A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Kaikoura vs. Rotorua for Families, Couples, Backpackers, and Attractions

Should you visit Kaikoura or Rotorua?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Kaikoura or Rotorua? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.


Kaikoura is a nature-oriented, biologically diverse, and unique town. It's also popular because of the nightlife, food, and beaches.


Rotorua is a diverse, cultural, and natural town. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. And you can't forget about the hiking, shopping, and museums.

Kaikoura and Rotorua: Pros and Cons

  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Public transit not as usable
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good public transit
  • Impressive beauty

Is there more to do in Kaikoura or Rotorua?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Kaikoura. Although Kaikoura and Rotorua are both popular with visitors, Kaikoura has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Kaikoura is more popular for its beaches, while Rotorua is known for its museums and impressive beauty. Kaikoura is popular for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes. It is also home to its whale watching trips. Rotorua is popular for its geothermal activity, Maori cultural influence, and its role in the famous Lord of the Rings movies.

How is Kaikoura different from Rotorua?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Rotorua and Kaikoura. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Kaikoura or Rotorua?


Rotorua is a well-known place for its sights and museums. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for its museums and history.

Rotorua offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. The area is filled with opportunities to learn about the Maori culture. The Maori village of Whakarewarewa is a highlight and you should also visit Te Wairoa. Fans of Lord of the Rings won't want to miss Hobbiton either. Finally, Rotorua Museum well worth a visit.

While most people don't head to Kaikoura specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. There aren't many museums in the area, but it's worth learning more about the region's history with a visit to Kaikoura Museum.

Is the Food Better in Kaikoura or Rotorua? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?


Foodies will find both Kaikoura and Rotorua both to be excellent destinations.

Eating is part of the travel experience when you visit Kaikoura. Seafood lovers will be in heaven in this town! There are many local, freshly caught favorites such as cod, mussels, and crayfish (which is actually lobster). You'll find plenty of casual eateries, including an authentic American diner.

Rotorua has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. There's a wide selection of culinary options in the area that include steambox (food prepared with the geothermal heat), and hāngī, which is a traditional Maori cooking technique. Many restaurants also make use of the local fruit, vegetables, and meats.

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua Better for Nightlife?


Both Kaikoura and Rotorua are good when it comes to partying.

There's a variety of activities in the evening in Kaikoura. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Rotorua. You'll find the best concentration of bars and restaurants around Tutankei Street, which is often referred to as "Eat Street".

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua Better for Beaches?


Kaikoura is an excellent place to visit for the beach. However, Rotorua is not a beach destination.

The beaches at Kaikoura attract visitors from all over. There are many black pebble beaches in the area, which are great for wildlife spotting, but not so good for swimming. Gooch's Beach is one of the most popular, and it's sandier than many of the other beaches. South Bay is another popular area to visit.

Rotorua is not a beach destination.

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua Better for Hiking?


If you're looking to go hiking, Kaikoura and Rotorua both have excellent trails.

Kaikoura is a popular spot for hiking. There are many coastal walks in the area that will take you through a variety of landscapes. This is also a great way to see the many diverse types of wildlife throughout the peninsula.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Rotorua. The area is filled with beautiful walking trails that take you by lakes, volcanoes, and geothermal hot springs. A favorite route in the area is Tarawera Trail, which is 15 kilometers long and ends at a natural hot water beach.

Is the Shopping Better in Kaikoura or Rotorua?


Both Kaikoura and Rotorua are good shopping destinations.

Kaikoura offers some nice shopping areas. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Rotorua has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. You'll find stores and galleries selling art and crafts around the main town center.

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua Better for Families?


Kids will enjoy a visit to either Kaikoura or Rotorua.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Kaikoura is a very family-friendly destination. Kids who love animals will appreciate all of the wildlife in the area. This is one of the best places in the country to see dolphins, whales, and seals. There are world class whale watching trips as well as opportunities to swim with the dolphins and get close to the seals. There is also kayaking, a coastal train, and even sheep shearing. Minigolf is also a fun activity in the area.

Rotorua is one of the most popular family destinations. The geothermal activity is fascinating for kids and adults alike. There are also many activities that will teach kids about the Maori culture and for animal lovers, there are farms and wildlife tours. Lord of the Rings fans won't want to miss Hobbiton, and there are many thrilling activities in the area such as white water rafting.

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua Better for Couples?


Rotorua is a world-class destination for its romantic activities. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for couples.

Rotorua makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. The unique environment and beautiful natural setting make this a wonderful honeymoon destination. Couples will appreciate the geothermal activity, beautiful walking trails, and diverse outdoor activities. There's also horseback riding, hot springs, and helicopter rides.

Kaikoura makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. The town is all about wildlife, so if whale watching trips, dolphin spotting, and experiencing amazing local wildlife is your thing, then this is your spot! There are also beautiful coastal sights with a dramatic mountain backdrop.

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?


Rotorua is a world-class destination for backpackers. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.

Backpackers and budget travelers come from all over the world to visit Rotorua. Well established on the backpacker trail, there are plenty of hostels in the area and tons of activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Plenty of budget travelers and backpackers visit Kaikoura. There are a decent number of hostels in the area and plenty of fun activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?


Rotorua is a popular place for its public transit. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for times when you don't have a car.

