Montezuma, Costa Rica, located on the southeastern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, is a beautiful place to go. Many travellers enjoy it because it has a stunning waterfall and soft, crushed shell beaches.
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The beach town was once a small fishing village, but now it attracts all types of travellers. It is an off-the-beaten-path destination with a bohemian artsy vibe popular with surfers and yogis alike. So, if you are looking for a bit of R&R while being close to nature, this beach town just may be the place for you!
It’s also a town you can feel good about visiting. The ADIM–Asociacion de Desarrollo Integral de Montezuma–is dedicated to encouraging and facilitating sustainable tourism economically, ecologically, and socio-culturally. The ADIM was founded in 2018, and they have a number of admirable projects, including rehabilitating neglected areas into thriving public spaces and aquatic rescue and CPR classes. They even grade local businesses based on how eco-friendly their practices are.
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Best Time to Visit Montezuma
The weather in Montezuma Costa Rica tends to stay warm year-round, although you need to consider whether you want to visit during the rainy or dry season.
December through April marks the dry season, which is when visitors tend to flock to warmer climates, so prices will be higher and the area tends to be more crowded.
The rainy – or green – season spans from May through November, and the landscape tends to be lush during those months. Be sure to check out our blog post on the best time to visit Costa Rica for more info on the weather in Costa Rica at any time of the year.
How to Get to Montezuma, Costa Rica
A bus runs from San Jose to Montezuma twice a day, departing at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. The ride from San Jose takes 5.5 hours and costs $15.50 USD. Driving (or taking the bus) from the San Jose area allows you to take the ferry across to save time.
Montezuma is also reachable by taxi boat leaving from Jaco. It is possible to see rays and dolphins from the boat, and the ticket is approximately $50 USD.
Another option is to rent a car in San Jose and drive to Montezuma yourself. Having a rental car means you’ll also have the convenience of having a car readily available. Our recommendation is to use Vamos Rent-A-Car. They’re reliable and reasonably priced, and one of their offices is very close to San Jose International Airport.
Book the Best Car Rental in Costa Rica
Renting a car in Costa Rica can be one of the most challenging parts of your visit! Unfortunately, car rentals in Costa Rica often come with significant hidden insurance fees, result in many frustrations at pick-up. The experience has ruined many trips and ballooned trip budgets for friends, family and followers. After years of not having a good solution, we finally found an honest car rental company that we proudly recommend to our readers.
We recommend booking with Vamos Costa Rica – a local car rental company that offers fantastic service and NO HIDDEN FEES and get 10% of your rental rate plus FREE additional driver, FREE child seat and other perks and benefits when booking through our link below!
Book early as rental car availability all across Costa Rica is currently lower than demand!
Top Things to Do in Montezuma, Costa Rica
Walk to the Montezuma Waterfalls
The Montezuma waterfalls are made up of three separate falls – the upper, middle, and lower – and are easily reachable via a 1km (0.6 miles) hike from the centre of town. Whether you spend an entire day or just a few hours at the Montezuma waterfalls, you’ll appreciate the beauty of these natural wonders.
If you have children, head to the upper falls which are smaller and easier to view with your little ones. The falls in the middle offer a glimpse into the natural beauty of the area. The largest falls at the lower portion are 25 meters (82 feet) high. They are the most popular.
Relax on Playa Montezuma (Montezuma Beach)
While you are in Montezuma, Costa Rica beach life has breathtaking turquoise water. With its crushed shell sand, Playa Montezuma is an ideal beach to relax without getting sand in your face and on your towel.
Visit one of the beautiful beaches
If you are up for an adventure, there’s a trail to the northeast winds around Playa Grande, which is a beach that is used for surfing. The walk takes 30 minutes, and the area is surrounded by jungle, so you may want to be on the lookout for local wildlife. Be sure to take snacks and a drink if you choose to walk the trail. This is also where Romelia Wildlife Refuge is located (as you will see in our wildlife section below).
