It's Hip to Zip

IN HIS FAMOUS 1897 book The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells wrote about traveling through the jungle while suspended by a cable. What seemed like fantasy in the 19th century is a vacation mustdo in the 21st. Within the past decade, zip line (aka “canopy tour”) adventures have opened up miles of wild frontier — mostly jungles — to the adventure traveler. For this roundup we asked our intrepid readers to share their favorite courses.


Despite having visited the islands dozens of times, Grant Griffith of Sausalito had never been to the Hilo side of the Big Island until last fall. “I had heard about the new zip line above a 250-foot waterfall at Akaka Falls and had to experience it for myself,” he says. And he wasn’t disappointed. The newest zip line tour on the island is run by the first zip line company to set up shop there — Skyline Eco- Adventures, based on Maui. “My girlfriend was nervous about the heights,” Griffith says. “She didn’t want her photo taken in the harnesses, but by the last ride she was loving it.” This course has seven different crossings and takes about three hours.

“When we travel to the islands, I aim for the water but my daughters would both rather head to the trees,” says Lynn Reynolds of Kentfield. During a quick trip to Maui last summer, Reynolds’ 13-year-old begged to go zip lining. “Because of our time constraint,” says Reynolds, “we opted for the Haleakala course,” another Skyline offering; it combines a short hike and five lines — including one of the fastest in the U.S. “The two-hour adventure was the ideal compromise, allowing me some time on the water that afternoon,” she says. Next time they will try Skyline’s Kaanapali course, an eight-line course over waterfalls and lush valleys that lasts more than three hours and includes lunch.

Costa Rica

It was the height of the lines that the Brunner family most remembers from their 2003 trip to Costa Rica. Still, “what people don’t tell you,” remembers Bronwyn Brunner, “is they have you hog-tied, in a helmet and harnessed, so you are completely safe as you fl y through the air, but whenever you come into the landing platform it’s your back end that’s leading the way.” Despite a few embarrassing landings, she agrees that the overall adventure was a thrill and made for a fun-filled lifetime memory for her and her family. Dream Forest Canopy in the Arenal region offers one of the longest courses and some of the highest lines — up to 150 feet above the forest floor. Since the Brunners have visited, the company introduced a Superman Ride, which secures the rider facedown in a full-body harness (think superhero), eliminating those awkward landings.

Dominican Republic

The Bakhtiari family of Mill Valley could be considered zip line aficionados — they have zipped in California and abroad — so when they went on a family vacation to the Punta Cana region of the Dominican Republic in 2008, they didn’t hesitate to sign up for a canopy tour, with tour operators Bavarro Runners. “It was a beautiful course through remote valleys and jungles,” Leigh Bakhtiari recalls. “I really liked that the resting places were large metal platforms; I felt very safe.” That safety was tested when a thunderstorm descended on the area, but the alert staff took extra steps to make absolutely sure all seven family members made it back to base camp unscathed. The two-mile tour includes 16 platforms and passes through the Cordillera Oriental mountain range.


The Berniers of Corte Madera owned a second home on Lake Michigan near Boyne Mountain in the northwest part of the state for many years and loved to visit in both summer and winter. Once they discovered the zip line course at Boyne Mountain resort, they had a reason to come back regardless of season. “We whet our zip line appetite on the smaller course on Boyne Mountain,” says Gregg Bernier. Once they feel comfortable flying through the air, the family reserves a spot on the Boyne Mountain Zipline Adventure Tour, featuring ten lines that can reach speeds of up to 25 mph. “We love that the course was on the ski mountain and took us through areas that we’d otherwise not be able to see,” Bernier says. “Not that we had that much time to look around as we zoomed through the trees.”

Paso Robles

Maryann Stansfield took the plunge on the Margarita Adventures Zip Line Canopy Tour at the historical Santa Margarita Ranch in Paso Robles. “I was enthralled with the adventure of it all. The tour took us through about three or four private ranch gates to get to the zip lines. No one was around for miles, just cattle and sprawling vineyards as we wound up this mountain road to the first line,” says the San Luis Obispo resident. “It was my first time on a zip line, and I was a little scared, but I couldn’t have chosen a better location. It was thrilling.” The tour included four zip line routes over oak trees, valleys and vineyards, covering more than 3,000 feet, and ended with wine tasting at Ancient Peaks Winery. “I would recommend it to anyone and can’t wait to do it again!”

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Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.