Can I visit El Rancho for the day? Are activities available?

In the quieter months (May - September, excluding the school holidays) we may have space for day visitors, but you would need to email ahead ahead to check first on office@elrancho.co.nz. A day visitor fee will apply. During our peak season (October - April + school holidays) we are likely to be at capacity hosting camps, conferences and events and don't generally have space for day visitors as well.

Day visits just include our free activities like the Playground, Mini Golf and Discover El Rancho (find the clues around camp to solve a puzzle) and you can also book the waterslide for a half hour slot for a small fee. Please note that all of our main instructed activities need to be booked 8 weeks in advance and are reserved for onsite group bookings, not casual use/day visits.

We do hold a free Open Day every year where lots of our activities are up and running for people to try, so we would love to welcome you then! Keep an eye on our website or Facebook pages for details.

Do you only offer 'Group Bookings' or can individuals or families stay too?

We have changed the way we offer our accommodation, including motel units and campsites. For most ot the year, these are now only available to be booked by groups.

The smallest venue we offer, has a minimum hire equivalent to 14 guests, so even if you have less people, you still need to cover that cost.

However on a few occasions each year, we will open up dates where families and individuals can book to come - join our mailing list or keep your eye on our Facebook page for details.

How do I make an enquiry?

Please complete our online Group Booking Enquiry Form. You can find this under the 'Contact Us' tab on our website, elrancho.co.nz

We have several different facilities available and we cater to many - our venues range in size from a 14 person minimum hire right up to 500+ guests!

Please give us as much information as possible when completing the form so that we can look at options to best suit your needs.

Please note that we are a busy site, and get multiple enquiries daily. We will endeavour to respond to you as soon as possible, but there may be a queue. If you don't hear from us within 3 working days, please feel free to give us a call on 04 902 6287 to check that we have received your enquiry.

What happens after I have submitted an enquiry?

One of our Group Coordinators will be in touch to let you know whether or not the facilities are available on your preferred dates, or to give you other options if it is unavailable. They will advise the best space to cater for your needs, and send you rates and venue information.

Once you have reviewed the rates and options, and wish to proceed with the booking, let us know as soon as you can - we are busier than ever and cannot guarantee that dates will remain available until we have heard back from you and have penciled you in.

What is the booking process if we're keen to proceed?

We will send you a full Quote, Booking Form (contract), Terms and Conditions and Deposit Invoice. Your dates will be held for 30 days (a shorter timeframe may apply if we have multiple requests for the same dates or if it is a last minute booking). Within that time, we ask you to sign and return the booking form having accepted the terms and conditions. We also ask you to pay a deposit, which would be non-refundable upon cancellation. Your deposit will later be deducted from your final invoice.

Your booking will be confirmed upon receipt of the signed booking form and deposit paid. Your pencil booking will expire if the booking is not confirmed in the timeframe given.

When your booking is confirmed, we will send you confirmation via email and access to a portal for your booking, that gives you access to lots of helpful information and is where you'll let us know special dietary requirements.

We are happy to help with any queries along the way, and will send intermittent reminders as we need information from you as well. Planning a camp/event is an exciting process and we're here to help make it as easy as possible for you!

Do I need to confirm numbers when booking?

When initially making a booking request, we will need a really good estimate of your numbers, so that we can offer you a space with enough beds. Each space that we can offer will have a minimum and maximum number attached to it. The minimum is roughly 70% of the beds available in the facility.

If you agree to a booking, you will be signing a contract to cover the minimum hire for the facility, even if your actual numbers are less. If your numbers are more than the minimum, you'll be paying for the actual number of attendees.

Your final, confirmed numbers will be required 10 days* out from your event. Your final invoice will be based off the numbers you confirm with us 10 days prior to arrival, or your actual numbers - whichever is greater.

Please note that if you are a Family Reunion or a new customer booking with us, we may ask you for this information one month out and require your final invoice to be paid prior to your stay

Can I just book a meeting space at El Rancho?

We have a range of meeting spaces across our large site and the majority of them have accommodation that is included with them. This means that to use those spaces you need to book the adjacent accommodation for a minimum two night stay.

The exception is Founders Lounge. It is a small café style space, perfect for meetings and gatherings of up to around 30 people. It is a stand alone space, which we often hire for community organisations to use if there is availability.

What are your standard arrival/departure days and times?