Rotorua has a few public transit options. There are buses and shuttles that travel around town and through the area.

Public transit is quite limited in Kaikoura. The town is very small and there is no real public transit in the area.

Is Kaikoura or Rotorua a more walkable city?


Kaikoura and Rotorua both are good when exploring on foot.

Kaikoura is a somewhat walkable place. There are many coastal walks in the area, which is a great way to soak up the beauty and see the wildlife. The town itself is small and most of the accommodation is along Beach Road, so it's relatively easy to reach places on foot.

Rotorua is a somewhat walkable town. The town itself is fairly walkable but if you want to get into the surrounding areas, having a vehicle provides the most flexibility.

For even more information, also check out Is Kaikoura Worth Visiting? and Is Rotorua Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Rotorua or Kaikoura?

How long in Kaikoura or Rotorua?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Kaikoura and Rotorua. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Kaikoura than in Rotorua. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Kaikoura, and 2-3 days is enough time in Rotorua.

Couples should spend more time in Rotorua than Kaikoura. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Rotorua that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Rotorua than Kaikoura if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Rotorua.

  • How many days in Kaikoura or Rotorua? Ideal Length of Stay
    Kaikoura 2-4 
    Rotorua 2-3

One day in Kaikoura or Rotorua?

In Kaikoura, you'll find shopping and nightlife. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This town offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

The beautiful town of Rotorua offers food and shopping. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

A weekend in Kaikoura or Rotorua?

In Kaikoura, you'll find nightlife and food. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Kaikoura has to offer.

Rotorua is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this town makes for a great vacation. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Rotorua, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Five days in Kaikoura or Rotorua?

Kaikoura is a great place to explore. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

Rotorua is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Kaikoura or Rotorua?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Kaikoura. Many people enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting Kaikoura. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

Rotorua is a great place to explore. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This town offers something for everyone.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One Week (7-Day) Tours in New Zealand, The Best 2-Week Tours in New Zealand, The Best Bicycle Tours in New Zealand, and Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in New Zealand.

Which place is cheaper, Rotorua or Kaikoura?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Kaikoura is $137, while the average daily cost in Rotorua is $94. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Kaikoura and Rotorua in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Kaikoura $49
    Rotorua $49
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Kaikoura $98
    Rotorua $98
Compare Hotels in Kaikoura and Rotorua

Looking for a hotel in Kaikoura or Rotorua? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Kaikoura

Hotels in Rotorua

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.

Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Kaikoura Hotel Prices and Rotorua Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Kaikoura $17
    Rotorua $5.07

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Rotorua

Also for Rotorua, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Rotorua to Auckland Afternoon Transfer with Waitomo Glow Worms: $183

Is it cheaper to fly into Kaikoura or Rotorua?

Prices for flights to both Rotorua and Kaikoura change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Kaikoura $38
    Rotorua $29

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Rotorua

For Rotorua, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Mitai Maori Village: Cultural Experience and Dinner Buffet: $95
  • Te Pa Tu Māori Cultural Experience with Dinner: $160

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Kaikoura $154
    Rotorua $34

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Kaikoura are as follows:

  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $83
  • 1-Hour Private Heli-Picnic Mountain top tour in Kaikoura : $243
  • 40-minute Mt Fyffe Summit Heli Tour in Kaikoura : $227
  • Half Day Zipline Adventure in Kaikoura: $99
  • Kaikoura Swim with Dolphins Tour from Christchurch: $246
  • Kaikoura Whale Watch Day Tour from Christchurch: $218
  • Private Wildlife Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $185
  • Seal Kayaking Adventure in Kaikoura: $84
  • Sunset Evening Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $93
  • Sunset Kayak tour in Kaikoura: $83
  • Wildlife Sea Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $93

Typical Entertainment Prices in Rotorua

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Rotorua's activities, tours, and tickets:

  • Lunch Out for Two

Tours and Activities in Rotorua

For Rotorua, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Jade Carving Experience at a Local Studio: $21
  • Whaka Geothermal Trails Self-Guided Tour: $22
  • Government Gardens Walking Tour: $23
  • Geothermal Mineral Baths Experience: Pavilion Pools for 12+: $28
  • Whakarewarewa Village Guided Tour: $28
  • Geothermal Adults Only Mineral Bathing - Pavilion Pools Bathing Ticket: $28
  • Whakarewarewa Village Guided Tour: $28
  • Waimangu Volcanic Valley Entry Ticket: $28
  • Agrodome Farm Tour with Show and Produce Tasting: $30
  • Agrodome Farm Experience including Farm Show and Farm Tour - Rotorua: $31
  • The National Kiwi Hatchery Tour: $36
  • National Kiwi Hatchery - Kiwi Encounter Tour: $38

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Kaikoura -
    Rotorua $12

Typical Alcohol Prices in Rotorua

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Rotorua:

  • Bottle of Wine

When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Kaikoura and Rotorua, we can see that Kaikoura is more expensive. And not only is Rotorua much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Rotorua would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Rotorua and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Kaikoura would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Kaikoura than you might in Rotorua.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Kaikoura Expensive? and Is Rotorua Expensive?.

Which is Bigger, Kaikoura or Rotorua?

Rotorua has a larger population, and is about 100 times larger than the population of Kaikoura. When comparing the sizes of Kaikoura and Rotorua, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.