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Steepest Zipline In The World In St Maarten Rainforest Adventures Review Big 3 Tour In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Steepest Zipline in the World


That’s right, adventurers! We did the STEEPEST ZIPLINE IN THE WORLD as part of a thrilling tour during one of our ports of call on our first ever cruise. When I say this needs to be on your bucket list, I MEAN IT.


If you’re already queasy just thinking about it, stick with us for a minute, because there are other tour options that don’t require ziplining that still offer the BEST views we’ve ever gotten in the Caribbean, if anywhere!


CONTENTS



Where is the Steepest Zipline in the World?

The steepest zipline in the world is on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, which is just east of the Virgin Islands. This small island is technically the territory of 2 separate countries, The Netherlands and France, which each have their own half of the island. Although you can travel between them practically without knowing and the separate territories share practically the same name, they are spelled differently and have other subtle differences. The Dutch side of the island is the southern side and is spelled Sint Maarten, while the French (northern) side of the island is spelled Saint Martin.


The ziplining tour is with Rainforest Adventures on the Dutch side of the island, which is also where cruise ships dock on the island, in the nearby port of Philipsburg. St. Maarten may not be the best known Caribbean island (in fact, we had never heard of it until we booked our cruise to go there), but it is one of the most beautiful to see from above with the way the buildings group together around the water’s edge and vein out into the valleys, with green mountain peaks standing between the sections of civilization.



How to Get to Rainforest Adventures in St. Maarten

Public transportation isn’t really set up in St. Maarten. Google Maps doesn’t even give you the option to search for a route on public transit, so taxis are the better way to go. The entrance to Rainforest Adventures is only a 15-20 minute drive from the cruise port in Philipsburg, so it’s an easy excursion if you’re visiting the island on a cruise!


Unfortunately, there aren’t many standard rates for cab rides for most of the island, and the taxis are not metered, so you need to ask (and negotiate) the price before getting into the vehicle. For reference, the standard taxi cost from Philipsburg to Marigot (a very popular route) is $20, and Rainforest Adventures is about half-way between them, although slightly closer to Philipsburg. Our taxi driver charged us $7 per person from the cruise port in Philipsburg to Rainforest Adventures, but there were also 7 people in our group, so we were often able to get a slightly lower rate per person because we had a larger group. I would plan on probably around $10 per person for a couple. From what I read online before we went, taxi rates are supposed to be based on 2 passengers with an additional charge per person after that, but that was not our experience. Maybe the taxi drivers think it’s just easier to tell people the per person price, which makes sense to me.



As usual, there were tons of taxis of all different sizes right at the cruise port, so we didn’t have to search for one. They operate on cash only and most will only accept US dollars, even though the official currency of the Dutch side of the island is still the guilder. It seems like the guilder is almost entirely out of circulation and the US dollar is the most widely used currency. The majority of St. Maarten’s economy is based on tourism, so the US dollar makes sense for them, to make it easier on the tourists.


Our taxi was a big van, which we found fairly standard in the Caribbean for larger groups like ours, so all 7 of us that were going ziplining got to go in 1 taxi together. Our driver offered to pick us back up after our activity and we happily accepted. That also seems like a pretty standard practice in the Caribbean. However, one person in our group wanted to go somewhere else on the island afterwards than where we were going (before we all headed back to the cruise ship), so our taxi driver called a separate vehicle to come pick her up. It all worked out smoothly!


Maho Beach Plane Landing In St Maarten In The Great Wide Travel Blog

If you’re not visiting St. Maarten via a cruise ship and you want to fly instead, I looked up round-trip ticket costs from Los Angeles, New York City, and Orlando/Miami. Surprisingly, flights from Miami and Orlando are more expensive on average than from LA or NYC, with the average round-trip flights costing between $400-$600. From Los Angeles, the cheapest round-trip I found is just under $400, and from New York City, around $350, plus there are plenty of Airbnb’s on the island for 2 people under $150 per night, so this is definitely an affordable trip to take!


St Maarten Ski Lift For Amazing Views Rainforest Adventures Big 3 Tour Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Tickets for the Steepest Zipline in the World and Other Rainforest Adventure Tours in St. Maarten

Here’s where we get into talking about all the different tour options with Rainforest Adventures in St. Maarten, including an option to enjoy the incredible views without having to go ziplining. First, let’s talk about what all the activities are, and then you can pick the right tour package.


