I made the decision before I set foot in Costa Rica and after reading online about the Arenal Hanging Bridges. The website promised that from the complex of trails and bridges through the Costa Rican jungle that was developed for the purpose of ecotourism, I was to admire the rainforest from the ground (like a jaguar), from an average height (like a monkey), and from the tops of the tallest trees (like an eagle). They had me at jaguar. Of course, I still had this issue called acrophobia to contend with, plus my fear of strong winds, unstable surfaces, free falls and bouts of vertigo, all of which have kept me, throughout the years, from enjoying any activity that requires climbing more than two flights of stairs. Then again, I was at home, on my couch after two glasses of wine, and feeling particularly daring when I made the decision to face my fears. Right there and then, I refused to live under their tyranny, under the anvil of irrational panic and paralyzing acrophobia. I’m an adult, for Goodness’ sake! I had enough of being afraid. I made reservations and started to imaging how cool the wind was going to feel lapping my hair as I, triumphantly, walk across the 16 bridges hanging over the Costa Rican rainforest.
I did my research. The Arenal Hanging Bridges were designed according to the highest standards of safety, were easily accessible, and the civil engineers who designed them, used gazillions of aluminium, galvanized steel, and concrete; all that hard stuff that hard stuff is made of.
This is the bit of information I did not get from the Visit Costa Rica website: out of the 16 bridges, only TEN are regular or static (static as in, they don’t shake); the other SIX, are suspension bridges (suspension as in, they are suspended in the air and sway, I mean, they rock with every step you take.) And as if the bridges stability, or lack thereof, weren't enough for this Colombian bundle of fears, the engineers, in a fit of meanness, designed the bridges in different lengths: the static (the safe ones) were short: anywhere between 25 and 75 feet. The suspension bridges (the scary ones) were a lot longer than their affixed-to-the ground-at several-points counterparts: between 167 and 340 feet.
Oh, one more thing, the tallest suspension bridge is about 200 feet high. A fact that I discovered as I was about to start crossing it.
The other bit of information the website left out was that you can walk the complex of trails and bridges only in one direction, which makes me think that maybe the engineers behind this marvel also designed IKEA. This one-directional design means that once you reach the eagle-view bridges, you just have to put on your big girl panties and soldier on. No way out. No room for chickens. Grow a pair, grab hold of those flimsy handrails, and pray there are no children around bouncing on the bridge. Or wind. Or other tourists in front of you stopping in the middle of the bridge to snap a picture
Was it worth it? Absolutely! The scenic splendor from the bridges is incomparable, the biological diversity is mind blowing, and the exuberance of this pristine rainforest awe inspiring. Now, is my acrophobia less paralyzing after Costa Rica? Absolutely not!! Yes, I faced my fears. My acrophobia and I had several stare downs as I walked atop the jungle, and I’m not ashamed to admit that she won every single one of them, hands down.