Amongst the many exciting outdoor activities on offer in Costa Rica, zip-lining would have to be the most popular and, without a doubt, the most iconic. Flying like a bird along the canopy of a pristine forest is not just an exciting activity but also grants you a superb view of the country’s wilderness, one you’d otherwise never get to experience. Yet as popular as the sport is, in our neck of the woods, there are still many first-time visitors who don’t know what zip-lining in Costs Rica entails. Is zip-lining in Costa Rica safe? Age restricted? It is difficult and scary?
We thought we’d compile this guide to zip-lining in Costa Rica, so you can come and fly high, the Pura Vida way, and enjoy the absolute adventure vacation of a lifetime, in one of the world’s most welcoming countries.
What Exactly IS Zip-lining and How Did It Evolve?
Zip-lining or ‘flying fox’ as an adventure sport was first introduced in Costa Rica over four decades ago and, although now available all over the world, our humble little nation is still regarded the trailblazer of the trend. Historical records show that the use of a diagonal rope to transport goods and people across uneven terrain (across canyons or rivers) has been in use for well over 400 years in several continents (most especially in very mountainous regions) although the identity of the genius who first came up with the idea is still unknown. By the 1980’s, zip-lining was extensively used in Latin America by researchers studying dense tropical rain forests and their elusive wildlife so it’s no surprise to know that the first ‘recreational’ commercial course, aimed at the sheer fun of it all, was first opened in Costa Rica 1992.
Zip-lining involves completing a suspended-line course interspersed with platforms at strategic points. The aim is to use gravity as a force of movement, so you glide along the line rather than be driven along by some kind of mechanical apparatus, with the incline and your weight determining your speed.
The popularity of zip-lining in Costa Rica also reflects the eco-friendly benefit of this activity, when compared to so many others, given the low ecological impact it creates in a pristine wilderness environment. Zip-lining allows visitors access (and a bird’s eye view) to some of the most remote and unspoiled terrain of all, the only impact being the initial building of each platform and the occasional access to maintain it. But it still avoids the impact of having tens of thousands of people trample on the forest floor daily and that’s a huge plus for mother nature. This was the primary reason biologists first used the system in Costa Rica and its evolution into the tourism sector has been a very organic one, for obvious reasons.
Can Anyone Do It?
You bet! Zip-lining in Costa Rica is popular with honeymooning couples, retirees on vacation, singles, families and everyone in between. Every course specifies difficulty rating and duration, so you can choose the one that suits you best. Many tours do involve a bit of walking between platform so, no matter your age, you should still be fit and agile enough to complete a course. This is the absolute quintessential adventure activity in Costa Rica, something every active traveler really should try when visiting.
Is It Dangerous?
When used correctly, incorporating the right galvanized cables, with loads and breaks at the right distance, zip-lining is exceptionally safe, each course able to load tens of thousands of pounds at any given time. As with any adrenaline sport using gear, it is imperative you always choose a professional and well-respected company, one that’s considered ‘the best in the biz’ with a proven track-record of unrivaled safety. There’s a wealth of dedicated gear involved in zip-lining in Costa Rica, including safety harnesses, sturdy pulleys, safety helmets and thick safety gloves. Given the nature of the activity, however, there is always some risk involved when zip-lining in Costa Rica, although it’s along the lines of every other activity on offer here, including horseback riding, mountain bike riding, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Anything that doesn’t involve simply ‘walking’ along a well-paved trail is going to involve an added risk but that’s simply the nature of adventure tourism, anywhere in the world.
All the zip-line courses we recommend in Costa Rica abide by the strictest safety regulations and every visit includes a thorough safety briefing before you’re allowed anywhere near a line.
Is Zip-lining In Costa Rica Scary?
Now here’s a totally different topic and a very subjective one. If you’re a thrill-seeking adventurer out for a great adrenaline-rush then zip-lining is tailor-made for you. If, however, you suffer vertigo or simply scare easily, then you may want to keep your feet on the ground. It’s worth noting that there’s a multitude of zip-lining courses in Costa Rica that are quite mellow – even suitable for children above a certain age – with short sections that never allow you to pick up any great speed. Yep, there are plenty of ‘trial runs’ you can do if you’re keen to try it out first and see if you like it – no need to go all gung-ho right off the bat if you’re hesitating.
Where in Costa Rica Can You Go Zip-lining?
Given the sheer concentration of wilderness in Costa Rica and the popularity of zip-lining, there’s almost ‘no corner’ of the country that isn’t home to a world-class zip-line course. You’ll find zip-line options in both the north and southern Caribbean coast, the Central Valley and all along the Pacific coast.
What Are The Best Zip-lining Courses In Costa Rica?
The most popular and best zip-lines are found in the country’s most revered highlights, namely Arenal Volcano, Monteverde (whose cloud forests offer a very unique experience), the Nicoya Peninsula and Manuel Antonio, which adds a fun Tarzan Swing and meaner through an amazing butterfly garden. The most famous though is Diamante Superman, the second-longest dual zip-line in South America, where you can your travel partner can fly side by side and enjoy the thrill of zip-lining together – this line is almost a mile long and offers the most spectacular ocean views you could ever dream. See our Zip-line Tours page for full details on each of the best zip-line courses we recommend.
The Tarzan Swing @ Diamante Superman
What Should You Wear When Zip-lining In Costa Rica?
If you’ve ever been abseiling, you’d immediately understand what’s needed for zip-lining: comfortable non-slip shoes, and versatile pants (preferably long or up to your knees as a minimum) and T-shirts that are neither too tight nor too lose. Stretchy fabrics that allow you a full range of motion are best. You also don’t want to go for thick fabrics – and you wouldn’t want to in Costa Rica anyway – so the harness, which goes around your legs and bottom, can be rightly adjusted. ‘When zip-lining in Costa Rica, ensure you have comfortable clothing and shoes on, pin an excited smile on your face and you can look forward to one of the best adrenaline rushes in the world!
Anything Else You Should Know About Zip-lining In Costa Rica?
Yes! Tie up your hair in a bun or better still braid it if it’s long, don’t pack your phone or any other valuables in your pockets (store them safely beforehand), make sure your camera (which you can bring along) has a wrist strap and attachment. Lastly, once you’ve made the decision to go for it then…do just that. No need to overthink the departure from the platform or anything else, just step off, sit back on your harness and enjoy the magnificent ride. We bet it’ll be one of the most fun things you’ll ever do!
At Costa Rica Rios, we plan bespoke and group adventure vacations that include zip-line excursions, also offering options if your travel companions aren’t keen on the flight of the eagles. See our range of fabulous adventure vacation tours in Costa Rica and contact us to know more.