Sky Explorer - a Ski Lift

All Rainforest Adventure tours in St. Maarten start with a ride on the ski lift to the top of the mountain, aka Sentry Hill, where you will find yet another short ski lift to the tippy top, lifting you up 1,050ft! There are platforms and walkways (including staircases) for you to explore and take in some of the most incredible views you will likely ever see, with signs even pointing out the other Caribbean islands you can see off in the distance on a clear day. This is also where the zipliners get hooked up to do the steepest zipline in the world, so you will get to watch them as they zip off down the mountain!


There is a metal bar on the ski lift chair that will come down in front of you for safety, and each chair can hold up to 4 passengers. You will enjoy watching the island unfold before your eyes and beneath your feet as you climb to one of the highest points on the island! For those of you not interested in ziplining, you can simply board the ski lift again to ride it back down the mountain.


Oh, and did I mention they have a small bar cart up at the top too?!


Steepest Zipline In The World Review St Maarten Rainforest Adventures Big 3 Tour In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Flying Dutchman - the Steepest Zipline in the World!

I despise the term “once-in-a-lifetime experience”, but Rainforest Adventures instead refers to this as “the thrill of a lifetime”, which I think fits very well! After riding the 2 ski lifts to the very top of the mountain, you’ll add your name to the waitlist to ride the steepest zipline down, endearingly called the Flying Dutchman. In the meantime, you can grab a drink from the bar cart (like their local Guavaberry rum!) while you enjoy the absolutely stunning views.


When your turn for the zipline arrives, you will be strapped into a harness behind a closed gate (think of it like a horse racing gate) in pairs of 2. The harness is almost like a small seat, with straps around your thighs, waist, and shoulders holding you in place. All items in your pockets and around your neck will be placed in a secure pocket on the back of your seat, which means that unfortunately, you are not allowed to record your journey with a camera of any kind. Once you’re safely secured, they will open the gate and release you down the zipline! Don’t worry; the brake at the bottom is automatic.


  • Height requirements: 4’4” - 6’6”

  • Weight requirements: 100 - 275 lbs


Rainforest Adventures St Maarten Sentry Hill Ziplining Big 3 Tour Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Sentry Hill Ziplines

At the top of the first ski lift, there is a short ziplining course that you have the option of doing before heading up to the steepest zipline. You’ll be fitted with a harness (which was more similar to other ziplining harnesses we’ve experienced) around your thighs, waist, and shoulders, along with a helmet, and then you’re off with your two guides. One of your guides will zip across first, and the other will stay with you to get you safely hooked up to each zipline. Adam and I have been debating on how many ziplines there were on this part of the tour, but it was somewhere between 3-5 short ziplines in total along the mountain ridge, zipping over canyons with amazing views of the island.


All of the ziplines have their own brakes, so you don’t have to do anything! The guide that awaited us on the other side would grab us to make sure we were both firmly planted and then unhooked each of us. You will be on solid ground between ziplines, so this is technically not a canopy tour, but it sure feels like it with how high up you are on the mountain. You will have to walk short distances over uneven ground between each zipline.



The Rainforest Adventures website is very unclear about this course. Before we went, I thought it was only 1 zipline that would act as a kind of warm-up for the steepest one. I was pleasantly surprised that it’s practically a whole course in and of itself, but there were a few members of our group that were already very nervous about ziplining for the first time, and now they were being told it would be several more ziplines than they had anticipated, so just be aware. I think it worked out for the best in the end.


You are also not supposed to take your own cameras on this tour, but when we showed up with our GoPro, our tour guides told us we could keep it out except for on the zipline that we would have our picture taken on, which is done automatically, and you can purchase the photos after your tour.


  • Height requirements: 4’4” - 6’6”

  • Weight requirements: 80 - 275 lbs


Inner Tube Mountain Slide In St Maarten Rainforest Adventures Big 3 Tour Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Schooner Ride - Inner Tubing Slide Down the Mountain

This is something that was a very unique experience: inner tubing on a slide down the mountain! On the first ski lift, about half-way up, you have the option to exit and take an inner tube back down to where you started, one person at a time. Think of it like a water slide, only without the water. It’s a BUMPY ride along a manmade slide with curves and banks, and it felt a little sketchy at times, but it certainly was something we had never done before!


