Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa: A Hidden Travel Break

Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa: A Hidden Travel Break

Rotorua is a blend of cultural attractions, volcanic formations, lively farm shows, and soothing spas. For a trip around New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is both a great introduction to the country as a whole and a relaxing retreat on an extended trip.

I used it as the latter during my extended trip to New Zealand and Japan, taking a day to bathe in the Polynesian Spas and relax with a massage. This was almost a necessity as I was carrying a heavy shoulder bag throughout the trip.

The Polynesian Spa is a world-renowned retreat composed of 28 hot pools that draw from two national springs, the Priest Spring and Rachel Spring, which are heated by the Taupo Volcanic Zone, which Rotorua is famous for. If you’re passing through Rotorua, the spa is a perfect way to relax your travel muscles.

Booking a Massage

I pre-booked all my tours and activities before I went to New Zealand, cutting through all the hassle. That being said, I wish I could do it all over again, because I missed out on a lot while staying in Rotorua. I only booked two experiences for Rotorua: a Hobbiton tour from Auckland with drop-off at my Rotorua hostel and a massage at the Polynesian Spa.

There are dozens of all-inclusive combo Rotorua combo tours that package together transfers, guides, entrance fees, and meals, covering a range of activities and attractions. Rather than paying USD 100 for each tour individually, you can package them all together in one day trip to 4 attractions for between USD 200-250. If I had known this, I would’ve added the Waitomo Caves tour with my Hobbiton tour.

I’m actually looking to return to New Zealand sometime soon and might book a Rotorua combo tour that combines the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area, Lady Knox Geyser, Champagne Lake and the Polynesian Spa Resort for just over USD 100! So it definitely pays to book early and package as much in as possible.

As for booking a massage, it was relatively simple to do. I previewed the options on the Polynesian Spa website, made a request for one of my free days, and followed up with them by email before I departed.

Finding the Resort

The spa is located in the center of Rotorua, south of the Government Gardens and on teh shore of LAke Rotorua. If you walk east on Hinemoa Street you’ll eventually reach it. Most hostels are within 3-4 blocks of it.

Soaking in the Mineral Pools


The Polynesian Spa offers a variety of packages, from 45-60 minute massages to deluxe, full day relaxation retreats. The massages include mud wraps, warm bamboo massages, aromatherapy pregnancy massage, and more, all over NZD 100.

You can relax in the hot springs pools for just NZD 30, but be aware that the pools are included (and required, as they help loosen your muscles) with most massages. I chose a simple relaxation massage for NZD 135.

When I arrived, I checked in at the front desk, where they introduce me to the pools and infromed me I had an hour to relax in the pools before my massage. I changed int eh locker room and took a pre-massage dip.

There are 28 pools around the Spa, featuring a mixture of family pools, adult pools, private pools, deluxe pools, and romantic pools overlooking the lake. I got access to the deluxe spas through my massage package. Here I relaxed on one of the geothermal heated recliners before starting on the pools.

The temperate range from 36C to 42C, varying across 4 shallow alkaline mineral pools and 1 acidic mineral pool, the hottest of them.

I steadily worked my way through them, soaking for 5-15 minutes in the alkaline pools before the acidic pool. That one I had to steadily wade into, starting with my feet, my ankles, and so forth until I was down to my shoulders. It was easily the hottest, but also the most soothing.

After drying off, I checked in at the front desk to confirm my massage and made my way to my reserved room. I had a few minutes to remove my clothes and drape a towel over my privates as I stretched out on the table. There were curtains over the window and between the table and the door, so you don’t have to worry about anyone stumbling in on you in your birthday suit.

In fact, my therapist knocked on my door and asked if I was covered before entering. They introduced themselves and asked about my preferences. I mentioned my shoulders and they went to work, pushing at my tendons and muscle.

The massage was one of my highlights from Rotorua and definitely worth opening up your schedule for. It definitely set the tone for the rest of my trip and helped me relax throughout my journey.


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John Gray

A poet by heart and an editor by trade, I have traveled across the world in pursuit of my studies and to criss-cross destinations off my bucket list. While a student at the University of Iowa, I traveled to Cuba, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, where I lived for 6 months. I am currently planning a return trip to see the Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia.

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