Playa Los Cedros is south of Montezuma towards the southern side of the Nicoya Peninsula, and just a ten-minute drive. Depending on when you’re there, it may look fairly rocky, or it may look perfect and untouched. Surfing can be a bit hit or miss, but it’s a lovely beach for a walk or to relax. It’s a very striking beach, and it makes for the perfect setting for a family picnic.
About one kilometre outside of Montezuma, you’ll get to Playa Las Manchas. It’s a beautiful white stone beach with striking, black volcanic rocks and clear water. For many locals, it’s their favorite beach, and it’s a great place for snorkeling. However, if you aren’t a strong swimmer, then be careful. The currents can be strong, and it’s not uncommon for a whirlpool to form.
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Costa Rica
Take a Montezuma Yoga Class
Overlook the ocean as you stretch your body and relax your mind with a yoga class. Located at Los Mangos Hotel, Montezuma Yoga hosts daily classes, including a candlelight session on Sunday nights. They also supply students with mats and props, so there is no need to bring your own.
One of our favourite options is their donation yoga class where the money goes towards a local charity, such as recycling, the turtle sanctuary, or school children. There are options to go to one class or purchase a pass to attend several sessions during your stay.
Seek Adventure on a Canopy Tour
The Montezuma Waterfall Canopy Tour (aka zip lining) is another way to view the Montezuma Falls. With 9 cables and 11 platforms, this activity hosted by Suntrails, a Sustainably Certified operator, offers stunning views of the rainforest.
The tour finishes at the upper waterfall, which includes swimming in the falls, so bring your bathing suit to end your tour in a refreshing way.
Surf the Peninsula
Young Vision Surf is a locally owned company, which means they know the best places to catch the waves. They offer various surf retreats – such as family, female-only, and a surf/yoga combination – or an opportunity to spend a week surfing beaches in Montezuma, Cabuya, and Santa Teresa.
If you prefer to commit less, they offer daily surf lessons at Playa Grande. Groups meet downtown and are taken to the beach by guided hike, admiring native plants and animals along the way.
Learn About Local Wildlife
Romelia Wildlife Refuge is directly behind Playa Grande. Although it is private property (and needs to be respected), it is easily observed from the beach. They also have opportunities to volunteer from August through January when sea turtles are laying and hatching their eggs.
Not to be missed, Curu Wildlife Refuge is a 40-minute drive from Montezuma Costa Rica and is a treat for animal lovers. The area is filled with landscape diversity with its beaches, forests, mangroves, and marine habitats, and the animals are more varied with regular sightings of white-tailed deer, monkeys, coatis, and hundreds of species of birds.
Hours are from 7 a.m to 3 p.m, and guided tours and cabins for overnight stays are also available.
Trek to El Chorro Waterfall
If you are up for a hike, the El Chorro Waterfall is at the far end of Playa Cocolito , which is a two-hour hike from Montezuma. It is best to try and leave earlier in the day to avoid the heat and be sure to take snacks and water. Heading to El Chorro takes a bit of an effort, but the secluded beach and blue waters are well worth it.
Visit Tortuga Island
It will take a boat ride to get there. But, this island off the shore of the Nicoya Peninsula is a beautiful site for day trips and family adventures. If you hike to the summit of the island, there’s a zip line, or you can just appreciate the wildlife you’ll see on the trek.
The beach is picturesque, with palm trees and clear waters, and if you decide to go snorkelling, you might see manta rays, dolphins, octopuses, or even sharks. Just off the shore, there are also three shipwrecks you can dive into. Zuma Tours offers a handful of Tortuga Island tours, including snorkelling.
Tortuga Island is beautiful at any time of year, but for the best experience, go during the dry season. Don’t just limit yourself to the beach!
Best Hotels in Montezuma, Costa Rica
Amor de Mar: Billed as a “small hotel in paradise,” Amor de Mar has the mission of respecting the area’s ecosystem while benefiting the local community. They conserve water by using water-saving hot water heaters and low-flow toilets. The hotel’s decor also utilizes the work of many artisans, and their outreaches include supporting local schools and recycling centres. Traditional rooms and villas are available for short or long stays in Montezuma, Costa Rica.
