Montezuma, North Puntarenas

The Bohemian Beach Town of Montezuma

Montezuma is located toward the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula in North Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Like much of Nicoya Peninsula, it’s best known as a beach town, but it also has its own unique artistic flair and bohemian atmosphere.

Compared to some of Costa Rica’s other popular tourism spots, Montezuma is fairly remote, and sits about 106 miles (170 kilometers) from the capital city of San José. If you’re traveling from the San José International Airport (SJO), you can drive or take the bus, but be warned that the journey will take up to 8 hours as you need to take a ferry from the city of Puntarenas across the gulf Paquera.

However, you can also take a quick and easy domestic flight to Tambor, the closest airport, likely on Costa Rica’s regional airline, SANSA Airlines. Upon arrival in Tambor, you’ll be a mere 13 kilometers (8 miles) away!

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll know that the voyage was well worth it, as you’ll be greeted by the sight of Montezuma’s most notable landmark - and arguably the highlight of the area - its waterfalls!

The towering waterfalls of Montezuma, perhaps the most iconic falls of Costa Rica, are a stand out feature that make the town a great romantic getaway. These three separate cascades offer visitors an opportunity for adventure, complete with a rope swing and cliffs perfect for diving, as well as a chance to take in the view in a serene atmosphere, surrounded by the majesty of the rainforest.

Aside from the falls, Montezuma is beloved for its beaches. The most popular of these is Playa Montezuma, an ideal spot for sunbathing, swimming, and camping that’s located to the north of the main town.

Montezuma’s central hub is a beach village that rests among high cliffs and dense jungle. Small rivers at the tops of the cliffs feed the waterfalls below, falling in picture-perfect arcs that offer an incredible photo opportunity at both the tops of the falls and the pools at their bases.

The lively town includes plenty of places to shop, eat, and explore for curious vacationers, alongside a vibrant nightlife scene. The streets are lined with wooden houses, interspersed with artwork created by the residents, giving the area a well-lived-in feel. Montezuma is highly walkable, with the hotels, restaurants, and beaches all being within a few minutes’ walk of each other, so there’s no need to worry about renting a car to get around if you’re traveling internationally.

While Montezuma was originally best known as a small fishing village, the area has exploded in popularity since the 1980s. It’s an especially great town for those seeking a low-cost vacation spot where they can enjoy the beaches and jungles of Costa Rica, all while staying in a budget-friendly hotel!

Exploring the Town of Montezuma

Between the jungle and beaches, there’s lots to do and see in Montezuma, with more than enough to keep tourists occupied for the length of their stay. Spend a relaxing day on the sand, visit the waterfalls, and try your hand at snorkeling, hiking, or surfing.

Getting to Montezuma Waterfall

No trip to Montezuma is complete without visiting the waterfalls! You’ll need to make a short hike from town to get there, but there aren’t many signs pointing you in the right direction.

Start your hike by Hotel Amor de Mar, along the main beach road. Continue south until you cross a bridge over the river, then follow the trail off to the right which will bring you upriver. The hike from here to the Montezuma falls is about 20 minutes, so be sure to periodically stop and take in the scenery, and be on the lookout for monkeys and birds that can commonly be seen from the trail.

If you drive to the falls, parking is available at a designated lot for about $2.

Visit the Three Waterfalls

Montezuma’s falls consist of three distinct waterfalls, and you can see all three during a single day trip. The tallest of the three waterfalls is the biggest draw for tourists, though locals frequent the area as well. Around the base, you’ll find swimming holes where you can soak and cool off after a long hike.

Leaping from rock to rock at the waterfall can be quite fun, though it’s fairly challenging for non-locals. Be sure to wear sturdy, water-resistant shoes that will give you a good grip on the slippery rocks.

The next largest fall is about 42 feet (13 meters) high. You can reach it by following a trail from the first waterfall, though you’ll have to climb up the trail using tree roots and rope, which can make the trip difficult if you go without a guide. There’s a spot lower to the ground for cliff jumping if you’re not feeling up to it at the first fall.

The third waterfall is just 10 feet (3 meters) high, and it’s best known for its swimming hole and nearby rope swing. To reach it, follow the paved road along the parking lot from the second fall, continue past the butterfly garden, and continue down the dirt road. Once you reach an old jungle gym, hang a left, and you’ll make your way to this relaxing spot.

Go on the Isla Tortuga Snorkeling Tour

Take a full-day trip to Isla Tortuga, aka Tortuga Island, on a snorkeling tour, which is ideal for nature lovers. On the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to spot local tropical fish, eels, rays, and more, all while enjoying the warm ocean waters.

Snorkeling tours include a boat ride out to a volcanic reef, snorkeling equipment, snacks, and drinks.

Hike in Cabo Blanco National Park

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is unique in that only a handful of visitors are allowed to access the park each day, so guests must reserve their spot. However, this ensures the park remains largely untouched by human influence, so native flora and fauna can thrive.

Cabo Blanco is a nature-lover’s paradise, with countless species of monkeys, reptiles, butterflies, birds, and more. Be sure to bring a camera!

Take Surf Lessons in Nearby Santa Teresa

While there’s plenty of coastline in Montezuma, it’s not the best spot for surfing thanks to the choppy, irregular waves. However, this is far from the case in the nearby towns of Santa Teresa and MalPais, both of which have much more favorable conditions.

If you’re not too comfortable on a surfboard just yet, take some surf lessons in Santa Teresa to learn the basics. These lessons are led by an experienced coach who will have you riding the waves like a local in no time.

