Review: Monteverde based Tours

Sky Adventures hanging bridges & zip lining

There’s a lot of choice of zip lines and hanging bridges in both La Fortuna and Monteverde. We decided to keep them for Monteverde because of the cloud forest and after a lot of trawling Youtube videos and reviews, settled on Sky Adventures for both. We weren’t disappointed!

Firstly, the hanging bridges – it’s the same price for taking a guided tour of these to just walking the route independently. We chose to walk them independently so we had time to enjoy the bridges and take photos. Each bridge is labelled with its height and length and a particular tree you should be able to spot from the bridge. There were a couple of parts of the route where we needed to wait for others to clear the bridge, and it would have been helpful if the route had been one-way as at times nobody was taking any notice of the limits stated on the bridges – eek!

The ziplining started with us getting kitted out (it’s $5 extra for a helmet with a Go Pro bracket), being given thorough explanations of how things worked and going down the test line to the base of the sky tram. I was cool until I was released on the test line – which was much faster than I’d imagined it would be (having never zip lined before!) and was a bit too rollercoaster-like! Sky Adventures is the only company that use a breaking system on the line, and it did feel safe, but I didn’t like the unexpected freefall sensation at the beginning, so was trying to rationalise it as we made our way to the tram. In the tram cabin, one of the instructors was joking about death rates which didn’t help, even though I knew he was joking! The tram was also more scary than I’d expected. I definitely am not a height-loving person!

We had to climb a couple of flights of stairs for the next zipline and once I was attached I freaked out. The instructor was lovely – and so patient. After a while I stepped back and everyone else went ahead of me, with me trying to decide whether to walk down or give it a go. Eventually I went and am so pleased I did. The rest of the lines got better and more fun as I got used to what I was meant to be doing and how it felt. SO special to be flying through the clouds (although surprisingly dirty and cold too!).

There are two lines where people go in pairs at Sky in Monteverde. For these, the heaviest person goes first, so don’t expect to get to decide yourself. At the end there is a choice between a bungee jump and being lowered down to the ground from a platform. I thought I’d struggle with this as well, but it was okay (although I did end up in a heap on the floor at the bottom when I could probably just have stood up as I got near the ground!

I liked that the same staff and group moved through the lines together at Sky. It made it easier for me as we got to know each other. I did feel safe and I’d even like to go and do it again!

We did buy the photo package of the trip, which was $40. There’s no hard-sell though and the price depends on how many people are in your group.

Selvatura Zip Lining

After the success of Sky, and realising we had both a spare day and spare money (from not eating out as often as I’d planned), the kids did Selvatura zip lines as well. This was less tight with the organisation and more of a free-for-all.

We saved a bit of money by booking through WhatsApp with them rather than directly through the website. Transport (in a shared shuttle) was included and overall ziplining at Selvatura is cheaper than the Sky Adventures experience by quite a bit.

On arrival, you have to join a queue and you get kitted up there as a continuous process – there’s no groups despite the allocated time and no keeping together people or staff. Staff are instead stationary on their allocated job and stay there throughout. Once kitted up (helmets with GoPro brackets are free, but there are a limited quantity available), you have a minibus trip to the start point and need to walk quite a bit between lines (there was practically no walking at Sky). For Selvatura, the caribenas go straight on the lines and you can hold onto the rope connecting that to your harness or slow yourself down with a gloved hand on the actual zip line. The kids said this was okay. They did feel rushed at each line though (so I’d have never had time to get over my panic). They also reported that although there were more lines, the lines were shorter and not as spectacularly high above the cloud forest as Sky had been- they generally went through the trees rather than above them. I watched for them at the end of the last long (1km) line and a lot of people weren’t making it to the end – they had to be dragged by an instructor going out to fetch them. This was causing lots of delays, but it also felt a bit of a cheat – to advertise the 1km line as special when probably 75% of the people I watched didn’t actually travel 1km seemed wrong.

We didn’t choose the photo package – it was significantly more expensive than Sky’s and there were fewer photos included.

The kids had a good time but all preferred Sky Advventures. We hadn’t chosen a couple of the other places due to either them not wanting to have to go down a line in ‘superman’ style, or because of not being able to organise it at such late notice, but clearly it’s worth identifying the differences between places and choosing carefully, as they are more different to each other than I’d expected.

Monteverde Frog Pond

We had a rainy afternoon to fill after ziplining so walked over to the Monteverde frog pond. The mixed reviews I’d read hadn’t been too helpful and I’m not sure mine will assist in that respect. Firstly, the advertised prices online were nothing like what we were told they were when we arrived and we had to pay $20 each (no discount for students). The bug displays were interesting but not exclusively Costa Rican (and all dead). A guide turned up to show us around and immediately criticised us for not knowing enough technical Spanish about frogs to follow his tour in Spanish and told us we shouldn’t have planned a visit to a Spanish-speaking country without knowing more of the language. Argh. This view was only replicated in the Adventure Inn in San Jose. Everybody else was accepting and kind with our efforts to communicate in Spanish, and interested that Spanish isn’t a subject that everyone learns in school in the UK.

Anyway, our tour began (in English) and basically was a ‘spot the frog’ game around the whole exhibit. We got some good photos, especially once it got dark and some of the frogs became more active, but the frogs are all in glass enclosures and the glass was dirty, which could have easily been rectified by the staff. We wouldn’t have seen some of these types of frogs ‘in the wild’ based on our other choices of activities in Costa Rica, so I’m glad we went, but would advise others not to have high expectations of the visit!

Equus Equestrian and Sugar Tour

This was another activity that we organised on arrival in Monteverde as I knew we’d need to make a decision depending on transport and the weather. Transport was included for this trip and I liaised with them beforehand to check that I was well within the weight limit for the horses. We were in a group with about 6 others (so 10 of us in total, with two guides) and were allocated horses based on both our size and experience. I appreciated the instructions given as although I know how to ride, these horses were used to riders holding the reins with one hand and being given slightly different signals than I was used to. I think I expected the ride to involve some well manicured paths along hillsides to lovely views and it wasn’t like that at all! The paths were steep (up and down) and rocky. The horses were quite sure-footed but the ride wasn’t an easy one. The guide at the back didn’t seem to like the horses going at their own pace either and kept rushing them, which startled them into cantering when the riders involved weren’t necessarily keen or prepared for that. I was surprised nobody fell off and disappointed that it wasn’t all more relaxed. The ride was a couple of hours long and I wouldn’t have wanted longer – it was starting to get samey by then, although we saw an amazing flock of green macaws flying below us at one point, there wasn’t much other wildlife to see as we were out of the forest.

After the ride, we were taken to the sugar mill and shown how to get sugar cane water out of sugar cane (it was hard work!), and talked through how sugar and sweets are made from that. We got to make our own ‘candy’, with a choice of mint or peanuts being added to it. This part of the tour was done really nicely – and we had some amazingly good banana bread afterwards too!

Don Rodolfo Night Tour

This was booked on our arrival in Monteverde, and again, included transport. The tour was just us plus one lone traveller, so we had plenty of time and the guide was unbelievably knowledgeable. I was hoping to see frogs but although we started approaching the water at one point, didn’t continue to go towards it. We did see a lot of bugs, a porcupine (in a tree!), a lizard and several sleepy birds – no scorpions or tarantulas which surprised me. We could also here coyotes in the distance, which I didn’t like thinking about too much! This is a good reserve and was a well organised final tour of our holiday.