Venturing on a Hanging Bridge Tour in Costa Rica
Photo by John Roberts
Costa Rica's vast swaths of tropical rainforests are regarded as jewels of the tiny Central American nation.
They are home to an incredible range of animals and plants, making Costa Rica among the most biodiverse countries on the planet. These rainforests also are where tourists love to play in the trees while spotting plants and creatures.
We decided to try the rising hot sport of zip lining during our first trip to Costa Rica a few years ago.
On our second visit, we had a port day in Puntarenas during a cruise on Celebrity Infinity, and we chose to head back to the rainforest jungles.
But we would bypass the zip lines.
Been there, done that, had a blast.
This trip, we'd try to see the trees and animals from a different perch: hanging bridges. We had heard that this also is a thrilling experience in Costa Rica, especially in the region around Puntarenas.
There are several spots to take a hanging bridge tour. Here’s how it works: You head into the rainforest on a hike to explore everything that's under — and at times, above — the lush green canopy, with a series of hanging bridge crossings to negotiate. The spans are constructed with steel cables strung between trees and trails. You stroll (or briskly scamper, depending on your tolerance of heights and swaying/bouncing) across the structures. You are walking along aluminum and mesh planking that can appear a bit flimsy in spots (they assure me it is safe).
My wife, who hates bridges, had her doubts on our tour at the Villa La Pas Skyway (a nature reserve near Carara National Park). She made sure not to linger any longer than necessary as we went along each of the four crossings, which pulse and gyrate to the footsteps as you share the space with 20 or so other visitors.
Our bridges were up to 330 feet long and as much as 200 feet in the air. We could stop midway for pictures and to look down toward the forest floor and streams and all around into the trees that enveloped our paths.
We had hoped to see howler monkeys or sloths, but as far as exotic animal sightings went, we saw just a few toucan birds. The jungle is a busy place for leaf cutter ants, however. Plenty of visitors stood transfixed by the constant movement of the forest floor as the ants carried out their work in extremely long marching columns.
We also spotted a cool array of colorful flowers and plants. Of course we did. It's Costa Rica after all.
What to Expect
Time: Hanging bridge tours will take about two hours at the site of the bridges and typically include stops at other attractions. We went to Pura Vida Gardens for an included lunch and tour of the incredible private garden estate as well as an additional stop for fresh fruits at a small resort with shops.
Be prepared: Bring a camera and binoculars. The hiking trails are gradual and easy to negotiate, so you don't have to worry about your equipment. The trails can get slick from humidity and rains, though, so you have to pay attention. Wear comfy shoes that you won't mind getting a little muddy. Bring insect repellent or wear long sleeves and pants. Mosquitos didn’t bother us in September, but they can be annoying. Also, bring plenty of water to sip during the day because conditions are hot and humid.
What you'll see: Monkeys, frogs, squirrels, sloths, exotic birds and more are possible. You'll definitely see a wide range of interesting plants, like the wild banana. But temper the expectation that you'll witness a forest full of creatures.
Price: The prices range from about $60 to $80 per person.
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