Zip lining in Costa Rica takes daring adventure travelers over the rainforest canopy: It’s a thrilling ride that can’t truly be replicated on miniaturized, inside zip lining courses. It takes a leap of faith to let go and send yourself across the treetops, despite the safety features in place. Costa Rica’s rainforests, like all places allowed to remain wild and self-sustaining, are teeming with the perfect balance of flora and fauna, of predators and prey. Left to itself, the Costa Rica rainforest is more than a natural resource; it’s an ever-changing yet unchanging part of the world’s geography. Zip lining in Costa Rica is a wonderful way to see the forest while supporting a small local economy in an ethical way — this is an important factor for many travelers to Costa Rica.
My younger kid would basically throw herself off a roof with a rope tied around her waist, but this story isn’t about her. My older daughter is cautious. She is hardly the type to laugh in the face of (perceived) danger, and instead prefers to take her time getting acclimated to new situations. She has a certain level of anxiety about heights, too; when we went to the Grand Canyon she hovered close to me while her sister skipped gaily up and down the trails. We somehow convinced this pre-teen that she should try something new while in Costa Rica (a new destination for us in the first place) and come zip lining with the rest of our volunteer vacation travel group.
The Arenal Rainforest Reserve Conservation Area is within the Arenal Volcano National Park’s larger rain forest, straddling the dormant, eponymous volcano (Arenal is one of the world’s ten most active volcanos). Our volunteer vacation group came here, to the ATHICA Canopy adventure company, for a day of zip lining, swinging, and general fun. ATHICA uses a wrapped bungee cord type of system with their ladders and cables, to reduce the stress and impact on the trees. The guides are bilingual (English and Spanish), friendly, and fully trained.
We had traveled to Costa Rica with my parents, and my older kid didn’t want to show her height anxiety in from of her grandparents…but it was pretty obvious. As we all got buckled and helmeted and strapped in, she sidled up to me and urgently whispered that she had to either have her turn be right in the middle, or skip zip lining altogether. We arranged that she’d go right after my dad, and I’d immediately follow her.
ATHICA Canopy has ten zip lines total, starting off only around 43 feet (13 meters) from the ground and working its way up the tree levels to the top, or canopy, of the rainforest. We were able to see a few animals along the way, though the thick, lush greenery hid many more from sight. A group of
aracaris, a type of toucan, seemed a bit perturbed — who were we, to invade their space? — but the other rain forest critters barely gave us a second look. A row of leaf cutter ants, marching along at eye level, seemed both industrious and comical at the same time. These busy bugs distracted my 6th grader from her worries, and she loosened up. For the second zip line, she was already chatting amicably with the other members of our group, and after a while scooted ahead of us to “go first.”
The last zip line ATHICA has set up in the Arenal Rainforest Reserve is half a mile long! Younger kids had to hitch rides with guides for this one, because if they slowed to a stop in the middle, well, it could cause something of a traffic jam. I thought she’d be scared, but I was wrong; my previously intimidated older daughter had the time of her life! It may have been because her fear of embarrassment trumped her fear of heights, or it may have been that her love for wild animals surpassed those fears. Who knows? All that’s for sure is, she tried a new experience, in a new travel destination, and she loved it. More than a travel memory, zip lining in Costa Rica gave her a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Half a mile of skimming the treetops is incredible. It’s a long enough amount of time and distance that the thrill of the height and speed slips away, until what’s left is an appreciation of the wild world all around. The light wind is warm through our hair. Howler monkeys jabber away, tree frogs peer over broad leaves, and peccaries nose around below us. The scent of flowering tropical trees and the cool humidity of the air is pure life. Before the last, long zip line through the Costa Rica rainforest is done, we all know this: We are witness to something larger than us. We depend on the world’s rainforests to give us fresh new oxygen, and the rain forest here depends on us to ensure its sustainability. Being part of it, even for only a short time, is a remarkable sensation. It’s a memory that we, my family, my children and I, shall hold onto forever.