How bizarre, I think, as we approach the beach.
Even from far away, I know this is no ordinary beach. Instead of playing in the surf, or basking in the sun, bikini-clad women and bare-chested men furiously dig in the sand. It looks like a scene from the movie Holes, except the diggers are vacationers, not delinquent teenagers.
The best beaches usually have one of the following:
1) sugar white sand,
2) turquoise blue water, or
3) a stunning backdrop.
A few beaches, like Thailand’s Similan Islands, are lucky enough to boast all three.
However, the draw for this beach is none of those. People visit this beach for what is beneath the sand. And unlike the characters in Holes, these diggers know exactly what they are digging for…
Hot Water Beach is located on the Coromandel Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island. Although hot springs are common throughout New Zealand, the location of two geothermal fissures just below this beach is unique. During low tide, beach goers can dig holes in the sand allowing the hot water to escape to the surface, creating personal hot tubs. All of the holes wash away with each high tide, creating a blank canvas for the next day’s spa-seekers.
Finding the hot water
Making our way to the hot tub zone, we notice several empty holes. Jackpot! I think. We won’t even have to dig the hole. We’ll just jump in one of the abandoned holes and assume squatters’ rights.
Great idea, right?
The reason the holes are abandoned is because the water is cold. Bummer. Too bad there’s not a map indicating exactly where the hot water is.
Eager for a private spa experience, Riley gets busy digging her hole. Meanwhile, Delaney–who is older, wiser, and lazier–decides to befriend some folks with extra room in their hot tub. It’s a great strategy and it pays off.
A lovely family from Argentina welcomes us into their spa to relax and swap travel stories. Our conversations are occasionally interrupted by 1) a collapsed sand wall which allows our hot water to escape, or 2) the squeals of those scalded by a hot spot. The water is hot indeed, up to 147° F (64° C) in places.
As a Southern girl who can’t stand cold water, Hot Water Beach is the ideal way to experience a beach in New Zealand.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you decide to visit:
- Bring a shovel and a bucket (the bucket is useful for carrying cooler ocean water to add to your hot tub so you don’t get scalded; it also makes a great foot prop.)
- Check the tide tables before your visit. The hot tub zone is only available for 2 hours either side of low tide.
- Don’t forget your sunscreen, swimsuit, towel, water, and camera.
In a country where nearly every adventure has a steep price tag attached, Hot Water Beach offers one additional bonus: