A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Lake Tekapo vs. Kaikoura for Families, Food, Hiking, and Couples

Should you visit Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

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

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura. We'll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is a small, remote, and basic town. It's a very nice small town not to be missed. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. And you can't forget about the hiking.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a nature-oriented, biologically diverse, and unique town. Other popular activities here include food, beaches, and hiking.

Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers


Is there more to do in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Kaikoura. Although Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura are both popular with visitors, Kaikoura has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Kaikoura is more popular for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Lake Tekapo is known for its small town charm and impressive beauty. Kaikoura is more touristy than Lake Tekapo and is known for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes. It is also home to its whale watching trips. Lake Tekapo is popular for its hot springs, remote location, and beautiful night sky.

How is Lake Tekapo different from Kaikoura?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a town with a few options for its museums and landmarks. However, Lake Tekapo does not have museums and landmarks.

Kaikoura offers a handful of options for museums and historical sights. 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.

Lake Tekapo does not have museums and landmarks.


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

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a great destination for its restaurant scene. However, Lake Tekapo is a town with minimal options for its local flavors and cuisine.

Dining out in Kaikoura is an experience not to be missed. 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.

Lake Tekapo offers some easy restaurants to choose from. The town is very small with just a couple of restaurants and fast food joints.

Is Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura Better for Nightlife?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a good destination for its evening party scene. However, Lake Tekapo is a town with minimal options for nightlife.

Kaikoura has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

The nightlife scene is quiet in Lake Tekapo This is a very small town and there isn't a real nightlife scene. The night sky is incredible though, and you should absolutely do some stargazing.

Is Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura Better for Beaches?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a great destination for the beach. However, Lake Tekapo is not a beach destination.

Many people visit Kaikoura for it's beautiful beaches. 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.

Lake Tekapo is not a beach destination.


Is Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura Better for Hiking?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Hiking trails can be found around both Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura, and they are superb.

You'll find a nice variety of hiking trails around Lake Tekapo. There are many beautiful hikes in the area with some of the most popular being the Mount John Summit Track, the Richmond Trail, and Cowan's Hill Walkway.

Many visitors go to Kaikoura for the hiking trails. 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.

Is the Shopping Better in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a good destination for its shopping areas. However, Lake Tekapo is a town with minimal options for shopping.

Many visitors go to Kaikoura to go shopping. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Shopping in Lake Tekapo can be found for those interested. There are a couple of shops where you can pick up basic necessities.

Is Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura Better for Families?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is terrific for its family-friendly activities. Also, Lake Tekapo is still popular, but not quite as popular for its kid-friendly activities.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Kaikoura is very family-friendly. 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.

Lake Tekapo is a very family-friendly destination. Kids will enjoy a visit to Tekapo Springs, which is particularly fun in the winter months. There's snow tubing, ice skating, and, of course, the hot pools. There are also short hikes in the area like the Mount John Summit Walk. Biking, paddleboarding, and kayaking are also popular in the area.


Is Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura Better for Couples?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a great destination for couples. Also, Lake Tekapo is still popular, but not quite as popular for romance.

Couples visit Kaikoura frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. 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.

Lake Tekapo is a nice destination for couples. Couples will enjoy the stunning scenery, beautiful hikes, and the romantic hot springs. Stargazing is another popular activity in the area.

Is Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a great destination for backpackers. Also, Lake Tekapo is still popular, but not quite as popular for backpackers and budget travelers.

Kaikoura is a very popular town for backpackers and budget travelers. There are a decent number of hostels in the area and plenty of fun activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Plenty of budget travelers visit Lake Tekapo. It's a small town with a couple of cheap places to stay that backpackers will appreciate.

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

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Neither Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura offer decent public transit.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Lake Tekapo. Public transportation in the area is very limited. If you don't have a car, you'll want to arrange tours to get out and about.

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


Is Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura a more walkable city?

Lake Tekapo
Kaikoura

Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura both are good when exploring on foot.

Lake Tekapo is a somewhat walkable town. The town is small enough to get around on foot, and you can hire a tour to get out into the region.

