Adventures in the Trees

Why Ziplining in Costa Rica is a Must! (even If you are afraid of heights)

So how was the world’s first canopy tour?

“I watched the platform recede and felt a sense of ecstatic joy as I glided past branch tips, where only the lightest of jungle animals could venture, and into the airways of butterflies and birds.”  Donald Perry

When you think about Costa Rica, what is the first picture that comes up to your mind? I believe you will easily imagine an adventurous traveler flying through the lush rain forest canopy who sees it all from a bird´s eye view. An adventure once reserved for a select group of researchers and photographers, ziplines above the canopy are indeed, in many ways synonymous with Costa Rica. If you have not done it yet, this is your chance to go for it. Gliding from tree to tree in a tropical rain forest, cloud forest, or even, dry forest, allows you to fly over a waterfall, towards a volcano or facing the ocean.  So start packing and send your request to any of our affiliated Travel Agencies such as Bella Aventura, Costa Rica for All, ARA Tours, TAM Travel, Cast Costa Rica, and Swiss Travel.

Originally introduced during the 1970s, ziplines are made of steel cables and platforms adapted at various heights between trees, that offer travelers unique access to beautiful and remote natural areas.  If there is any must-do activity in Costa Rica, it is ziplining.   You can enjoy different zip line tours all over the territory, easily accessible by driving a comfortable 4×4 vehicle.  Get your car rental with Europcar or Solid Rent a Car and start your engines!

But hey! Have you heard about the history of ziplining? Are you a little bit curious about how ziplines have developed into one of the country’s most popular and widespread activities?  Allow us to go back in time to where it all began, and you may be surprised to discover that this fantastic adventure was, indeed, born in Costa Rica.

Donald Perry, a student from California, fascinated by the mysteries of the rain forest canopy, was dedicated to studying new methods for climbing and moving around it.  In his book “Life Above the Jungle Floor”, published in 1986, the now biologist Dr. Donald Perry, narrated his adventures, back in the 70s, as the first man to study the rich biodiversity of the rain forests of Costa Rica, from the trees very own canopy.   He discovered that an essential percentage of the species that inhabit the forest, lived right there, in the canopy.  Through the book pages, he described how the idea of ziplining and building observation platforms in the trees came around. The book soon caught Hollywood`s attention, as he ended up as a primary consultant for the movie Medicine Man (1992) starring Sean Connery, who appears collecting plant specimens to cure cancer, roping through the canopy on ziplines.  This media platform put a flag on the history of ziplining and started the ball rolling for the creation of this unusual activity as we know it today.

On the other side, while the movie was on the billboard at theaters that same year, Darren Hreniuk, an environmentalist Canadian, was moving to Costa Rica. He came with a concrete project of creating a unique adventure tour, an exciting tropical experience in Costa Rica’s rainforest. To make the story short, in 1995, Mr. Hreniuk, came up with a fun, exciting, and undoubtedly innovative tour. It would allow tourists to access the canopy of the rainforest and go back to the forest floor safely. Once this was nailed, he patented the idea in Costa Rica as a system of human transport. Hreniuk’s Original Canopy Tour, as he named it, was born as the first zipline canopy tour open to the public.

Even though, as we know, he did not invent ziplines, he certainly developed the activity and adapted it to tourism. As the years went by, and trees grew taller, more and more places around the country saw this new activity as a leading-edge way of attracting tourists to remote areas. Nowadays, there are many canopy tours in Costa Rica, but not all of them are the same. There are ziplines for every level of adventure!  Some that are not very high or long become perfect for first-timers. On some ziplines, you can go in pairs, feel like superman, go upside down and do other fun tricks for your enjoyment.  Some people even zipline in the dark of the night!

One fantastic source of adventure, where you can feel your adrenaline on as you rise high in the air through the treetops on zip lines, is the Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica. They offer two different parks:  one the very heart of a rainforest, embedded in the magnificent Braulio Carrillo Park in the Atlantic side, and the other one nestled in a transitional forest, home to beautiful scarlet macaws, in the Central Pacific side, just minutes away from the beach.

If you want to try as many zip lines as possible in a few days, and want to shorten distances from one spot to the other, fly Aerobell with no further ado. They operate 11 daily domestic destinations.

As stated before, every canopy tour is, indeed, different. Once you have conquered that primal fear, you may want to do it again and again without hesitating.  Ziplines not only boost the adrenaline of the riders, but allow them to take a peek at some of the jewels hidden in the canopy of the trees.

