- The Best of Costa Rica
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- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
An intriguing way to explore the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is by ascending into the forest canopy on a guided Sky Walk (tel. 506/2645-5238, www.skywalk.co.cr), which offers a monkey’s-eye view of things.
You walk along five suspension bridges and platforms and 1,000 meters of pathways permitting viewing from ground level to the treetops, where you are right in there with the epiphytes. Two-hour tours depart at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. daily ($30 adults, $24 students, $19 children).
The same company offers a two-hour SkyTrek ($60 adults, $48 students, $38 children) for the more adventurous. You’ll whiz through the canopy in a harness attached to a zip line that runs between three treetop canopies, spanning two kilometers. The tour starts with a ride on the Sky Tram cable car (which can only be taken in conjunction with the Sky Walk or Sky Trek).
Selvatura (tel. 506/2645-5929, www.selvatura.com) also has suspension bridges ($25 adults, $20 students, $15 children) and a zip-line tour ($45 adults, $35 students, $30 children); tours are at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
The Aventura Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2645-6959, www.monteverdeadventure.com), off the road to the Sky Walk, has 16 zip-line cables (tours at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 p.m., and 3 p.m., $40 adults, $30 students/children) plus suspended walkways and rappelling.
The canopy tour craze began at Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge, where The Original Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2645-5243, www.canopytour.com, $45 adults, $35 students, $25 children) was created. Zip-line tours are offered at 7:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. A thrilling beginning is the forest hike and a clamber up the interior of a hollow strangler fig to reach the first platform.
Extremo Canopy (tel. 506/2645-6058, www.monteverdeextremo.com) has a 16-cable zip-line tour (8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., $40 adults, $30 students, $25 children), a Tarzan swing, canyoning ($50), and horseback rides ($30).
The Natural Wonders Tram (tel. 506/2645-5960, www.telefericomonteverde.com, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) runs through the forest in a sky-lift by day ($20 adults, $15 students) or night ($25 adults, $20 students) on a 1.5-kilometer track.
The following have stables and rent horses (usually about $10–15 per hour) and offer guided tours: Meg’s Stables (tel. 506/2645-5560); La Estrella (tel. 506/2645-5075); Sabine’s Smiling Horses (tel. 506/2645-6894, www.horseback-riding-tour.com); and Terra Viva (tel. 506/2645-5454, www.terravivacr.com), which also offers tours of its organic dairy farm and cloud-forest reserve with trails. Heliconia Ranch (tel. 506/2645-5109, www.hotelheliconia.com) has a similar horseback ride on a farm.
I recommend Desafío Adventure Company (tel. 506/2645-5874, www.desafiocostarica.com) for horseback trips to La Fortuna ($65); the four-hour horseback ride from Monteverde to Río Chiquito is followed by a one-hour boat ride across Lake Arenal, then a 30-minute Jeep ride to La Fortuna.
For many travelers in Monteverde, the next destination of choice is La Fortuna (or vice versa). There are several ways of getting between them. Most popular is a four-hour horseback ride from Monteverde to Río Chiquito, where you take a one-hour boat ride across Lake Arenal, then a 30-minute Jeep ride to La Fortuna. There are three different routes for the horseback ride.
Several tour operators compete. Some have been accused of working their horses to death — literally — on the arduous San Gerardo Trail, on which horses who are often poorly fed exhaust themselves struggling through thigh-deep mud on the steep hills during wet season. The Río Chiquito route can also be tough on horses in wet season. The Lake Trail is the easiest on the horses. Check to see that the horses are not used both ways on the same day.
Alternatively, you can take a 90-minute Jeep ride to Río Chiquito, then continue on the one-hour boat ride across Lake Arenal and a 30-minute Jeep ride to La Fortuna.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition