The Bay of Islands with Haka Tours New Zealand.
What is Haka Tours?
The night before we left on our three-day Haka Tours Bay of Islands trip Tom asked me for the third or fourth time; so what is it that we are doing again? What kind of tour is this? What is going to be happening? I didn’t really know the answers to his questions for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was so thrilled to get a break from travel planning after our whirlwind trips to the South Island of New Zealand, Hawaii and Austin that once it was booked I gratefully sat back and didn’t worry about what we’d be doing for those days. Secondly, I didn’t totally understand what it was either. There were optional activities you could book, and we were definitely going to be driven from one place to another, a few meals were included, though the majority weren’t but that’s all I really understood. I was also having a hard time putting my finger on what kind of tour Haka was going to be.
Spoiler alert, for other people doing their research and trying to figure out what Haka tours is, I am going to just jump ahead and tell you; because I totally get it now! Joining Haka Tours is the closest thing you can find to grabbing some friends, one of which is a local and renting a van to see things on your own in New Zealand.
We had spent the weeks we were in New Zealand before the trip driving ourselves all over the country. New Zealand really is a place best explored with a set of wheels. In fact, road tripping around the country is so common that all of the cars and campers we rented had big stickers on the inside reminding us to stay on the left-hand side of the road! It was lovely to get to sit back and relax for a few days, leaving the driving, and the planning up to someone else. Some of the other people on the trip mentioned that they hadn’t been able to rent cars themselves, since as solo travelers it can get very expensive when you are paying for all of the rental costs and fuel, or because they were under 25, and so not able to easily rent a car in New Zealand.
New Zealand is best seen by epic road trip because there is another beautiful hike, waterfall, natural hot spring, glow worm filled cave or stretch of stunning coastline to explore every time you turn around. I had been a bit overwhelmed when planning our routes, trying to choose which stops to take, and which to miss. I loved sitting back in the van, headphones in and letting our guide Andy take care of the driving and choose his favorite stops to show us between towns.
Haka Tours is not only a road trip with new friends but all of the guides are also Kiwis, passionate about his or her country. We have found time and time again that there is nothing like being shown around by a local, and Andy did not disappoint. We picked his brain all through the trip about surf spots, restaurants or other towns to visit in New Zealand and our trip definitely benefitted from his insider info.
The cost of the tour includes transport, all of the free activities that we stopped for on our drives, a daily continental breakfast (yogurt, cereal, toast, fruit, marmite, jam, peanut butter, coffee that type of thing) and the occasional other meal. Other than that you are on your own. We ended up eating most of the other meals with our road trip buddies, either going to the shop and cooking in the hostel’s kitchen or going out to eat somewhere. I think that is typical as everyone is having such a good time together it organically moves in that direction.
While we stayed in a town, Paihia, we followed some of Andy’s advice and saw things with the group and occasionally we did our own thing. Some people in the group had booked tours in town; all available tours are listed when you sign on fo the tour so you can pre-book activities, or just hop on the day of if there is space. One girl went and swam with dolphins and LOVED it while everyone else did their own thing in groups or on their own.
Tom and I enjoy being social, but as full-time travelers, we also treasure our alone time. We loved the flexibility of having a great group of friends to chat with or going off for a walk on our own. We also loved that we could upgrade the accommodation on the tour to have a private ensuite room instead of sharing dorm rooms.
On our tour, all accommodation was at Haka’s own “Haka Lodges” which market themselves as “upmarket backpackers.” I would say the emphasis is on “upmarket” and not backpackers. The rooms with private ensuite bathrooms we stayed in were lovely and looked more like chic, clean, stylish boutique hotels than hostels. The kitchens were big and clean and there were certain little touches throughout that made them stand worlds apart from any hostel we have ever seen. Such as the stunning views from the common room windows in Paihia. The majority of travelers on a Haka tour (70%) are traveling solo, so you will definitely have some company in the dorms if that is your choice.
All in All
Joining a Haka tours trip is like taking an epic road trip with buddies around New Zealand; but one where you don’t have to plan the itinerary, take a turn driving, or rent a car. Renting a car is not an option for many travelers since they are traveling solo or are under 25. Haka Tours is a great option as it is like an independent tour of New Zealand where you decide mostly what you’d like to do, and when, but with great guidelines, suggestions, and insider Kiwi information.
Do you want to do it too?
What: Haka Tours runs, tours that last anywhere from three to twenty-four days and cover various parts of New Zealand. Haka runs general adventure tours as well as more specialized snow tours and mountain bike tours. All transport, roadside pit stops of hikes and other free activities, accommodation and breakfast are included. Most meals and other activities (like scuba diving and bungy jumping) cost extra.
Where: Tours run all year long and leave from all over New Zealand including, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Check out Haka Tours schedule of upcoming trips here.
How: Depending on the tour, prices run from $399 NZD to $3599 NZD. Roughly $130-$140 NZD a day no matter what tour you are on. Upgrading accommodation to a private ensuite room costs an extra $80 – $99 NZD a night. This is the cost for the room, not per person, so if you are sharing the room, the additional cost is only added once.
Thank you Haka Tours for hosting us in New Zealand, as always all opinions are completely our own and we would never recommend something we didn’t love, no matter who foots the bill.