Travel tales

Zip-lining over the cloud forests of Monteverde

Zip lining across the cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica

As I whizzed along a wire 100 metres high among the treetops, it occurred to me that this definitely wasn’t your usual way to explore a nature reserve. But to really see much of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, you’ve got to get up high. The reserve covers 26,000 acres of rainforest with over 2500 plant species, 400 types of bird and hundreds of butterfly, insect and mammal species. Though it’s not all that easy to spot them, as the clouds that give the forest its name lay over it like a blanket much of the time. The forests are formed when moist winds blowing from the coast collide with the mountain range and condense into a fine mist. It might not be good for visibility, but the weather has its benefits, providing water and nutrients that allow plants to grow up in the forest canopy and provide habitats and food sources for so many species.

Costa Rican hummingbird

A hummingbird feeding in Monteverde

For a more conventional way to see the cloud forest, there are walking trails in Monteverde Biological Reserve – though bring your walking boots as it gets pretty muddy. Down at ground level you’ve got the best change of seeing mammals like the coati or jaguar among the lush vegetation. But because of the thick foliage, not much light gets down here, so many of the rainforest species are found a lot higher up.

The easiest way to get up among the canopy is on the Sky Walk. After taking a cable car up 200 metres into the clouds, you follow a walking route across platforms and suspension bridges through the treetops. The clouds were out in force when I was there, so we were given fetching blue ponchos to stop us getting drenched by the mists. On a better day you can spot insects, butterflies and birds among the trees, including the fantastically named bird known as the Resplendent Quetzal.

Sky walk in Monteverde

The (slightly damp) suspension bridges along the Sky Walk

But if you want to feel like a bird, rather than just look at them, you can fly through the forest yourself on the Sky Trek zip-lines. They have 10 different zip-lines, ranging in height and length. After being kitted up with harnesses, helmets and gloves and given a safety briefing, I waited nervously for the first line. The first cable is around 40 metres above the ground and runs between the trees, sometimes so close that it looks like you’re going to touch them. As you push off and speed along the cable, it felt strangely peaceful being among the canopy on your own, and there’s not much time to notice how high up you are.

The cables got higher, faster and longer after that as the adrenalin started pumping. And with the heavy cloud cover, sometimes you just disappeared into the mist as soon as you left the platform. The final line was the most exposed, on a tall platform in a clearing, 100 metres high and 750 metres long. Because the cable is so long, we had to be teamed up with someone else and zip-line as a pair to gain enough momentum to reach the end. Or at least that was the plan, until my partner and I ended up stranded about 20 metres from the end, dangling helplessly. One of our guides had to climb out along the wire and haul us back in – a slightly undignified end that brought us out of the clouds and back down to earth.

Zip lining in Monteverde

Zip-lining through the clouds (photo credit Sky Adventures)

The details

I did my zip-lining trip with Monteverde’s Sky Adventures, who offer a variety of different packages. It costs $77 per adult for the Sky Trek, with the cable car up and zip-line down, with reduced fees for students under 25 ($61) and under 12s ($48). Or it costs US$35 ($28 for students/$22 for children) for the Sky Walk.

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Zip-lining over the cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica – On the Luce travel blog

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  • Reply
    Gerald Englebretsen
    October 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    That is not you in pic ONE on their site is it? What a great story – thanks for the tell.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      Haha, no, though I was probably pulling as weird a face as that! My camera didn’t like the misty weather too much though so I didn’t get too many photos up there unfortunately.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Nice post! It seems like such a great time. I went zip lining in the Mexican rainforest a few years ago and it was a blast (but I spent most of my time looking for monkeys in the trees!) Did you see any animals? I would love to spot a jaguar just hanging out in his natural habitat (obviously I would prefer to spot this from the safety of a zip line platform, of course!).

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      I was pretty nervous but loved it! There were so many clouds we didn’t get to see that much of the wildlife, but it was fun anyway. Did spot a few monkeys but no jaguars unfortunately.

  • Reply
    નિરવ ની નજરે . . !
    October 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Oh , that’s my dream destination to visit : )

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      It was a fantastic place, hope you get to visit there soon.

  • Reply
    Bridget Pigott
    October 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    This looks so much fun, though I see the arm of the law caught up with you at last. great pictures.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      It was great fun. And yes the Goodwood Revival police did catch me, I managed to escape for now though!

  • Reply
    October 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Looks like a lot of fun Lucy! Monteverde is also, in my experience, an excellent place to enjoy, or bring home, fresh coffee. In fact, there is a great little coffee shop roughly across the street from the hardware store that offers all-you-can-drink samples, all day, everyday. If limitless espresso doesn’t set your heart racing, there’s always Extremo ziplining, where they will actually help you into your harness BACKWARDS and send you sailing like Superman down what is touted as Monteverde’s longest zipline – 1 km in length – over an open valley with tiny cows at the bottom.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      There’s always a new, more extreme sport coming along! Not sure if I’d fancy backwards zip-lining, but the coffee in Costa Rica was fantastic!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Weren’t you scared? That looks awesome. I wanna have a try as well !! 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Waiting to go for the first time was the worst bit, once i got going I absolutely loved it, and I am so not usually the adventure sport type either!

  • Reply
    October 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    I had my Zip line experience recently. It was indeed awesome!! I remember it after reading your post 😀

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      October 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      It’s such fun isn’t it! I hope to get another go sometime.

  • Reply
    cloud forest school — sustainapedia
    November 1, 2012 at 11:20 am

    […] Zip-lining over the cloud forests of Monteverde […]

  • Reply
    November 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Very nice thx you

  • Reply
    November 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    This looks amazing! I’d love to try it sometime even though I’m not good with heights.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      I’m not brilliant with heights either but you go by so fast I didn’t have time to get too freaked out by it, the adrenaline rush helped too!

  • Reply
    My A to Z of travel | On the Luce
    December 18, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    […] splashed out on some memorable experiences like a helicopter trip over Mount Cook in New Zealand, zip-lining in Costa Rica, and swimming with stingrays in the Cayman […]

  • Reply
    August 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I just did this at Selvatura Park last week! It was probably the best canopy tours I have done in Costa Rica (over 10). Monteverde is so beautiful and the hummingbirds are pretty cute

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 20, 2013 at 11:23 am

      I loved Monteverde, the rain wasn’t so great but the scenery and those hummingbirds were so beautiful!

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