Zip-lining and other adventure sports in Costa Rica

This week, we're all about Costa Rica, where more and more sensation-seeking visitors are taking the plunge and trying out thrilling adventure sports such as zip-lining and waterfall rappelling.
Zip line in Costa Rica
Zip line in Costa Rica

If even whitewater rafting seems too tame for you, Costa Rica serves up other out-of-the-ordinary exciting activities that will get your adrenaline going.



The most popular and the most readily accessible adventure sport is zip-lining, also known as a canopy tour. The original canopy tour was built in Monteverde and involved donning a waist harness, climbing inside a huge, hollowed-out matapalo (strangler fig) tree up to a wooden platform, hooking your harness onto a wire cable, then stepping off the platform, perhaps 30 meters (100ft) off the ground, into thin air and whizzing along, suspended from the cable, to the next platform in the tree tops. The idea is a refinement of the method used by biologists to get up into the canopy to perform research. Some tours retain that focus on natural history and the chance to get close-up looks at life in the canopy. But most zip-lines today are focused on fun and thrills. Sky Trek, the highest and longest zip-line, also operates in Monteverde, but with the screams of people zipping through the air at up to 48km (30 miles) per hour, there isn’t much wildlife sticking around to be observed. 

Taking that first step into thin air is quite a thrill. Cables, harnesses, and safety equipment have to meet high government standards, but you are still at the mercy of human error, so choose a canopy tour operator who talks a lot about safety measures and gives careful, complete instructions to neophytes.

Zip-lining in Costa Rica. Photo: Corrie Wingate/APA

Waterfall rappelling

For a wet and wild adventure, try waterfall rappelling. Instead of zipping along a cable, you step off the top of a waterfall and rappel your way down, attached to ropes secured by guides at both the top and bottom of the waterfall. It takes a fair bit of courage to take that first step backward, but the thrill is worth it, and you stay cool thanks to waterfall spray. A great place to try it is the Osa Peninsula.

Waterfall rappelling. Photo: Ammit Jack/Shutterstock

Treetop thrills

Other tree-top adventures include climbing 30-meter (100ft) trees, using ropes, or spending a night in a tree-top platform. Hacienda Barú on the South Pacific coast offers both in its 330-hectare (815-acre) nature reserve.

Climbing in adventure rope park. Photo: Marcin Balcerzak/Shutterstock 

Parasailing and ultralight tours

If you are looking to go higher than the tree tops, take a parasailing tour with Aguas Azules, sailing over the ocean and Manuel Antonio National Park, suspended from a parachute kept aloft by a fast motorboat. Or if you would rather leave the flying to someone else, step into a two-person ultralight, fixed-wing plane and let the pilot take you on a thrilling bird’s-eye view of ocean and jungle. Skyline de Costa Rica offers ultralight tours in Uvita on the South Pacific coast and near Samara on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Parasailing. Photo: Visun Khankasem/Shutterstock

If you're already hooked, then be tempted by our action-packed Coast to Coast trip, a comprehensive package which takes you from paradise beaches to an active volcano via a jungle tour.

Read more: In depth: Tico culture – The people of Costa Rica

Buy a book: Insight Guide Costa Rica