a majestic waterfall view from the river

Huka Falls River Cruise Review

Are you looking for an honest Huka Falls River Cruise review? We visited Huka Falls on our New Zealand road trip and researched the best way to view Huka Falls.

Huka Falls Cruise V Huka Falls Jet

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There are two options when deciding what company to use to get up close to Huka Falls. They are very different, both with pros and cons.

Huka Falls Cruise

  • Inside as well as outside seating
  • Front Viewing Platform
  • Cruise of 1 hour 20 minutes
  • No motion sickness
  • Best for photography

Huka Falls Jet

  • 360 degree turns
  • Great fun
  • Travel up to 80 km per hour
  • Children must be at least 1m tall
  • Lasts 30 minutes

The reason we chose Huka Falls Cruise was the price for a family of four and to take photos of the falls. If you are after adventure and count yourself as a thrill seeker, I would opt for the jet boat. This thrilling ride has trick turns and power brakes while enjoying the beautiful scenery along the river and up close to Huka Falls.

Check out the prices here.

Huka Falls River Cruise Review

The boat used for the Huka Falls Cruise has a lot of seating inside and out the back. It is easy to get on and off the boat as it is moored up on the jetty.

The cruise upriver is tranquil and informative. You learn about the wildlife, the area, and the geothermal activity from the knowledgeable skipper. The views are beautiful, and we were able to take some stunning photos from the back of the boat.

beautiful green water in river and trees lining the banks

Huka Falls

Huka Falls is the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand, and getting up close to them was the highlight of the Cruise. The boat was able to get near, and we had plenty of time to take photos from the back of the boat and up on the front viewing platform. It was awe-inspiring to see nature at her best.

Huka Falls is New Zealand’s highest volume waterfall, where a quarter of a million litres of water per second gushes from a natural gorge and plunges 11 metres. To put this into perspective, you could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in 11 seconds by the amount of water thundering over the falls.

Being right in front of these majestic falls made for a brilliant experience, and photos with all the foam and the colours were astonishing.

water gushing down a huge powerful waterfall

After everyone gets all their photos, you make your way back down the river. There is complimentary tea and coffee to enjoy while relaxing on the return journey.

I would recommend this cruise as it is great value and a wonderful way to view Huka Falls. We saw the jet boat during our cruise, and we were happy that we made the right choice for our family.

Directions to Huka Falls Cruise

The Huka Falls Cruise leaves from the Aratiatia Dam car park.

From Taupo, take SH 5 towards Rotorua. At the SH1 roundabout, continue towards Rotorua for about 2km. At Aratiatia Road, turn right, which is signposted Aratiatia Rapids & River Cruise. Continue for another 2km, and you will come to Aratiatia Dam, and the car park is immediately after the bridge on the right-hand side.

Huka Falls Cruise Times

In summer and winter, the cruises run at 10.30 am, 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm. In summer, there is an additional time of 4.30 pm.

falls and rapids gushing through the rocks
View from the bridge to the Huka Falls Lookout

Huka Falls Lookout

After your trip on the Huka falls Cruise, head to the lookout for a different perspective of this incredible waterfall.

The car park is on Huka Falls Road, and from here, it’s a 5-minute walk to the lookouts. When you cross the bridge over the river, turn left for more viewpoints of the falls. The colour of the water is stunning, with bright blue turquoise and emerald green mixed together and is a great contrast to the white foam.

a lookout over falls
The bridge and great viewpoint of Huka Falls

Aratiatia Hydro Dam & Rapids

The cruise departure is conveniently timed half an hour after the Aratiatia Dam gates are opened (10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm in summer). Therefore, ensure you get there early enough to see this popular attraction.

There are a couple of options for seeing the dam open. You can walk 5 minutes to a choice of 2 viewpoints or see it from the bridge. We chose to watch it from the bridge and then walk to one of the viewpoints to see the rapids flowing after.

The Waikato River falls 28 meters in the space of 1km. Thousands of liters of water crash through the dam and onto the rapids. The dam has been generating hydroelectricity since 1964 and was the 1st hydroelectric power station on this river.

It is incredible to watch and witness how powerful water can be.

hydro dam gates

The rapids are featured in Peter Jackson’s movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

white water rapids from a dam

You can also read our guides to other New Zealand destinations here.

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geothermal champagne coloured pool

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huka falls from the huka falls river cruise boat