  • Height requirements: 3’6” - 6’6”

  • Weight requirements: 275 lbs maximum. Only 1 person allowed per tube, so children must be able to hold on and ride on their own


Emilio Wilson Museum

This museum is housed in the property’s restored plantation house and tells the story of a woman born into slavery at the estate and her grandson, Emilio, who managed to purchase the property in 1954 and turn it into a public park in memory of the slaves who made the island what it is today.



Rainforest Adventures Tour Packages in St. Maarten

Now that you know what all the activities are, you can look at our easy-to-read chart below to see what tour includes what, along with their prices, to compare them.

Tour

Ski Lift

Flying Dutchman

Sentry Hill Zipline

Schooner Ride

Emilio Wilson Museum

Price

X

X

X

X

X

$139

X

X

X

X

$119

X

X

X

X

$99

X

X

X

$99

X

X

$52


The Big 3 Tour, Zipline Experience, and Sentry Hill Zip & Schooner Ride tours will all take approximately 3 hours, while the Flying Dutchman and Sky Explorer tours will likely only take about an hour and a half. All tours require you to wear closed-toe shoes, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen too!


To book your tour package, click the name of the tour in the chart above to be redirected to the Rainforest Adventures website. Tours must be booked and paid for in advance, and transportation to/from the compound is not included. Royal Caribbean cruise passengers get a discount too!


Schooner Ride Mountain Slide In St Maarten Rainforest Adventures Big 3 Tour Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Our Experience

When we found out that the steepest zipline in the world is in St. Maarten, there was no question about what we were going to do with our day in port there during our first-ever Caribbean cruise! We even convinced 5 of our friends to join us, most of whom had never ziplined before and at least 2 of whom are very afraid of heights. I was shocked when they agreed to come with us, but I LOVE helping people conquer their fears by doing something they could never have imagined themselves doing. That’s what life is all about!


When we got there, our friendly taxi driver dropped us off right at the check-in office, where they weighed us and gave us each a wristband with initials for our tour activities. They then pointed us towards the gift shop, where we could rent lockers for our small backpacks since they couldn’t be taken ziplining with us. We knew this ahead of time, but had to bring them anyway to carry our wallets, sunscreen, and water bottles, but the lockers only cost a couple dollars to rent, and we had such a small amount of stuff that I think we only needed 3 lockers for the 7 of us.


We booked the Big 3 Tour and were super eager to get started, so we walked the short distance from the gift shop up to the base of the ski lift. It felt like we were the only people there! 4 of us got on one bench together, then the other 3 were together on the next one, and we slowly made our way up the mountain. About half-way up the first ski lift, we got off to do the Schooner Ride. They told us that we would be allowed to do it twice, but I don’t know if that’s a regular thing or if it was just because they weren’t busy that day.



There were a few other people already waiting for the Schooner ride, so we waited in line for about 10 minutes or so, taking in the awesome views and laughing about how crazy this whole experience felt. A guide was there to help us grab an inner tube and push us off down the slide, so you don’t have to push yourself off to get started; you just have to hang on! My friends wanted me to go first, so I did, and the guy who gave the inner tube a push actually turned me around so I was facing backwards, which he also ended up doing to Adam, so I don’t think it was a mistake. It was a bit of a bummer because you’re looking uphill the whole way down instead of down at the amazing scenery you’re rushing towards.


The Schooner Ride is also VERY bumpy, and I had my phone in the back pocket of my shorts, which I landed on multiple times over the bumps, but I had no other option of somewhere to hold onto it and I couldn’t let go of the inner tube to grab it in my hand to hold it. At one point I landed on it and thought “Well, that’s it. I cracked my phone. Nothing I can do about it.” Thanks to my OtterBox case, my phone actually came away unscathed, but please take my advice and get one of those clear lanyards for your phone to wear around your neck for this ride!


At the bottom of the slide, there was another man who helped me up and cleared the inner tube, so I got to just step aside and wait for my friends to come sliding down the mountain. Everyone was laughing when they made it to me!


Sentry Hill Ziplining In St Maarten Rainforest Adventures Big 3 Tour Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

At this point, we were back where we started at the bottom of the mountain, so we headed right back to the ski lift and hopped back on to go all the way up to Sentry Hill. The ride is a bit slow, but we certainly are not complaining about that, as it gave us the opportunity to really take in the views! Even if that’s all you’re coming here for, you won’t be disappointed.


