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Zip, glide, float: Riding through the rainforest

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Before I visited Costa Rica, I hadn't really thought about how many ways you can get around the rainforest. You can hike, rappel, raft, cycle, climb, zip-line, kayak, spelunk, drive, paddle, ride an ATV or gondola, or saddle up a horse. And I'm probably missing a few.

Zooming on a zip-line

It was my first time experiencing a zip-line, and it was a thrill ride I won't ever forget. I was a bit nervous at first, but it was fantastic fun, fast and breathtaking. The whole experience was so well orchestrated, friendly and professional that I quickly forgot my nerves and just enjoyed it. Immensely.

There were six long cables plus a short practice line and a quick 'back-to-base' connector at the end. Some cables were above the tree line, offering views of the volcano, while others dipped down into the canopy.

Teams of operators were stationed at each platform. They worked the brakes, gave us congratulatory high fives, unhooked us from one line, connected us to the next and and cheered us on as we zoomed away. They were upbeat, happy and confident, making an already exhilarating experience even better.

Here's what it was like:

Riding the tram

In order to access the zip-line route, we had to hop aboard the Sky Tram gondola. What a beautiful, peaceful experience it was, gliding up through the rainforest canopy. The green went on for miles, the lake shimmered and Arenal Volcano stood majestically in the background.

The ride was about five minutes, ending at a viewing platform. Those who opted not to zip-line could linger there to enjoy the 360 degree views before making the return trip.

Speaking of views, the cafe at the Sky Adventures base lodge offered incredible vistas of the area.

Paddling a kayak

Back at ground level, Leanne and I decided to see the rainforest from another vantage point -- the water. Lake Arenal spreads out west of the volcano. It started out small, but was made significantly larger by a hydroelectric dam built in 1979. Today it's the site of water-based activities such as fishing, windsurfing, stand-up paddling and our choice -- kayaking.

It was a gorgeous clear sunny day. The drops of cool water splashing up from our paddles were welcome refreshment. We mostly stuck close to the shoreline, perfect for spotting birds and creatures along the water's edge and up in the trees.

Kayakers on Lake Arenal, with a view of Arenal Volcano in the distance

We passed a pair of nonchalant blue herons who could very well have migrated south from back home in Canada. Snow-white egrets watched us from the treetops and sometimes flew up to follow us around a bend. In one lovely sheltered cove we spotted a toucan up in the branches. In another we saw a group of howler monkeys resting lazily in the trees.

After a couple hours of exploring, we pulled up onshore where El Capitan was waiting with a fresh fruit treat, chilled beverages and a motorboat to take us back the the launch area -- the easy way.

In the end, I enjoyed our kayaking outing just as much as my zip-line and tram experiences. The rainforest was gorgeous from all of these perspectives. However you decide to explore, I wish you pura vida.

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