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Everyone who visits Costa Rica wants to do an excursion, and there are a ton to choose from. One of the most popular excursions is ziplining- in this post, you’ll find out how it works and where the best ziplines are.
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About Ziplining in Costa Rica
Ziplining first arrived in Costa Rica in 1997, and it was an international phenomenon. Given the amazing trees in the Costa Rican rainforest, it was a natural progression to make hanging suspension bridges and sky trams into an experience that gives visitors a pure adrenaline rush. Today, almost every visitor to Costa Rica wants to experience flying through the trees on a zipline.
Ziplines are steel cables mounted high up between two (very sturdy) trees. Visitors were a harness between their legs and around their torsos and then clamp onto the zipline with a carabiner. Using heavy-duty leather gloves, you jump and push off of a platform and zip through the trees. In the end, you use your hands with the gloves as a brake as you arrive at the next platform.
You will generally have to go higher in the mountains from the main registration area, this might be through hiking or a short drive in a large truck. Some zip lines start out from a trail, on others you will climb a set of stairs to the platform on the first tree and then start your adventure.
Many zip lines also offer the Tarzan Swing as an additional experience. This is where you start on a tall platform and are released into an area without trees. You swing back and forth until your momentum stops. It’s an absolute thrill.
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Ziplining Safety Considerations For Families
There are zip lines that allow children as young as four years old to participate. Some companies have a minimum or maximum weight requirement rather than an age requirement. You do need to keep in mind a few safety considerations:
- Check to make sure kids are allowed. If the website doesn’t say, then call and ask this specific question. You may also want to ask what safety precautions are in place for kids. Generally, a guide will fly with young children to keep them safe.
- Check the length of the cables and ask about the possibility of kids getting stuck. We generally pick places with shorter cables to minimize the chance of our kids getting stuck in the middle and a guide having to go out and “rescue” them. The rescue generally consists of a guide heading slowly out to the location of the child (or person) and then hand over hand bringing them back. It’s not fun for the guide or the child.
- When you arrive, check the condition of the gloves and helmets. The gloves you wear should be leather and have little wear and tear. This minimizes the chance that your hand will get burned when braking. If you are getting a cable burn, there is no way you will be able to stop yourself in the end.
- The number of guides. You need a guide at each platform to facilitate clipping in and out from zipline to zipline. However, if you have a larger group, you need more guides. Ask how many guides there are per person. I think a 1:6 ratio is minimum.
- Know that you can zip line in the rain, but the cables are much faster. It generally does not rain in the mornings in Costa Rica, so if rain is a consideration for you and your family, make sure to book a morning tour.
We also look for ziplines with slower speeds just to minimize any danger of running into a tree at the next platform. Most accidents occur when a person does not stop fast enough at the end of a cable and runs into a tree at velocity. This can cause injury or death. It’s less likely that young kids will experience a velocity fast enough to do this, but it’s good to know that it’s a possibility. I would say to have an adult go before the children and then the other adult go after so that the kids are in the middle and parents can be there to help the guides if need be.
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What To Bring on a Zipline Tour
Honestly, you want to travel light on a tour. Once you get your harness on, you will not really be able to change your clothes, and loose clothing is also generally not permitted for safety reasons. This means tying a jacket around your waist is a no-go.
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Cell phones and cameras are permitted, but if it’s rainy and they aren’t waterproof, you will run the risk of them getting damaged. I recommend putting cell phones in a zippered pocket or in a waterproof case around your neck to avoid any chance of them falling into the abyss. If a phone or camera falls, it’s over.
Many zip line tours offer photos for an additional fee, and I think they are worth the investment.
You generally won’t be in a ton of sun in the treetops, but you may want sunscreen. Bug repellents are an absolute must, there are bugs everywhere.
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Best Ziplines in Costa Rica
Eco Glide is hands down this is the absolute best place to experience the zipline canopy tours in the entire country if you are visiting with young children. Located in La Fortuna, this is the only place we let our kids zip line and we always have had the absolute best experiences.
Locally owned by a Costa Rican family, safety measures here are top-notch. At least 8 guides accompany every tour, and if young kids are present they have a guide for each child.
