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World's coolest zip lines

By Sherrie Nachman, Travel + Leisure
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012
It wouldn't be Vegas if zip lining didn't take place at night beneath a laser light show set to music. It wouldn't be Vegas if zip lining didn't take place at night beneath a laser light show set to music.
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Flightlinez, Las Vegas, Nevada
AdrenaLUNA, St. Lucia
Haleakala Skyline Tour, Maui, Hawaii
Pronutro Zip 2000, Sun City, South Africa
Flightline Safari, San Diego Wild Animal Park
Zip Adventures, Vail, Colorado
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A zip line ride soars from one end of the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas to another
  • Look out for rhinos and other creatures as you fly through the Safari Park in San Diego
  • AdrenaLUNA in St. Lucia provides the special treat of exploring a rainforest by night

(Travel + Leisure) -- Nothing will shake you out of your daily routine quite like zipping through the air at 85 miles per hour, courtesy of South Africa's Pronutro Zip 2000, the world's longest, fastest and highest zip line.

Adventurous types know that zip lines deliver an adrenaline rush as well as a bird's-eye perspective on beautiful surroundings. But there's no thrill quite like a new one, and operators are continuing to push the limits by introducing cool zip lines in unusual places and at unusual times.

After the sun goes down in St. Lucia, for example, zip liners are on their way up to the launch platform. AdrenaLUNA lets participants get a peek at nocturnal creatures and feel the special sensation of racing through a jungle by night. The experience includes a scramble up floating steps, a zip through the rainforest from tree to tree and a rappel back to the jungle floor under the glow of a full moon -- and a headlight.

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Another species of nightlife is on parade in Sin City, where you can now clear your head after a night at the casino with a 1 a.m. ride on Flightlinez. Zip liners pass beneath a laser light show set to music (this is Vegas, baby) as they soar through the Fremont Street Experience.

It's part of a growing trend of urban zip lines -- popularized by a temporary zip line at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics -- and a far cry from the early zip line days. They began as a practical means to move bulky items across mountain ranges and even made an appearance in H. G. Wells' 1897 novel, "The Invisible Man." Graduate students in Costa Rica began using zip lines in the 1970s to get close to plants and animals along the rainforest canopy.

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Tourists love that kind of wildlife exposure, too, and some of the earliest offerings began in Costa Rica and other ecotourism destinations. Yet Costa Rica has upped the ante with the launch of the Miss Sky zip line, described as the world's longest canopy tour -- propelling folks over a jungle forest, across a river and a turtle-nesting habitat, and ultimately dropping them on the fifth floor of what will be a disco bar.

Strap on that helmet and harness and take your own leap off the edge at these eight exhilarating zip lines:

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Flightlinez, Las Vegas

It wouldn't be Vegas if zip lining didn't take place at night beneath a laser light show set to music. But before the ride even begins, Flightlinez amps up participants with a psychedelic light show projected on the Viva Vision canopy (who needs the jungle canopy?). After jumping off, you cruise across Fremont Street at a civilized speed of 30 miles an hour -- granting 360-degree views of Vegas in its neon glory. $15-$20 or $50 for an all-day pass. fremontstreetflightline.com

Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean

Two of the biggest cruise ships ever to set sail have plenty of room for zip lines. So if gazing at the ocean loses its thrill, just head to the Sports Deck for a zip line ride that soars from one end of Oasis of the Seas to another. Not only is it a rush, but it's also a chance to get a peek at what's happening across nine decks of the ship. Look forward to a similar joy ride on Allure of the Seas. Free. royalcaribbean.com

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Flightline Safari, San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park

Look out for birds, rhinos and other creatures as you fly high through the Safari Park. This zip line takes animal lovers as high as 160 feet on a 470-foot run past fragrant trees. And you can relive the experience over and over thanks to the Flightline Helmet Cams that will record your ride. $70. sdzsafaripark.org

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Toro La Bestia, Orocovis, Puerto Rico

The nature park Toro Verde, about an hour outside San Juan, injects some audacious thrills into the eco-adventure genre. Case in point: its facedown zip line, Toro La Bestia, sends you flying across a misty 4,745-foot-long, 853-foot-high rainforest valley at up to 60 mph. It could be the most memorable two minutes of your trip. $65. —Adam Graham toroverdepr.com

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Pronutro Zip 2000, Sun City, South Africa

If you want bragging rights, drive two hours from Johannesburg to the Sun City entertainment complex to conquer the world's longest zip line: roughly 1.2 miles of uninterrupted thrills. Strapped into the Pronutro Zip 2000, riders soar over rugged terrain as high as 900 feet above the ground. And if that isn't enough, consider that you're traveling at more than 85 miles per hour, one of the fastest zip line speeds. $41. zip2000.co.za/

Haleakala Skyline Tour, Maui, Hawaii

A father-and-son team launched the Skyline Tour -- America's first zip line -- in 2002. The location itself is exhilarating: on the way to the summit of Haleakala Crater, which is thousands of feet above sea level and above the clouds. The Skyline's five zips and swinging bridge pass over forest and hiking trails, and are even certified as a "carbon-neutral" adventure. And there are more zip lines to tackle across Hawaii; on the Big Island, one goes by Akaka Falls. $95. zipline.com

AdrenaLUNA, St. Lucia

Zip lines have become a common feature of the Caribbean, but newcomer AdrenaLUNA provides the special treat of exploring a rainforest by night (available only three days a month around the full moon). Guests scramble up a set of floating steps, zip through the rainforest and leap from a platform with a Tarzan's vine onto a nest. When it's all over, you'll rappel back down to earth. $79. rainforestadventure.com

Zip Adventures, Vail, Colorado

Get your Rocky Mountain highs along this zip lining tour, available four times daily in summer. It starts with a short trip in a six-wheel-drive Austrian military vehicle that will get you in the mood for a Colorado-style adventure. You'll then zip across six lines, each strung high above the rushing Colorado River. Expect a few short hikes between platforms. $150. zipadventures.com

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Planning a getaway? Don't miss Travel + Leisure's guide to the World's Best Hotels

Copyright 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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