Sky Tram and Sky Trek
Canopy zip lines and Costa Rica go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or beans and rice if you want a touch of pura vida. It’s nearly impossible to visit this country without getting a new perspective on the tropics while zipping from tree to tree. But how to choose the right one? There’s a huge abundance of zip line tours available and in La Fortuna, you can’t drive a mile without seeing a billboard featuring a photo of a screaming tourist flying through the treetops.
I’ll make it easy for you. The Sky Tram and Sky Trek is top, and there’s simply no point in going with another tour. Guests are picked up from their hotel and taken to the impressive mountain lodge to get geared up. Don’t take the word “lodge” too literally – this is an established company with an eye for both safety and design. A dash of luxury is threaded throughout the amenities and travelers can enjoy a delectable meal or drink in the restaurant that is encased in sloping glass that offers a perfect view of Arenal Volcano. Enjoy a snack or drink on the deck overlooking the canopies for a real treat. Prices are along the lines of a slightly more upscale restaurant, which is right in line with the quality and view.
At the Britt Souvenir Shop, check out the arsenal of Britt products. Britt brews up the best coffee around and makes the most delicious chocolates in the country, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. My favorite part of any Britt shop is the endless free samples – nothing gets you in the mood for adventure more than a fantastic chocolate covered macadamia nut or cup of gourmet café. The staff is very friendly, helpful, bi-lingual and instills everyone with a sense of adventure.(Read our blog about the Britt Coffee Plantation tour)
Guides help you gear up in top quality equipment (as a climber, I have a particular affinity to the Petzl brand and it’s what they use). The journey starts with a trip on Sky Tram, a series of three metal crates that take you up a steep incline to the highest platform. Groups are relatively small, and it’s common that families or couples will have their own private “car” during the ascent. It takes about five minutes and offers some absolutely amazing views of Arenal Volcano, Arenal Lake, and the canopy. Watch the ground – and then tree tops – get smaller and smaller as the tram reaches the top. Now is a good time to think about just how you’ll be getting back down because there’s only one way and it’s not back on the tram.
At the top, travelers are greeted with an incredible view overlooking the mountains and valleys below. This is the perfect time for some photos and both the volcano and lake provide a gorgeous background. The safety demonstration is both quick and informative. But don’t worry; you won’t be put into the big zip lines just yet. Before getting to the real deal, there are two short “practice” lines where it’s easy to see the guide at the next platform. Now’s the time to practice your skills of keeping arms straight, legs tucked up, and how to work the brake system. It’s a lot easier than you may think – maybe it’s those survival instincts kicking in, but everyone did it perfectly the first couple of times.
After getting the hang of it, it’s time to take on the first course. Guides always hook up every person and there are two cables connecting you to the zip line for an extra bout of safety. There are a total of eight cables, including the two practice ones, so there’s plenty of time to combat any lingering fears of height – and take in the unbeatable panorama. Let’s face it, the first “real” zip line might still feel like a practice one since it’s the first one where you’re completely on your own – the next platform is so far away it can’t be seen until you’re halfway there. Don’t let the adrenaline get to you and make sure to look around. This is hands down the absolutely best spot in Arenal to see the sprawling jungle below, the enormous blue lake, and majestic volcano.
At the next cable, confidence is up and it’s a good thing – this is the second longest distance that will be tackled. For forty-five seconds, travelers are slicing through the air and to the right is the best view of the manmade lake.
The next few zip lines include the fastest and the longest. By the time you get hooked up to those lines, you’ll be a pro. Of course, for visitors who still want an extra assurance of security (especially children), it’s possible to have a “taxi” accompany any zip liner. Taxis are guides that can attach themselves to guests and ensure they feel safe and help them brake at platforms.
At the final cable, descend down a spiral outdoor staircase on foot to a short zip line where a photographer takes a final photo available for purchase. Personal cameras are allowed – and encouraged – during the whole trip so don’t feel like your only option is purchasing this single photo. Video cameras are also available to rent and can be attached to helmets to get a live recording of the adventure.
I got the chance to speak to the manager at the end of the trip and he told me about some fantastic features they will soon be adding. The tour is dedicated to making it fun for everyone in the family, and it’s understandable that some kids – especially the younger ones – are too nervous or scared to give the zip lines a whirl. After all, even a lot of the adults were screamers and there was more than one taking advantage of the “taxi service”. I found out that they will soon be adding additional zip lines geared towards children as young as two years old, with shorter rides closer to the ground.
This trip is definitely an unforgettable experience that anyone of any age can take advantage of. The only “no no’s” are children under the age of 8, pregnant visitors, diabetics, and those with heart conditions or with severe lower back issues. No weight limit here. There’s no better way to get a real bird’s eye view of paradise – if the scarlet macaws and toucans are doing it, why not you?
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