Accustomed to urban life after two weeks in Costa Rica’s central valley, Ian and I were eager for a nature adventure. We set off for Volcán Arenal, a volcano situated among a beautiful rainforest and mountain landscape, near the developing tourist town of La Fortuna.
Our hotel — booked, as usual, through Airbnb — had the best view I’ve ever seen from a hotel room. A list of nearby tourist activities included kayaking, a chocolate tour, rappeling down waterfalls… there was a full page of options. With one day allotted for adventure activities, we chose a ziplining tour. (Neither of us had ever been!) Watch the video here!
Video: North to South (Diana Southern and Ian Norman) go hiking over hanging bridges, ride a gondola through the rainforest, and try ziplining for the first time with Sky Adventures near Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica.
Our Review of Sky Adventures Arenal
As you can tell from our video, we had a fantastic time. Below are details from each part of our Sky Adventures experience.
At $109 per person, our Sky Adventures combo tour included:
- Hanging Bridges (Sky Walk)
- Gondola (Sky Tram)
- Ziplining (Sky Trek)
Sky Adventures Sky Walk (Hanging Bridges) Review
We started our tour with Sky Walk at 7am. It literally started raining right at the beginning of our tour, which continued for about 45 minutes. We made the best of it, though, and it was A-OK. I’m SO glad we brought our rain gear, though, which I’d grabbed at the last second as we were rushing out of the hotel. We’d have been pretty wet and miserable without it.
The Sky Walk tour lasted for about 3 hours and included 5 hanging bridges which were all well-constructed and safe, though they do sway and bounce you around a bit with several people walking on them at once. The rest of the walk is hiking through the rainforest. In contrast to the “mostly flat” walk Sky Adventures offers at Monteverde, the Sky Walk at Arenal has common ups and downs and was a bit muddy at parts due to the recent rain. Thus, the Arenal Sky Walk is best for the physically fit. There is an option to turn around at a certain point in the tour if you want to stick to the easier part of the hike, but you’ll miss the waterfalls if you do. The highlight of the walk for me was stopping at the base of two waterfalls! The bridges were cool, too.
Our tour guide, Minor, had a good sense of humor and pointed out notable plants and animals along the way. We heard howler monkeys when the wind blew and even spotted one way up in the trees.
Look for footage from our Sky Walk experience at the beginning of the video at the top (0:04-0:54).
Note: As an individual tour, the adult price for Sky Walk was $35.
Sky Adventures Sky Tram (Gondola) Review
Perhaps I was too caught up in the excitement of ziplining to care much about the gondola ride, but this part wasn’t that exciting for me. I was also somewhat distracted tinkering with the GoPro we’d rented.
On its own, I do think Sky Tram would be an enjoyable experience for anyone not wanting to engage in too much physical activity but still see a nice high-up view of Arenal Volcano. The ride took about 10 minutes to get to the top and again felt completely safe.
The views from the deck at the top were pretty awesome, but not as good as we’d see while ziplining.
Look for footage from our Sky Tram experience in the video at the top (0:55-0:57 & 1:02-1:09).
Note: As an individual tour, the adult price for Sky Tram was $44.
Sky Adventures Sky Trek (Ziplining) Review
Hands down, this was the best part of our combo tour. I’m generally afraid of heights, and somehow the ziplining wasn’t scary for me at all. My first run was absolutely breathtaking; I remember thinking I was too excited and amazed to be scared.
Since you can’t very well start ziplining without getting up to the first platform, the Sky Trek experience includes the Sky Tram gondola ride, but just on the way up. You’ll zipline your way back to the parking lot.
After stowing our stuff (cameras, backpack, my purse, etc.) in a free locker, we were quickly geared up and ready to go. Sky Adventures staff fitted us with a harness and trolley, helmet and gloves. Since we wanted to rent a GoPro to document our first zipline experience for this blog post here, we next swapped out my helmet for one with a helmet harness and GoPro. Then we headed out for a 5-minute lesson on proper zipline form and how to brake when nearing the end.
