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Montezuma: Highlight of Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

Top insider travel tips for visiting Montezuma.

Tortuga, Costa Rica

Montezuma in Costa Rica is really more of an experience than an actual destination. Travelers who have been here left with more than just sunburn, but a treasure trove of unforgettable stories that inspire the next group of people to visit. Situated on the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, this charming beach town encourages you to eschew all forms of transportation to swim, stroll, and surf.

Seeking solace? A jungle-fringed shoreline has thankfully prevented over-development, one that has plagued most other Costa Rican beach towns. With a more remote location, this part of the country is less-visited and thankfully, less overcrowded. Here, culture is at its finest. New Age veggie-friendly diners are clustered together with lively tour kiosks; Neo-rastas selling handcrafted jewelry hobnob with yogis on their way to their next class. It’s a culture vulture’s dream come true and there’s so much to see and do.

You’ll spend most of your time exploring the coastline that unfurls along several kilometers, but Montezuma is more than just its fabled beach. You can traipse from waterfall to waterfall, spy on abundant wildlife at a nature reserve, gorge on delicious international cuisines in top-notch restaurants, or laze at a beachside al-fresco bar with a margarita in hand.

ing by tropical beach in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Man walking by tropical beach in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica.

Best Time to Visit Montezuma

Montezuma offers a bit of something for everyone, regardless of when you visit. The drier months from mid-December until April offer the most pleasant weather – a great time to explore and engage in outdoor activities. However, these months also lure in more crowds, which in turn leads to pricier accommodation rates.

The off-season from May to November is Costa Rica’s winter. Also dubbed as the “Green Season”, these months bring in more rain but with a silver lining: expect verdant flora, multi-hued sunsets, fewer people, and hotels at low-season rates.

A well-planned itinerary is key to making your trip worthwhile. A trip to Montezuma can be added to any length of stay in Costa Rica, from a short, 5 to 7-day Costa Rica itinerary to up to 14 days. Ask yourself what you want to do in Montezuma and strategize the best time to visit!

Things to Do in Montezuma

Go Beaching

Montezuma’s claim to fame is its long swath of wooded coastlines, all offering visitors places to sunbathe, surf, or spy on the sunset. For starters, know that there are plenty to choose from. Head to Playa Cocalito for a bonus waterfall sighting, visit a local fishing village named Mal Pais for the day’s fresh catch, hop on to Playa Carmen for an international vibe or Playa Suecos for Instagram-worthy rock formations. If you only have time for one beach, head north of town and you’ll find the city’s most famous beach: Playa Montezuma.

Walk further up north for more beaches and remote coves. If you keep at it, you’ll reach Playa Grande, a beach so secluded hiking in and out is your only option. This long stretch of sand and crystal clear waters is popular for surfers and travelers looking for an intimate spot away from the crowd.

Hike at the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve stretches across 1,172 hectares of land with 18 hectares of water. For travelers looking for a piece of paradise on earth, this place is the closest you can get. Hike across its thick jungles to spy on a variety of rare flora and fauna.

The sanctuary is home to around 150 tree species and a variety of birds like the long-tailed manakin, brown pelicans, sulfur-winged parakeet, and white-throated magpies. A plethora of land-dwelling animals also seeks shelter in this sanctuary including armadillos, howler monkeys, coyotes, hog-nosed skunks, cougars, anteaters, and grey foxes.

Explore the Montezuma Waterfalls

Visiting the Montezuma Waterfalls and jumping from its peak and into the waters below has become somewhat of a popular rite of passage for travelers visiting the destination. The Montezuma Waterfalls consists of three cascades, and each waterfall has something for everyone.

The tallest waterfall towers 80 feet – a delight for daredevil travelers who like jumping from the top and plunging into the waters below. The Montezuma Waterfalls may be accessed via a hanging bridge or by trekking up a riverbed.

Montezuma waterfall in Costa Rica

Montezuma waterfall in nature of Costa Rica

Snorkel at Tortuga Island

Explore marine life by going on an exciting snorkeling tour at Isla Tortuga. About an hour away from the coast by boat, Tortuga Island features stunning volcanic rock formations and a vibrant seabed. Just heading to the island is a feast for the eyes in itself – stunning coastlines and occasional sightings of turtles, jumping manta rays, and humpback whales.

Jump into the water for even more sighting of marine creatures. The waters are home to species like morays, porcupine fish, eagle rays, king angelfish, and others. Don’t forget to bring a waterproof camera!

Visit Cemetery Island

If you’re looking for a more spiritual escapade, take a trip to Isla de Cabuya, a small island located near the small fishing village of Cabuya. The island is very close to the shore, making it accessible by foot on low tide. This extraordinary island is popular for having a cemetery, and walking around its gravesites is a unique albeit creepy experience (the island is rumored to be haunted). Here, seashells adorn the graves and rows of agave plants mark the gravesites.

Gorge on Good Food

Montezuma is a gourmand’s dream come true, however, if you’re expecting lots of local fare, you might be surprised to find out that most restaurants in this town cater to more international tastes.

Chelo Pizzeria serves authentic Italian pizza and bruschetta. Clandestina offers six different house craft brews and tapas infused with Latin-flare. Puggo’s offers a mix of everything including sushi, barbecued meats, and Middle Eastern favorites. Cocolores serves a host of exotic curries, seafood, kebabs, and soups. The list goes on!

This small bohemian beach town might not be first on your list when it comes to planning a trip to Costa Rica, but the draw of this Costa Rican gem is apparent: an inviting, boho vibe, friendly locals with a leaning towards the arts, delicious food, and stunning natural sights. The result is a perfect paradise for backpackers, alternative lifestyle travelers, and adventurers out on a soul-searching expedition.

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