Sure, it’s nice to look at a lovely waterfall, but standing on the edge of a steep cliff and looking over the edge down a 150-foot (45-meter) plunge is another matter entirely. Canyoning is the closest you can get to actually going down a waterfall without taking a barrel over Niagara Falls. And there’s probably no better place to try this than on a canyoning expedition through Costa Rica. Also known as abseiling, the art of canyoning is not unlike rappelling, but here there’s an obvious difference: You get really, really wet, which feels great when the water is cascading down a tropical mountainside on a hot afternoon.
Several tour operators offer canyoning adventures in the majestic mountains of Costa Rica. Most are located in the area around Arenal Volcano or in the mountains northeast of the capital city, San Jose. Call ahead to check availability and dates, as some canyoning tour operators work only with groups of a minimum size or larger.
Expect to spend your day taking a four-wheel-drive vehicle deep into the Costa Rican rainforest, where you’ll begin your hike—most involve a zipline tour of some distance and trekking across rope or cable suspension bridges, adrenaline rushes in their own right. The real fun begins when you meet your first waterfall, at which point you’ll don your safety equipment and start swinging, hopping, and rappelling your way like Tarzan down the face of the falls, across slick rocks and over steep ledges. Some drops are well over 100 feet (30m), and there are usually several falls to conquer before you find yourself at journey’s end.
Besides experiencing the magic of Costa Rica’s lush vegetation and exotic wildlife, expect to be served lunch at the base camp; operators usually throw in some snacks and other amenities on these tours, which last from 4 to 6 hours. Most folks in reasonably good shape can handle this adventure, since the ropes, harnesses, carabiners, and other equipment do most of the work. Most tours will accept beginners, and children of a certain age will usually be welcomed. Of course, you’ll want to wear your water-friendly clothes and shoes, and perhaps bring a change of dry clothes for afterwards. —ML
When to Go: Year-round.