Saturday, 28 July 2012

Day 58-60: Zip-lining in Costa Rica

Our (luisas) main motivation to go to Costa Rica was to do a canopy zip-line through the rainforest in Monteverde ("Green mountain" and it really was!). Zipping through the tree and high speeds, flying like Superman and ending with a jump off a 35m high platform into a Tarzan Swing... you have to try this!!

We both highly recommend doing the zip-line but, if you are travelling on a budget as we were, to get from Nicaragua to Monteverde be prepared for a long journey on several buses and an early start from SJDS to time the buses correctly.

We took the 5am Rivas bus from the SJDS bus stop to the Pan-American Highway junction (C20pp, 40mins). Ask the driver you want to go to la frontera (the border) which was called Peñas Blancas. 

Towards the end, Harry was getting
 a little fed up (Stop in Tilaran)
Wait at the intersection until the next bus to la frontera comes and then it was a 30 min ride to the border to Costa Rica ($1pp, plus $1 for the immigration form).

It cost $3 to exit Nicaragua but nothing to enter Costa Rica. After leaving Nica, we had to walk about 1km to receive our Costa Rican entry stamp. Overall border control took about 45mins.

There was no direct bus to Monteverde, so we took a series of local buses:

Peñas Blancas (border) - Liberia  1.5h $3pp (1,405 Colones)
Liberia - Cañas   1h ($3.50; 1,750 Colones pp)
Cañas - Tilaran  10.40am bus, 30 mins (~$2, 1,150 Colones)
Tilaran  - Santa Elena   12.30pm (only ONE departure per day!) 2.5h ($3; 1,500 Colones)

Bus ride up to Monteverde
So, nearly 12h later, we finally arrived in the town of Santa Elena which was next to Monteverde but a nicer place to sleep and eat. Don't worry about finding somewhere to stay, they'll come to you. Our best offer was Pension Sinai Hostel who gave us a private room, kitchen facilities for $5pp and free (basic) breakfast. You don't expect much of a window view for $5 a night...but we've had better!


The town of Santa Elena was endearing. There were many places to buy souvenirs and themed restaurants. Because Costa Rica was the most economically developed, everything was more pricey than what we were used to, especially the restaurants. 

Making Costa Rican coffee
Despite being told a thousand times by travellers that Costa Rica was "so expensive!" we actually paid less for our accommodation and equal for the local food. Our recommendation was the local comedor with the order window at the front and small (two tables) sit-in at the back. It was run by a lovely family who were more than happy to make a meal to dietry requirements. We spent a good hour just chatting about their country and about their unique way of making coffee using a chorreador de cafe.

Harry and two lovely Canadians waiting to zip
Now I can get to the zip-lining! There were loads of courses to choose from so go to the tourist information to select the right one you'd prefer at the best price. We went with Aventura Canopy Tours because they offered one of the longest courses with a Superman flight and the largest Tarzan Swing (definitely the best part!). The course went on for 2h (pick up 7.30am, return 10.30am) and cost $40pp.

There were several wires to ride and all you really had to was control your speed. The company were very quick and efficient at moving people along.
 The views were incredible as you passed through the trees on some wires and above the canopy on others. They all varied in length and speed.

The best zip-line was the longest across a clearing in the trees where you fly on your front like Superman! It got very breezy in the middle and we were told there was a chance we could stop altogether..! In which case you had to haul yourself along.

I believe I can fly!
But nothing could compare to the Tarzan Swing! 35m drop of a suspended platform connected by a rickety wire bridge. We were attached to the rope swing, the gate opened and we were told to jump! It took several seconds of free-fall before the rope finally catches you and you swing like a pendulum up into the trees. It was a huge adrenaline rush and I lost my scream on the way down (as well as leaving my stomach back on the platform!).  

It was worth every penny and another bucket list check!

Harry walking to meet his fate on the Tarzan Swing!

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