At the top of the first ski lift, we were met by two friendly guides, who outfitted each of us with our ziplining harnesses and helmets (hair nets required), and I discovered that one of our guides shared my birthday, which was the very next day! They were very friendly and reassuring to the people who were obviously getting nervous, which I was thankful for.


We took our GoPro to record the whole thing, but our guides said that we technically weren’t allowed to, but they would let it slide for us except for on the zipline when our photo would be taken. We ended up not having the proper equipment to firmly attach it to us, so we didn’t use it anyway, but that is something that Rainforest Adventures needs to be more up-front about before you book the tour because I didn’t see it noted anywhere on their website that you’re not allowed to take your own cameras.



Our guides walked us up to the first zipline, one of them went across, and the other asked who among us wanted to go first. The ziplines were actually set up so that 2 people could go at a time, side-by-side, which I think makes it less intimidating for those who have never ziplined before. I told the 2 people I knew who were really scared of heights that I would not let them go last, so they went together as the second group. As far as ziplining goes, these lines are pretty short and the brakes are automatic, so if you’re scared, it won’t last very long.


Between each zipline, we had to zig-zag walk, mostly on dirt paths, around to the next one, which was difficult at times for my friend who has arthritic knees, but she took it slow and made it just fine. If we had known ahead of time that this was going to be a thing, she probably wouldn’t have come, but I’m glad she did, despite the fact that I wish Rainforest Adventures had been up-front about it.


From looking at the Rainforest Adventures website, I thought that the Sentry Hill Zipline was only 1 zipline, but it was several. Adam and I have been debating between the two of us exactly how many ziplines it was, but it was definitely between 3-5. I am SO glad that we did the Sentry Hill zipline course before expecting my friends who are scared of heights to do the steepest zipline in the world, because I think it made them feel way more confident and safe about it when that time came.



At the end of the Sentry Hill ziplining tour, we were right back where we started at the top of the first ski lift, and right next to it is where you board the second, short ski lift up to the very top. Same deal as before: 4 of us sat in one chair and the other 3 were in the chair behind us, but this time, towards the top, another employee told us to smile for a camera while also lifting our feet so they wouldn’t get caught on anything as we arrived where we needed to get off. Our guides from the Sentry Hill ziplining tour told us to put our names on the list for the Flying Dutchman as soon as we got to the top, but we did stop briefly, in awe of the views. Then we zoomed ahead, up and down some stairs, to put our names down, and found a small bar cart near the ziplining starting point! They could make very basic drinks, but they also had a popular local drink: guavaberry rum. I had to try it!


This whole area at the top of the mountain has a kind of open-treehouse vibe, with beautiful, large wooden platforms to take in the panoramic views. The day was so clear and gorgeous for us; I cannot imagine a better time to be there! We could see other Caribbean islands far off in the distance, including Anguilla, St. Barts, and Saba, and there were signs to help us identify them. The views alone would have been an awesome experience.


So of course, we grabbed a drink from the bar cart and wandered around, taking in the breathtaking views while sipping on the local guavaberry rum. It turns out that it’s quite popular in St. Maarten for people to make a version of this rum at home, but we had never heard of it before. We did manage to find bottles of it at the port later on to purchase and take home with us as we were reboarding the cruise ship though.


Best Views In Sint Maarten Caribbean Island Rainforest Adventure Tours Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

At last, our turn had arrived for the steepest zipline! In reality, it took maybe 20 minutes, so we didn’t mind the wait at all, but be aware that there is VERY little shade at the top while you’re waiting, so make sure you are wearing sunscreen. One of my friends came and grabbed me and told me they were ready for us, so all 7 of us headed up together. At the starting line, they were blasting dance music and everyone was having a great time dancing out their nervous energy.


There are 4 ziplines side-by-side, with 2 being used at a time, so you go down in pairs. There is a staging area where you stand while you wait your turn, and once you’re in that area, they told us that all cameras had to be put away. Adam and I went last in our group, but the whole process is pretty quick. Each person has a guide hooking them up to the harness, so all you really have to do is sit down in the harness and take a deep breath. The guides took all loose items, including hats, sunglasses, phones, and necklaces, and put them in a zipped pouch on the back of our seats.


