Trip Date 05/16/2018
Posted On 06/24/2018 22:14:14
Destinations | Hiking | Cruise | Costa Rica Shore Excursion | Punta Arenas | Puerto Caldera | Zip Lining | Adventure Park
This was the one port day that we actually had fully planned before leaving home thanks to a Cruise Critic Roll Call and a Facebook Group. It would be our one and only "adventure tour" during our 2 1/2 weeks away, and also the most expensive port day of our 15 day cruise aboard the Norwegian Bliss.
If you enjoy adventure, read on for a summary of our privately booked shore excursion which included both zip lining and swimming. While the excursion started at $89.00 per person plus transportation, by participating in a group tour, the per person price can be reduced to $80.10 including transportation (plus tips and optional extras).
Puerto Caldera, Costa RicaThere are two Pacific Ocean cruise ship ports in Costa Rica - Puntarenas and Puerto Caldera. The Norwegian Bliss docked at the larger commercial port located about 9 miles away from Puntarenas. After disembarking in Puerto Caldera, all passengers who were not on either an NCL shore excursion or the NCL transfer to Puntarenas (25 minutes each way; $15.00 round trip per person) were required to board a complimentary shuttle bus. The ten minute ride took us from the dock to the port exit (basically a parking lot filled with taxis, private tour guides, etc.). We had been told to meet our guide (who would be wearing red pants and a white shirt) at the entrance to the pier and as we approached by bus, the red pants were easy to spot!
Transportation to Adventure ParkThe group of 15 that we were a part of, along with 16 others who had reserved either individually or through Viator, boarded two mini buses for a 45 minute drive to the Adventure Park headquarters. Along the way, our guide Walter explained the requirement that all who participate in an "adventure tour" in Costa Rica must sign a waiver. In an effort to save time upon our arrival, our bus load signed the waivers while enroute.
Adventure Park Costa RicaCheck-in took place at the office located on the grounds of Adventure Park, the starting point for a variety of excursions as well as home to Hotel Vista Golfo and a restaurant, El Tucan. With 31 people needing to make final payment for our Canopy Tour over 11 Waterfalls (plus two additional drive-up tourists hoping to join), the check-in process took about 45 minutes - at least the view was nice from the covered picnic area.
With most of the paperwork out of the way, we gathered together to hear some final reminders about our upcoming adventure:
- closed toed shoes must be worn (no flip flops);
- long hair must be tied back into a pony tail;
- bug spray and sun protection were highly encouraged;
- selfie-sticks, GoPro hand grips and any other handheld items would not be permitted while zip lining;
- anyone desiring to swim in the pool should wear a swimsuit; and
- for those who purchased lunch, it would be served upon the group's return to the office location. Busses would depart about 45 minutes after returning to the office, so all without the optional lunch would have time for a restroom break and soda or beer before departing for the ship.
With our extra personal items stored in cubby holes and all of the requirements out of the way, it was finally time for the group of about 10 - 12 guides to assist each of us with putting on our full body harnesses. Once we were all dressed and ready to go, we boarded two off-road vehicles for a rather bumpy 30 minute ride past farmland and through the forest to the starting point for our zip line adventure.
The First 8 Zips . . . Plus 1 RappelWe were finally ready to start our zip lining - well, almost anyway! We still needed more gear added to our harnesses, and of course gloves and a helmet.
The hike from where we exited the off-road vehicles to our starting point was a relatively short one - and the dirt path was fairly flat. We lined up at the platform for the first zip and listened to another set of instructions:
- right arm should be overhead with right hand gliding along on the cable behind you;
- left hand should be holding on to the straps in front of your body;
- legs should be stretched out in front of you with your feet crossed at your ankles;
- as necessary, the guide at the far end of the cable will signal you to slow down or stop braking;
- braking is done by pulling down on the cable with your right hand (the hand behind your head); and
- no need to worry - if you don't brake soon enough, the guides also have an emergency brake that will be used as needed.
One by one, the guides attached our harness to the horizontal traverse cable, provided us with instructions on when (or if) we should brake, and we were off. The first seven cables were used for zip lining followed by cables 8 and 9 used to rappel and zip line respectively. In some cases we immediately connected from one cable to the next and in others we hiked and / or climbed a short distance to reach the platform for the next cable.
We could definitely tell that Walter and the group of guides had a lot of experience. While striving to make sure that everyone was enjoying their adventure, they were also very professional and took their roles as experts very seriously. They paid attention to what was going on and spaced themselves out along the route so that there was always at least one guide on each platform with guests and another guide ready to receive guests following a zip or rappel. One person in our group slipped and ended up with a minor cut on their leg. The guides were very concerned and insisted on opening their first aid kit to clean and wrap the cut.
Relaxing by (or Swimming in) the Natural Waterfall PoolJust after zipping along cable 9, it was time for a break and, as we were in the first half of the group of 33, wait for the second half to catch up. The guides had plastic cups and bottled water which were offered to all. While a small number of people actually got in the water, it was relaxing to just sit near one of the largest waterfalls for a while.
Zip Lining, Rappelling and Crossing a Hanging BridgeOnce the majority of the group had made it to the stopping point, we began our hike back to the platform at the end of cable 9, which was also the starting point for cable 10. Since we were sitting on the rocks relaxing, we missed making it into the first half of the group, and for the last sixteen cables we were near the tail end of the group. We zipped along cables 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 - actually, somewhere between # 10 and # 14 was a hanging bridge that we had to walk across. Again ensuring our safety, one guide attached our harness to the bridge cable and another was at the opposite end to release us.
