If hurtling through the air attached to cables strung through very, very tall trees doesn’t sound fun to you, I’m betting you just haven’t had the chance to zip line in Costa Rica yet. As the epicenter of adventure family travel, Costa Rica has zip lines everywhere. After you see your fifth or sixth billboard for a canopy tour, you’ll be thinking, “Hmmm, should we just go ahead and do this thing?”
Yes. Yes, you should.
That said, as I tell my children, I made those bodies and raising them thus far has been no small task, so I’m heavily invested in their survival. I did have a few questions before I took my six-year-old son, my mother, and mother-in-law on what I think was a pretty impressive feat of intergenerational fun zip lining over primary rainforest on the Osa Peninsula. We all survived, and it was the highlight of the trip for both grandmothers!
Here’s everything you need to know before you go zip lining in Costa Rica with kids.
Is Zip Lining in Costa Rica Safe?
Short answer, yes. Costa Rica heavily regulates its tourism industry and has strict safety standards. Your zip line tour should be led by experienced, licensed guides. While on the zip line, you can expect to have at least two carabiners clipped to the cable. When you land at a platform, one carabiner is moved, and then the other, so you are always hooked to a cable. Everyone must wear a helmet.
Braking systems can vary, but on our zip line we used a heavy leather glove to brake. This was the only area in the entire experience where I could see my child possibly getting injured at all, and he would have to really try to hurt himself — like take the glove off and put his bare hand on the cable. The guides were with him every step of the way, too, so this was highly unlikely. We came through our experience entirely unscathed.
Some of Costa Rica’s zip lines are busy and in popular areas, but others are way up in a forest. I was a little apprehensive when we showed up to a deserted zip line; however, the guides had all the gear (serious gear!) locked up at the location, and our experience was safe and thrilling.
Are There Age Limits or Weight Limits for Zip Lines in Costa Rica?
This will depend on your canopy tour. Our tour was willing to take anyone who wanted to go. They said there was no weight limit for the cables (no chance of snapping!) Tours do have minimums and maximums for weight, usually because weight affects how fast you go on the zip line, and they need to make sure you can make it from platform to platform. I’d also say that although the harnesses are adjustable, I think they might be a little uncomfortable if you were much over 250 pounds or so.
Our tour guides were willing to take any age, too. They told me small children were strapped to their chests and would ride in tandem with the guide. I was really glad I had not brought my three-year-old, though, because I did ask the guides, “Um, don’t these little kids cry when you jump off a platform with them?” Apparently, mostly yes.
My son was still bit small to go on his own due to his weight, but he was determined to zip line independently. The guides were great about letting him go. On a couple of the lines, he couldn’t get going fast enough and would stall out before the end, and the guides would go get him and haul him back. They also taught us how to help ourselves get to the end of the line manually, and my son was an expert at this by the end.
What Do You Wear on a Zip Lining Canopy Tour?
Bear in mind that Costa Rica is quite hot, and that you’ll have a harness over your upper legs. I’d recommend loose-fitting clothing such as knee-length shorts or capri pants, as the harness tends to pull everything up. Do not wear short shorts as the harness may chafe your upper legs. Some zip lines will require close-toed shoes, but others aren’t as strict. You’ll have a helmet, too, so today is not the day for a fancy hairstyle.
Where is the Best Zip Line in Costa Rica?
Well….best is a relative term. The longest zip line in Costa Rica is Aventura Canopy Tour in Monteverde, which is also the longest zip line in Latin America at 5,217 feet long. There are so many zip line options in Costa Rica that I feel like it’s a “love the one you’re with” situation. Unless you are there just for the zip lines, I wouldn’t plan your family vacation to Costa Rica around a specific one.
Instead, check out zip line tours in the areas you’ll be visiting. Don’t just choose the cheapest tour; this is one area where you often pay for what you get. Look at how many platforms the tour includes (you don’t want to be done in two or three zips), how long they are, and what the environment is like. I had no interest in zip lining over palm trees. Part of the magic of a zipline should be the chance to be up in the forest canopy – in primary forest, if possible, where the trees are usually taller, as primary forests are the original forest in an area (versus secondary forest, which has been regrown after the original trees were cut down).
Can You Bring Your Camera or Phone Zip Lining?
Yes, if you have a way to secure it to yourself so it doesn’t fall to the forest floor. One man on our tour carried his expensive DSLR camera around his neck, anchored to his body. You will want some type of camera with you for sure. Zip lining through a forest canopy is a great way to see animals, and you don’t want to miss out on the chance for a photo if you get lucky!
You’ll be moving too fast on the zip line to actually take photos while you’re moving through the air, but you may spend a fair amount of time on the platforms waiting for the rest of your group, which is when you’ll want to pull out your camera.
Our Zipline Tour on the Osa Peninsula
We’ve been zip lining twice now with Bosque Mar on the Osa Peninsula and it was amazing both times. It’s a bumpy ride to the zip line from Puerto Jimenez on unpaved roads, but once you arrive in the primary forest you will see why it’s worth it. (As an aside, this has been my experience in Costa Rica in general — the more difficult it is to reach a location, the more amazing it is bound to be!)
The guides were professional and the equipment was all in excellent shape. Due to the forest, we couldn’t see any of the platforms from the starting point, so if you have any scaredy-cats in your group they may be trepidatious, but this is where the excitement begins!
My six-year-old had no trouble understanding and following directions. Also, he looked super cute in the harness…not that this was about photos, or anything. There was a guide at the front of our group and one at the back, and I always felt very secure.
There’s really nothing like seeing a big grin on your six-year-old as he comes barreling toward you through the trees. There’s also nothing like watching your mother and mother-in-law do this for the first time (they screamed louder than my child, for sure). If you’re looking for a great intergenerational family adventure, I highly recommend zip lining in Costa Rica!