Generally if you are booking for two nights during the week, you can either book Monday - Wednesday or Wednesday to Friday. If you are booking for three or more nights, we can be more flexible with the days you come. Most weekend bookings are from Friday - Sunday, but a longer stay can be booked if desired. We don't typically allow bookings to start on a Sunday as it means we can't then have guests for the weekend prior.

We have a 2 night minimum stay for all group bookings, and this may be a 3 night minimum over long weekends/public holidays.

Our standard weekday check in time is 2pm, and check out is 10am. Weekend bookings are generally from 3:00pm Friday - 3:00pm Sunday. Unless otherwise arranged with your El Rancho Group Coordinator, these are the times you will have access to the site. You will need to plan your travel to and from camp around the agreed times. We are happy to look at requests to alter access times, however please note that we are a busy site and have to factor in hosting multiple group bookings at once, and ensuring enough time to clean and reset facilities between guests.

How does payment for group bookings work?

Each group will need one key coordinator who will liaise with us throughout the booking process, and who will be responsible for arranging payment of the deposit, final invoice and any supplementary charges if applicable.

You will be given an overview of our rates when you first make an enquiry. If you decide to then make a tentative booking, we will create a quote customised to your needs for your event. This quote will not include total costs (as the total amount is very dependent on the actual number of attendees and optional extras you may choose to add in) but is more of a pricelist to help you work out what will suit your event and your budget best.

You will need to pay a deposit to confirm your booking (which is non-refundable but is taken off your final bill). Your final invoice will be based off the prices quoted and the final numbers and details you supply us prior to the event.

All invoices issued must be paid in one amount, and with the correct booking references (which will be supplied). We are not able to accept individual or partial payments for group bookings.

If your group is coming to El Rancho for the first time or is not a registered organisation (eg. a family reunion or community gathering), we will ask the group organiser to supply a copy of their photo ID when making the booking.

We will invoice you prior to your event and this will need to be paid before the day of arrival. The key contact will also be responsible for any outstanding payments owing.

What duties and cleaning expectations do I need to be aware of when booking?

Because El Rancho is a non-profit organisation and 'camp' style setting, we ask that groups using our venues leave them as they found them. If facilities are not left clean to a high standard, a cleaning fee may be added to the final bill.

If your group is catered by us, we often require helpers to assist with serving meals and also, with keeping your dining room tidy with tables wiped and floors vacuumed between meal sittings.

Are we sharing the site with others?

Unless your group is 300+ (chat to us about exclusive use if this is the case), the site will most likely be shared with other groups. We are a large site with the capacity to host multiple groups and holiday makers at once.

To respect others onsite, we ask you to adhere to our noise curfews (no loud noise before 7am and after 10pm). We'd also ask that you ensure that your group is aware of the allocated accommodation and facilities they have access to, so as not to disturb other guests.

What local activities/eateries can you recommend if we have time to fill outside of our El Rancho Booking?

Kāpiti is a beautiful place to explore!

Recommended activities:

  • Beach walk, 20min walk from El Rancho
  • Walk the Waikanae River track, runs along our southern boundary
  • Ngā Manu Nature Reserve
  • Visit Kāpiti Island
  • Barry Hadfield Nikau Palm Reserve walk, Lindale
  • Coastlands Aquatic Centre
  • Waikanae Summer Pools (seasonal)
  • Event Cinemas Coastlands
  • Shoreline Cinemas Waikanae
  • Paekākāriki Escarpment Track
  • Otaihanga Domain (10min walk from El Rancho)
  • Marine Gardens, Raumati
  • Kāpiti Coast Museum, Waikanae

Recommended Waikanae Beach Eateries:

  • Long Beach Tavern
  • Hey Coastie
  • Olde Beach Bakery
  • Waikanae Beach Fish and Chips
  • Tuk Tuk Thai
Can I book multiple camps "back to back", i.e. a group arriving as another leaves?

This is definitely an option! Please note that if there is onsite crossover (eg. second group arriving on transport that will take the first group home) then you will be required to take full responsibility for cleaning and preparing the cabins/meeting rooms for your next group on the day in between groups.

What is your cancellation policy?

We will send you a copy of our Booking Terms & Conditions when you first enquire to make a booking. Please read the Ts&Cs carefully prior to signing your booking contract. Our cancellation policy is explained in detail in this document.

Does El Rancho have wheelchair/disability access?

Yes we do in some venues. Watch this space for more info.

Is smoking/vaping or alcohol allowed onsite?

Because we host school camps and other children's events, we are strictly smoke/vape/drug & alcohol free. Anyone needing a space to smoke/vape can ask our team who can direct to nearby offsite areas that would be appropriate for this.

