The limestone landscape of the Waitomo District area has been the centre of increasingly popular commercial caving tourism from as early as 1900. Initially mostly consisting of impromptu trips guided by local Māori, large sections of cave near Waitomo Caves were later taken over by the Crown and managed as a (relatively genteel) tourism attraction from 1904 onwards.
Today, a number of companies, large and small, specialise in leading tourists through the caves of the area, from easily accessible areas with hundreds of tourists per hour in the peak season, to extreme sports-like crawls into cave systems which are only seen by a few tourists each day. A visit to Waitomo Caves made Number 14 amongst a list of 101 "Kiwi must-do's" in a New Zealand Automobile Association poll of over 20,000 motorists published 2007, and in 2004, around 400,000 visitors entered caves in the area.
The main caves in the area are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Ruakuri Cave, Aranui Cave and Gardner's Gut. They are noted for their stalactite and stalagmitedisplays, and for the presence of glowworms (the fungus gnat Arachnocampa luminosa).