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Your guide to Piha
All About Piha
Less than an hour from Auckland, on New Zealand’s beautiful west coast, Piha is a tiny beach town between the Tasman Sea and the dense forests of the Waitakere Ranges. Rugged cliffs plunge down to meet the white sea foaming over black volcanic sand, where the area’s iconic landmark, Lion Rock, draws the eye to the center of the beach. Piha is a world-renowned surfing spot, and the scenery and stretches of black sand are idyllic for days wandering or picnicking on the beach. The sea can be rough, however, so make sure you swim in the patrolled area. When you’ve had enough sun, a cafe in the village is a great spot for a coffee or one of New Zealand’s famous meat pies.
Piha is a popular day trip from Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. On the winding road out to the coast, consider stopping at the Piha lookout high up the cliff for panoramic views over the landscape. You’ll find another great viewpoint from the Tasman Lookout, up the hill at the southern end of the main beach.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Piha
Summer here runs from November through April, and the hottest month is February. Piha’s dark sand gets hot in the summer sun, so remember your beach shoes and take a towel or chair to sit on. Whether it’s sunny or not, make sure you wear sun protection as the UV rays in this part of the world can be intense. Northern New Zealand has a subtropical climate, so it never gets frosty even during the coldest months of July and August — although it can be wet.
A national surfing competition draws New Zealand’s surfing talent and spectators to Piha in mid-January, and the finals take place in Piha in May. In March, a famous surfing event attracts the sport’s biggest global stars. On January 26th, New Zealand’s national day, Piha throws a party with live music and food stalls at the Heatwave Festival. And at the beginning of February, a smaller local event known as the West Coast Art Festival features sand sculptures, dancing, drumming performances, and other beach fun.
Top things to do in Piha
If you hike upstream to Kitekite Falls, you can take in the spectacular 130-foot waterfall set in the native forest. A waterhole nearby makes for great swimming, and you can watch and listen for native birds, such as the piwakawaka and tui. The trail starts from the end of the road following the Piha Stream and takes around 30 minutes. Benches along the way are available if you need a break. You’ll find a more challenging trail at the top of the waterfall with another swimming hole and amazing views of the valley.
Piha is the name given by the local Māori people to the prominent landmark in the middle of the beach — generally called Lion Rock by New Zealanders because it looks like a lion in profile. The word “Piha” describes how the waves part as they hit the rock, like the ripple at the prow of a canoe. Te Kawerau a Maki people lived in the area for centuries, and there was once a defensive fort (or “pa”) atop the rock. You can climb five to 10 minutes up the rock for views out to sea and along the beach, and you’ll find information boards sharing historical insights.
The Blue Pool
If you walk further around the point at the southern end of Piha Beach and through a natural rock tunnel called The Gap, you will come to what is known as the Blue Pool, a lovely group of shallow tidal pools between the mainland and Taitomo Island. Locals love to swim in the calm, warm water at low tide in this quiet area. Once the tide comes in, you can still walk back to the main beach via the Tasman Lookout track.