Review: Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel offers surprising level of culture along with the luxury

Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel officially opened its doors on December 12, 2023.
Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel officially opened its doors on December 12, 2023. Photo credit: supplied

Located just 100m from the international terminal, Auckland's newest five-star hotel is also its first in the airport precinct.

The idea is for travellers arriving or departing at an ungodly hour to have easy access to five-star comfort, but the hotel offers a lot more than that.

On a recent overnight stay at Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel, I was very impressed with the tikanga Māori woven into many, many elements of the experience, well beyond surface level. This was a pleasant surprise - a luxury hotel right by the airport is enough of a selling point, so everything else felt like a bonus.

There is definitely room for the hotel to improve in some ways, most of which will be sorted out once construction on the airport's upgrades is finally finished. But overall, my stay was pleasurable and wonderfully convenient, with many an unexpected delight.

The hotel

Although this Pullman is operated by the enormous French hospitality chain Accor, it is owned 50/50 by Auckland Airport and Tainui Group Holdings.

Kiingi Tuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII himself broke ground to mark the start of construction in 2019 and also gifted the hotel the first part of its name, Te Arikinui, which means supreme paramount chief.

This Tainui ownership is likely to thank for the unique feel of much of the hotel. International guests checking in after landing in Aotearoa for the first time will have the bar set quite high for the rest of their time in the country, due to how deeply incorporated tikanga Māori is at this Pullman.

Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel lobby.
The lobby. Photo credit: supplied

There are meaningful designs carved into the columns, windows and doorways that you may not immediately notice, but they're cool when you do - and much cooler if you have the time to ask someone who knows about the meaning behind them. The beautiful lobby's terrazzo floor is an artwork itself and scattered through it are seashells gathered by tribal members from Manukau and Aotea harbours.

Tangata whenua also designed the staff uniforms, bed throws, the menu of the Te Kaahu restaurant and make up a large number of the working staff. It all adds up to an overall experience that is palpably different to any other hotel I've stayed at and an amazing way to introduce people to the country, or for Kiwis to farewell it for a while.

Design-wise, there are other little touches that are pleasing when you notice them, such as the thoughtfulness put into the surrounding landscaping - although much of that is yet to be completed. All of the hallways are curved, giving the hotel an intimate, boutique feel despite it having 311 rooms.

If you're flying, of course, the location is just as great as you'd imagine it is being a rugby field's length away from the terminals. It's terrific having luggage trolleys you can take from the lobby to the airport check-in, or even have a staff member help get your bags over there if you're a heavy traveller.

Screens displaying departure and arrival times in the restaurant and lobby is another great touch.

However, not everything about the location is convenient. Valet parking is available for an extra cost, but if you want to self-park, only the airport car parks are available. They are a relatively costly and a fair walk away from the hotel.

I got dropped right at the hotel's front door by an Uber, but to get picked up had to walk over to the international terminal pick-up zone. That's only a minute or so walk, but still, it's less than ideal.

The room

I stayed in an 'executive king room' on the ninth (top) floor, which at the time of writing would set you back $524 per night.

It was spacious and packed with lots of the luxurious little extras you can expect when you fork out that much on a daily rate, as well as having the lovely feel and smell of a brand-new hotel room.

For me the most exciting thing about staying in this room was the views of the runways it might offer. A friend stayed at the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport last year and his photos blew my mind - alas, our Auckland version isn't quite the same.

My room's view was mostly of a construction yard and didn't offer a clear view of much of the runway. On the day I arrived I could see planes coming in to land, which flipped to them shortly after takeoff the day after, but other rooms in the hotel will offer better views - or you can just head into the bar for a supreme runway vista. Next time I stay I'd like to get a room that better capitalises on their floor-to-ceiling windows with a position to sit and gaze at the air traffic.

Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel runway view from room.
This is the sort of view I'd like next time. Photo credit: supplied

Location novelty aside, much about the room impressed. Its spaciousness was well pronounced at the entrance, which had a large seat two people could use at the same time to put on or take off shoes, with loads of room under it to store footwear too.

Having an international plug converter in the room without having to ask for one was a nice touch. Being so modern, there were loads and loads of powerpoints throughout the room which I really liked, although it would've been good to have USB-C ports as well as the increasingly dated USB-A variety on offer.

The bed and pillows were gorgeously soft and delivered the best sleep I've had in a while. My room didn't have a bath, but the shower had decent pressure both through the overhead rain head and the hand-held head.

The towels, linen and toiletries were all as sumptuous as you'd expect - and reassuringly not of the type that gross people can do gross stuff with, if you're unfortunate enough to know such gross things sometimes happen. A shaving and dental kit weren't provided in the room, although I imagine they'd be available for free upon request.

Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel room bathroom.
Photo credit: supplied

There was less light in the vanity area that I'd like for having a shave, which may be an issue for people applying makeup too - although by the looks of the supplied photo above, I perhaps didn't notice the ring light on the right there.

Maybe I was too excited with the delicious welcome chocolates. They were on top of the complimentary water and soft drinks at the mini bar, an in-room Nespresso Vertuo machine and too many other pleasant additions to list here. It was a fabulous place to spend an evening.

Food and drink

Te Kaahu on the ninth floor is the hotel's primary restaurant and bar with lunch and dinner menus as well as being the buffet breakfast area.

If you like plane-spotting, get a seat down the far end of the bar for the best runway views in the hotel. Staff were happy to put me there even during breakfast, despite it not being part of the main morning dining area and yep, there's nothing like sipping your barista-made coffee with a scrummy brekkie while watching the international terminal's morning rush-hour.

The dinner menu by chef Nancye Pirini is a delectable modern take on traditional Aotearoa cuisine. My favourite dishes included a raw fish with coconut panna cotta starter, a caramelised carrot with yuzu hollandaise side and a beef rib eye with chimichurri main. I didn't get to try the pork boil-up dish but really hope to next time, although it's the sort of menu I really want to try every single item on.

A selection of mains and sides at Te Kaahu, Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel.
A selection of mains and sides at Te Kaahu. Photo credit: Newshub.

Drinks-wise, a broad range of delicious wine is on offer from up and down New Zealand along with a few French options. I'd highly recommend experimenting with the bespoke cocktails, too, which were quite special - my favourite came with a dipping biscuit (!) and worked fantastically as a liquid dessert.

In my room I was pleased to see exclusively New Zealand alcohol at the mini bar, including the gin, whiskey and vodka. Again, this would be such a great start to a New Zealand holiday for a visiting foreigner.

Breakfast buffet at Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel.
Part of the breakfast buffet. Photo credit: Newshub.

The buffet breakfast selection was fairly standard five-star fare, but I did really appreciate the inclusion of creamy mushrooms and have to commend the barista of their espresso skill. I was disappointed with the lack of any hand santiser, however; especially given the target market of travellers, for the more health-conscious among us it's great to have it as an option when you're touching the same serving utensils as every other guest, just before eating.

Downstairs there is also the Kuriri Café & Eatery, which looks great, but I didn't get to try it.

Overall, Te Kaahu's food and drink options were excellent - and not just for a five-star hotel. If I'm checking in early for a flight and feeling bougie, popping over the road to this place is a very attractive option over what's on offer at the airport itself.

The verdict

Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel is, predictably, wonderfully luxurious accommodation just a brief stroll from the terminals.

But beyond that, it's also a wonderful advertisement for what makes our country unique, delivering manaakitanga and tikanga Māori much more meaningfully than one may expect.

As outlined above there are a few areas where the hotel could be further improved, but if you're wanting a place to stay or dine near the airport, this is clearly the best option there is - for those that can afford the pricey rates, of course.

Newshub received a complimentary one-night stay at Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel for this review