Look! Up in the sky! It’s a flock of birds! It’s a squadron of planes! No. It’s your group! Flying from treetop to treetop through the tropical rain forest canopy of Costa Rica! OK, so maybe not actually flying, but an adventure canopy tour is the next best thing and is sure to generate some fun and lasting memories for your group.
What is a Canopy Tour?
Canopy tour generally refers to one of two types of activities: the slower, but more aptly named type of tour where you walk through the rainforest canopy via suspended bridges or ride in trams; and the adrenaline-producing, fast-paced type where you are suspended in a harness from a zip-line cable hundreds of feet off the rainforest floor and go flying from treetop to treetop. It is the latter of the two that we will be exploring below.
Questions to Ask Operators
Before you strap yourself in for what is undeniably a very fun and exhilarating experience, you should be aware that zip-lines are inherently dangerous and like so many other things in Costa Rica, there is no governmental oversight. Therefore you need to be certain that the equipment and safety standards in use are first rate. Below is a list of questions you should ask a canopy tour operator before booking your group.
- Is the company a member of the Association of Adventure Tour Operators and does it abide by the organization’s guidelines?
- Is there a secondary safety cable that connects you to the zip-line in case the main pulley breaks?
- What sort of training do the guides receive?
- How long has the company been in business and is it insured?
- Is everyone clipped into a safety line while on the platform?
- Is all the equipment certified by the manufacturer?
- Are there safety briefings in English for the group before the tour starts?
- Are refunds/reschedules available if the weather is bad?
Equally important for your safety is to listen attentively to the provided instructions and adhere to the guidelines set down by the guide or tour operator. For example, don’t try to take pictures while cruising down the cable at 40 mph to the next platform.
Is it for me?
There are no special skills needed to participate in a zip-line tour and you don’t need to be in great shape either. The only time you will be required to apply strength is when “braking” as you reach the end of each cable, so that you don’t go smashing into the platform at full speed. Braking is done by letting a gloved hand (the operators provide welding-style gloves for everyone) ride along the cable behind you and pulling down on the cable to control your speed. Be sure not to brake too much or too early because without sufficient speed you’ll stop in the middle of the cable and have to go hand-over-hand to pull yourself the rest of the way.
Another consideration is that you will be suspended several hundred feet in the air, so those who are deathly afraid of heights or experience vertigo should probably stick to more pedestrian experiences.
Lastly, almost all zip-line tours have age and weight restrictions, so be sure to ask about these before booking your group.
Recommended Canopy Tours
Now that we’ve covered the basic mechanics and safety concerns, let’s turn our attention to some of our recommended canopy tours in Costa Rica.
The Original Canopy Tour
The one that started it all, the Original Canopy Tour is the pioneer of this type of activity and offers almost everyone an exhilarating opportunity to soar through the treetops high above the forest floor on an adventure of a lifetime. There your group will view jungle life from a perspective previously reserved for a select group of researchers and photographers.
Location: Near Santa Elena
Tour Details: 10 platforms lasting 2.5 hours
The Vargas family owns and operates this adventure park which is host to butterfly and hummingbird gardens, ATV Tours and horseback riding in addition to the canopy tour.
They are a 100% Costa Rican family business, established in 2001 and dedicated to providing eco-adventure tours in the Monteverde area.
Location: Near Santa Elena
Tour Details: 21 platforms, a Hammock Bridge, 1 Repel, 1 Superman zip-line and 1 Mega-Tarzan swing lasting 2.5 hours
Selvatura Park has one of the longest canopy tours in Costa Rica and is the only canopy tour located inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The park also is home to a treetop walkway tour, a butterfly and hummingbird garden, a herpetarium and the world’s third largest insect museum.
Location: Near Santa Elena
Tour Details: 18 platforms and a Tarzan swing lasting about 2.5 hours
Offering a alternative sky tram experience for those of the faint of heart, Sky Trek offers some of the longest individual cables of any canopy tour in Costa Rica, some extending over 2,500 feet. The zip-lines here are strung between towers rather than between actual trees and offer panoramic views of the Monteverde hills and Nicoya Gulf.
Location: Near Monteverde
Tour Details: 13 platforms lasting about 2 hours
Adventure and nature lovers will receive a unique combination of captivating tropical dry forest scenerywhile enjoying ocean views, a beautiful waterfall and unforgettable sunsets, plus the rich colors and sounds of the flora and fauna typical of the country’s northwestern region.
Location: Near Liberia
Tour Details: 24 platforms lasting about 1.5 hours
Having earned a reputation for long and fast-paced rides, Canopy Safari was voted the #1 thing to do in Quepos by TripAdvisor and also maintains a butterfly garden and serpentarium on site. A five-hour adventure includes an exciting ride through the tropical rainforest, typical breakfast or lunch and professionally trained bilingual guides.
Location: Near Quepos
Tour Details: 18 platforms, 2 rappel lines, 1 suspension bridge and 1 Tarzan swing lasting about 5 hours
Waterfalls Canopy Tour
Boasting the longest canopy tour in Costa Rica at over 5 hours, Waterfalls Canopy Tour is stretched over 11 waterfalls and contains a 700-meter, Superman-style cable and swimming opportunities at the largest waterfalls. It includes lunch as well.
Location: Near Jaco
Tour Details: 25 cables, 1 suspension bridge, 2 repellings, mountain waterfall pool and 1 Superman cable.
This was by no means an exhaustive list, as well over 100 canopy tours exist in Costa Rica. If you’re an adrenaline junkie and canopy tours are just a part of your overall adventure tourism plans, stay tuned for our upcoming Site InSpections on other adventure tourism options in Costa Rica and the surrounding region.