The entire time they are strapping you in, you will have your feet up against a closed gate. Once you are both secured, the guides will slide the gates open, but you will remain in place until the guides release you. Before it’s your turn, you’ll have ample time to watch the other zipliners ahead of you, and that will likely calm your nerves. When you’re ready, the guides tell you to straighten your legs by lifting up your feet, and then they’ll release the brakes and let you fly down the steepest zipline in the world! You’ll be flying down the mountain for about 45 seconds at a 38° decline.


One person in our group had not been paying attention to the other zipliners and didn’t realize that it would feel like a drop when they first release you, so of course that was a little freaky for them, so just be aware! I was so impressed by how calm my friends who are scared of heights were at the top of this zipline. It’s enough to make anyone nervous! But everyone did it and there were no tears and no freakouts - everyone just had a great time!



I so wish we could have video footage of our flight down the Flying Dutchman! The experience was truly remarkable, zooming through the open air, incredulous at my surroundings, with Adam by my side. About halfway down, I let go of the straps and put my arms out like I was flying! Thrill of a lifetime, indeed.


All our friends were waiting for us at the bottom, as were quick and skilled guides to help us out of the harness. They also retrieved our belongings out of the pouches for us so we wouldn’t forget. It’s clear that they are very efficient at their job.


We walked together back up to the gift shop, where we got everything out of the lockers and looked through the photos that had been automatically taken of us throughout the tour. There was a photo of each person on the Schooner Ride, one of the Sentry Hill ziplines, one on the short ski lift making the final ascent to the top, and one taken towards the bottom of the steep zipline. Adam and I opted to purchase 4 of the photos, which then got us a free print of another photo as well, for a total of 5 photos, which cost $47. The gift shop takes credit cards, so you don’t have to worry about cash there; just make sure you have a travel credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. The digital photos were emailed to us and the print was given to us right then and there. It now sits on my desk at home 🙂 Beware though: all the photos will have Rainforest Adventures watermarks in the corner, which is a little annoying, seeing as how we paid for them.


We exited the gift shop and found our friends enjoying a beer at the outdoor bar one building over. They said our taxi driver was there so we didn’t have time to hang out before going to our next destination: Maho Beach. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see the Emilio Wilson Museum for the backstory of the property, but I honestly don’t even remember seeing it. Looking back on our videos now, I found a sign pointing towards it on one of the pathways near the restaurant/bar. I think we were just so pumped after the ziplines that we totally forgot to go back to it, but even without it, and only doing the Schooner Ride once (instead of the twice they told us we were allowed), the whole tour still took us 3 hours.


Steepest Zipline In The World With Rainforest Adventures In St Maarten Big 3 Tour Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Our Verdict

What an unbelievable experience! The Big 3 Tour was 100% worth the money and I would go again in a heartbeat. I am so grateful that several of our friends agreed to go on this tour with us, because I cannot tell you how much fun we had! This is what life is all about!


St. Maarten stole a piece of our heart in that one short day we were there. It is definitely somewhere I could see us returning to again and again without a single complaint. This was how I spent the very last day of my 20s, and I have not a regret in the world.


Sentry Hill Mountaintop Views In St Maarten Caribbean Island Photography Big 3 Tour Review In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Blog

Quick Reference Guide

What

Where

How to Get There

Taxi from the cruise port should cost you $7-$10 per person Fly round-trip to St. Maarten from Los Angeles for around $400

Time Commitment

Most tours take 3 hours

Cost

Big 3 Tour (the one we did and recommend) costs $139 per person Tours just for the amazing views start at $52 per person You must rent a locker to store most personal belongings, which costs a few dollars Photos are taken for you during the activities but cost extra

Reservation Info

Advance reservations required via the Rainforest Adventures website

Important Notes

You must wear closed-toe shoes for all tours You are not supposed to take your own camera or a GoPro on the activities Credit cards are accepted at the gift shop

Our Verdict

Please go experience this for yourself! St. Maarten has such a cool vibe and is breathtakingly gorgeous! I cannot imagine a better way to spend the last day of my 20s.


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Phoebe Meador Is A Adventure Travel Writer For In The Great Wide Bucket List Travel Lifestyle Blog

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