Kakahi Falls

Hell's Gate / Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand

About Kakahi Falls

Hiking Distance: < 400m round trip
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-14
Date last visited: 2004-11-14

Waterfall Latitude: -38.06234
Waterfall Longitude: 176.35969

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Kakahi Falls was our waterfalling excuse to check out the Hell’s Gate Thermal Reserve and Spa.

What made this waterfall different from most of the others we had seen was that it was said to be the tallest thermal waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere.

Hells_Gate_013_11132004 - Kakahi Falls
Kakahi Falls

I’m not certain if this lofty claim was true or not because this waterfall was barely 12m high.

Later on in our November 2004 trip to New Zealand, we would see a much taller waterfall along the Tongariro Crossing whose stream also possessed geothermical heating.

In any case, the hot sulphurous waters of Kakahi Falls were said to be traditionally used by the Maori for bathing and healing.

That said, during our visit, the falls were off limits for bathing.

Experiencing Kakahi Falls and Hell’s Gate

Hells_Gate_002_11132004 - When we got past the entrance facility of Hell's Gate, that was when we walked besides mud pools such as this one
When we got past the entrance facility of Hell’s Gate, that was when we walked besides mud pools such as this one

To get to the waterfall, Julie and I paid our $25 NZD fee per adult (as of November 2004) to enter the facility.

We then explored the geothermal reserve that consisted of bubbling mud pools, acidic lakes, sulphur fumaroles, and roaring sinter cones.

The thermal features had colourful names like the Devil’s Bath, Baby Adam, Sulphur Bath, Inferno, and Spraying Pool, among others.

So that kind of attested to the hellish nature of these features.

Hells_Gate_019_11132004 - Kakahi Falls with some context of the surrounding vegetation as seen from the lookout
Kakahi Falls with some context of the surrounding vegetation as seen from the lookout

We definitely contented ourselves with seeing the features while not coming close to touching them.

We eventually took a signed spur to Kakahi Falls, which led us on a short native bush walk past the Cold Water Pond before reaching the lookout resulting in the photo you see at the top of this page.

Back on the main path, we kept going on the loop walk to the backside of the Hell’s Gate reserve.

Along the way, we traversed through the steamy and seemingly desolate Sulphur Crystal Valley.

Hells_Gate_022_11132004 - Looking back across the seemingly desolate Sulphur Crystal Valley as we continued to explore the Hell's Gate complex
Looking back across the seemingly desolate Sulphur Crystal Valley as we continued to explore the Hell’s Gate complex

The Sulphur Crystal Valley had more features with names like the Devil’s Throat, Devil’s Cauldron, the Mud Volcano, Steaming Cliffs, Hot Sulphur Lakes, the Cooking Pool, and the pale green Sulphur Lake.

Indeed, with such place names, it made us wonder if we were literally experiencing Hell on Earth.


Kakahi Falls resides in the Hell’s Gate Thermal Reserve and Spa near Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty Region of North Island, New Zealand. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Hells_Gate_003_11132004 - Looking over some other mud or sulphur pools of Hell's Gate
Hells_Gate_005_11132004 - This was a dark and really smelly mud pool that was boiling with bubbles splattering the mud at the Hell's Gate complex
Hells_Gate_010_11132004 - Direct look at Kakahi Falls
Hells_Gate_025_11132004 - Here was a smaller dark and boiling mud pool seen during our visit of Hell's Gate
Hells_Gate_029_11132004 - This dark sinter cone might have been a mud volcano as seen during our visit of Hell's Gate
Hells_Gate_032_11132004 - In the farthest reaches of Hell's Gate, we saw this menacing-looking highly acidic sulphur lake
Hells_Gate_039_11132004 - Back at the entrance facility of Hell's Gate where peacocks like this one was strutting about

We drove to Hell’s Gate and Kakahi Falls from Rotorua.

So from the SH30/SH30A junction at the east end of Rotorua, we headed east on the SH30 (Te Ngae Rd).

About 10km east of the SH30/SH30A junction along the eastern shores of Lake Rotorua, the SH30 and SH33 made a junction.

We veered to the right at this junction to remain on the SH30, and then after about 5km, we saw the Hell’s Gate facility just before Lake Rotakawau Rd.

For context, Rotorua was about 3 hours drive southeast of Auckland or just about 90 minutes drive east of Hamilton. It’s also under an hours drive south of Tauranga.

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Tagged with: hells gate, rotorua, bay of plenty, north island, new zealand, waterfall, wai ora, geothermal, tiketere, mud volcano

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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