Our last rappel was along cable 15. Just like the rappel along cable 8, the instructions were a little different than for zip lining:
- right hand should be holding on to the straps in front of your body;
- left arm should be hanging down with your left hand grasping the rope - feeding it through your harness to help you move along;
- at the starting point, legs should remain straight as you walked backwards until reaching the end of the wooden plank or boulder; and
- once "in the air" legs should again be stretched out in front of you.
After the rappel on cable 15, we had ten more zips to go to get us to the final platform. Of the last ten, there was a variety of zip line lengths - there was one really long zip (the longest of the day), there were three middle of the road length zips, and the final six were relatively short and quick.
The views were stunning throughout the entire course, there was a nice variety of cable lengths and a good combination of zip lines, rappels plus the hanging bridge. The occasional hikes from platform to platform were usually pretty easy, with just a few tricky maneuvers required to maintain balance or find a good landing place. We zipped through the Costa Rican rainforest surrounded by mountains and gliding over river canyons, valleys and waterfalls. Even with some very light rain sprinkles, the temperature was comfortable and the air was oh so fresh. We enjoyed nature at its best - from the wide variety of plant life including the blooming bromeliads to our occasional animal sightings. The chirping birds, squealing monkeys and quiet as a mouse sloth . . . plus the ants marching in a long line each carrying a green leaf hundreds of times their size - our memories of this adventure are sure to last a long time.
All Good Times Come to an EndThe duration of the port to port excursion was originally estimated at four to six hours, however our group of 33 was a rather large group. We had departed the port over six hours ago, but there was still time for more - that is for true adrenaline junkies! Some of our 33 person group had chosen to fly like Superman ($15.00 extra per person), so we split into two different groups at this point. The few wanting to do the additional flight departed in one vehicle while the rest of us returned our harnesses, gloves and helmets. Once all of the gear was loaded, we headed back to the Adventure Park office where some had planned to dine and the rest of us would take the opportunity to relax with a cool beverage.
As two busses were required for our large group, an early shuttle was offered to those not staying for lunch. We quickly filled up the bus, and were on our way back to the port. Our return ride was filled with lots of chatter about the excitement of the day!
Although the size of our group ended up being larger than we prefer, Scott and I agreed that, of the four zip lining excursions that we have had the pleasure of joining, this one was hands down the best! The final cost of $80.10 per person after discounts included the crossing of 25 cables (22 by zip lining, 2 by rappelling and 1 by walking across a hanging bridge) and lasted nearly 4 hours - excluding transportation time. Participants on the 4 1/2 hour excursion offered by Norwegian Cruise Lines at a cost of $109.00 per person (which did include a complimentary bottle of water) only had the opportunity to cross 8 cables during their one hour in the forest.
Tips for a Shore Excursion with Adventure Park Costa RicaIf you are considering an excursion with Adventure Park Costa Rica, here's a few tips that will hopefully help with planning for your day:
- While there are other options, consider booking directly with Adventure Park. Although they offer a variety of excursions, I highly recommend the Shore Excursion Puntarenas Zip Line Tour (25 lines over 11 waterfalls). When checking out you can add a note as to whether you wish to add Superman and/or lunch, as well as indicate if you are joining a larger group. (You may want to hold off on your decision to add Superman until after your first 25 zip lines - several people in our group changed their mind as they were more exhausted than anticipated.)
- With a minimum of 4 persons, the cost of the zip line tour was $89.00 per person including round trip transportation from the port. With less than 4, the total added cost for transportation was $45.00 (1 person), $30.00 (2) or $15.00 for three people.
- To get the best price, try to gather a group of at least twelve. Participating in Facebook Groups and/or Cruise Critic Roll Calls are great sources of "meeting" people before your cruise and joining forces to form a larger group which will help everyone get a 10% discount - and the great thing is that each person can reserve and make their down payment individually.
- The one downside of booking direct is that the Adventure Park Costa Rica website was not really user friendly. While it was easy enough to select the shore excursion and add a note about the group that we would be a part of, paying the required deposit was more difficult. Our deposit was pre-calculated based on a tour for two people needing transportation from the port. There was no option to change the deposit amount since we were part of a group of 15. As we were so close to our excursion date, we opted to pay the larger deposit knowing that we would pay a smaller final payment in just over two weeks. If we were reserving months in advance, that would probably have been less desirable.
- Confirm your pick-up point and final payment options in advance. (Their American Express terminal was not working on the day of our tour, however Visa and MasterCard seemed to process without any problems.)
- Although a few people carried small backpacks, it is recommended that you bring only what you truly need and don't bring valuables. There are some cubicles in a room next to the office for leaving shorts, towels, etc., however there are no lockers.
- Don't forget your camera or GoPro - but no selfie sticks, hand grips or other handheld items. I had my camera on a strap around my neck, Scott had his on a strap on his wrist, and most people with GoPros had them attached to their helmets.
- If you plan to swim, consider wearing only your swimsuit and a cover up. We initially planned to swim however, when we got to the optional swimming hole, we both changed our minds. Since we both wore shorts over our swimwear, we would have had to wear our shorts over wet suits for the remainder of the excursion.
- Before buying a bottled drink after your tour, confirm that you will have time to drink it! When Adventure Park offered those without lunch reservations the option to return on an earlier bus, many people had to leave their drinks behind as the glass bottles get recycled.
Cruising through the Panama CanalIf your ship will be transiting through the Panama Canal, take a peek at our post titled The Inaugural Norwegian Bliss Panama Canal Crossing. We were pretty excited during our history making event - the first mega cruise ship to cross through the new canal.
Adventure ExcursionsWhat type of adventure tours do you most often seek out, and why do you enjoy them?
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