Mike and I make our way up an extremely bumpy gravel road and are surprised to find a large town at Santa Elena / Monteverde. It seems common in Costa Rica for hostels to allow camping for $4-5 a night and we again find a great place with a grassy back yard for us to call home. It’s extremely beautiful and friendly here and along with that comes hordes of tourists. Almost every sign and tour contains the word ‘Eco’, which leaves us wondering exactly what the ecological benefits of an ATV tour are. It’s also much cooler here, in fact I would even use the word ‘cold’ at night, which is a huge relief after the oppressive heat and humidity on the Nicoya.

We’re not too sure how to find the good stuff without paying through the teeth, when we meet Eric, a cool booking agent. He’s just opened up in the same building as the supermarket and is very happy to tell us about a couple of free hikes & activities around town. It’s really refreshing to have someone so down to earth, who is not trying to get every last penny from us and genuinely wants us to enjoy ourselves. He’s as excited are we are and soon we’re bouncing around ready for adventure.

hiking cloudforest 640x480

The hiking road to the cloudforest

Armed with our new knowledge we set out to hike into the cloud forest at the only place in the area this can be done for free. It’s a really steep muddy road that I drive up as far as possible before parking and continuing on foot. Even though it’s much cooler here we are soon sweating like crazy as we climb up and up, right into the clouds. The views from the top are said to be spectacular on a clear day, though we can barely see ten meters through the thick fog which doesn’t diminish the beauty. We move on to the second free hike, and find a massive hollow fig tree that Mike climbs into a long way.

dan cloudforest 640x480

View of the cloudforest

giant fig tree 360x480

The giant Fig tree that Mike climbed into

Before the day is done we make our way out to the San Luis Waterfall, a beautiful 35 minute walk along a river deep in the jungle. The falls themselves are about 90 meters high (300 ft.) and hugely impressive. Swimming below is freezing, and we grin from ear to ear.

waterfall 360x480

The 90 meter San Luis Waterfall

The main attraction in this area is zipline tours, and with Eric’s help we get a deal on the best outfit in town, eXtremo.
With a name like that how could we possibly pass it up?

We are harnessed, helmeted and harnessed again before being given a 5 minute safety talk. We’ll be connected to cables spanning huge distances and leather gloves are our only brakes. If the guide waves frantically, pull down on the cable, we are told. Simple enough.
Before long we are flying from platform to platform, across huge spans at really high speed. It’s amazingly good fun and everyone is really excited. Braking turns out to be pretty simple and soon I have the technique down; come in at suicidal speed and try to burn through my glove in the last meter or two. Adding a look of complete horror on my face terrifies a couple of the guides whose job it is to ‘catch’ me.

dan tree tops 360x480

Hanging out in the treetops

The guides take a liking to me and tell me the best way to ride the tarzan swing is backwards, so off I step, completely unable to see where I am going.

mike zipline 360x480

Mike about to set out on the zipline

mike coming in zipline 360x480

Mike coming in on the zipline

The main event of the day is the “superman” cable where we are harnessed in so we are lying down, superman style. Everyone quickly starts humming the theme song and calls of “Superman!” can be heard echoing all around. The guides let me hold my camera on this one, so I take a video of what it looks like while whizzing along. Really, really fun.

superman zipline 360x480

The superman zipline

It’s really hard to judge my speed in the video, so I did some quick numbers; The cable is 1080 meters long and I complete the trip in 54 seconds, making for an average speed of 72 km/h (45 mph).


11 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    I do remember you feeling rather ill while going through the Blue Mountains in a glass bottomed cable car. Guess things have changed since then! :)

    • Dan says:

      Haha, I don’t think I was ill, just scared out of my wits :)
      Heights don’t bother me any more at all, even when I jump off them.

  2. David says:

    Fantastic video Dan!


  3. Rejeana in Alabama says:

    Great video–I loved the ride!

  4. Aaron says:

    Still the same old Dan… “Stupid Fast!” wasn’t sufficient, you had to calculate your average speed! hahahaha!!! Keep living your dream man! :)

    • Dan says:

      Yep, I can’t help myself. I know it’s crazy when I drop rocks off cliffs to calculate how high I am…
      What are you doing these days man? I hope all is well.

  5. Timmy Abes says:

    There are some mosquitoes in San Jose but is no much different than in the US and the weather is springlike in SJ and its not really hot and not sticky at all

  6. Sick video Dan!!! I did the eXtremo zip lines back in 2007. By far the sickest zip line spot I have ever been too! We stayed at an awesome hostel named La Pension Santa Elena. Owned by a brother and sister from Austin, Texas.

    I’m with you on your comments about Montezuma. Way overhyped. Not that great. Playa Samara was by far the best spot we were at in Costa Rica.

    Shame you already went through Nicoya though. Gonna head down there in the next month or 2.

    Enjoy your travels bro

    • Dan says:

      Hey Michael, we camped out the back of La Pension Santa Elena, a great spot for sure.
      Playa Samara is a very cool place, hopefully it can stay nice and small for years to come.

  7. G&C says:

    Hi Dan,

    Just came across your site. We are doing the same trip you are. In June of 2008 we went to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Now we are in Costa Rica. Next week we are going to Monteverde and was wondering if you can tell us where the free hiking was. Thanks and safe travels.


    • Dan says:

      Hey Cindy,
      Hope you are having an amazing trip :)
      It’s a little hard to explain, the best thing would be to chat to Eric, the guy that hooked us up. Go into the huge supermarket in the middle of Santa Elena (you can’t miss it) and his office is opposite the cash registers (again, you can’t miss it) He’s originally from California, so speaks English and is really friendly and cool.
      He’ll tell you all the good stuff :)
      Enjoy, -Dan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>