On-site, there is a restaurant, breakfast is provided in the guest rooms, and the staff are happy to accommodate specific diets. There are a number of wellness options, including yoga classes and a spa, and most of the rooms have a patio or a balcony with a stunning view of the water. The beach is just a ten-minute walk away.
Hotel El Jardin: Conveniently located in the heart of the town and just a short walk to the beach and Montezuma Waterfalls, Hotel El Jardin also offers experiences in either one of their two bungalows or 14 air-conditioned rooms. The property itself is surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens, which are frequently visited by birds, monkeys, iguanas, and other local animals. Boasting a two-level pool and views of both the ocean and the town of Montezuma, the hotel is a great mid-range accommodation option close to restaurants and shops.
They are also striving for sustainability. They avoid single-use plastics, water is not wasted needlessly, and recycling is practised by the staff and encouraged for the guests. Most of the food is locally sourced and it isn’t wasted, and most of the lighting is energy-efficient.
Sunshine Sanctuary: Comfortable and situated in Montezuma, Sunshine Sanctuary is a charming boutique lodge. It’s a small lodge with only six rooms, so it has a private, luxurious feel to it. This is only enhanced by each room having a private entrance. It’s an easy ten-minute walk from the waterfalls, with a private path.
On-site, breakfast is available each morning, and there is a hot tub, a pool and a coffee house. Also, each room is very well equipped with a kitchen. There are several terraces and patios to sit in and enjoy a beautiful day, local artists are welcome to display their work, and yoga classes are hosted on-site. They are also making efforts towards sustainability as they avoid wasting water or using plastic wherever possible. Most of the lighting is also energy-efficient.
Where to Eat in Montezuma Costa Rica
Soda Tipica Las Palmeras: This family-run restaurant is right off the town centre in Montezuma, and it serves authentic Costa Rican cuisine along with smoothies made with fresh fruit. Their specialities include seafood, such as king prawns and Mahi Mahi, prepared in a variety of ways. You may even have views of curious, local monkeys as you dine. They also offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options
Soda La Naranja: Whether you love ceviche or are a strict vegetarian, Soda La Naranja knows how to combine flavours in a way that truly pleases the palate. The restaurant is family-run, and the food is carefully prepared, which allows you to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
Puggo’s: The owner of Puggo’s settled in Costa Rica after travelling the world brings the flavours of her experiences to the patrons of her restaurant. The restaurant uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including freshly caught fish.
Spices from the owner’s home country of Israel are often incorporated into recipes. Also, the menu also offers several vegetarian options.
La Vida Dulce: If pastries and desserts are what you’re craving, then a stop at La Vida Dulce is a treat. They offer pecan caramel sticky buns and blueberry sour cream coffee cake. It’s no wonder that this is a favourite with locals and visitors alike.
There are also vegan options such as chocolate chip banana bread. Prix fixe dinners happen each Friday night. So, be sure to make reservations ahead of time as we have found that they sell out quickly!
Ylang Ylang Restaurant & Bar: Located at its namesake, Ylang Ylang Restaurant & Bar prides itself on impeccable service. The restaurant also uses locally sourced ingredients and offers vegan and gluten-free options on the menu.
If you stay at the resort, your breakfast and dinner are included in your stay, which is a great perk!
Ubin by Keilor Sanchez: This restaurant thrives on using local ingredients in its dishes. Not only is the food presented beautifully, but it is also flavourful while pairing unique combinations. The décor and atmosphere match the quality of the food all to create a memorable Costa Rican experience.
How Much Time Do You Need in Montezuma, Costa Rica?
Visiting the town Montezuma beach and the falls can be done in a day, but if you want to get a true taste of the area and its activities, it’s best to stay two to three days. Montezuma seems to be one of those stops where travellers tend to linger due to the laid-back nature and beauty of the area. So if you are craving a break from your itinerary, we think this is a great place to do so!
Montezuma has a lot to offer with its oceanside bungalows, fresh flavours, and Playa Montezuma. Whether you choose to make a day of it or fill a week with yoga, surfing, and wildlife viewing, we think it is an ideal place to stay in Costa Rica.