A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Taupo vs. Kaikoura for Families, Couples, Backpackers, and Food

Should you visit Taupo or Kaikoura?

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

Should I visit Taupo or Kaikoura? 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.


Taupo is a stunning, otherworldly, and striking town. It's a very nice small town not to be missed. It's a beautiful place to visit, too. And you can't forget about the food, hiking, and shopping.


And you can't forget about the beaches, hiking, and shopping.

Taupo and Kaikoura: Pros and Cons

  • Popular for skiing
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good public transit
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Public transit not as usable

Is there more to do in Taupo or Kaikoura?

Both Kaikoura and Taupo have plenty of things to do for visitors. Both offer a variety of sights, activities, and attractions for tourists. Taupo is better known for its skiing, small town charm, and impressive beauty, while Kaikoura is more popular for its museums and beaches. Taupo is well known for its thermal hot springs, dramatic landscapes, and world class hikes. Kaikoura is well known for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes.

How is Taupo different from Kaikoura?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Is Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Skiing?


Taupo is a world-class destination for snow skiing. However, Kaikoura is not a skiing destination.

If you're an avid snow skiier, Taupo should be on your list. Nearby Mount Ruapehu offers access to the longest running ski season in both Australia and New Zealand. From June until October you can enjoy the largest commercial ski areas around. There are options for everyone from young beginners to experts. The two main ski resorts in the area are Whakapapa Ski Area and Tūroa Ski Area.

Kaikoura is not a skiing destination.

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


Kaikoura is a with a few options for its museums and landmarks. However, Taupo is a town with minimal options for its historical sights.

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.

If you're looking to pass the time, head to a museum or historic sight in Taupo. Stunning natural beauty and adventure-filled activities are what Taupo is all about, but you won't find much in the form of museums.

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


Both Taupo and Kaikoura offer a number of high quality restaurants to choose from.

Eating is part of the travel experience when you visit Taupo. The town is filled with local restaurants that make use of local ingredients such as fresh caught trout, local produce, and wild game. The town also has many farmers markets and a strong cafe culture.

Kaikoura has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. 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.

Is Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Nightlife?


It's hard to distinguish whether Taupo or Kaikoura has a better nightlife scene.

Taupo has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. It's a small resort town that is active during the day and night. There are low key activities in the evening like soaking in the thermal hot pools or grabbing a drink at a bar.

If you're looking for night time activities Kaikoura has a few options to choose from. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

Is Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Beaches?


Kaikoura is a great destination for the beache. However, Taupo is not a beach destination.

Kaikoura is considered a top beach destination. 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.

Taupo is not a beach destination.

Is Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Hiking?


If you're looking to go hiking, Taupo and Kaikoura both have high quality trails.

You'll find a nice variety of hiking trails around Taupo. The area is filled with beautiful hikes that take you through the natural beauty. During the fall season you can enjoy the fall foliage and during the summer months the wildlife and waterfront setting is at a peak.

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 Taupo or Kaikoura?


Shopping is a popular activity in both Kaikoura and Taupo.

Taupo offers some nice shopping areas. The lakefront town has a nice, pedestrian-friendly stretch with boutique shops, fashion outlets, and souvenir vendors.

Kaikoura has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Is Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Families?


Kids will enjoy a visit to either Taupo or Kaikoura.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Taupo is a very family-friendly destination. Set on the edge of Lake Taupo, there are many family-friendly activities in the area like swimming, boating, and hiking. There are also thermal hot springs and in the winter months skiing. Families who enjoy outdoor adventures will find no shortage of options year round.

Kaikoura is one of the most popular family destinations. 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.

Is Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Couples?


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

Taupo makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. Honeymooners and couples who enjoy romantic scenery, beautiful sunsets, and outdoor adventure will fall in love with this area. You can soak in thermal hot springs and picnic next to beautiful waterfalls. There are also breathtaking hikes and great water activities.

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 Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?


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

Backpackers and budget travelers come from all over the world to visit Taupo. There's plenty of backpacker and hostel accommodation in the area. There are also free outdoor activities and adrenaline-filled adventures 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 Taupo or Kaikoura Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?


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

Taupo has a few public transit options. There are local bus service, the Taupo Connector, that travels around the town center. If you want to get outside of town, you'll need to have a car.

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

Is Taupo or Kaikoura a more walkable city?


Taupo and Kaikoura both are notable when exploring on foot.

Taupo is a somewhat walkable place. The town is fairly compact, but if you want to efficiently get around and experience everything that the area has to offer, you'll want to have a car.