We took the 10-minute Sky Tram ride up and then got ready for our first zipline (the “training” zipline). With about 15-20 people in our group, it took about 20 minutes to get everyone to the next platform. Another group of about 15-20 followed us. As we got going, the wait time decreased at subsequent platforms. The wait wasn’t boring, though. We had fun watching others in our group coming in from the last one and getting started on the next one.
All in all, there were 7 ziplines, including the “training” line we did first and the relatively short cable at the end which took us back to the parking lot. Five long rides was the right amount, though. (Ziplining isn’t the most comfortable activity; my back hurt where the harness rested on the back of my hips.)
Look for footage from our Sky Trek experience in the video at the top (0:55-end).
Note: As an individual tour, the adult price for Sky Trek was $71.
What we wore and took with us ziplining
Ian wore a t-shirt and lightweight cargo shorts with zippered pockets on the sides, so he took his cell phone, which came in handy for a few quick photos on the platform. I wore a tank top and leggings and had only sunglasses with me, which worked nicely protecting my eyes from the wind. I somewhat regretted not bringing my light jacket; it got a little chilly up on the platforms whenever the clouds rolled in and wind blew.
Note: I would NOT recommend taking anything loose unless you can secure it completely and comfortably in a zippered pocket. I would HIGHLY recommend having someone in your group wear shorts/pants/jacket with a zippered pocket, though. While a big bulky camera isn’t allowed, a pocket-sized cell phone will save you money on photos.
What was GREAT about Sky Adventures:
- a THRILLING experience (zipline)
- professional, knowledgable, and friendly staff
- well organized (for the most part, see below*)
- fantastic views of Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake (zipline and gondola)
- only about 10 minutes from the Arenal Volcano National Park entrance
- able to book just one day before
- close-up waterfall views (hanging bridges)
- free lockers
- GoPro rental available, no charge if you don’t like your videos
What BUMMED ME OUT about our experience:
- So. Many. Bug bites. We should have brought bug spray.
- no cameras allowed on the zipline tour (we took a small cell phone in a zipped pocket)
- pricey photos and videos ($10/photo; $42/GoPro footage on memory card)
- Ziplining is kinda painful (but not nearly enough to skip it)!
- one experience with miscommunication* (see below for explanation)
Note: It’s more affordable if you combine the three tours at $93 (without lunch), but if you need to save money or time or don’t want to do either the ziplining or the hanging bridges, you can book Sky Walk ($35), Sky Tram ($44) and Sky Trek ($71) individually.*There was confusion over the whole photo purchasing process — a breakdown in communication between the staff and participants — which would really be my only complaint about the whole thing. Here’s what happened: At the end of our fifth zipline, a photographer snapped photos of us as we came in, and then another gentleman showed them to us on a computer monitor, asking which ones we liked. He never mentioned the price, nor that we were expected to buy them if we pointed out the ones we liked; he only told us that we could pick them up at the end of our tour. I assumed the photos would cost something, but I NEVER got the impression that I was entering into a binding agreement to purchase by pointing out the photos that I liked. When we began looking at our photos after our tour, however, it became apparent that we were expected to purchase them. The girl handed us our photos, and while we were looking through our four photos, I asked her how much they were. $10 each. Yikes. As Ian and I discussed maybe just getting two instead of the four in front of us, she asked “didn’t the man tell you how the photos worked?” to which we replied that he’d only told us they’d be ready at the bottom. “Are you sure?” was her response. I was taken a little aback — it seemed like she didn’t believe us — WTF? Since the last job I worked was in the guest services and tourism industry, I understood her frustration, especially since her co-worker should have made it clear to us how it worked. But I do think she could have handled it better. I wondered if perhaps we’d been the exception — maybe he’d only forgotten to tell us about the “if we print, you buy” deal — but everyone else who approached the photo window after us had the same reaction, asking how much they cost and under no impression they were obligated to buy them.
Overall, I give Sky Adventures two thumbs up. Be ready for anything; bring your bug spray, rain gear, and sunscreen, and you’ll be in for a fantastic adventure!
Discounts and Student Pricing for Sky Adventures
Don’t forget your student ID for a student discount at Sky Adventures. The website is also currently advertising a 5% discount if you book through their website with the code adventure5. Ticket and package info here.
Want to see more fun stuff from our trip to Costa Rica? View our other Costa Rica posts here.
About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.
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