A sleepy, bohemian town situated on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, known for surfing, hatching turtles and a pretty spectacular waterfall. Montezuma was my highlight in Costa Rica for many reasons, a place where I could have stayed for weeks soaking up the sun on the pristine beach and wandered the same quiet streets for days without getting bored. I arrived not really knowing what to expect, and had only made the decision to visit after overhearing a conversation in my previous hostel where a few people had all agreed it was their favourite place in Costa Rica. I arrived at near midnight, so it wasn’t until the next morning that I really got to see the town. Made up of pretty much one street, everything is close to everything else! Although small, there is still plenty of things to do in Montezuma.
Every other tourist you meet in Montezuma has either just been to, or is just heading to the waterfall. It is easy to find if you just head toward the beach and then follow the main road parallel to the beach in a south western direction. You walk on the road out of town, over a small bridge, and then on the right there is a few cars parked and a little hut. My advice is ignore any “guides” and just walk! I think there was a small sign but when you get here the direction is quite obvious. Make sure you wear trainers/sturdy shoes! There are some pretty precarious river crossings, and a few moments where you have to kind of swing yourself over rocks whilst holding a rope. The waterfall is pretty impressive, and there are several places you can jump in. If you plan on staying a while, pack food and drink. There are no shops once you leave the town and a walk there and back could take up to an hour.
My personal highlight was seeing lots of beautiful baby Olive Ridley turtles released into the wild. If you walk Northeast along the beach, you will find a small hut and some fencing. Here, I spoke to one of the volunteers about the project. She told me that at night the turtles come up onto the beach, lay their eggs, bury them, and then return to the ocean. To protect the eggs from poachers, the volunteers patrol the beach at night and collect the eggs, keeping them safe until they hatch. Every afternoon, the newly hatched turtles are released on the beach.
It is best to go to the hut to check the exact time on the day. It is usually between 3 and 5 pm. You can take your camera (but please don’t use flash!) and watch as the babies shuffle their way down the beach and eventually get swept away by a wave. I actually found it really emotional! I have seen so many turtles whilst diving but never babies so it was a really interesting experience.
Isla de Cabuya
Towards the Cabo Blanco reserve you will find Playa Cabuya, a long stretch of pebbly beach. Whilst not the most beautiful in Costa Rica, some 100 metres offshore is the strange Island of Cabuya. The Island has been used for centuries as a burial ground, and there is a somewhat eerie atmosphere. At high tide, the island is cut off by the water. By low tide a spit of rocks appears and you can walk over. Around the island are some rocky reef areas, so bring your snorkel because there are hundreds of beautiful colourful fish to be seen. Isla de Cabuya is somewhat of a hidden gem, but I highly suggest adding it to your list of things to do in Montezuma. Just be wary that you leave enough time for yourself to get back to the main land. I suggest consulting your hostel/hotel for advice on tide times and getting there.
Other things to do in the area!
A few people from my hostel took a snorkel trip to Tortuga Island, which they really enjoyed. They spotted a white tip reef shark, turtles and an eagle ray. There also seems to be a few spas scattered around, if that is your kind of thing. Santa Teresa is a bus ride away, and would be worth a trip for a night or two, I unfortunately ran out of time. The town also has one of the best beaches in Costa Rica so if you are looking to just relax, grab a towel and your favourite book!
How to get to Montezuma
Situated at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the easiest way to reach the town is the ferry from Puntarenas. The road coming from the north is only accessible by 4 wheel drives, and sometimes impassable. Local buses run to Puntarenas from Liberia, San Jose and the South for a few dollars. They drop you in town which is a few KM away from the port. In the town of Puntarenas, a few locals came to assist me, pointing me to the taxi rank. They also warned me I shouldn’t have my phone hanging out my pocket the way I usually do (I can’t help it, I’m just not a suspicious person!). However, no one spoke English and everyone gave me conflicting directions to the bus stop, so I hailed a taxi to the port for a few dollars. If your Spanish is better than mine, you can probably find the bus stop!
The port is super easy to navigate and is tiny. Just head to the bakery to get a ticket to Paquera, which costs around $1.50. There’s a small supermarket and a bar/restaurant if you need to kill time whilst waiting. The ferry journey is a little over an hour, and if you go at sunset the views are amazing! Check the schedule for times. Every ferry, apart from the very last one, is met by a public bus at Paquera that will take you to Montezuma. I entertained an American couples kids for the ferry ride over, and so they offered me a ride as they had a car. I saw heaps of travellers taking their rented cars on the ferry. It is worth asking if you can hitch a ride with someone as most will be heading off the ferry to Montezuma.
Where to stay in Montezuma
Where you stay can really make or break your experience. Part of the reason I found Montezuma so enchanting was the hostel and the people I met there. Luz en el Cielo Eco BnB is a short walk up the hill on the way out of the town, nestled in the trees and surrounded by animal life. Breakfast ends every morning with a family of Coati hoping to catch some rogue rice and beans, and in the afternoon howler monkeys echo through the tree tops. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly, and happy to give you suggestions on things to do in the area. It is a small town, so there isn’t an endless amount of accommodation, but there does seem to be both backpacker and more high end choices. This hostel also features in my best hostels in Costa Rica article!
Where to eat in Montezuma
One negative I found with Montezuma was the lack of cheap food options. Even a simple casado in a soda wasn’t cheap. There is a small supermarket in town so I picked a few things up and cooked at the hostel. One night I did treat myself with some others from my hostel, and we went to Puggo’s for dinner. Not the cheapest, but worth it as the food was delicious! I had a huge tasty bowl of hummus, and some delicious falafel. They staff there were also super friendly.
A word of warning!
Throughout my stay in Montezuma, the ATM was out of service. So this was in 2018, and there was only 1 ATM in the town. I never seem to learn my lesson, as the same thing happened to me in Bacalar, Mexico! With only one ATM in town, you really must bring cash. There were scenes of comedy in Montezuma during the days I was there, as queues of backpackers despaired over the one broken ATM! several times a day, rumours would swirl that it had been fixed, only for this to be proved false. Thankfully, as backpackers are a friendly bunch, we all managed to borrow from each other and get by!
Have you been to Montezuma? What were your top things to do in Montezuma?
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