A trip to the North Island of New Zealand is not complete without visiting the famous Huka Falls. At 11 meters (36 feet) high, the waterfall is one of the most powerful ones in the country with over 220,000 liters of water tumbling down per second.
There are a few ways to go about a visit to Huka Falls – whether that be a longer Huka Falls walk or just heading to the Huka Falls lookout.
This guide will go through how to go about a visit to Huka Falls and answer your questions along the way.
1) Huka Falls Overview
Below jumping into the walk and lookouts of Huka Falls, I did want to just give a brief overview with some helpful facts:
→ Huka Falls (translated to “Foam” Falls in the local Maori language) is part of the Waikato River, which is the longest river in New Zealand and flows through from nearby Lake Taupo.
→ The river is home to 11 power stations that produce 65% of the power for the North Island. The nearby Wairakeki power station of Taupo produces 3.5% of the total power for New Zealand.
→ The waterfall stands at 11 meters tall (36 feet) and includes 220,000 liters of water per second that flow over the falls. However, the height of the falls can vary based on the power demands – more power means the Control Gates Bridge above the waterfall will increase the overall water flow.
→ The Waikato River can normally be 100 meters wide, however just prior to Huka Falls, the river flows through a shallow ravine of volcanic rock. This is turn starts to create massive rapids, which then tumble down the nearby falls.
→ There are two main ways to visit Huka Falls. You can take part of a longer walk starting at Taupo’s Spa Park and hike 3 km to the falls. Or you can simply park right nearby the waterfall and head to the main viewing platform.
→ A third option is to head to the main lookout point, as well as the lookout point on the opposite side of the river. By adding just a little more hiking, you should get some even better views of the falls.
2) Huka Falls Map & Logistics
Below is a map that shows the three options mentioned above:
1) Spa Park to Huka Falls Walk (Green)
2) Huka Falls Lookout (Red)
3) Huka Falls Lookout + short hike to other side of river (Blue)
You can also find the parking lots, viewpoints, and the Otumuheke Stream (more on that soon) pinpointed down.
3) Huka Falls Hours & Cost
Here is some of the latest information regarding the Huka Falls opening hours and cost for a visit:
Is Huka Falls Free?
Huka Falls is free to visit, however donations are accepted. Whether that be just enjoying the viewpoints or taking part of a longer walk, this is one activity that wont cost any money if you don’t want it to.
Huka Falls Opening Hours
Since this is a natural attraction, you won’t find opening or closing hours for the waterfall itself. However, the nearby parking lot for Huka Falls does have specific hours:
Huka Falls Car Park Hours
Winter: 8:00AM to 5:30PM
Summer: 8:00AM to 6:00PM
The Huka Falls Car Park is located 5 km (3 miles) from the city center of Taupo. Expect the drive to be a little less than 10 minutes to get to the parking lot location (marked on the map above).
→ As you are looking for rental cars, I would highly recommend checking out Rentalcars.com for your search. This will give you a whole host of options to consider from a variety of companies all in one spot. It has been my go to car rental search engine for years now and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
4) Huka Falls Lookout Walk
The most popular of options when it comes to visiting Huka Falls is do simply take part of the Huka Falls Lookout Walk.
This short walk takes you from the main parking lot and across the Huka Falls Bridge. Along the way you will get some beautiful views of Huka Falls and Waikato River.
Once on the other side, simply follow the trail to the left as you approach a few different lookout platforms. From these platforms you will take in some close up views of the falls for yourself.
The one way walk to the various platforms should take you just 10 minutes, however plan to spend at least 30-60 minutes for the round trip walk. This will give you enough time to take photos, enjoy the waterfall, and make the walk back to the parking lot.
5) Spa Park to Huka Falls Walk
A longer option here is to take part of a 6 km (3.7 mile) round trip hike from Spa Park to Huka Falls. The walk will take around 2 hours plus time to take photos and just enjoy your surroundings.
Spa Park is located just on the outskirts of the town center (marked on the map above). So, you can decide to either walk the extra 30 minutes from town or opt for the quick 5 minute drive.
The Huka Falls walk is a pleasant one as you get to walk right alongside the Waikato River and onwards to Huka Falls itself. Throughout the walk, you will get some beautiful views of the river before meeting up with the Huka Falls Bridge.
In addition to the river walk, soon after starting the hike you will pass by the Otumuheke Stream. Here you can enjoy a free natural hot pool swim. Feel free to add this onto the end of your walk on the way back. It is surely going to be a great relaxing option to end your day.
6) Huka Falls Lookout + Short Hike
A third option here is to take part of the Huka Falls Lookout walk and also add in the lookout point on the opposite side of the river.
You can see the light blue route on the map that shows the trail make its way further upstream after visiting the main lookout.
So, essentially what you will want to do here is go from the parking lot across the bridge and to the viewing platforms. Once all done there, head back across the bridge and follow the pathway northbound.
A few minutes later and you should reach a viewpoint, where you can have a better panoramic view of the waterfall and the pool underneath it.
If you opt for this option, plan to spend somewhere around an hour walking the trails and taking in the views.
7) Bonus: Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids Walk
Not shown on the map is an extension of the Huka Falls walk to the Aratiatia Rapids. This one way hike will take an additional two hours to complete as you continuously follow the pathway along the Waikato River.
At the Aratiatia Rapids, you will get to see how the Aratiatia Dam works, as it floods the canyon with water several times per day.
Be sure to time your day so you get to see the water levels rapidly rise during your visit.
8) Jet Boat Ride
Taking in Huka Falls on land is not your only option when it comes to this experience. Instead of just going to the viewing platforms, why not take part of a Jet Boat ride.
On a Jet Boat ride you will take a boat along the river itself and head directly to the base of Huka Falls. Your boat driver will make things even more exciting by taking part of some wild twists and turns, making this quite a unique experience.
The Jet Boat experience is available every day of the week from 9:00AM to 5:00PM with departures heading out every hour. The ride is 30 minutes in duration and costs $119 NZD for adults and $89 NZD for children.
→ Book your Huka Falls Jet Boat Ride today!
9) Where to Stay in Taupo
Taupo is a beautiful lakeside town situated on the North Island of New Zealand. There is plenty to do around the area and it is a perfect spot to spend a couple days enjoying the lake and the surroundings.
In addition, it is one of the main places to base yourself in when taking part of the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing – one of New Zealand’s best hikes.
Below are three highly rated and reviewed hotels to choose from during your time in the area:
That about wraps up a guide to the Huka Falls Walk & Lookout. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below.
Also, don’t forget to check out the other New Zealand itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels.