Canopy tours are often on the top of the list of activities for tourists visiting Costa Rica, but locals can also enjoy the natural beauty and thrill of these tours, often at a discounted rate. In the Canton of Nicoya, there are three tours available in Nicoya, Samara and Nosara.
Coco Aventuras in Nicoya: Soaring from Hilltop to Hilltop
When Victor Blanco Borbon bought a 26-hectare finca in the hills on the southwest side of Nicoya, he made a road to the top of one of the hills, looked at the view with the entire city of Nicoya spread out in the valley below, and thought, this would be good for a canopy tour.
The hill is 450 meters above sea level, while Nicoya itself is 150 meters above sea level, so the view is quite panoramic.
With the help of his family and a man from Monteverde experienced in designing and building canopy tours, he invested everything he had into building Coco Aventuras Canopy Tour, Bar and Restaurant, which opened just two and a half years ago, in December of 2011.
One of the amazing things about this tour is the sensation that you are zipping from one hilltop to the next, soaring above valleys. Another thing that distinguishes this tour is the number of guides that accompany you. Instead of two, for larger groups you will go with four to eight guides, allowing you to keep moving from one platform to the next without having to wait for everyone in the group to finish each zip line. With the extra guides, guests generally complete the 7 zip lines in a little less than an hour, followed by another optional extreme thrill: the Tarzan swing.
The Tarzan swing is a bit intimidating but a pure rush of adrenaline. Only two in our group of 13 decided to take the plunge. You stand at the top of an 18-meter-high (59-foot) iron platform, looking down at the ground below as you are securely harnessed to a rope that is suspended from cables 20 meters (65 feet) above the ground. Then comes the intimidating part. As butterflies dance in your belly, you stand at the edge of the platform and let yourself drop, free falling until the rope slackens. After that, it’s pure fun, swinging back and forth until the guide waiting below catches your feet and unhooks your harness.
There is also an option to do a rappel after the fifth zip line, but this means skipping the last two zip lines. The longest zip line is 480 meters, and three of the lines are quite fast, requiring a security brake to stop you at the end, and a thick pad strapped to the tree just in case, so you don’t end up like George of the Jungle. Those who are more experienced on zip lines are welcome to freestyle a little, going backwards and upside down.
Currently about 70% of those who take the tour are Ticos, according to Blanco, and he is hoping to attract more foreigners. He has noted that foreigners don’t think twice about traversing the zip lines and taking the plunge, while some Ticos hesitate and need some encouragement. For those who are nervous but want to try it, a guide can “taxi” you across tandem.
This tour also offers some of the lowest rates at $30 per person, $20 for nationals or students and 7500 colones ($15) for children 4 to 10. The schedule is also flexible, anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and walk-ins are welcome. Blanco will also pick you up in Nicoya.
Before or after the tour, you can relax with a cold drink or a meal at the open-air restaurant with rustic wood tables and chairs. Casados and traditional meals like arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) are 3000 colones ($6), and the most expensive item on the menu, a T-bone steak, is 8000 colones ($16).
Coco Aventura is located 2 kilometers west of Chorotega Stadium in Nicoya, along the old road to Quiriman. For more information or reservations, call 8833-4158 or email [email protected].
Wingnuts in Samara: For Wild Kids and Wildlife
One man in our group, John Jason from Toronto, Canada, remarked that the most disappointing thing so far about their vacation was that they hadn’t seen a monkey yet… that was quickly checked off the list as a group of howlers were hanging out in the trees between the first two platforms. We could watch them below us as we zipped by.
Later, his three children, ages 7 to 12, were excited when a raccoon-like coati climbed up the tree and onto one of the platforms where we were about to take a break for fruit, cookies, water and juice, all provided by Wingnuts.
Deborah Nezil, who opened Wingnuts Canopy Tour in 1999, said their family operation specializes in kids, taking children as young as two years old in special harnesses for babies. Members of their own family have been out on the zip lines as young as 9 months. They’ve also had guests as old as 89.
Wingnuts is “real ecotourism,” explained Nezil. The 33-hectare protected forest also borders Werner Sauter Biological Reserve, so many animals call it home and they are happy to share it with visitors. The platforms are at tree level and they are suspended by cushioned cables, so they sway a little. All of the cables have rubber cushions so they can be loosened as the trees grow, thus never damaging them.
This rainy season, they created two new runs and a hanging bridge over a waterfall that flows over calcified rock, so the tour offers new options for repeat visitors. They have 12 cables and two rappel lines, but with large groups they may only do 10 cables and one rappel.
Their equipment is comfortable. The leather strip used for braking is not built into the gloves like it is in many tours, so the gloves are not stiff, and the harnesses are cushioned.
Wingnuts recently moved to a new office, located along the main road from Samara to Carrillo on the left, across from the entrance to Matapalo. Nezil explained that the new office is more professional and easier to find.
The normal rate is $60 for adults and $40 for children 12 and under. Costa Ricans receive a discounted rate of 15,000 colones (about $30) when they pay cash. Tours depart at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday. You can call us at 2656-0153 or 2656-0845.For reservations, contact [email protected].
Miss Sky in Nosara: The Longer the Better
The Voice contacted Miss Sky Canopy Tour, but was told they were very busy and they chose not to participate in the article. However, here we provide some basic information available from their website (www.MissSkyCanopyTour.com).
Miss Sky boasts being the longest canopy tourin the world with a total of more than 11 kilometers of cable and 21 runs through tropical dry forest, most of which are between 500 to 600 meters long and several hundred feet high. The longest line is over 750meters long and the shortest is over 300meters long. The tour finishes in a waterfall.
The tour is deemed ideal for children over 12, although younger children can go and be taken by a guide. Prices are $70 for adults 13+ and $45 for children 5-12, and two trips are offered daily, from 8 a.m. to noon or from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
It is a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes early and wear closed toe shoes. Miss Sky also advises guests to bring sun block, water, snacks and anything else they might need for a 3 to 4 hour trip. For reservations, call 2682-0969 or stop by the office, located 100 yards north of the gas station on the road to Nosara.