The village is open to the public from 8:30 to 5:00 every day, so you can just pay to go in and wander around yourself, but having a guide makes it far more interesting, plus, you just don't get the same feel for the village walking around on your own.
Whakarewarewa is set in a thermal active area, and so you get to see your fair share of hot lakes, bubbling mud and geysers, but what is unique about it this place is that it is a people's home. Parts of the village are closed to the public, namely the homes of the residents and some private bathing areas. But, otherwise, you have the full run of the village, and the people there couldn't be more welcoming or friendly.
Now, the tour--the guide we had was from the village, and had extensive knowledge about its past, its present, and its future. She also had a great sense of humour, and kept our undivided attention with her insights into the ways of the Maori culture. She showed us around the main sights of the village, making sure we were at the concert hall in time for one of the two performances that run daily there. During the concert, we saw traditional dancing and entertainment (including poi dancing--more of that later), and also the haka. Audience participation was very much encouraged.
We were also shown around the wharae (meeting house), and the Pohutu geyser--a very impressive geyser that, once erupted, spouts for hours, giving more than enough time for photo opportunities!
Included in the tour are trips to the gift shops in the village. Not only is this an opportunity to show off some of their hand-made products, and hopefully make some sales, but it is also an opportunity for the guide to show some methods of traditional handicraft--we were shown how the grass skirts are made, by rolling and scraping flax, and then leaving it to dry. We also saw wood, bone and jade carving, and were shown other Maori arts, and told about how the mud and lanolin products are made, before they are packed and sold in the shops.
All in all, the tour is well worth doing, as you get to learn things you just wouldn't have the opportunity to if you did it alone, plus, the guides are so very proud of their heritage, they are only too pleased to show it off to you.
Results 1-3of 3 Reviews
Auckland, United Kingdom
October 30, 2002
From journal Rotorua Roamer
Williams Lake, British Columbia
August 27, 2002
The thermal reserve has prescribed paths leading you through hot springs, mud pools and other indications of geothermal activity. The highlight of the thermal reserve is the Pohutu Geyser which erupts almost constantly to heights of up to 50 to 60 feet. Great photo opportunities here. At certain times of the day there are guided tours through this area which may add somewhat to your enjoyment, but it is easy to make your way through on your own. The best viewing areas for the geyser are often busy and you may have to wait a few minutes to get the picture you want.
The Maori Arts and Crafts Institute has several traditional Maori buildings and depending on the time of day will have a few demonstrations of Maori crafts which show you how natives made clothing etc. in days gone by. Again this area has guided tours at certain times of the day. If your time in New Zealand is limited and you haven't been exposed to Maori culture area, this may be worthwhile seeing in depth. If you have been or will be going to other Maori sites, there are better places to go. (see review of Tamaki Maori Village or Auckland Museum)
The Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve is a better walk, but the highlight here is the Pohutu geyser which truly is spectacular. Highly recommend the thermal reserve, but might skip over the Arts and Crafts Institute.
From journal 5 days in Rotorua
January 3, 2001
From journal Rotorua - the rotten egg city