World’s Best Zip Lines

Traveler intern Daniel Bortz straps in to find zip line adventures for all riders, all occasions, across the globe.

A pair of feet dangles over a terrain of active volcanoes, spurts of lava seeping out and flowing down the sides. Another pair sails through a thick forest, abundant foliage on both sides, breaking to an open landscape of mountains and streams. The wind gusts against your face, your body gliding smoothly against a backdrop of fuzzy blue and gray skies.

Views like these can be found along some of the world’s best zip lines. Riders, equipped with only a harness and helmet, coast through the sky, glimpsing an unobstructed view of the world below. Originally a kid’s contraption used in playgrounds and backyard treehouses, zip lines have become popular activities for tourists, like the zip line rides long offered to vacationers through Costa Rica‘s rich canopy.

But more recently, a new class of zip lines has emerged, one with steeper, taller, and altogether more intense courses cropping up across the globe — transforming this once basic cable and pulley system into an adventure, speed and suspense to match. The routine is the same: attach yourself to a metal cable and then let the zip line do all the work. Only now the starting point is much higher, like the 918-foot tall zip line in Sun City, South Africa. Surprisingly, these zip lines are still low risk, statistically safer than driving in a car or flying on an airplane.

So, with my nerves slightly settled and harness tightly fastened, I’ve set out to find some of the world’s best zip lines.

World’s Steepest | Adrenaline Junkie’s Delight

WHERE: Sun City, South Africa

From the top, you can barely make out the landing point. At more than a mile long and with speeds of up to 100 miles an hour, this South African zip line claims to be the world’s fastest and tallest. Riders often go down in pairs, gliding headfirst in tandem harnesses as they tear through the sky. But don’t worry: a wing the size of a small kite is fastened between your feet, keeping your legs still and your body straight to land on target.

Canopy Cruiser | Family Affair
WHERE: Monteverde, Costa Rica

Synonymous for its zip line tours since their introduction in the 1970s, Costa Rica boasts a unique opportunity to see rainforest wildlife firsthand. Nestled among some of the country’s oldest trees, these zip lines lift riders high above the forest floor, rising over 200-foot trees as they zip from one platform to the next. Along the way, make friends with the monkeys, toucans, and scarlet macaws who call the woods home. Night tours for views of the forest’s nocturnal creatures and active volcanoes are also available.

Big Island Breezer | Romantic Couples’ Retreat
WHERE: North Kohala, Hawaii

Kohala’s northern coastline offers pristine views of Hawaii’s natural reserves. Enjoy a smooth, relaxing ride above endless mosses, crystal-blue water full of tropical fish, and ohia lehuas, indigenous trees with large, twisting branches and red blossoms. Fresh guava and ginger combine to create a rich, fresh scent, further complemented by bird songs delivered by the island’s tropical inhabitants.

Mountain Climber | Friends in High Places
WHERE: Salida, Colorado

Gather the gang and head to Colorado for sweeping vistas of the high desert and open canyon. There’s a bed of hot springs formations and a healthy supply of colorful boulders — this is the Rockies, after all. And bald eagles, bighorn sheep, and bears are just a few of the canyon residents you’ll pass while traversing 2,000 feet aboard six separate zip lines. It’s a three-hour journey through a region marked by lime kiln ruins from the 1890s and dramatic cliffs, some 300 million years old.

The Great Zip | History and Adventure
WHERE: Simatai, China

It winds up and down, through grasslands and plateaus, over mountain ranges and across deserts. Nearly 5,500 miles long, the Great Wall of China dates to the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. and remains the world’s largest man-made structure. So, after learning about more than 2,000 years of history, a carefree ride on the zip line complements a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors walking the wall in Simatai whip over a large river, riding from one end of Simatai to the other, snagging views of the Great Wall behind.

Photo: Courtesy of Costa Rican Trails


  1. […] these are just the options in the US! Consult National Geographic Traveler and Travel+Leisure for international zipline […]

  2. Parrott Pro
    United States
    June 12, 2013, 12:21 pm

    This old article needs an update! I recently rode at The Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours in Ocala Florida. That place should be on the list of the best. I found them from watching E! Network, it’s where Ryan Lochte went zip lining on his show. You zip past cliffs and over huge lakes…it’s awesome! Not far from Orlando (aka Disney World). Guides are super funny, super long zip lines, I can’t say enough about the Canyons!

  3. Vagabond
    January 28, 2013, 8:18 am

    If you’re ever in Palawan Island (Philippines), try Ugong Rock, the fastest zip line in the Philippines; only 21 seconds for 350 meters which converts to 37.5 mph. The scenery is breathtaking !

  4. Eugenio heer
    Samana, Dominican Republic
    January 22, 2013, 11:35 am

    I need to share a great zip line tour in dominican republic. More than 7.000 fts of lines. 400 ft of height. Check out . At the top of a mountain there is a pirate ship where you have to walk the plank to jump! Adrenaline!!

  5. […] el parque entrega junto con la entrada, y sin coste adicional. Con información de Discovery, National Geographic y TelegraphComentarios: Sé el primero301Posts RelacionadosUna historia de pelosPeligros de la […]

  6. Trotsky
    Rayong, Thailand
    October 31, 2012, 8:29 pm

    Fresh vid of a great ride .. but out here they don’t call it zip line, they call it, cable ride!

  7. Sharon
    Naples, Italy
    October 18, 2012, 8:57 pm

    Il Volo Dell’Angelo (Flight of the Angels) in Basilicata, Italy is great… it’s one of my favorite zip flights…

  8. Sharon
    Naples, Italy
    October 18, 2012, 8:51 pm

    Il Volo Dell’Angelo in Basilicata, Italy, should also be mentioned… it’s one of the best for height…

  9. Trotsky
    Rayong, Thailand
    September 21, 2012, 3:30 pm

    This one is fun and the Flying People of Thailand are making some pretty ok videos .. least me thinks!

  10. Ritesh
    Pokhara, Nepal
    August 8, 2012, 10:21 am

    Nepal has got the worlds steepest and fastest zip line………

  11. Craig Christianson
    Denver, CO
    June 21, 2012, 3:55 pm

    We did 3 different canopy tours in Costa Rica when we visited in March. Our favorite was Titi Canopy in Manuel Antonio. Very fun guides and lots of wildlife to be seen.

  12. […] be sick of the World Cup already. But South Africa’s still worth a visit. Sun City is home to the world’s most exhilarating zip line…over a mile long at speeds of over 100mph. Alternatively, if you just want to see some big […]

  13. charlie
    Puerto Rico
    June 12, 2011, 11:50 pm

    Toro Verde zipline has the beast 4,754 feet long over 823 high the flight of the pheonix and others great place the best in the island. if u travel to P.R. go there you will love it.

  14. Zipline Tours
    January 29, 2011, 1:11 am

    No doubt about the quality of this zipline, In India you can also enjoy the same with flyingfox India.

  15. harry
    July 15, 2010, 6:28 pm

    Are there any ziplining places in New Zealand

  16. rita washko
    June 25, 2010, 1:47 am

    My medical team visited Captain Zipline and we flew 40 mph very easliy. It only looks hard and anybody can do it. Flying 40 mph beside huge cliffs with the pully singing a travel ballad and the higher pitched one can go the fastest to the bottom while enjoying rocky scenery.
    They are negotiating with the Maricopa County Park System near Phoenix at Lake Pleasant Park and Estrella Mountain Regional Park to build some tours there.
    Captain Zipline was one of the first tours in the US back in early 2005. Voted as one of the most extreme adventure destinations on the North American Continent back in 2007 by “Men’s Fitness Magazine”.