Are pets allowed?

Sorry, no! Guests are not permitted to bring any pets onsite. Guide and assistant dogs are of course welcome (please advise us in advance).

What happens if we break or damage something during our stay?

Any damages caused by a group will be assessed by our Facilities Department and any relevant contractors for repair/replacement. You will be invoiced for the costs incurred, including labour, materials and an admin fee if needed.

Does El Rancho have First Aid available?

As a group organiser, you are responsible for arranging your own first aid, including resources and personnel. If a major incident occurs, be sure to inform El Rancho staff so they can assist you and fill in the relevant health and safety reports afterwards.

Can you cater to food allergies/preferences?

Our amazing Kitchen team can cater for Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten free, and Dairy free diets, and we ask that all other dietary requests are self managed.

Your menu will be designed closer to the time (roughly 5-7 days out) once we have your final numbers.

We can send you the menu on request so that if any meals are unsuitable, guests can bring extra food along. There will be a microwave and fridge available for you to use.

Please note that while all efforts are made to prepare special diet food separately, we cannot guarantee that there will not be traces of allergens in the food. Even many of our pre-packaged special diet foods come with a disclaimer on the packaging.

If a guest has a severe/anaphylactic allergy to a particular food, we would advise them to bring their own food. If you would still like us to cater for them, you will be required to complete a Severe Allergy Form. Our Kitchen manager will review the form and decide whether or not El Rancho can safely cater to the individual or not.

Why do we have to pay an extra fee for Special Diets? What does it cover?

Info to come

What can we expect to be on the menu?

We have two menu options - a standard menu and a "Kai Plus" menu.

Our standard menu includes some great camp classics - such as our famous 'El Rancho Nachos', roast chicken, burgers, chicken curry, mac & cheese, build your own wraps with tasty fillings and of course, continental breakfasts with hot porridge. Morning/afternoon teas and suppers (biscuits and fruit + hot drinks) as well as desserts are included complimentary.

If you're looking for an upgrade, our Kai Plus menu is for you! This option is popular with corporate/adult group bookings looking for some nicer, restaurant quality options for lunch and dinner, or perhaps a cooked breakfast. We can also offer a more substantial morning/afternoon tea if desired. We tailor the Kai Plus menu to each group and base it around seasonal availability of premium produce.

Let us know if you'd like to see an example menu for either option and we can send it through to you.

Can our group self cater?

We definitely recommend booking our onsite catering, and will generally give preference to catered group bookings - however in some cases we can offer self-catered options. This does depend a lot on the venue you have booked and the number of guests coming:

  • The Elm (motel style) venue can have the option to be self-catered, as long as your group number is no more than 35. Please note that the kitchenettes available are very basic and we'd ask you to come and visit before confirming a booking, to check it will be suitable for your catering needs.
  • The Pinewood Bunkroom venue comes with a fully equipped kitchen that is suitable for self-catering for groups of up to 80.
  • The Redwood Bunkroom venue does not offer self-catering facilities.
  • Our motel units (Studios, Baker Lodge and Villas) are all self-catered options with kitchenettes. If you are a group booking a number of motel units, you may wish to add on Founder's Lounge as a meeting room/kitchen for self-catering.
When will our first/last meal be? What time are meals?

In general, if booking during the week, your first catered meal will be dinner on the first night, and your last meal will be a packed lunch for you to take with you on the last day. Please talk to us about other options if a packed lunch isn't suitable for your group.

If booking a weekend stay, we don't offer dinner on Friday nights. Most participants for weekend bookings arrive at different times, making it too difficult for a set meal time. We recommend eating before you arrive, have a potluck meal or order in pizza for the Friday night. Your first catered meal would be breakfast on Saturday, and your last meal would be a sit in lunch on Sunday.

Our meal times are set to work around our kitchen shifts and other groups in at the same time. These set times are:

  • Breakfast - 8:00am
  • Lunch - 12:30pm
  • Dinner - 5:30pm

We ask you to be on time for your meals as the food will be hot and waiting for you! Any changes to the meal times or the standard meal package must be requested well in advance and are subject to approval by the Kitchen Manager.

How do I book activities?

We have a range of exciting onsite activities that your group may wish to experience. These are set up and priced for group bookings. Activities are perfect for school or church camps, team building, community groups and more. As part of the booking process, we will discuss options and create an activity package to suit your group's needs.