Some of the best spots to soar over the forests are in Guanacaste, Arenal, and Monteverde. For your first and last nights in our country, and start getting into the Pura Vida mood, we recommend to recover from your jet lag staying at any of these beautiful properties Barceló San José PalacioApartotel and Suites Villas del Río, and Palma Real Hotel & Casino.

 Guanacaste is home to one of the most exhilarating experiences for travelers; the longest double-wire zipline in Central America and the world’s fifth-longest ziplining tour: the “Superman.”  The dual lines let participants share their ride with their families and friends, zipping side by side. This adventure offers highly trained guides and top-notch equipment. All this for a super fun and memorable journey.

First of all, secure yourself a great hotel in the area, if you prefer to be very close to the beach and capture breathtaking sunsets in Tamarindo beach, book your room at Capitán Suizo, or  if you opt to explore the Papagayo Gulf instead, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort is the place where you want to be. On the other hand, if you are more into staying at uniquely situated hotels with the essence of Costa Rica, very close to the foothills of Rincón de la Vieja volcano, make your reservation at Hacienda Guachipelín, or at Buena Vista del Rincón.

Monteverde, a highly recommended stop while in our country, is one of the seven wonders of the province of Puntarenas, a star in Costa Rica ecotourism. Here you can not only experience an exciting zipline tour, but also enjoy the surrounding environment which happens to be the main attraction. Nevertheless, your zipline will literally take you on a ride in the clouds, and if you are lucky, you might spot a quetzal.

So, once you have listened to the call of birds, and smelled the scent of tropical flowers, we encourage to drive all the way down to one of the nearby beaches, stay at the Fiesta Resort, and bask in the sun at the dark volcanic sand beach overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean. If you desire to keep on moving down South to scout more beaches, this is your chance to spend some nights at beautiful Cristal Ballena hotel, around the corner from Marino Ballena National Park.

 Northern Plains of Arenal Volcano is among the most popular tourist hot spots in Costa Rica, with over 100 different options of adventure activities, and with the highest number of adventure parks. There are many ecosystems and species found in this area, such as tropical forests, waterfalls, hidden trails framed with colorful flowers, rejuvenating thermal waters, and the country’s largest lake, just to name a few. This marvelous area is abundant in flora and fauna, and it is beautifully crowned with a perfect cone-shaped volcano.  If you want to step into an unexplored world, come to Arenal, where zip line options are fantastic. Here where you will feel observed most of the time by a colossus in currently-resting phase, while you do the same at unique Hotel Los Héroes, that features an on-property train and a revolving restaurant.

Close to Arenal,  about a one-hour drive, is Sarapiquí, where you will be thrilled to walk over one of the longest suspended bridges in Costa Rica -262m length and up to 22 meters high overlooking the magnificent Sarapiqui River until you reach the majestic rainforest at  Tirimbina,

Tips for Ziplining in Costa Rica

  • Dress comfortably. Make sure you have the right attire. You can wear shorts, but long enough to avoid chafing your legs with the safety equipment.  Closed-toed shoes that tie to the ankle (sneakers, or similar). No flip flops, nor hats, please.
  • For long hair, pull it back in a ponytail.
  • If you wear glasses, use eyeglass strap.
  • Do not put anything in your pockets.
  • Follow your guide, listen to all the instructions, and always follow directions.
  • If you have a GoPro, bring it, and the helmet mount.
  • Bring your sense of adventure and don’t forget to smile!

Even though the most crucial chapter in the history of the ziplining was written by biologists and scientists, today, ziplines are a must-do adventure for those wanting to get their adrenaline pumping.  Plus, Costa Rica’s natural settings  provide us with breathtaking backdrops from way above the ground.

As an epilogue, we can conclude that Mr. Perry invented the jungle canopy zipline; Mr. Hreniuk designed the jungle canopy zipline tour. And, definitely, Costa Rica did not develop the technology for this but certainly figured out how to make it fun.  So, while in Costa Rica, indulge yourself in something unique, soaring through the trees! Ziplining is more than being fastened to a cable and sliding down to the other side. It is about letting loose; about allowing yourself to feel the adrenaline running through your veins. About choosing to scream, laugh, or be speechless while creating a memory that will last forever.

Once that adrenaline goes down after reaching the very last platform of your trip, and before heading back home, you may like to recover your zen status at lovely, quaint,  Casa Turire where you can try some locally produced coffee, macadamia, and sugar cane; or explore the famous Archeological Monument in Guayabo.

As you see, everyone should go ziplining in Costa Rica!  Dare to boost your endorphins, your world will never be the same again.

Marcella Román López