Kaikoura is a somewhat walkable town. 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.

Should I spend more time in Kaikoura or Taupo?

How long in Taupo or Kaikoura?

It's fun to spend time in either Taupo or Kaikoura. Generally, people tend to spend more time in Kaikoura due to the larger number of activities and things to do. Usually, 2-3 days is a good amount of time for Taupo, and 2-4 days is enough time in Kaikoura.

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Taupo 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 Taupo.

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

One day in Taupo or Kaikoura?

The town of Taupo offers nightlife and food. 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.

In Kaikoura, many people enjoy the nightlife and food that this unique destination offers. It's also a great beach destination, too. This offers a variety of activities to choose from. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

A weekend in Taupo or Kaikoura?

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

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Kaikoura. For many, it makes a great getaway for a weekend. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. This would be the perfect place to spend a weekend, as it has just the right amount of activities. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

Five days in Taupo or Kaikoura?

Taupo is a popular choice for travelers. It's no surprise that skiing is why people visit. 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.

Kaikoura is a fun place to experience. Travelers enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting the destination of Kaikoura. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything.

A week in Taupo or Kaikoura?

Taupo is a great place to explore. It's no surprise that skiing is why people visit. 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.

You'll find nightlife and food around the unique destination of Kaikoura. Most people come for the beaches. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare.

Which place is cheaper, Kaikoura or Taupo?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Taupo is $112, while the average daily cost in Kaikoura is $136. 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 Taupo and Kaikoura in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Taupo $63
    Kaikoura $48
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Taupo $126
    Kaikoura $96
Compare Hotels in Taupo and Kaikoura

Looking for a hotel in Taupo 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 Taupo

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: Taupo Hotel Prices and Kaikoura Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Taupo $25
    Kaikoura $17

Is it cheaper to fly into Taupo or Kaikoura?

Prices for flights to both Kaikoura and Taupo 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
    Taupo $23
    Kaikoura $38

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Taupo $35
    Kaikoura $154
Typical Entertainment prices in Taupo

Here are a few typical costs in Taupo for activities, ticket prices, and tours that come from previous visitors:

  • Bungy Jumping
  • Jet Boating

Tours and Activities in Taupo

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

  • Taupo Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - The Candy Cottage: $22
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - The Wild Tea Party : $22
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - Cabin in the Woods: $22
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - The Hunting Lodge: $22
  • Lake 1.5-Hour Maori Rock Carvings 5:00 PM Cruise: $27
  • Maori Rock Carvings Scenic Cruise: $28
  • Self-Guided Geothermal Tour in Orakei Korako: $30
  • Lake Maori Rock Carvings 10.30 AM 1.5-Hour Cruise: $30
  • Lake Māori Rock Carvings Scenic Boat Cruise: $30
  • DSC 8.30am Lake 1.5 Hour Early Bird Scenic Cruise: $30
  • Daily Scenic Maori Rock Carving Cruise Taupo: $31

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

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

  • Dolphin Encounter Cruise: $70
  • Seal-Watching Pedal Kayak Tour: $73
  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $75
  • Sunset Kayak tour in Kaikoura: $76
  • Seal Kayaking Adventure in Kaikoura: $76
  • Half-Day Wildlife Kayaking Tour: $85
  • Sunset Kayaking Tour: $85
  • Guided Family Kayaking Adventure: $85
  • Wildlife Sea Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $88
  • Sunset Evening Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $88
  • Whale Watching Cruise: $100
  • Private Wildlife Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $176

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Taupo $13
    Kaikoura -
Typical Alcohol prices in Taupo

Here are a few samples of the prices for alcohol and nightlife in Taupo from other travelers:

  • Wine

Sample the Local Flavors in Kaikoura

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

  • Helicopter Tour with Mt Fyffe Distillery: $630

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

Which is Bigger, Taupo or Kaikoura?

Taupo is bigger, and its population is about 32.8 times larger than the population of Kaikoura. When comparing the population of Taupo vs. 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 and the activities that interest you.

Budget Your Trip is all about finding out how much everything costs so that you can travel cheaper and longer. Created by avid travelers Laurie and Bryan, our goal is to help you plan your next trip on the right budget. With average daily travel costs that are calculated from the budgets of real travelers, plus an analysis of hotel and tour prices, you can find out how much money you need to plan your next adventure. We also have plenty of travel advice, accommodation reviews, and activity suggestions.
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Taupo vs. Kaikoura Travel Comparison

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