All you need to know about zip-lining in Costa Rica
One of the most thrilling experiences you can have in Costa Rica is flying through the air at speeds of up to 50mph along a steel cable across the tops of the trees. Zip-lining, commonly referred to throughout the country as a canopy tour, is one of the most popular adventure activities in Costa Rica. Here is everything you need to know about canopy tours in our quick guide.
History of the Canopy Tour in Costa Rica
Zip lines were first used in the seventies by scientists and biologists as a way of accessing the forest canopy in remote areas such as cloud forests. This was at a time when forest canopy’s were still relatively unexplored and understudied. In 1974 a graduate student from California called Donald Perry came down to Costa Rica with the aim of building a zip line to study the forest. He was considered to have pioneered the study of the canopy and wrote about his experiences in his book called “Life Above the Jungle Floor.” The network of ropes and pulleys that he built to move himself around the tops of the trees started to attract attention and his photo appeared on the front cover of the Smithsonian and National Geographic magazines. Years later in the 1990’s a Canadian entrepreneur called Darren Hreniuk set up the first tourist zip line in the country in Monteverde. Since then canopy tours have sprung up all over Costa Rica and have become one of the most popular soft adventure activities.
Where is the best place in Costa Rica to do a canopy tour?
Canopy tours are now ubiquitous in Costa Rica but not all of them provide the same experience. The best places that we recommend to do a canopy tour are in Monteverde and Arenal. Here are the best three zip lines that we recommend.
Sky Trek Arenal
The Sky Trek canopy tour in Arenal starts with a slow aerial tram that takes you up to the top of the mountain with unbeatable views of Arenal Lake and the rainforest below. Wildlife, especially monkeys, can often be seen playing in the trees. There are 7 zip lines in total, the longest of which is 750 metres long. The system of zip lines take you through the rain forest and across the valley for incredible views of Arenal volcano as you whizz along the steel cables. The platforms are free standing metal structures which allow for a little more space. One of the zip lines feature two lines side by side so you can race the person next to you! The views from this canopy tour are hard to beat.
Selvatura is the only canopy tour located inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It is also one of the longest canopy tours in Costa Rica with 15 lines. The final line is a kilometer long and daredevils have the option to do this line in the hands free superman position! There is also an optional Tarzan swing just before the final line. The platforms at Selvatura are built directly onto the trees and the cables take you through the cloud forest. In this canopy tour there is also the option for two people to go together on one zip line. The often misty cloud forest makes for a scenic and atmospheric experience.
Sky Trek Monteverde
Sky Trek in Monteverde is the highest in the country and the best for thrill seekers wanting to go as fast as possible! There are 8 different lines and the longest cable is 750 metres, a little shorter, but faster, than Selvatura. The tour starts with an aerial tram that takes you to the start of the first line. In total the tour takes about 2 hours to complete. It is not quite as scenic as Selvatura, but faster and more exhilarating!
Are canopy tours suitable for children?
Yes! There are usually no age restrictions for canopy tours and it is an activity that people of all ages can enjoy. Most canopy tours do, however, have minimum height restrictions at about 120cm (3 ft 11) and very young children will have to go with a guide.
Our top tips
Most of the canopy tours will offer to lend you a GoPro camera that attaches to your helmet and the chance to purchase the footage at the end of the tour. If you have your own GoPro camera make sure you take it with you to get some unique footage. We recommend wearing long trousers which will make the harness more comfortable, but you could wear shorts if you prefer. Comfortable shoes, sun cream and a jacket or raincoat are also recommended.