Canopy tours on suspension or hanging bridges (puentes colgantes) are one of the very best ways to explore nature in Costa Rica.
Bridges are invariably located in some of the best wildlife refuges and national rain and cloud forest reserves and entrance fees contribute to the continued protection, improvement and expansion of these natural areas. The trails between bridges are usually excellent and improvements like paving blocks, steps and culverts are common. Additionally the hanging bridges themselves often span valleys, gorges or ravines that would require long steep climbs down and up on a normal hiking trail.
Although the trails are usually much easier than the ones through the back country of Costa Rica’s national parks they still require a reasonable level of fitness. Not all of the hills and valleys are eliminated and some suspension bridge trails are 3-4 kilometers (2-2.5 miles) long.
Not only are these tours one of the least strenuous ways to get out and explore wild places but they can also be very economical. A full guided tour and lunch at a large reserve with a dozen or more bridges will probably cost about the same amount as a zip-line, rafting or other tour. However, a few suspension bridges are sometimes included in the price of eco-lodge accommodations (Tirimbina and Heliconias Lodge are two of the best) and self guided walking tours at nearly any bridge location are typically about half the cost of a guided visit.
A great reason to stay at a Lodge that has bridges in their own private reserve is easy access. At Tirimbina for example the largest bridge is about a five minute walk from the rooms so it’s easy to spend half an hour before breakfast or after dinner observing wildlife during the prime viewing hours near sunrise and sunset.
Even better is the possibility of getting into the rainforest canopy at night. Two of the most amazing night walks we’ve ever taken were on hanging bridge trails. As far as we know the only two places to try it are Heliconias (self guided) or Tirimbina (guide required).
The two smaller tours we mentioned above are not. Tirimbina is located along the Sarapiquí river about an hour drive directly north of San José and Heliconias is between Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes in Guanacaste about 40 minutes east of the Liberia airport.
One of the few hanging bridge sites on the Pacific Coast is also one of our favorites. Rainmaker reserve is located between Jacó and Manuel Antonio and has beautiful waterfalls where you can cool off after viewing wildlife on the three bridges along a three kilometer trail.