A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Paihia vs. Nelson for Beaches, Hiking, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Paihia or Nelson?

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 Paihia and Nelson. 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.

Paihia

Paihia is a beautiful, relaxing, and fun-filled coastal town. It's also known for shopping, museums, and nightlife.

Nelson

Nelson is a beautiful, outdoorsy, and adventure-filled city. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. Visitors also love the food, beaches, and hiking.

Paihia and Nelson: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty


Is there more to do in Paihia or Nelson?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Paihia. Although Paihia and Nelson are popular destinations, Paihia has more sights and attractions for tourists. Paihia is very popular for its scuba diving & snorkeling, while Nelson attracts visitors for its hiking and impressive beauty. Paihia is more touristy than Nelson and is popular for its warm year round climate, impressive beaches, and world class snorkeling and scuba diving. It is also well known for the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Nelson is famous for its stunning national parks, beautiful coastline, and outdoor adventures.

How is Paihia different from Nelson?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Paihia or Nelson?

Paihia
Nelson

Visiting museums and landmarks is a fun activity in both Paihia and Nelson.

Paihia offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. There are some interesting cultural sights in the area like the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the Museum of Waitangi.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Nelson. While most people spend their time enjoying the nature-oriented activities, there are several museums in the area as well. Founder's Heritage Park Museum is a village-like setting that you can explore. There's also the Nelson Classic Car Museum and local art and craft galleries that are fun to walk through.


Is the Food Better in Paihia or Nelson? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Paihia
Nelson

Both Paihia and Nelson offer a number of very good restaurants to choose from.

Paihia has a huge number of terrific restaurants. Local seafood, regional produce, and fresh ingredients make dining in the area a rewarding experience. You'll find fine dining restaurants, pizzerias, and local cafes to choose from.

Dining out in Nelson is an experience not to be missed. Local ingredients, vineyards, and craft breweries all make the foodie scene around town interesting. There are many great restaurants that offer seasonal menus that change with the season. Eating is an experience in town, and locals take pride in the food they produce.

Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Nightlife?

Paihia
Nelson

The nice nightlife scene is relatively similar in Paihia and Nelson.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Paihia. As a holiday spot, there are a number of clubs and bars that cater to tourists in the area.

Nelson has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. The city attracts a good tourist crowd, and there are bars and clubs that keep things interesting late into the evening.

Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Paihia
Nelson

Paihia is a well-known place for the nearby scuba diving and snorkeling. However, Nelson is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Paihia is an extremely popular place to visit for scuba diving and snorkeling. There are scuba diving and snorkel shops available around town where you can organize trips and excursions to experience the undersea world.

Nelson is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.


Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Beaches?

Paihia
Nelson

Paihia and Nelson both offer fantastic beaches.

Paihia offers stunning beaches that attract visitors from around the world. There are stunning beaches both in Paihia and throughout the Bay of Islands. Paihia Beach is in town. It's small but nice and makes a great picnic spot. For a more secluded spot head to Matauri Bay Beach or Takou Bay.

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in Nelson. Beaches in the area are sandy and most are great for swimming. There are many water sports available as well such as kayaking, kite surfing, and paddleboarding. You'll find locals and tourists alike hanging out at the beach and enjoying a barbecue.

Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Hiking?

Paihia
Nelson

Nelson is a must-visit destination for its hiking trails. Also, Paihia is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its hiking experiences.

Nelson is well-known for its hiking and trekking. The area is filled with walking and hiking trails that wander along the coast and soak up the spectacular views. There are also three national parks in the area that are filled with trails. Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park, and Nelson Lakes National Park each have their own environments and scenery to explore.

You'll find a nice variety of hiking trails around Paihia. The Bay of Islands is filled with coastal walks and peaceful hikes. This is a great way to soak up the area's atmosphere and take in some spectacular views.

Is the Shopping Better in Paihia or Nelson?

Paihia
Nelson

Shoppers can find a variety of nice stores in both Paihia and Nelson.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Paihia. There are plenty of retail stores around town where you can pick up clothes or enjoy some souvenir shopping.

Many visitors go to Nelson to go shopping. There are weekly markets in the area and a variety of retail shops where you can pick up anything you might need.


Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Families?

Paihia
Nelson

Both Paihia and Nelson are fantastic family-friendly destinations.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Paihia is very family-friendly. Beaches, dolphin spotting, ice cream, and chocolate factories make the Bay of Islands the perfect place for a family vacation. There are amazing walking trails like the Manginangina Kauri Walk and opportunities to learn about the Maori culture. There are also adventure spots and great beaches.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Nelson is a very family-friendly destination. Surrounded by family-friendly national parks, this city has a number of things for kids to do. In particularly, Abel Tasman National Park is a highlight for kids, with canoeing, sailing and other activities. Kids will also enjoy a visit to Cable Bay Adventure Park or seeing the historically themed Founders Park.

Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Couples?

Paihia
Nelson

Paihia and Nelson both fantastic destinations for a couple.

Paihia is fantastic couple's destination with fun and romantic activities. You can enjoy sunset boat cruises, sip wine with a waterfront view, or walk through pristine natural areas. For thrill seekers there are adrenaline filled activities like parasailing or scuba diving.

Nelson makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. Wilderness, national parks, beaches, and mountain scenery make this a wonderful couples destination. The area also has beautiful vineyards and gardens as well hiking and outdoor adventures.

Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Paihia
Nelson

Nelson is a must-visit destination for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, Paihia is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for backpackers.

