if it’s the only place you visit in Rotorua you won’t be disappointed.
The flash part of the Polynesian Spa – I think it’s called the Lake Side Spa, is worth the extra cash. Yes, it is expensive but if it was cheap, everyone would be there. It is beautifully presented with naturally constructed pools in a bush like setting with lake views – and it’s not crowded. And if you only go to Te Puia, then the money you have saved from going to a string of places offering virtually the same experience, can be put towards the ‘luxury’ experience.