Please note that activities are no longer booked individually as we have done in the past. We are the experts on Camp activities and so we ask you to trust our team to create an awesome custom experience for your group. When discussing activities with you, we will want to know a few things to help us tailor make an awesome experience for your group:

  1. Your budget. We have 3 price bracket options so there is something to suit every budget. You can choose between the Gold, Silver or Bronze price brackets, which we will quote for you based on the number of participants.
  2. Your values. Our activities are designed to meet different objectives, and we'd love to align the programme with the values and goals of your event. Whether it be educational, team-work focussed, confidence building, problem solving, new experiences or simply to just have fun and laugh - knowing the purpose of your event will help us create a great experience for your group.
  3. The age & ability of your group. We will tailor a programme to suit the age of attendees and also the physical ability of group members. Some activities are better suited to different age groups. Please chat with us about disability access if this is relevant to your group, we have plenty of options available!

We will be creating your activity schedules approximately 2 months out, so will need to gather this information from you prior to this time. You will be sent reminders and a basic form to complete after your booking is confirmed. We will be in touch when your schedule is ready for you to check.

We are running our own programme but would like the option to add in a couple of activities, is this possible?

If you are just looking to do one or two activities rather than a full programme of activities, we can look to book this in approx 7-8 weeks out, after packages for other groups are finalised and we can see what activity sessions we can make available to you.

Quotes available on request. Priority for activity booking will be given to groups wishing to book a full package.

What does a typical activity schedule look like?

The packages we offer include a certain number of activities based on the timeframe you're here for and the number of participants you have.

We can have up to 5 groups onsite doing activities at any given time, so we do ask groups to be flexible around how activities are scheduled - we work hard to create timetables that cater well to all groups and avoid clashes!

An example of how this may look for a school camp style booking could be:

On your first day at camp we may schedule an "all in" activity, and/or an orienteering activity, to help familiarise everyone with the site.

On the full days you are here, you would have your participants in smaller groups rotating through activities. Each activity day consists of four 90min activity slots - two in the morning and two in the afternoon. For the evenings, we have a range of exciting optional extras such as a Bonfire, Quiz Night, Movie night, Glow Dodgeball or Night Trail.

On your last day, you'll be cleaning the facilities you've used in the morning and can head off when these are checked by our staff, or on request, we may be able to store your gear onsite so you can do a beach walk or have some free time.

If you have a large group (120+), participants will likely be limited to the number of available activity slots within the timeframe, so there is a chance that not everyone will get to do the same activities if you are only here for a short time. You can either allow participants to sign up to an activity group/rotation that suits them best, or look to extend your stay to ensure enough time for all your participants to get through the activities.

Are activities seasonal? Can I come in winter?

Coming in winter is a great idea! We even offer a special deal in the winter months, where groups can have their activity package at 50% off. Please see our Activities Page for Ts & Cs to see if you'd qualify. Be sure to mention this when booking so we can confirm that the deal will apply.

The majority of our activities still run over winter, we just encourage participants to dress warmly. The main difference in winter is that our swimming pool closes for the season. Be sure to book a bonfire instead - toasted marshmallows and campfire songs make for great camp memories!

Do activities get cancelled if the weather is bad?

Most activities go ahead rain or shine! Be sure to prepare guests for all weather - bring old clothes, rain gear and warm clothes.

Some activities that can be affected by the weather include River Adventure, Paddle & Pontoon, the Horse Experience and Rancho Raceway. If the conditions are unsafe we will make a call on the day to cancel these activities. Safety is our number one priority.

We know cancellations can be disappointing, so please prepare participants to be resilient if the weather is bad, and keep a good attitude - camp can still be fun in the rain! We have back-up options available for cancelled activities, and we will communicate these with you if the forecast for your camp isn't looking good.

What activities/facilities are free to use?

We have some awesome free activities which include the swimming pool (open October - April), tennis/basketball courts, rugby/football field, volleyball courts, gaga dodgeball pit, mini golf and a playground with trampolines.

We do not take private bookings for these facilities, as they are free facilities for all guests to use. You are welcome to use these facilities throughout your stay, please be aware that other guests will be able to use them too. Please share them with others as you would any public facility.

What health and safety guidelines/qualifications do you have in place?

Our Group Co-ordinators will be able to share the relevant documents with you for your stay.

What is your COVID policy?

Due to the legal COVID requirements being dropped, we no longer have specific COVID policies in place. Groups are responsible for monitoring their own wellbeing (including keeping spaces ventilated) and ensuring those who are unwell do not remain at El Rancho.