The Best Places to Stay in Montezuma

Montezuma offers a wide array of hotels, from budget-conscious options to more luxury beachfront locations. Check out a few of our top picks that make it easy to enjoy the town’s best attractions!

Ylang Ylang Beach Resort

Situated right on the beach, an outdoor swimming pool, and plenty of hammocks, Ylang Ylang Beach Resort is the ultimate in bohemian living. Take relaxation to a whole new level at the hotel’s spa, which offers massages and other treatments with products made from the Ylang Ylang flower.

There are two restaurants on the property, one of which lets you dine right on the beach. Other amenities which are sure to make your stay complete are free WiFi, daily yoga classes, and a bar.

Kalapiti Luxury Jungle Suites

The most notable feature of Kalapiti Luxury Jungle Suites is its large botanical garden. Photograph exotic plants and plenty of native wildlife straight from the jungles of Costa Rica, then follow it up with a tasty meal made with fresh local fish and organic produce right from the hotel’s own gardens.

Kalapiti also offers guests a large jacuzzi and a pool fed by two waterfalls, with a waterslide and a poolside bar. Be sure to visit the Turkish steam bath during your stay as well for added relaxation. Additional amenities include complimentary breakfast, WiFi, daily housekeeping, and in-room fridges.

Casitas Sollevante

Toward the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, you’ll find Casitas Sollevante, which is just steps away from the ocean and multiple wildlife preserves. There are plenty of natural springs nearby for swimming as well, and if you want to truly relax, be sure to visit the spa for yoga and a wide range of massage therapies.

Casitas Sollevante also offers an on-site bar, daily continental breakfast, a tropical garden, WiFi, and air conditioned rooms with daily housekeeping.

Hotel El Jardín

Hotel El Jardín lets you stay close to town, with easy access to local shops and restaurants. The hotel has its own multi-level pool and waterfall with a bar and picnic tables nearby. It’s easy to feel relaxed there, especially since the hotel is surrounded by tropical gardens teeming with monkeys, lizards, and exotic birds.

The attentive staff can help you book local tours and arrange for transportation. Hotel El Jardín also provides other considerate services like a front desk safe and free WiFi.

Aves Hotel and Resor

The Balinese-inspired Aves Hotel and Resort offers a unique way to experience Montezuma from a sprawling resort complete with pools, a garden, and plenty of opportunities for yoga and meditation. In fact, the hotel is best known as a wellness retreat, and holds many retreats each year.

Despite the sense of luxury you’ll feel at the hotel, the nightly rate is fairly cheap, making Aves one of the best budget hotels in Costa Rica.

A Guide to the Beaches of Montezuma

There’s plenty of coastline in Montezuma, and each beach has its own distinct feel. Spend a sunny afternoon relaxing at popular spots like Playa Montezuma and Piedra Colorada, or hike out to more secluded spots like Playa Grande and Playa Las Manchas.

Playa Montezuma

Playa Montezuma, or Montezuma Beach, is the most popular beach, so you’ll want to arrive early if you want to beat other tourists to the best spots. It’s only a brief walk from town, and it’s easy to access many hotels and other beaches from the white sand shores.

This is a gorgeous beach with a wide diversity of scenery, from the jungle backdrop to rockier stretches of coastline. It’s ideal for swimming, and many people set up camp on the beach.

Piedra Colorada

The scenic Piedra Colorada is about 20 minutes from town by foot, making it anothing popular spot. The beach has plenty of shady patches perfect for enjoying the tropical breeze in between swimming and sunbathing.

Piedra Colorada is a good family-friendly beach. Along the sand you’ll find a freshwater pool fed by a small waterfall, where kids can splash around even if they’re not yet confident swimmers.

Playa Grande of Montezuma

Though it shares a name with Playa Grande in Guanacaste, Montezuma’s Playa Grande is a distinct beach located somewhat far from town, but the hike is well worth it. The hike itself takes you past many acres of jungle, with lots of opportunities for spotting wildlife. It’s a fun voyage for those who want to stay active, but who don’t want too much of a challenge.

Playa Grande is one of the biggest beaches in Montezuma, especially during low tide, when the sands stretch wide and long along the coast. The waters here are clear and fairly calm, and occasionally conditions are good for surfing, but it’s better known as a swimming and sunbathing spot.

Playa Las Manchas

Playa Las Manchas is a great spot for snorkeling, as there are usually large schools of fish just a few feet off the coast. It’s common to spot sea turtles and the occasional octopus here as well. Just be cautious of the rip tides, which can make snorkeling at high tide dangerous.

The beach features gorgeous white sands and pristine waters, as well as many coconut trees. It’s a great spot to enjoy local food with a picnic lunch.

Tips for Your Next Montezuma Vacation

Get the most out of your trip to Montezuma Costa Rica with these important tips.

Have a Unique Experience in the Off-Season

While traveling during the off-season in Costa Rica can often mean additional savings, know that if you choose to do so in Montezuma, May to November are usually very light for travelers. The green season or wet season in Montezuma brings showers that keeps the crowds at bay.

Luckily, Montezuma is budget-friendly enough, even during the busiest months. that it’s a great place to visit year-round.

Parking Near the Falls

Parking spots are fairly limited near the waterfalls. If you’re traveling by car, be sure to get there early in the day to beat the crowds and secure a good spot. Also remember that there may be a small fee to park your vehicle.

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