The company replaces gloves and helmets frequently. There is a training line no more than 6 feet tall so kids can get the experience before committing to the high trees. This is great for kids who may not want to actually zipline after they try it.
The canopy tour itself offers amazing views of the Arenal volcano. The guides here are also experienced nature guides, and you’ll often spot amazing species of birds in the rainforest.
If you are in La Fortuna, this is the place to go with kids. When we are here, we stay at either Volcano Lodge and Springs, Rancho Margot, or Baldi Hot Springs. If you want to go to a fun hot spring water park, check out Kalambu.
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Sky Adventures is one of the largest and oldest zipline companies in Costa Rica. They are located in both Arenal and Monteverde. They boast the longest zipline in Central America (if not all of Latin America.)
This thrilling zipline experience is perfect for adults and adolescents given the super long cables. The same company also offers hanging bridges and an aerial tram they call the sky tram on property. They have kayaks, bikes, and even a chocolate tour.
The best way to book is right on their website- you’ll find the cheapest rates and they have guides for everything right on site. If you aren’t renting a car though you’ll want to book through a tour agency that offers transportation to and from the location.
If you want to experience multiple tours, the best time to arrive is in the morning.
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Selvatura Park – Monteverde
Fly through the Monteverde cloud forest with Selvatura. What is unique about this zipline course is that they have a lot of different packages, including one for families. The family packs can include a butterfly garden. There is also a reptile and amphibian exhibit.
If you want to also do the hanging brides you can do that here. It’s really a one-stop-shop for families which I love.
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Diamante Eco Adventure Park – Guanacaste
This adventure park is one of the few that offer the Superman cables for the Superman swing. This is basically where you swing through the forest on your belly. I haven’t tried it because our kids never had the weight requirement (65 pounds) to go on these ziplines. Superman is definitely a unique experience, so if you want to fly through the air like your favorite superhero, this is the place to go.
Note that ziplining in the Guanacaste area can be hot, so make sure to dress appropriately. This park offers great photo packages, and you can repurchase, sign your waiver and book everything online before you go.
There is also a wildlife sanctuary on the property at an extra cost, so you can see sloths and other Costa Rican wildlife. I also love that they include a Costa Rican coffee and food experience (LINK) so you can experience traditional Costa Rican food LINK and culture.
This is located near the all-inclusive resort Riu/Riu Palace.
Hacienda Guachepelin – Liberia
One of our favorite places to stay because of the hot springs right on property, the hacienda offers full-day adventure tours. They offer packages with a zipline experience, horseback ride, and canyoneering. one of the best things about this property is that is it located so close to active volcanoes (like Rincon de la Vieja volcano) that you get great views while you are soaring through the trees.
Try to book the tours straight through the website if you have a car, it will be cheaper and it’s easy to get here from Liberia or any of the local beaches such as Tamarindo, Playa del Coco, and more.
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Ocean Ranch Park – Jaco
This is a relatively new zip lining tour near Jaco. It’s American-owned. Nature lovers will appreciate this park as they have a guided tour for birdwatching. Given its close proximity to Carara national park you are guaranteed to see scarlet macaws, at the very least.
This park also has ATV tours, and it is one of the only ATV/zip line combos. If you are staying in or near Jaco (such as Playa Mantas or Playa Blanca) make sure to visit. Afterward, you can grab a bite to eat in Jaco LINK before heading over to our favorite- the Crocodile Man croc tours.
Braulio Carrillo Park – Limon
I am pretty sure this is the only Costa Rica zip line tour located inside a national park. I will admit that a photo of the aerial tram ride was the impetus for me to go to Costa Rica in the first place as I was enchanted by the views in a photo I saw in a book at the library. (It’s true!)
This park is located as a relatively easy day trip from San Jose. It’s also right along the road to the Caribbean sea LINK and the rainforest canopy here is second to none given the dense forests endemic to the area. This is one of the best places for wildlife viewing while standing on the observation deck between rides.
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If you would like to talk to me about a customized itinerary or specific Costa Rica travel advice for your family, (zero sales- just advice!) check out my “Ask Christa” page for more information on custom Costa Rica trip planning geared towards families.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a former high school teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. I love all things Spanish and bi-cultural, (especially travel and food!) and you’ll find my observations on life here. Thanks for stopping by