High upon a steep hilltop above the village of Montezuma, Costa Rica, at the bottom of the Nicoya Peninsula, our castle for a few days defends the landscape. After a journey through crowded San Jose, a car ferry from Puntas Arenas and another tumultuous ride down cracked and broken roads we arrived at our accommodations. The Jungle Hub, booked through Airbnb, is a glittering treasure amongst the trees. By daylight, the ocean views dominate the horizon and the sounds of the surrounding jungle call out above the absence of human noise. Blue, orange and a rainbow of other colored butterflies flutter everywhere taking your breath with the beat of their wings.
With the Stars Above…
The tail of a dying star slightly blurs my vision as eyes wide with wonder soak in a night sky unblemished from man’s unnatural light. The universe is spread above the warm Costa Rican soil with more stars than I can count, a never-ending tapestry of light balancing on a background of coal-black velvet. As I lie on my back looking up, shooting stars steal my focus every few seconds and my gaze follows until they disappear somewhere under heaven and above the earth.
Following the steep, broken road down and back up the hill lies a trail near the Butterfly Brewing Company. From here we hike down through the jungle canopy to the jewels of Montezuma, Costa Rica: the waterfalls. The trail forks upon the steep side of the ravine formed by the river below. To the left, down a beaten log and dirt staircase, lays the two upper waterfalls. To the right, the cascading water glides over the biggest drop to form a popular swimming hole.
One Foot Over the Waterfall Edge…
At the upper falls, warm mountain water flows down its natural aqueduct, over glistening rocks and under the still gaze of the trees. Tranquility defines the landscape until it is temporarily interrupted by a human yelp followed by a splash, as someone launches themselves from the top of the falls. The first jump is a warm-up, 12-to-15 feet high, but once into the pool below you come to the second precipice. Those without acrophobia may even demur at the top as their eyes follow the water’s descent down the rocky cliff. For those who dare a 40-foot plunge, there’s a deep basin and a tricky climb back up.
Too many glances and my nerves start to stutter, but with false courage garnered from my friends, I leaped over the craggy lip, lost the battle with gravity and embraced the adrenaline as I plunged into the water below.
Las Aguas Purificadoras (the Cleansing Waters)
There are numerous ways to access the biggest falls, of which jumping from the top, an unsafe and dubious pursuit, is not on the list. The most popular being along the rocky banks of the stream, up a gradual incline starting just outside of the town. Along the broken asphalt and potholed dirt road south out of Montezuma there lies a parking lot, where for a dollar or two you can park. The 15-minute walk will get you to the refreshing waters edge and a shallow dive under the thundering waterfall rinses the days sweat from sun-kissed skin.
As the sun drops below the horizon and casts its fantastic glowing shadow of orange and red amongst the waves of the Pacific, the small village of Montezuma calls the dinner hours. Hostels, shops, hotels and restaurants rendezvous among a few cross streets. They’re lined with the dusty ATV’s of travelers as they venture from nearby Santa Teresa or the outskirts of town. On one such night, the harmonic sounds of guitars are blown our way carried on the sea breeze.
Echoes in the Night
Discovering a joyous crowd gathered inside and out front of Organico, a popular vegan-friendly restaurant, we join the horde and let the alternating stream of musicians transform the night into a melee of dancing. As the stage empties inside the eatery, the steady beat of drums emerge across the street.
Adults and children dance into the middle of the crowd as more musicians wielding a variety of instruments add to the rhythm of the night. We are told this is an almost nightly occurrence, a musical gathering of locals and travelers alike, a camaraderie forged in the warm salty breeze under an exuberant sky. The drums echo the Costa Rican pulse, its reverberation encouraging my soul as the adventure carries us ever forward to the next destination.
Here are some tips to help plan your trip to Montezuma, Costa Rica:
Flights: Flights from the US to Costa Rica are daily. Consider flying into the capital city of San Jose and head northwest to the Nicoya Peninsula to Montezuma. Skyscanner has flight alerts, app tracking and daily deals to get you the best rates by plane for your trip.
Transportation: If you want to see the jungle and the beaches of Costa Rica with your travel crew, renting a car is the best option. Pickup from the nearest airport for convenience. You can hire private drivers for tours, but it’s not necessary. Roads are bumpy and often unpaved, so consider a little extra insurance to cover any potential damage.
How to reach the Montezuma Beaches and Waterfalls: From the Butterfly Brewing Company, you can take a short hike southward to enjoy the waterfalls near town. Some are small, but the most popular has a large swimming hole and two jump off points – one higher than the other! There’s also a nearby parking lot for a couple bucks if you rather drive. Montezuma Beach is within short walking distance from town and the main hangout point for locals and tourists.
You can take a 50-minute drive west to Mal Pais from Montezuma for some more beach and surfing experiences, said to be one of the prettiest spots on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Where to Stay in Montezuma, Costa Rica: Airbnb is one of the most ideal options for groups, as many of the properties are well located in town and have open-air hangout spots. Zumaloft is another holiday home rental option just north of the city. There are not too many splashy options as it’s a rustic area, but the Ylang Ylang Resort is an opportunity to lounge by a luxurious pool and be surrounded by nature.
Have a blast on your trip! Reach out anytime if you have travel questions, we ventured to Montezuma, Costa Rica personally and would love to help.