Kaikoura is somewhat walkable. 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.

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

Should I spend more time in Kaikoura or Lake Tekapo?

How long in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

It's fun to spend time in either Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura. Generally, people tend to spend more time in Kaikoura due to the larger number of activities and things to do. Usually, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for Lake Tekapo, and 2-4 days is enough time in Kaikoura.

Families should spend more time in Kaikoura than Lake Tekapo. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Kaikoura, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Kaikoura than Lake Tekapo 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 Kaikoura.


  • How many days in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura? Ideal Length of Stay
    Lake Tekapo 1-2 
    Kaikoura 2-4

One day in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

The beautiful town of Lake Tekapo offers . Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one day here. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

Visitors enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the nature-oriented town of Kaikoura. It's also a great beach destination, too. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A weekend in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Lake Tekapo 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 Lake Tekapo, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Visitors enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the unique destination of Kaikoura. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. This town offers something for everyone. Plenty of people spend a weekend in the area when traveling. If you enjoy all that's offered here, then a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.


Five days in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Lake Tekapo 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.

The biologically diverse town of Kaikoura offers shopping and nightlife. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

A week in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Lake Tekapo 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.

Many people enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting Kaikoura. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Most people come for the beaches. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Tours for Seniors to New Zealand, The Best Contiki Tours to New Zealand, The Best G Adventures Tours to New Zealand, and The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Auckland.


Which place is cheaper, Kaikoura or Lake Tekapo?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Lake Tekapo is $75, while the average daily cost in Kaikoura is $135. 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 Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Lake Tekapo $59
    Kaikoura $48
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Lake Tekapo $118
    Kaikoura $96
Compare Hotels in Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura

Looking for a hotel in Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura? 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 Lake Tekapo


Hotels in Kaikoura


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: Lake Tekapo Hotel Prices and Kaikoura Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Lake Tekapo -
    Kaikoura $17

Is it cheaper to fly into Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Prices for flights to both Kaikoura and Lake Tekapo 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
  • Food Meals for one day
    Lake Tekapo $13
    Kaikoura $38

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Lake Tekapo -
    Kaikoura $152

Tours and Activities in Lake Tekapo

Here are a few actual costs in Lake Tekapo for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Indoor Māori Cultural Astronomy Experience: $29
  • Dark Sky Indoor Cultural Astronomy Experience: $31
  • Dark Sky Virtual Stargazing Experience: $41
  • 45 Minutes Virtual Stargazing Experience in Lake Tekapo: $43
  • High Country Farm Tour - Lake Tekapo: $58
  • Alpine Stargazing Experience with a Guide: $58
  • Chameleon Stargazing Shared Tour: $60
  • 中文观星团 Chinese tour: $65
  • Stargazing Experience: $65
  • Crater Experience at Cowan's Observatory: $85
  • From Tekapo: Mt Cook day tour via Pukaki, Tasman Glacier: $99
  • Summit Experience - University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory: $115

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

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

  • Seal-Watching Pedal Kayak Tour: $71
  • Sunset Kayak tour in Kaikoura: $73
  • Seal Kayaking Adventure in Kaikoura: $73
  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $81
  • Guided Family Kayaking Adventure: $88
  • Half-Day Wildlife Kayaking Tour: $88
  • Wildlife Kayaking Tour at Sunset: $88
  • Sunset Evening Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $91
  • Wildlife Sea Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $91
  • Kaikōura: Zipline and Native Forest Adventure Trip: $94
  • Half Day Zipline Adventure in Kaikoura: $97
  • Whale Watching Cruise: $97

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Lake Tekapo -
    Kaikoura -


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura, we can see that Kaikoura is more expensive. And not only is Lake Tekapo much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Lake Tekapo would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Lake Tekapo 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 Lake Tekapo.

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


Which is Bigger, Lake Tekapo or Kaikoura?

Kaikoura has a larger population, and is about 2 times larger than the population of Lake Tekapo. When comparing the sizes of Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura, 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.