It’s almost impossible to visit Monteverde and not do at least one type of organized tour, whether it be an adrenaline rush of zip-lining, or a more relaxed afternoon learning about coffee, it’s hard to pass on everything. I for one am not generally a fan of anything with the name “tour” in it, generally because those involve big price tags and lots of tourists, but it turns out they’re not always bad. After spending a day soaking in the city, indulging in morning yoga and a walk and afternoon napping, I figured I should give it a go. I didn’t want to just do a tour for the sake of doing it so went with the most natural choice, The Original Canopy Tour. It turns out these canopy tours, now popular throughout the region, originated in Monteverde over 20 years ago. I barely even compared prices or offerings, rather went with my gut and chose to do the original, zipping through not only a beautiful forest but also a piece of history.
I arranged my tour with the friendly reception workers at my hostel the day before, which contrary to what some believe or report, did not cost more than booking directing with the company. There are both morning and afternoon options, but based on the afternoon rain patters along with my early waking time I opted for the morning tour. I was picked up at my guest house at 9:45 and joined Sarah and Mark, a couple from the UK, in the van to the reserve. As we walked to the van the driver asked me “Estas listos?” to which I replied “mas o menos” as I felt a few butterflies in my belly. [Side note: I’ve been pleased with the amount of Spanish I’ve been able to recall, in fact one of the guides this morning asked where I was from, adding that I knew a lot of Spanish!] Sarah asked the same question, and while I replied “Yeah, I think so”, Mark was a completely different story, clearly a ball of nerves.
I thought we were going to have a nice small group for the tour, but I was wrong. When we arrived at the reserve we found a group waiting for us, either those who had their own transport or were staying at the on-site lodge. In total our group was 12 members, ranging from small children, teenagers, and a few older couples, but I was the only one flying solo. There were five guides in total who would be helping us through the course, and every single one of them wore a big smile and were patient and reassuring. Most impressive to me was their effort to learn each of our names and also where we were from, based on the guides alone I was happy I had chosen this company. Once we were all strapped into our harnesses and given a few basic instructions for the day our group made our way into the forest to begin our adventure.
Due to my limited research I wasn’t fully aware what the day had in store for me, only that the course would last approximately two and a half hours and involve zip-lines and belays. After a 10 minute walk we arrived at the first, optional, section of our course, a tarzan swing hovering maybe 50 meters off the ground. I couldn’t chicken out this early on so I joined the queue to the stairs, and only when the guide told me to “sit and hold on” did I have thoughts of backing out, oh well too late. The initial drop off the platform was gut flipping, causing me to let out a quick scream, but from there it was nothing but breathtaking. Flying through the forest with views out as far as the pacific ocean, and a friendly group down below watching and waiting, I knew this was going to be a good day.
After being released from my harness and returning to the group I joined the discussion between the family of two of the kids in our group, one of which was an older man who knew no English. I was again proud of my Spanish ability, being able to understand all the questions he asked, even if my responses were a bit broken.
From the swing we continued on towards the beginning of the zip-line course, where we received more instructions and also a few rules (all for safety precautions, of course). I left my phone in the lockers at reception, not wanting donate it to the canopy floor, but Sarah said she’d have them take photos with hers and send them to me later. For me, the first two lines were a piece of cake, even Mark who was the bundle of nerves seemed to be loving it, but then as we arrived at the third platform I saw Sarah crying and discovered she was not having it. Totally unexpected as she was the one eager for the day, but unfortunately things don’t always go as planned. She was told there would be a break where should could return to reception, but only after three more zip-lines, which thankfully she was okay with. By the time we reached the breaking point there was one more woman (ironically another Sarah) who had enough and was ready to call it a day. I feared this would happen to me, but thankfully I was loving every second of it.
There was another optional portion right before the break, this time a belay straight down to the ground and then a climb back up to the platform via the inner and outer parts of a ficus tree. Again, I didn’t pay $45 to watch other people do this stuff, so I jumped in line and was soon dropping to the ground, surprising myself with how much I loved it. The climb back up was a different story, thankfully we were harnessed in, but I still had to tell myself “Don’t look down” and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
After the first portion we said goodbye to the two Sarah’s and Mark (who decided join his wife) and continued on for a few longer runs. As the hours went by our group grew closer, and the guides only became more fun. I soon received the nickname “Beautiful” and while I’m sure that’s thrown around multiple times throughout the day, I didn’t mind it one bit. The wind picked up as we climbed higher into the canopy, but thankfully there was no rain and the sun was shining bright. On one of the lines the instructor told us to look to the right and we’d see the Pacific ocean, and he wasn’t kidding. As we rode the line the trees dropped out and sky opened to one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t help but let out a huge smile and a few giggles of giddiness, reflecting on just how awesome my day was becoming.
As we neared the end of the course our guide Poncho announced that the last two zip-lines would be 800m and 500m, which sounded long, but there's’ really no way to prepare yourself for it. As I stopped to take a few pictures I fell to the back of the group and was thus the last one to go on the 800m line. Listening to the zipping of those in front of me and seeing them soar out, hundreds of feet above the nearest tree tops, my nerves almost got the better of me. As soon as Poncho pushed me off from the platform though, I was back in euphoria. The first 30-40 meters of the line was still surrounded by trees, but after that the skies opened up and it really, truly felt like I was soaring through the air. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to flying (well Skydiving was close, but so fast I couldn’t register it at all) and it was amazing. Being so long there was plenty of time to look around, the Pacific ocean to the left, miles of canopy and forest to the right and even the restaurant of the reserve down below. As soon as we arrived on that last platform we turned around, were latched onto the next line and told to go. This is where I ran into my only trouble of the day, due to high winds, which we were riding against, I got stuck 20 meters out from the platform and had to be pulled in by one of the guides, while everyone else sat watching.
When the course was over I was a mixed bag of emotions, partially happy to be back on solid ground, still in awe of what I had just done, and also wanting to go back up and do it all again. We walked back to reception, returned our gear and gathered our belongings and then I went to find Sarah and Mark. They were waiting in the restaurant, where as promised, Mark had a beer waiting for me. Best surprise of all was that they had been watching us from the lodge and Sarah was able to catch my 800m high flying action on film. Over our beers we discussed not only that day’s events but also our travel stories and memories. This day was a perfect mix of challenge, enjoyment, accomplishment, and camaraderie, all aspects of which reminded me why I love traveling so much and encouraged me to always keep it at the forefront of my life.
Packed with Adventure and Adrenaline, a diverse landscape from mountains to cloudforests, oceans, beaches and waterfalls. It's known for being touristy, safe and expensive, but was for me, a great introduction to Central America.