There’s something too cutesy about the local Kiwi name for a zip line—a flying fox—that doesn’t quite get at the exhilarating experience of racing through Gravity Canyon at speeds ranging between 80 and 100 mph. Best of all, you’ll be doing the whole thing facedown, Superman-style, either by yourself or in tandem with one or two of your friends.
Tucked into the westernmost stretches of the Amazon rainforest, Peru’s Amazonia Expeditions eco-resort is very remote. But the four-hour speedboat journey from the airport in Iquitos is well worth the trip: The Amazon’s longest zip line canopy tour is affiliated with the only tour company allowed to operate within the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve, renowned for its record-breaking biodiversity. On this zip line, you have the unique ability to control your speed, so you can slow down, speed up or stop altogether if you see a great wildlife photo op.
$1,295 for eight days all-inclusive; perujungle.com
You’ll have to head to Royal Caribbean’s private Haitian island to try out the longest overwater zip line in the world. Starting 500 feet above the beaches of Labadee on Dragon’s Breath Rock, this 2,600-foot zipline glides you over the turquoise waters of Buccaneers’ Bay at speeds of 40 to 50 mph, landing you safely on the soft white sand on the other side.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can combine a zip line adventure with a history lesson. Opened this June, the brand-new Flight of the Gibbon is perfectly situated for both in the Angkor Archaeological Park, a 154-square-mile UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the famed Angkor Wat temple. The course boasts ten zip lines, four sky bridges, and 21 platforms high up in the trees, from which you’ll be able to spot reintroduced gibbons.
Many zip lines claim to give riders a bird’s-eye view, but few deliver on the promise as well as La Bestia ("The Beast") at the Toro Verde Adventure Park, an hour outside of San Juan. You’ll be strapped face-down into a special harness, allowing you to glide, arms outstretched, exactly like a bird—or Superman. And you’ll reach superhuman heights along the way: At 853 feet above the jungle floor, La Bestia is considered one of the highest zip lines in the world.
Built in a former limestone pit mine that stretches for 100 acres under Louisville, Mega Zips at Mega Cavern is the first and only underground zip line in the world. These mines were dug in the 1930s and operated for almost 42 years, leaving behind 17 miles of corridors in deep, man-made caverns with ceilings over 90 feet tall in places. The guided tour lasts two hours, with narration about mining and geology and rides on six different zip lines, including a racing zip.
Costa Rica has become synonymous with the sport of zip lining—in fact, it caught on about 30 years earlier in Central America than it did in the U.S. So it’s no wonder that the country is home to the longest zip line canopy tour in the world. At about 7 miles long and boasting 21 separate runs, Miss Sky Canopy Tour in the Pacific Coast province of Guanacaste is nearly twice as long as its nearest rival. More importantly, the course weaves through a lush tropical landscape of waterfalls, mountain ridges and forested valleys.
Located just two hours north of New York City on scenic Hunter Mountain, the SkyRider Zipline Tour is downright massive. Start by taking a chair lift ride up into the Catskills, and then begin your exhilarating descent. You’ll race down over 4.6 miles of cables—the longest canopy tour in America—and reach top speeds of up to 50 mph. The most thrilling part? At your highest point, you’ll be a heart-stopping 600 feet above the valley floor below!
Attached to a rigid rail system instead of a cable, but still using only gravity to guide motion, the Rattlesnake is the country’s first zip line roller coaster. Launching from a 65-foot platform, the coaster follows an unpredictable series of dips, jumps and sharp turns, reaching speeds of up to 20 mph. Full-day admission also gives you access to five other zip line adventures, including the Zipline Safari and the Cypress Canopy Cycle, which allows you to pedal a bike-like contraption suspended from a high-tension steel cable.
If you’ve ever dreamed of flying like a Nordic ski jumper but don’t quite have the chops to pull it off gracefully, strap into the Xtreme ZipRider, built alongside the K120 jump hill at Utah Olympic Park. At 1,500 feet long and with a vertical drop of 500 feet, you’re going downhill fast, with top speeds of up to 60 mph. And with an average grade of 34%, this line ranks as the steepest in America—and one of the steepest in the world.
Considering their current popularity, it’s hard to imagine that zip lines didn’t make their way to America’s shores until 2002. The country’s first commercial zip line adventure was established a little over a decade ago by a father and son team on Maui’s Haleakala Ranch, on the way up to massive Haleakala volcano. The two-hour tour by Skyline Eco-Adventures takes you on five zip line crossings that glide over massive eucalyptus trees, gulches and seasonal pools.
Zip lines are called by the somewhat goofy-sounding name “foefie slides” in South Africa, but that doesn’t mean the thrills have gotten lost in translation. Located in the Sun City resort about two hours outside of Johannesburg, the Unreal Zip 2000 ranks among the longest and fastest in the world. From your perch on an over 900-foot-tall koppie (an isolated hill rising from the plains), you’ll zoom down the mile-plus-long cable at average speeds of 75 mph.
In recent years, oft-overlooked Wales has remade itself as the adventure capital of the U.K.—if not all of Europe. Opened this March on the edge of Snowdonia National Park at Penrhyn Quarry, once the largest slate quarry in the world, Zip World Snowdonia boasts the longest zip line in Europe, which stretches for almost a mile. The trip is lightning-fast, with reported speeds of up to 100 mph, and the experience also includes a tour of the quarry in an old military vehicle. Oh, and did we mention the owner is an ex-marine commando?
Located just outside the Tlingit village of Hoonah on Chicagof Island, Icy Strait Point is one of the most remote and wild cruise ports in Alaska. Boasting a length of 5,330 feet and a vertical drop of 1,300 feet, the ZipRider is the longest zipline in North America, with a maximum recorded speed of 82 mph. On the way down, you’ll get stunning views of the dense forest beneath you, Port Frederick, the surrounding islands and your cruise ship out in the strait.
Leave it to Nepal, the home of Mt. Everest, to come up with the most extreme zip line in the world. Opened in 2010, the ZipFlyer Nepal plunges riders 2,000 feet down the side of a mountain over thick forests. At an incline of 56%, you’ll reach speeds of about 99 mph. But it’s worth it to try to keep your eyes open if you can bear it! During your two-minute journey, you’ll catch amazing views of the Seti River and the towering, snow-capped Himalayas.