Ziplining is one of the must-do activities for visitors to Costa Rica – and with good reason. There is little better way to explore the natural jungle habitats of the country than flying across the canopy. It’s great fun and certainly deserves its place among the best tourist activities available in Costa Rica.
Ziplining is easy to incorporate into your Costa Rican travel itinerary as multiple tour companies offer this activity at various sites throughout the country. However, some of the most well-established are those at Guanacaste, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio and Puntarenas.
The longest stretch of zipline allows you to fly across 1km of jungle canopy in one go
Monteverde is probably the most popular destination, in part because its ziplining courses have been around the longest. The area also offers the tour with the longest single stretch of zipline cable in the country, allowing you to fly across nearly 1km of jungle canopy in one go.
Companies based in Monteverde and elsewhere sell places on tours which run several times a day and usually last around 3-4 hours. Prices vary a bit, depending on what additional activities are included, but generally start from about USD 45.
Each operator and each zipline route offers something a little different. Some trips take you right over the jungle canopy, and others go straight through it; some provide views of a nearby volcano or take you past 11 different waterfalls; and still others are designed to be ridden at night or head-first (known as the superman zipline).
Many tours also combine the ziplining with other activities. So, for example, you may book to travel to the start of the zipline course on horseback, or to visit some local hot springs afterwards. One or two of the routes include the option to go abseiling, navigate jungle obstacle courses or, for the more adventurous, to jump off a bungee swing.
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One or two of the routes include the option to go abseiling, navigate jungle obstacle courses or jump off a bungee swing
A slightly tamer option is the ‘aerial tram’: a sturdy carriage reminiscent of a cable car, which dangles down from the reinforced wires. This can be either done as a standalone activity or as a means to access the rest of the zipline route.
What the Tour Operators Say
Most Costa Rican zipline companies market these tours as a great way to experience the local jungle and the huge variety of animals that it contains. While you will certainly get a different perspective on the jungle as you fly over the canopy, you are likely to be disappointed if you are hoping to see a lot of wildlife on the tour.
With the possible exception of a few birds, most animals have learnt to stay clear of the well-traveled routes along the ziplines. The noise of a chatting tour group and of people zipping along at high speeds serves to scare away any interesting wildlife in the vicinity. It's best then to limit your expectations to having a fun day out, rather than necessarily hoping to spy a load of exotic animals.
Is it Safe?
Costa Rican zipline operations are well regulated and give close attention to the safety aspects of their tours. Each outing begins with a detailed safety briefing (often in both English and Spanish) on how to use the equipment, as well as what to do, and what not to do, when you’re out on the wires.
Moreover, zipline pulleys and cables can take an inordinately large amount of weight and all lines have hand brakes / rope pulleys to control the user’s motions and prevent accidents. Before any ‘flight’, operators check and double check harnesses and an additional safety cable is on hand to provide backup support in the highly unlikely event of any problems.
Is it for Everyone?
Most operators are keen to emphasize that individuals from almost any age group are able to participate in their tours. Perhaps the only group who should sit it out are those who have a severe fear of heights. While some ziplines are low lying, others can be as high as 200m off the ground – not much fun if you suffer from vertigo.
Real adrenaline junkies may be a bit disappointed by a couple of sections on some of the routes, as they can be a little slow at times. Indeed, sometimes you will stop before the end of the track and will have to manually pull yourself to the end of the wire. If you’re seeking the bigger thrills, keep an eye out for tours that include a bungee swing, which is excellent, or the speedy 'superman' zipline. These will better satisfy your adrenaline cravings.