Costa Rica’s hanging bridges are among the most coveted of the country’s many highlights. Although you may well want to visit them all whilst here (who wouldn’t?!) it’s safe to surmise you’d want to home in on one, primarily, so you have enough time, energy and funds to also try out everything else on offer in this adventure-packed country, activities like kayaking, whitewater rafting, canyoning, mountain biking, horseback riding and SO much more.
First up, if you have absolutely NO idea what we’re talking about…
What is a Hanging Bridge in Costa Rica?
Wind back the history-clock a few decades and you’d see a bunch of curious scientists studying unique flora and fauna in the remotest nooks of Costa Rica’s virgin jungles. They concocted these ‘hanging bridges’ in order to reach the highest points of the luscious canopy and, back then, they were nothing more than haphazardly tied-together ropes, swung between trees and interspersed with wooden planks. The death-defying ‘heavenly highways’ certainly did their job, and the tradition of using suspension walking bridges to enjoy superlative wilderness experiences has now become an unmissable part of all adventure vacations in Costa Rica.
What is so Magical about Hanging Bridges?
Hanging bridges get you up close and personal with what is, essentially, impenetrable wilderness. When you leave the walking trails behind (or rather, below), you enter a whole different kind of natural kingdom, one that you wouldn’t otherwise ever get to see. Hanging bridges often stretch across deep valleys and gorges, places you’d need hours of hard hiking to even reach, if at all possible. It is up in this startling remoteness that monkeys swing and toucans rest, where sloths hang out and where the essence of the jungle is intensified, ten-fold. Moreover, this is where the views really get out of this world, where the horizon is not blocked by an impermeable layer of thick forest foliage. Hanging bridges offer vistas that span across the jungle, something you simply won’t ever get to see, any other way.
Oh, and don’t worry: modern-day hanging bridges in Costa Rica are some of the best, safest and most famous in the world.
Here, you can swing to your heart’s delight with peace of mind.
Are All Hanging Bridges Tours Created Equal?
Canopy tours with hanging bridges in Costa Rica can vary quite a bit, mainly in length and agility-requirement which means some are better for families with smaller children, for example, whilst others offer exhilarating extras like zip-lining, ideal for adrenaline seekers. Some also include a fair bit of walking in between the bridges; however, they are still considered the least strenuous way to immerse yourself in pristine wilderness here. If you’re on a family adventure vacation in Costa Rica, for example, and want to bring your elderly parents along for the amazing ride, they can enjoy a stunning day on a hanging bridge trail whilst you battle out on a whitewater river. Alternatively, they simply make for amazing family excursions you can all enjoy together.
Each of Costa Rica’s best hanging bridges is located in a very special forest, be it a wilderness and wildlife reserve, rain forest or cloud forest. Entrance fees allow varying organisations to continue to maintain and protect all these incredible corners of paradise so whilst you’re up there having the time of your life, you’re also contributing to precious and very necessary causes.
It’s also worth remembering that some hanging bridges offer night-time wildlife-spotting tours and these are some of the most rewarding animal-watching tours you can take. This offers a totally distinct experience so, if you have time, you should consider doing one daytime and one night-time visit.
Knowing a little about every option will help you decide which hanging bridge course is right for your next adventure vacation in Costa Rica.
Where are Costa Rica’s Best Hanging Bridges?
Every single one of Costa Rica’s best hanging bridges offers something unique and, for many, the choice simply comes down to convenience. Where you choose to base yourself, or travel to, will likely have a big impact on your ultimate choice. Having said that, some people specifically seek the longest trail or the one with the most bridges or, in the case of two options below, the one with the most ‘extras’ like zip-line, hummingbird garden and so forth.
Here’s a quick lowdown of the options – we’ll include one ‘point of note’ for each that makes it stand out from the rest. Please note that each one offers refreshments (café/restaurants) and the option of a private tour as well.
Sky Adventures Park, Arenal
About half an hour’s drive from downtown La Fortuna, the Arenal Sky Adventures Park offers a spectacular walking trail that crosses eight bridges (four of which are suspended) as well as two observation decks and two gorgeous waterfalls. This is a leisurely 3-hour excursion but can also be combined with an aerial tram and canopy tour. There’s a lovely café that serves food (YES!) and although you have the option of taking a guide along and going self-guided. This Sky Adventure Park doesn’t offer night-time tours, unfortunately, but is perfectly suitable for all ages.
