Central America, Travel Lists

Bucket list adventures: zip lining in Costa Rica

I don’t even remember when I first decided I wanted to go to Costa Rica. It’s been high on my list for a long time. All I know for certain is that many years ago I learned it’s possible to go zip lining through the rainforests of Costa Rica, and it’s been on my travel bucket list ever since.

Well, the travel gods conspired to help me check this one off the list much sooner than I expected. Actually, the travel gods very nearly conspired to disappoint me. But then they redeemed themselves.

As soon as we’d figured out flights and hotels, I set off to plan the rest of our trip. We only had 3 days aside from my friend’s wedding, because it was the middle of the semester and we could only miss so many days of class/teaching. Obviously, one day was going to be zip lining day. I booked a tour in advance, both to ensure we’d be able to go, and also because transportation would be included.

And it was.

In fact, the driver showed up at our hotel at 8:30am the day after the wedding to pick us up for our 1:00pm excursion, at which point we were awoken by a phone call from the front desk. Well, we’d gotten back to our hotel a mere 7 hours earlier, we were half asleep, hadn’t eaten breakfast, and – most relevant – were slightly hungover, which would not have made for a good zip lining experience.

The driver was confused by the mix up but very willing to work with us and said he could come back at the correct time, but we needed to call the booking agency to confirm. Shout out to the desk staff at our hotel, who were super helpful – they made the call for us and found someone who spoke English. My Spanish is sort of not entirely terrible, but not over the phone, and certainly not first thing in the morning while half asleep and slightly hungover.

Long story short, they couldn’t re-book us for that day, for whatever reason, and we already had set plans for the next day. They were willing to refund us and apologized for the mistake, so that was that. But it left us with no plans for the day and no place to go zip lining.

Thankfully, we ran into my other Costa Rican friend in our hotel lobby and, after hearing of our predicament, she and her friends whipped out their phones, did some googling, made a phone call, and saved the day! She was even willing to drop us off at our new zip lining destination on her way home.

Canopy La Carpintera is an out of the way place, and we were the only non-Spanish speakers there (though the guides did speak English and opted to give us the safety spiel in our native language… for obvious reasons). It’s located way up on a hillside in Cartago, a moderately-sized city to the southeast of San José, and based out of a restaurant called La Chirraca Steakhouse.


We paid our $40 USD per person (most everywhere in Costa Rica accepts USD, though not all locations will accept credit or debit cards) and promptly found ourselves in the back of a pickup truck with one of our guides and all of the gear. We bumped and bounced our way up the mountain behind the steakhouse, coming to a stop about a quarter of the way below the summit. From there, it was a short but steep hike through the jungle to get to the top.


And then… well… time to strap in and let gravity do the rest.

There were 7 zip lines – the last of which was 1 km (0.6 mi) in length – and 2 rappelling lines, where we were lowered 50 m (160 feet) from a wire platform suspended in the treetops down to the forest floor. If you’re the slightest bit afraid of heights, this is absolutely not the time to look down.

February in Costa Rica is supposed to be the dry season, but this February was apparently an exception because it thunderstormed almost every afternoon we were there (including a downpour right before the wedding and a light sprinkle during the ceremony). Fortunately, it held off that afternoon until we were down from the treetops and back to the restaurant.

Looking out over Cartago from a zip lining platform

We celebrated our zip lining adventures with sangria and dinner at La Chirraca before catching an Uber back to San José.

Go zip lining through the rainforest in Costa Rica: check!

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