In the month since I visited steamy Costa Rica, I’ve been reflecting longingly on my honeymoon, where we stayed on the Guanacaste peninsula along the Pacific coast. One of the highlights of our trip was riding the zip line at the Congo Canopy Tour, between Flamingo and Ocotal beaches, as you can see in the video, below.
It’s a good thing I didn’t read Congo’s brochure until after swooping along all 11 lines, as it promoted the tour as one for “adrenaline junkies” and hard-core thrill seekers, neither of which is remotely me. (I’ve never been on a roller coaster for Pete’s sake.) That said, I had fun on the zip line tour and will never forget the experience (if only to ensure I don’t ever do it again). Here are some tips I learned while zipping around and hanging on for dear life.
Wear Jeans: The harness and equipment that secure you to the stainless steel line need to be tight around your pelvis, hips, and legs. I wore a skort and my husband shorts; neither was a good idea. We were chafing and our shorts/skorts were riding up on us throughout the two hours (making for less than complimentary photos too). Long jeans are best, despite the heat.
Wear Shoes Fastened to Your Feet: Remember, you’ll be dangling between 30 to over 100 feet off the ground, moving at a pretty brisk pace. You should be focusing on where your hands are and that you’re following the guides’ instructions. I saw some people wearing flip-flops and I couldn’t make sense of that choice. Who needs to be distracted by clutching their flip-flops with their toes? Leave ‘em on the beach and opt for sneakers instead.
Pay Attention: When the guides tell you to pay attention to their instructional orientation, really listen to them; don’t let the guides’ jovial nature make you overconfident or complacent about technique and safety. Zip lining can be very dangerous. Think about what they tell you and ask questions. Mime their movements even before they put your gear on you. If you’re unsure, ask them to repeat or give you some one-on-one guidance.
Left or Right: If you’re a leftie like me, pay even closer attention as the directions will inevitably be given to you by a right-handed guide and you’ll need to invert.
Check Your Hands: Leave your rings, watches, and bracelets at home. You
need to wear heavy-duty gloves, equipped with a hefty leather strip in
the palm that will enable you to brake on the line. Rings, watches, and
bracelets can get in the way, get turned around, and compromise your
ability to get a good grip.
Protect Your Head: Ask the guides if they have a helmet for
you to borrow. Our group didn’t wear helmets as they weren’t provided.
One man in our group had a close call when he panicked, placed his hand
dangerously in front of the pulley, causing the pulley to run over his
hand, tear his glove, and propel his head forward into the pulley
resulting in a big, mildly bloody smack. He seemed okay, if dazed, and
astounded he wasn’t bleeding more. Wear a helmet and don’t, I repeat,
don’t put you hand in front of the pulley.
Eat Smart: Don’t eat a big meal before heading off on the
line. This is a pretty self-explanatory tip given the speed you’ll be
traveling, the height you’ll be dangling above the ground, and the
tricks the guides like to play on you, including tugging at the line so
that you swing and sway at pretty dizzying angles along the line.
Bug Off: Sunblock and bug spray are golden. Remember, you’re out in nature, for good (possible howler monkey sightings) and ill.
Watch Out: There have been fatalities on zip lines, most prominently that of a 44-year-old Texas woman on a line near Roatán, Honduras, in March 2008. Don’t let such tragedies dissuade you from giving it a try but please be aware of such dangers. Be sure to seek out and book your zip line adventure with a firm with a good reputation, both online while researching your trip before you leave as well as locally, once you’ve arrived for your vacation. We asked advice from the Belgian baker whose café we sought shelter in during one of the many afternoon downpours that pummel Costa Rica in the summertime. She recommend Congo, based on her years in the area. Once back at our hotel, the concierge made the same recommendation. Put together, the advice pointed to the same firm. It was good advice as we had a great time on our first (and last) zip line thrill ride.
Videos: Meg Weaver