NB – This option offers some of the most magnificent canopy views of all plus you pass two waterfalls
Mistico Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal
Right by Lake Arenal is where you’ll find Mistico, a trail that offers night-time tours and very early morning bird-spotting tours as well. This trail should take about two hours to complete, is suitable for all ages and will guide you over 16 bridges (six of which are suspended) as well as a lovely waterfall. Both guided and self-guided options are available here too, as well as a great little restaurant so you can really take your time.
NB – This is the park with the most bridges (16 in total) and offers outstanding canopy views. Moreover, there is an ‘easily accessible’ trail that’s perfect for those with limited mobility and although it does skip a chunk of the whole trail, it at least offers the experience to absolutely everyone
Sky Adventures Park, Monteverde
Over in the ethereal cloud forests of Monteverde is the Sky Adventures Park, a multi-adventure center that combines hanging bridges with canopy tours, aerial trams and even a herpetarium that showcases some of Costa Rica’s most unique reptiles and amphibians and a splendid hummingbird garden. A two-hour visit will see you walk over five suspension bridges amongst breathtaking clouds. SAP Monteverde offers guides, self-guided and night-time tours and is open to all ages.
NB – This is the park with the longest suspension bridge – 774 feet!
Selvatura Park, Monteverde
Not to be outdone, Selvatura also offers a myriad of experiences, combining its hanging-bridge-trail with a thrilling zip-lining course, as well as a butterfly, hummingbird and herpetarium enclosure. It should take you about 2.5 hrs for a visit and you should expect to cross eight stunning hanging bridges. Self-guided and guided tours are available and open to all ages although, unfortunately, there are no night-time visits offered here.
NB – There’s something magical about the cloud forest views here and, what’s more, an entry ticket included round-trip transport, which is handy. If that; snot enough, you also have the option to add a zip-line tour!
100% Aventuras, Monteverde
This remarkable nature reserve offers half-day guided visits that combine both ground-level trails with eight hanging bridges, for a very comprehensive forest experience. The trail is about 2-mile long and although it does require moderate fitness, it isn’t too demanding. You also have the option of a 10-line zip-line tour, as well as ATV, rappelling and rope swings.
NB – You can go nuts with all the adrenaline-packed adventures here OR simply take a leisurely walk along the hanging bridge trail, which is suitable for all ages. The choice is yours!
Montezuma Waterfall Canopy Tour Trail, Nicoya Peninsula
Head west to Nicoya and you can take a walking trail to Montezuma’s beautiful waterfalls on a short but rewarding excursion. The three-tiered falls are just lovely, immersed in wilderness whilst also offering a great chance for a swim. This is a local hang-out and totally off the commercialized-trail. There are two ways to reach the falls: one along a riverside trail and the other (the one you’ll want) is on a canopy trail that’s easily accessible. The Sun Trails canopy tour isn’t just a super easy way to reach the top falls (so you don’t need to tackle the steep climb up from the riverside trail) but it also guides you over a couple of outstanding hanging bridges. A thrilling zip-line tour is also available if you want to add an adrenaline-rush to your visit. This no-bling option is perfect for nature-lovers who prefer a more rustic hanging bridge experience and, obviously, those who are planning an adventure vacation over on the Nicoya Peninsula.
NB – This is probably the cheapest way to experience hanging bridges because you can access the canopy trail for just a few dollars. Take a guide with you, however, and you’re likely to spot a lot more wildlife than you otherwise would, on your own.
Costa Rica’s Best Hanging Bridges – Summary
Although we’ve detailed the most famous and popular hanging bridges in Costa Rica, do note that suspension trails are actually found all over the country, and in almost all provinces. Some have even been constructed within the boundaries of private eco-lodges and these lesser-known options can be among the most rewarding.
At Costa Rica Rios, we incorporate hanging bridges tours in many of our adventure vacation packages and, besides our very popular group tours, we also organize bespoke private tours if you want to have dedicated itinerary and expert guides for you and your loved ones alone. In Costa Rica (and with Costa Rica Rios) everything is possible!
Contact us to know more.