Picture lush valleys, green as far as the eye can see. Trees all around you so thick that you can feel the cool dampness radiate from the branches and leaves, welcome relief from the hot, humid Costa Rican days.
You're atop a platform hundreds of feet above the earth. Contained by a harness, attached to a metal wire. A worker is holding you back, waiting for the signal from the other side.
Then he releases, and you're catapulted across to the other side. Flying through the air, frightened, exhilarated, and giddy.
Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica is a world renowned zip line and canopy tour destination for it's stunning jungle scenery and thrilling heights.
While in Costa Rica, we highly recommend a zip line canopy tour so you can see more of this diverse and beautiful country.
What is Zip Lining?
Zip lining is pulley suspended on a cable mounted on a slope so that the starting side is higher where it ends. It's designed so that gravity propels the user travels from top to bottom of the cable by holding on and/or attached to the pulley. A pulley is a wheel on an axle or shaft that is designed to support movement and change of direction. The pulley system reduces friction on the zip line and helps the rider accelerate.
Zip lining is most often used for entertainment. Some may be low and short, and can be seen on children's playgrounds. Most are longer and higher, and used as a means of accessing remote areas such as rainforest canopy tops. The jungles and forests of Costa Rica, Puerto Rica, Nicaragua, Alaska, Thailand and South Africa are popular destinations for zip lining.
History of Zip Lining
Zip lining has been around for thousands of years. Historians believe it was first done in the Himalayan region of modern day India, while others say it was first done in ancient cultures in South America. Either way, several ancient societies used a version of the modern day system to work with gravity in order to transport people and items in remote areas.
Fast forward to 17th century England where zip lines were first used for entertainment.
Additionally, a version of the zip line has been used in mountaineering practices for a couple hundreds years.
The modern day recreational activity pays tribute to it's popularity to wildlife biologists, as they needed a way to unobtrusively move about a forest canopy in order to study the densely forested areas.
It was this unlikely reason that zip line tours, also referred to as canopy tours, sprung up as a recreational activity in the rainforest of Costa Rica under the banner of eco-friendly tourism.
With the success of canopy tours in Costa Rica, today zip lines are enjoyed by travelers around the world.
FUN FACT: Yes, Costa Rica was the original location for recreational canopy tours!
Types of Canopy Tours
At this point you might be wondering, "What is the difference between zip lining and canopy tours?" as it seems the two are used interchangeably. However, zip lining is one form of canopy tours.
A canopy tour is an established route through a remote landscape. The most common form of canopy tours is zip lining, so many times you see the words as synonyms.
Other canopy tours include hanging bridges, aerial trams, and even bungee jumping!
Monteverde Extremo Park
While in Costa Rica, we chose zip line in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, particularly at the Monteverde Extremo Park. My entire group was so pleased with our decision, we had an absolute blast zip lining! From my younger sister who's terrified of heights, to my father who was unsure about traveling to Costa Rica in the first place, we all had such a blast! My dad even said it was the best day he had had in years!
Monteverde Extremo Park is located in Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve in north western Costa Rica.
Monteverde Cloud Forest is comprised of 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) of land and home to more than 500 species of animals and 2,500 species of plants!
Monteverde Extremo Park's Canopy Tour is a zip lining course of 14 cables systems, the longest is 1030 meters (3380 feet)!
Their Canopy Tour includes zip lining, a Tarzan swing, a Superman zip line where you go head first "laying" on your stomach to fly like superman, and rappelling.
My two favorites of the day were the Superman zip line and the Tarzan swing because I was absolutely terrified and intimidating by both of them before working up the nerve to take the leap!
I heard shrieks of terror (and delight, I hope) while I was on the zip line just before the Tarzan swing. Between the thick jungle foliage, I could barely make out part of the platform and the rider when they quickly dropped and I could feel my heart start to race.
When it was my turn and I was standing on the platform, I couldn't move. I shuffled my feet slowly, inch by inch towards the ledge. My sister and dad behind me; my sister frozen in terror with a look on her face I'll never forget, and my dad teasing me to just go for it! The two gentlemen assisting the Tarzan swing both ushered me to the edge. I took a deep breath and with hesitation and push from the men, I flew off the platform! A rush came over me; I felt high all day.
The Superman was the last zip line of the day.
Walking the course towards the next zip line, ahead in the distance I saw a massive metal platform on the hill. We all climbed the couple flights of stairs slowly as a line had formed. We were on that platform for maybe 30 minutes, waiting our turn in line for the Superman zip line. The anticipation was killing me!
My brother went first, no fear and a natural getting into the awkward position. Ready to conquer anything that one.
I was next, and if I wasn't shaking visibly, I was on the inside. They strapped me in around my wait, this time carabiner up and stomach down. Nothing to hold on to. My instructions were to cross arms at chest until the midway point and then I could extend my arms out wide like superman. The reason you have to wait is because outstretched arms will slow you down.
It was such a thrill to be that high over the cloud forest! So freeing and so exhilarating to be up that high, alone, above the trees basking in the sunlight of the day.
Benefits of Seeing Costa Rica by Canopy Tour
Wildlife: 90% of Costa Rican animals and 50% of plant species in rainforests live in the upper levels of the trees, so here you might see something you couldn't from the ground!
Sustainable Tourism: Zip lining is eco-friendly entertainment, a guilt free way of having a thrilling experience!
Incredible Views: When you explore that far off the ground, the view from above is something you’ll never forget!
Places that Offer the Superman Zip Line in Costa Rica
Monteverde Extremo Park in Monteverde, Puntarenas Province (this is where I went)
100% Aventura in Monteverde, Puntarenas Province
Selvatura Park in Monteverde, Puntarenas Province
Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province
The Congo Trail Canopy Tour in Nuevo Colón, Guanacaste Province
Sky Adventures in both Monteverde and Arenal, while it doesn't have a Superman ride it does have a Tarzan swing!
Traveler's Tip: After zip lining in Monteverde, head to Taco Taco for some seriously delicious Mexican food! Order the Pork El Pastor tacos or Baja Fish tacos!
Additionally, Monteverde Extremo Park offers what is widely considered the best bungee jumping in Central America!
Costa Rica offers so many options for adventure and relaxation! Contact us to plan your trip to Costa Rica, Central America and beyond!