With so many budget-friendly offerings, Nelson is extremely popular for backpackers. There are many hostels in the area as well as outdoor activities and adventure sports that backpackers will love.

Paihia is a very popular coastal town for backpackers and budget travelers. There are a handful of hostels around town as well as many great activities for backpackers like scuba diving or parasailing.


Is Paihia or Nelson Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Paihia
Nelson

Paihia is a coastal town with good options for its public transit. However, Nelson is not a good city for times when you don't have a car.

Paihia has a few public transit options. There are ferries and some intercity buses through the Bay of Islands.

Public transit is mostly limited in Nelson. The city has a local bus network, but to efficiently explore everything that the area has to offer, you'll want to have a car.

Is Paihia or Nelson a more walkable city?

Paihia
Nelson

Nelson is a very popular place for its high level of walkability. Also, Paihia is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its ease of walking around.

Nelson is a very walkable city. There are many great walks in the area and its a wonderful way to get around.

Paihia is a somewhat walkable coastal town. It's possible to explore parts of the town on foot.

For even more information, also check out Is Paihia Worth Visiting? and Is Nelson Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Nelson or Paihia?

How long in Paihia or Nelson?

In either Paihia or Nelson, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. In our opinion, Nelson has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Nelson than Paihia. However, 3-5 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Nelson than Paihia 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 Nelson.


  • How many days in Paihia or Nelson? Ideal Length of Stay
    Paihia 3-5 
    Nelson 3-5

One day in Paihia or Nelson?

Many travelers enjoy the scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping when visiting the destination of Paihia. Hikers are also drawn to this area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

Many travelers enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting the destination of Nelson. Hikers are also drawn to this area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.


A weekend in Paihia or Nelson?

Paihia is a great place to explore. Don't miss the beaches, as that's what most people do. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Nelson is a great place to explore. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Five days in Paihia or Nelson?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Paihia. Don't miss the beaches, as that's what most people do. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Nelson. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

A week in Paihia or Nelson?

Travelers enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the relaxing destination of Paihia. This coastal town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the beautiful destination of Nelson. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


For some great organized tour ideas, see Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in New Zealand, The Best Adventure Tours to New Zealand, The Best Eco Tours in New Zealand, and The Best Thrill-Seeking Tours in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Nelson or Paihia?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Paihia is $82, while the average daily cost in Nelson is $97. 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 Paihia and Nelson in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Paihia $34
    Nelson $42
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Paihia $68
    Nelson $84
Compare Hotels in Paihia and Nelson

Looking for a hotel in Paihia or Nelson? 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 Paihia


Hotels in Nelson


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: Paihia Hotel Prices and Nelson Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Paihia $12
    Nelson $29

Is it cheaper to fly into Paihia or Nelson?

Prices for flights to both Nelson and Paihia 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
    Paihia $28
    Nelson $28

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Paihia

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

  • Private Modern Vegetarian Cooking Class with Anna in Northland: $195

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Paihia $35
    Nelson $24

Tours and Activities in Paihia

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

  • Bay of Islands 2-Hour Sundowner Evening Sailing Cruise: $49
  • Sundowner Evening Cruise - 2 hour evening sailing cruise with swim stop: $50
  • Bay of Islands 30-minute Adventure Jet Boat Trip: $55
  • Bay of Islands: Late Afternoon Sailing Cruise: $61
  • Glass Bottom Boat Tour to the Hole in the Rock: $71
  • Parasailing Adventure Over the Bay of Islands: $73
  • Hole in the Rock Tour & Bay of Islands Cruise: $77
  • Bay of Islands: 4.5 Hour Day Cruise and Island Getaway Tour: $77
  • From Scenic Cruise with Roberton Island Stopover: $77
  • Paihia/Russell: Hole in the Rock & Bay of Islands Cruise: $77
  • Day Cruise & Island Tour - Snorkel/Wildlife/Paddleboard/Islands: $79
  • 3 Hours // Hole in the Rock Cruise & Island Stopover: $79

Tours and Activities in Nelson

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

  • Cruise, Walk, and Sail in Abel Tasman National Park: $126
  • Full-Day Sailing Adventure in the Abel Tasman National Park: $166
  • Great Taste Beer Tour by Bicycle (Self-guided): $82
  • Magical Mapua Charms in off-summer Season Selfguided Cycle Tour: $78
  • Magical Mapua Self Guided One Day Cycle Tour: $78
  • Nelson City Walking Tour - Guided: $30
  • Nelson to Mapua: Full-Day Cycling Self-Guided Adventure: $73
  • Abel Tasman Cruise-Fly Day Tour: $368
  • Cable Bay Adventure Park Skywire Experience: $68
  • Guided Quad Biking Tour Through Forest and Farmland: $83
  • The Ultimate Lord of the Rings Combo Tour: $3,321
  • SKYWIRE Experience: $69

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Paihia $23
    Nelson $13

Sample the Local Flavors in Paihia

Also in Paihia, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Bay of Islands Wine Tour with Lunch: $110

Sample the Local Flavors in Nelson

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Nelson:

  • Self-guided E-bike cycle tour with private wine tasting : $100


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Paihia and Nelson, we can see that Nelson is more expensive. And not only is Paihia much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Paihia would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Paihia 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 Nelson would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Nelson than you might in Paihia.

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


Which is Bigger, Paihia or Nelson?

Nelson has a larger population, and is about 30 times larger than the population of Paihia. When comparing the sizes of Paihia and Nelson, 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.