If there’s any activity that really makes you feel like you’re Superman (or Superwoman), it’s ziplining: You may be attached to and suspended by a cable, but it really does let you feel like you’re flying through the air. Before visiting Toro Verde Adventure Park in Puerto Rico this summer, I’d been ziplining once before, in the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. It was a breathtaking experience that blew me away, and the image of the green hillsides down below as I rushed past on the zipline will be seared into my mind forever as one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. So naturally, when I got to Toro Verde, I had high expectations.
Located in Orocovis, the park is relatively close to El Yunque National Forest, about an hour’s drive from San Juan or 1.5 hours drive from Old San Juan. It’s relatively new, and there are apparently more miles of cable here than in any other park in the world – promising hours of entertainment flying above the mountaintops. And while it looks scary, ziplining isn’t scary at all – believe me, there were little kids doing it both when I went to Toro Verde in Puerto Rico and again when I went ziplining in Costa Rica. It certainly is an adrenalin rush, and it does look intimidating at first (especially when you realise just how far up you are), but as long as you go to a reputable place to do it in you’ll be totally fine. After all, you’re totally strapped in on secure cable wires, even if you are flying through the air!
We opted for the package that included 7-8 ziplines plus The Beast (aka La Bestia). The Beast is apparently the second-longest zipline in the world, and is really something special because of the way you fly horizontally while you’re on it. It was a little expensive - US $120 per person after my friend negotiated a minimal group discount (normally the Zipline + Beast package would cost US $125 per person), but it’s worth every penny. Especially when you consider the amount of maintenance, staff, training, equipment, and all the important things they need to keep the place running smoothly and safely! All of the packages also include a snack meal (a sandwich or hot dog, packet of crisps and a drink), and considering how long it takes by the time you drive there, sign in, pay, grab a bite, strap up, wait for your group to depart, hike over to the first zipline, do all of your ziplines then wander back and wriggle out of the gear, it’s a pretty reasonable price for half a day spent in unforgettable surroundings and doing something unique and absolutely thrilling.
There’s also a canopy walk and rock-climbing available at the park, but we didn’t bother with those options. As for the zipline? It was more than exciting enough! I have to say, personally I preferred ziplining in Costa Rica the tiniest bit more just because doing it in a cloud forest with the mysterious mists made it just that much more atmospheric, but that doesn’t mean Toro Verde wasn’t exciting – it was an enormously fun way to spend the day. The views were breathtaking, the zipline systems were well-paced, and the staff were fantastic: friendly, helpful, efficient, and made sure nobody was terrified before going ahead. They’re also fluent in English, so you’ve got nothing to worry about if you don’t speak Spanish. A word of warning though? Wear closed-toe shoes! I thought firmly strapped-on sandals would be fine, but after being told that only closed-toe shoes would be accepted, I ended up having to wear my beautiful Charles Philip Shanghai loafers since they were the only closed-toe pair I had on me. My bf mocked me for being the only person to go Ziplining with a pair of designer loafers on, but hey, they worked out fine (and are still in perfect condition, I might add) and I got to have the most chic footwear there so there was a silver lining eh? Haha!
But the part that made it truly unforgettable and one of the best adventure experiences I’ve ever had was definitely The Beast. Affectionately nicknamed “Superman” by the staff (because of the horizontal, headfirst position you fly in… much like Superman, without the power-arm sticking out ahead of you anyway), they claim it’ll make you feel like you’re flying through the sky as freely as a bird – and you really do feel like it. It’s 4,745 feet long, and you can apparently reach speeds of up to 60mph on it – pretty impressive, eh? Unfortunately, if you’re less than 4 feet tall, you’re not allowed to go on The Beast, nor are you allowed to go on it if you’re too light, aka weighing less than 120 pounds. One of our friends wasn’t allowed to go on it because she’s quite slender and was deemed too light to do it, but that certainly wasn’t an issue I had after all the empanadas I’d been eating at the SoFo food festival days before, hah!
To go on The Beast, you’re required to wear an absolutely hideous outfit that makes you look like an orange caterpillar of sorts. I say caterpillar because I really felt like I resembled the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland when I was in it (yes, the “a, e, i, o, u” caterpillar that smokes what can only be shisha). It’s hard to walk in – you waddle, basically – and it does feel an awful lot like you’ve been cocooned by fabric, but once you’re up in the air and zipping along (no pun intended) you’re grateful for the protection it gives you from the wind whipping by. While it does go relatively fast, it’s surprisingly peaceful and much less intimidating than a regular zipline (in my opinion anyway). I think it’s because you’re so securely strapped in, and the way the harness works means that you don’t have to worry about keeping your body at the most streamlined angle like you would on a regular zipline (nor do you have to worry about keeping your gloved fingers squished into the hooks as you would on a regular zipline). Instead, you’re free to simply enjoy the incredible views below. Unlike the regular ziplines, you also don’t have to hoist yourself to the end if you get stuck either – and trust me, that’s a lot harder than it looks if you’ve got puny girl-arms like I do! On The Beast, if you get stuck the staff come out and get you, reeling you in behind them. Fortunately, I didn’t get stuck, and I was the first one to go on The Beast and arrive at the landing point out of our group of ten, which I must confess made me feel rather proud. There were some moments where I angled my head a little too straight-on and the full force of the wind whacked me in the face (I was going pretty fast after all!), and I found it a little hard to breathe (not to mention unpleasant), but a slight shift of the head and the wind ricocheted off my helmet again so I was free to enjoy the view (and you know, breathe). And wow, what a view… Many of my friends attempted to take photos as they flew on The Beast, but my camera battery was dying (fail, I know) so I’ll just have to remember the pictures in my head instead.
By the time the park closed (at 5pm if I’m not mistaken), we were exhausted and happy, smiles plastered all over our faces lighting up our wind-swept hair. I can’t wait to go back and do it again someday.