Take a Zipline or Canopy Tour

Woman on zip-line at the Gibbon Experience.
Tim Gerard Barker/Getty Images

Ready to soar like a bird from tree to tree in a rain forest? Zipline or canopy tours give you a bird's-eye view of the forest, allow you to soar across canyons, and give you a glimpse of scenery below from a bird's eye view. Before you hook onto a line and start flying through the air, however, any reputable zipline tour operator will give you basic training, an orientation to the equipment that is used, and other tips on how to control your descent. All of that is important for safety of course, but it helps to heighten the anticipation too. 

Difficulty: Easy to Average depending on the course, although your nerves may think otherwise.

Time Required: 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the course and the number of lines zipped.

Here's How:

What is a Zipline Tour?

One zipline lover described the experience as "being as close as you can get to flying across the top of the jungle." Participants don a harness with a caribiner that is attached to a wheel on a cable strung between two trees or suitably tall posts. You push off from a platform suspended on one tree and zip along the cable to a second platform attached to another tree. You can be anywhere from just a few feet off the ground to hundreds of feet in the air depending on the location, literally flying between the trees at a height where only birds and climbing animals typically dwell.

Different Types of Zipline Tours

Zipline tours vary both in length and style. Many tours in Costa Rica, and other countries with jungles or rainforests, include a jeep tour to the zipline site during which a guide tells you about the wildlife and flora while en route. At some mountain resorts, the zipline experiences are near the base of ski slopes during the summer, and the first zipline is reachable via a chairlift. Some locations only have only two or three ziplines, while others have more than a dozen strung between the trees.

What Does the Basic Training Include?

Ideally, the experience will include some "how to" information plus a safety briefing. You'll learn how to put on the harness, latch onto the cable, and how to brake if you want to slow down mid-flight or as you approach the landing zone. After you learn the basics and watch a demonstration, you may get a chance to practice once or twice on a short zipline suspended just a few feet off the ground prior to heading off to the actual zip course itself. 

Who Enjoys Zipline Tours?

Many zipline experiences can be enjoyed by entire families, but before you book be sure to ask about the number of ziplines and the heights at which they are strung. That way you can ensure that your entire party is comfortable with the experience before setting out. Also, be sure to inquire about any age, weight, and height restrictions too. It's no fun arriving onsite, only to learn someone in your group can't join in on the fun.

What Do I Need to Wear and Bring?

You should wear long pants and gym shoes or hiking boots on your biplane adventure. Shoes must not have open toes. If you have long hair put it in a pony tail. Use a strap to keep your glasses secure. Don't have any sharp objects, such as keys or pens in your pockets. Keep your camera in a case close to your body, not dangling on a strap and it is often best to leave your smartphone behind. The company should provide the harness, a helmet and gloves. But, confirm that they provide all three.

Do I Need to be in Great Physical Condition?

The answer depends upon the tour. A basic zipline experience requires little physical exertion, although it's not for anyone who has a serious fear of heights. If the tour you want to take includes hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, or other activities, you'll have to be in the proper shape to participate in those sports. Many zipline courses at least require a walk uphill to reach a starting position. 

What's the Minimum Age?

Always verify the minimum age before you book the tour. Most tours will accept kids over 6 years of age, but some require participants be 18 years or older.

Are There Minimum and Maximum Weights?

Brad Morse of Canopy Tours, Inc., says that anyone on the big side concerned about fitting into a harness properly should check in advance with any waist-size requirements and ask if there is a chest harness or full body harness. Usually there are maximum weight allowances for the cables as well, so ask ahead of time if that is a concern. Weight limits will vary depending on the zipline course, with some able to accommodate larger guests than others. 

How Much Do These Tours Cost?

Prices vary dramatically depending upon whether it's just a zipline experience, or if the zipline tour is part of a longer itinerary that might include a jeep safari or walking tour to the site where the ziplines begin. Some operators offer snacks, drinks, or lunch, which could impact the price too. Basically there are many variables that impact cost, with prices ranging from as little as $25 to more than $200 depending on the experience. 

Companies Offering Zipline Tours

Zipline tours are offered in many places around the globe and these days it is possible to find one just about anywhere. Top destinations include Whistler and Alaska in North America, as well as Hawaii, Costa Rica and New Zealand. Canopy Tours, Inc. has a directory of Zip Line tours around the world. 

How Do You Find Zipline Tours?

Start at Top Zipline and Canopy Tours. If you already know where you are vacationing, many travel packages offer a zipline tour option and in many places you can usually book them through the hotel concierge or front desk. You can also book before you go directly with a company via its Internet site. Ziplining has become so popular that chances are you'll find an option to try it just about anywhere you go.