Ziplining in Costa Rica

The squeal of the pulley.  The heat from the friction of the wire burning through your glove. The drop in your belly as you step off the platform.  The exclamations of excitement and fear.  The sensation of soaring over treetops.  The pure joy of feeling like you are flying. This is what you remember most about ziplining.

When we decided to take an extended family vacation to Costa Rica, the first thing my daughter and I knew we wanted to do was try ziplining. My husband, who suffers from a fear of heights that has hampered many a vacation outing, wasn’t quite as sure, but knew he couldn’t miss out on ziplining in Costa Rica.  I was a little nervous too because I’m not one for amusement park rides, plus the description says “wildlife along the route includes tree frogs, vine snakes, howler monkeys and hundreds of bird species.” I have such a snake phobia that the bit about vine snakes that could potentially fall on me gave me pause.  But, as with other trips, we tried to put those fears aside and enjoy the experience. My daughter, on the other hand, was quick to volunteer to go first.

Our ziplining destination was Witch’s Rock Canopy Tours, just 20 minutes away from the Four Seasons where we were staying.  On the way over, our guide told us about all their celebrity clients including Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, and Bill Gates.  I figured if they could do it, so could I.

The youngest and oldest of our group stayed back at the hotel.  While the folks at Witch’s Rock didn’t specify any age or weight restrictions, staying back was still a good thing because some of the platforms were quite small and you don’t want young kids that can’t follow the rules carefully.  It was also more challenging physically then I expected, so you really need to be in decent shape (and I say that liberally) to participate.  You need to be able to pull yourself up on the cable to be able to click into your harness.  There was also a fair amount of walking up hills and across swinging bridges to get from platform to platform.

After a quick beverage and a review of the rules, we were harnessed up and set off for the first of 11 cables.  The routes started off short and not too high to give us the hang of how to control our speed and come in for a landing.  While it seemed complicated at first, it is really very easy.  Just pull down on the cable to slow down and if you stop before the end, turn around and use hand over hand to get yourself to the platform (or the guide will come get you.)  They use hand signals to tell you if you should slow down before the end but even if you come in fast, there is an emergency stopper to make sure you aren’t crashing into the platform.

Our group, which included four adults and three kids, ages 8, 9, and 11, went through the circuit with three guides.  Two of the guides went tandem with the youngest ones, since the girls were too light to make it across on their own, while the third helped us each get into position and take off.  These guys clearly loved that they get to zip around all day.  Some of them thrilled and frightened us with their antics, like coming down the wire upside down or doing all kinds of crazy positions and stunts.

Ready to zipline at Witchs Rock Canopy in Costa Rica

Ready to go first

As we progressed through the course, the lines got longer and higher.  While we traveled during Costa Rica’s dry, or gold, season, you could see that it must be truly spectacular to come during the green season (as long as you didn’t get rained on).  At one point, you could see a cliff face with markings on it that indicated it must have a gorgeous waterfall that drops into a pool below during the rainy season.

Ziplining in Costa Rica at Witchs Rock Canopy tours

Altogether, the course took about an hour and a half to complete, including a short rest stop after a particularly steep climb for some water.  Throughout the course, there are a few points where you can exit if ziplining really isn’t for you.  At one point, you need to climb an approximately 40 foot ladder up to a platform to complete the next three ziplines. The look of this was a bit too daunting for my husband so he bypassed those cables and met up with us later.  I have to say, that climb was a bit nerve-wracking and much more physical then I would think.  The rungs of the ladder were a bit slippery with our leather gloves on and climbing up was hard work.  Of course, the little ones scampered up without a problem! Luckily a guide was ready at the top to clip them in so they couldn’t fall off the platform while the rest of us clambered our way up.

At the end, we were hot, tired, and completely ready to go again.  There are many things I’ve checked off my bucket list.  Some were one and done (swimming with the sharks, parasailing.) Others I wouldn’t rush to do again (hot air ballooning.)  But ziplining? I can’t wait to try it again.  Luckily we live in New England and there are plenty of places in NH and MA that offer ziplining.

Ziplining in Costa Rica at Witch's Rock Canopy Tours

After ziplining at Witch’s Rock Canopy

A few things to be aware of before you go: you need to wear long pants or capris, as well as closed toe shoes (Keens were fine).  You’ll also want to be sure to apply sunscreen and bug spray before you go.  One other note for paranoid moms like me–you’ll need to wear a hairnet under your helmut.  Maybe it doesn’t completely protect against lice but it as goofy as we looked, it made me feel better about using a rental helmut.  Keep in mind that you can’t bring anything with you on the course, so don’t even bother to bring much with you.  They do offer lockers for your valuables.  It is nearly impossible to take pictures as you go so you might as well leave the camera behind and plan to purchase a CD with pictures and video from the gift shop after your adventure so bring a credit card as well as some cash to tip your guides.

Speaking of the gift shop, they offered a nice selection of hand crafted items and t-shirts for fairly reasonable prices compared to the hotel gift shop.  After all, who can resist a “I survived ziplining” t-shirt.  Not me apparently.

I survived ziplining at Witch's Rock Canopy Tours in Costa Rica

I survived ziplining at Witch’s Rock Canopy

What are your favorite places to zipline?

3 Comments on “Ziplining in Costa Rica

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  1. I ziplined in Manuel Antonio, it was the rush of my life! I can’t wait to go back!

      I agree! Even if it can’t be in Costa Rica next time, I’m definitely doing it as soon as I can.

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