Zip Lining, Rappelling, and Horseback Riding in Fortuna, Costa Rica
After a fun 4 days on the west coast of Costa Rica at the Hotel Punta Islita, we spent another 5 days at the Nayara Garden Hotel and Spa in Fortuna. But rather than soak in the hot tub, sip Pina Coladas at the swim up bar, relax in the hammock on our patio, sip wine at the wine bar, and enjoy some good food at the Nayara restaurant we put on our rain jackets, sprayed ourselves with bug spray, grabbed the cameras, packed the 13 of us in three cars, and drove 15 minutes from the comfort and luxury of the hotel for a Combo Adventure with Arenal Mundo Aventura - and what a fun and exciting adventure it was, well worth leaving the luxury of Nayara!
The Combo Tour starts with fitting each of us with a harness, helmet, and gloves and a short, somewhat intimidating lesson on zip lining - "don't put your hand here or the pulley will run over it," "only use the gloved hand to break," "watch for the stop hand signal from your guide or you'll run into him and most likely knock him off the platform," "don't break on some zip lines or you may not make it to the end so you'll need to pull yourself hand over fist up the zip line to the platform!" The grand kids (5, 6, 7, and 9) didn't look scared but some of the adults did!
With sweaty palms and what I hoped was a confident look, I boarded the funky trailer pulled by a tractor for a 20 minute ride up a bumpy and scenic dirt road with streams, colorful fauna, and ponds with small water falls. From the drop off point it was a short walk to our first zip line. Did my legs look like rubber? I know they felt like rubber when I saw the zip line platform towering what looked like 500 feet in the air - and I had to walk up that thing and jump off! Turns out that is not the starting zip line for the combo tour, (whew! that's good news) but the bad news was we had to hike through the jungle up hill to the first zip line and later we would zip back to the top of that platform! Oh my!
Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me bring my camera (too dangerous because it might get caught on the zip line, hinder my landing and stopping, or get caught on a branch - now I'm getting a little more scared!) so we don't have many shots of the 10 zip lines, the hikes, or the rappelling down the waterfall. I'll try to describe our adventure and steal some pictures from the website. Our son-in-law and his 3 year old daughter who couldn't zip met us on top of the platform in the picture above and he took some pictures and our rappellers had a water camera but the pictures aren't the best.
The Arenal Mundo Aventura website states that the zip line cables are located in such a way that they start from platforms at ground level "ensuring that if a tree did fall it will not produce any time laps in the tour" - but what happens if a tree falls while I'm zipping - hmmm. There are 10 cables that we would be zipping and they range from 200 meters to over 800 meters which is over a half a mile long. Turns out that Arenal Mundo Aventura is home to one of the longest and fastest in Costa Rica. Speed ranges from 30 to over 50 miles an hour and we were zipping over 160 meters above the tropical forest floor. The Arenal Volcano was towering into the clouds as we zipped across deep canyons, beside cascading waterfalls, over the tops of trees, as well as through them - several times as I was speeding toward a tree I was sure that a branch was going to hit me in the face.
When we arrived at the first zip line, as usual, the brave no fear 4 grand kids volunteered to go first. They were too light to zip by themselves on most of the zip lines so they would hook up to the zip line and a guide would hook behind them, wrap his legs around them, and off they went. A couple times two of them would go with one guide. They loved it, always wanted to go first, and had huge smiles on their faces the whole time.
Each zip line was a little different - some were higher, some were faster, some where above the tree line, and others took you through the branches.
The fourth zip line was followed by a long steep uphill hike in the humid and hot tropical forest. I'm not in the best of shape - just had hip surgery, got a bad ticker, and have circulation problems in my legs plus I was carrying what seemed like 300 pounds of great vacation food, 32 beers, 18 pina coladas, some appetizers, and a cup of water plus my rain gear, helmet, gloves, and harness up these steep twisting trails. Hmm, seems like the rest of our party scampered up them while one of the guides stayed back with me giving me words of encouragement and saying "take your time, the zip lines aren't going any where." Finally got to the next zip line soaking wet (it wasn't raining), huffing and puffing, and was greeted with one of our Costa Rica cheers - a "Pura" answered with a resounding "Vida" that shook the jungle, had the monkeys scattering to different trees, and birds taking to the sky - Pura Vida means good life.
After another fun and exciting zip line, each one of which got a little faster and longer, the guide says "who is going rappelling?" The kids couldn't go and the guide who was pushing me up the hill suggested that I don't go because of the climb back up beside the waterfall. I took his advice but I walked with the rappellers, while my brother stayed with the grand kids, up to the rappelling platform, looked down, and was shocked. Four of our group (my wife, two daughters, and son-in-law) were going to rappel off a metal platform jutting 6' to 8' out over a steep 260' cliff with a waterfall beside it! My heart was pounding and I wasn't rappelling!
The rappellers got a quick lesson in how to rappel, stepped to the edge of the platform and leaned over, and dropped off the edge - just like my heart did when my wife and daughters each took a leap of faith.
Near the bottom, the rappellers had to cross the stream to get to the other side and the guide gave them a couple exciting drops which they said was like a bungee jump! Then they had to cross a horizontal ladder over the rushing creek and climb up a rope ladder back to the top - that really looked demanding and scary! I'm glad I saved my energy for the hot tub and Pina Coladas! They made it and all four were excited and grinning ear to ear - what a unique experience. Look closely at the two pictures on the right below and you'll see the rappellers climbing back up the cliff!
From there we grabbed the kids and took several more fast, long, and thrilling zip lines. By now we are confident enough that we can spin around, check out the scenery, admire the waterfalls, and bet on who would come in hot and smooth without knocking the guide off the platform! I lost when my extra vacation weight brought me in a little too fast and I forgot to break - I hope I didn't hurt the guide who tried to stop me!
The zip line and rappelling tour were followed by a short hike downhill where 8 horses were waiting to take us down the mountain to the base camp.
We made it! What a fun adventure - the guides were great; the zip lines were long, high and fast; the rappelling was thrilling and very challenging; and the horseback ride was fun. If you're planning a trip to the Fortuna area, make sure you book a tour with A Arenal Mundo Aventura. In addition to the combo tour we took, you can sign up for any of several walks - bird watching, night walk, sunset volcano walk, or a natural history walk.
Return to our article on a Vacation in Costa Rica.