Costa Rica Travel News – In a place like Monteverde, where there’s so much to see and do, every single tour operator is vying for your custom. You can hop in a taxi, start chatting to the driver and within a few minutes they’ll be making their own recommendations. Sorry, but I’m afraid I’m now going to add in my own little nugget of advice: don’t go anywhere before you’ve checked out the Original Canopy Tour company.
Though they now have canopy and zip-line set-ups located across Central America and the Caribbean, Costa Rica was where it all began. The very first Original Canopy Tour was created in Monteverde in 1994, and indeed, it was the very first canopy tour to be set up in Monteverde. Spanning a total of 3km across 14 zip lines, this is such an incredible way to see the countryside the makes up this region of Costa Rica. When designing the course, the company really strove to give its visitors a varied experience. To reach the first section of the tour, you’ll be led by the guides on a pathway through their private grounds and up into the hillside.
A quick check of all the harnesses and helmets and you’re ready to go! For an activity like this, safety is obviously paramount, and if anything doesn’t feel right or comfortable, just ask and one of the guides will help you out. You’ll be accompanied by a minimum of two experienced guides at all times throughout the tour – one who will deal with your equipment and send you off on the zip-line, and a second who will be waiting on the destination platform to detach you from the line. As well as the zip lines themselves, you’ll get to do what’s known as the “Tarzan swing”, rappel from one of the platforms and then climb up through the inside of a hollow ficus tree. This is one of the only parts where some physical fitness is needed, but considering their minimum age is 5 years old and their oldest visitor to date was in their 80s, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most. There is an imposed weight restriction of 265 pounds.
The Tarzan swing is the very first thing you’ll do on the tour, and in short, it involves climbing up a ladder onto a platform, and then jumping off it to swing like a pendulum in mid-air. The first swing is one of the most heart-in-mouth things you’re likely to ever do, but I promise after that bit it gets enjoyable! The trip in general is not recommended for those with a great fear of heights, but this one feels particularly high up and intimidating. That said, this is the only section of the tour which you could elect to not participate in. All of the zip-lines link up in a circular pattern through the trees, so visitors can’t be left behind and there’s no opt-out choice. Mind you, after you’ve done the Tarzan swing, you’ll feel like you can conquer anything they throw at you, and it’s actually kind of sad when you get to the end of the tour.
Tours tend to take around 2-2.5 hours in total, and what’s great about the Original Canopy Tour is that so much of that time is spent in the cloud forest itself. All of the lines, except the last two, go between the trees themselves, so you really do feel like you’re flying through the forest. Being in the heart of the forest also gives you a great chance to spot some of the local wildlife. Your guide will be able to point out some of the species of bird you might come across (such as the emerald tucanet), and if you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of a white-nosed coati. On our trip, we arrived at one of the platforms just as a whole family of coatis was climbing down a nearby tree! Where else are you going to experience that? The final two lines are the longest and the highest, measuring 400m and 800m in length and around 100m in height. These are the only lines which go right above the tree-tops, and believe me, the views you’ll see are incredible!
Once you’ve been unclipped from the last line, there’s just a short walk to get back to the base. You’re allowed to bring a small backpack or a camera bag throughout the tour if you like, but you will have to be the one to carry it. For other valuables that you don’t want to take with you, lockers are available. It’s not too uncomfortable carrying something, but it’s a personal choice. Small digital cameras with a strap can be attached to the harness and brought along without any difficulty. Long trousers are generally recommended, but shorts are fine as well, so long as they reach about mid-thigh (having some harness loops rubbing against your bare legs isn’t going to make for a very enjoyable tour). Similarly, don’t wear crop tops or shirts that will rise up. Comfortable, soft clothes that you don’t mind getting slightly dirty are definitely the best. As for shoes, hiking boots or trainers are perfect. For those with long hair, it’s good to bring something for keeping it out of your face and from getting it caught in the helmet.
The tours run at different intervals throughout the day (you usually have a greater chance of dry weather in the morning), and the Original Canopy Tour prides itself on its small group sizes. Even if you turn up as a large party, the guides will never take more than 10 visitors in a single group. Remaining visitors are taken on their tour a little while later to stagger the trips and to ensure that the guides can give everyone the utmost care and attention.
Swinging through the treetops can be pretty hungry work so I’d definitely recommend asking the driver (they’ll pick you up from pretty much anywhere in Monteverde) to take you to The Green restaurant. The owner is a good friend of the current owner of the Original Canopy Tour, so they’ll know where to take you! The place has got a great atmosphere and the menu and food are excellent. From appetizers to main courses, there’s something to suit every budget and every palate. My favourite dish, by far, was the Mongolian Grill. First you pick whether you’d like pasta or rice, then you choose your meat/fish and then your sauces. After that you can go up to the salad and vegetable bar, fill up a bowl with whatever you like and hand it over to the chef. Before long, it’ll come back, totally transformed into a delicious, filling and healthy meal. Alternatively, why not go for a burger and fries, or even a fresh salad? Whatever you’re in the mood for, it’s a reality.
www.theoriginalcanopy.com (+506) 2645-5243 Adult: $45, Student: $35, Child: $25
www.thegreenmtv.com (+506) 2645 6174 $$