Rotarua most characteristic attribute is its smell: a soft, sulfuric scent that hangs over the city and imposes itself as a most unwelcome souvenir upon all visitors. The source of this odor is the city's placement directly above a highly-active geothermal spring, and scattered throughout the town are bleached holes and tall poles that belch the inner smells of the earth up to the surface for all to enjoy. Of course, the city's aroma isn't its only attraction: Rotarua is well known for its boiling hot springs, one of which has been harnessed by the Polynesian Spa, a hip place to soak away the ardors of travel.
The large complex is set on the corner of town directly on the shore. As you walk in past the gift store and coffeeshop (which I didn't taste), you're presented with a series of gates, one of which lead to my selection: the free-form bathing springs (other options are a regular swimming pool, rectangular hot springs, and a family area). Given that I picked the exclusive option (at least, it was the most expensive), I pass through a private cafe (which has nice green tea), into the changing room (almost as nice as my dad's YMCA, which has the best changing room in the world), and out into the pools.
The pools are of various depths, shapes, and temperatures, some with waterfalls, some with jets, but all with cozy rocks on which to sit back and soak away. When I arrived there were a few others stuck back in various corners, one of whom I took the opportunity to flirt with (until her mother came over - she'd just graduated from college and they were traveling around as a gift. Drat.). After sampling the options I settled back onto a shallow rock in a still pond with a nice view over the lake, just as a light sprinkling then a steady drizzle of rain started up. This managed to scare off the few remaining visitors (um, didn't you realize you're already wet?), leaving the entire set of pools to myself. Not that I was complaining, as leaning back with my arms resting on my knees in the midst of a hot springs and cool rain is an exquisite pleasure.