20 Things You Should Know Montezuma Costa Rica

You need at least three days to enjoy your entire stay in Montezuma. You can spend the day on Tortuga Island, hang out in the sun on Montezuma Beach, swim at Montezuma Waterfall, and learn to surf at Playa Grande. Even with all these on your to-do list, there are things you should know before coming. 

Montezuma is on the furthest tip of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

As a tourist, I soon understood that the fun of any touristy location depends on individual opinion. And there are so many. 

One person’s ideal is another’s avoid-at-all-cost. 

So, instead of reviewing Montezuma, I have presented all the facts and things you should know about the place before coming in. 

This will provide you with enough information on what to make of Montezuma. It will help you determine if this place is worth your time as you plan to spend it in Costa Rica

Key Takeaways

  • Things to do: Montezuma waterfalls, surfing, yoga, Tortuga Island, bioluminescence kayak night tour, Piedra Colorada River, Playa Cocolito and El Chorro waterfall, Cabo Blanco Reserve, fishing out of malpais
  • Beaches: Malpais, playa carmen, playa Hermosa, playa manzanillo, playa Cuevas, playa mar azul, and playa Ventanitas
  • Things to eat: soda tipica las palmares, cocolores, Tierra y Fuego, cafe coyote, ubin!
  • The Best Restaurant is Organico, which offers excellent food, live music, and an open mic every night. Alternatively, you can go to Soda La Naranja for a carrot burger. 
  • Watch out for self-acclaimed hike helps’ who only intend to extract money from you. Only rent cars when necessary for day trips. 

20 essential things you should know about Montezuma

In no particular order, here are 20 essential things you should know about Montezuma before planning your stay here. 

For a beach getaway in Montezuma, Tortuga’s your best bet. 

Tortuga Island, a tiny spot near Montezuma, is perfect for a relaxing beach escape. It’s part of the Islas Negritos Biological Reserve, along with Alcatraz Island. 

You can enjoy snorkeling, beautiful sandy beaches, and plenty of coconuts here!

Many people from Jaco and San Jose love to visit Tortuga Island. 

However, getting there can be quite a journey, especially for day trips from San Jose. That’s why Montezuma is a great starting point for tours to Tortuga Island—it’s much closer.

When you go on a tour from Montezuma, you’ll hop on a boat for about 45 minutes and enjoy the scenery (you might even see Cocalito Falls!). 

Then, you’ll visit two snorkeling spots where you can swim with turtles, sharks, and colorful fish. The snorkeling here is top-notch, even better than Caño Island!

Tours from Montezuma to Tortuga Island cost around $80, including lunch, snacks, drinks, and snorkeling gear. 

Montezuma Waterfalls is one of the few free options in Costa Rica.

Montezuma Waterfalls won’t cost you a dime to visit! And let me tell you, spending a day exploring these three waterfalls is fantastic and one of the top things to do in Montezuma.

Unfortunately, there are not too many like Montezuma Waterfalls in Costa Rica. 

You’ll likely encounter many waterfalls, almost all requiring an entrance fee. Whether visiting La Fortuna Waterfall or Nauyaca Falls, ensure you have some cash handy.

Getting to Montezuma Waterfalls from town is straightforward. You can walk there and follow the trail, but it can be a bit tricky, so pay attention to the directions below:

Montezuma Waterfall  Direction 
The first waterfall, the lower falls, is the easiest to reach Just walk along the right side of the river for about 20 minutes, and you’ll find it. But it’s not the best spot for swimming.
The second waterfall is where you want to take a dip.  Head back from the lower falls for about 100 feet, cross the river (carefully!), and look for some ropes and stairs on the other side. Follow them, always keeping right at any forks, and you’ll reach the upper waterfalls.

While visiting Montezuma Waterfalls is free, there’s a small fee (1,000 colones, or about $1.90) to use the trail to get to the upper falls. Bring sturdy shoes and be ready to get them wet.

Friendly advice: 

  • There’s a free trail from the lower to the upper falls, but climbing can be dangerous. It’s not worth risking your safety for a few bucks, so please be careful!

Montezuma Beach is not a surf beach.

Montezuma Beach could be better for surfing because it’s full of rocks and the waves aren’t suitable for surfing. But that’s okay because there are better places in Costa Rica for surfing, like Playa Grande or Playa Cabuya.

However, Montezuma Beach is still fabulous! It’s the main beach in Montezuma and a perfect spot to chill. 

During the day, lots of people hang out there. 

At sunset, the whole town comes to the beach. At night, there are bonfires and parties until late. 

For parties, head to Chico’s Bar

The ultimate spot for partying in Montezuma is Chico’s Bar. 

It’s in the middle of town and gets packed on weekends with the best dance vibes. 

But if Chico’s prices scare you off, you can still have a blast in the plaza just outside Chico’s. 

It is often more relaxed, perfect for chatting and enjoying cheap beers from the nearby supermarket.

Be ready to find many talented musicians.

You will begin to spot many talented musicians as you visit places like Organico on the weekends. 

But again, the top spot for that is Chicos Bar. During the afternoons, you can sit outside by the beach, munch on tasty food, sip on refreshing drinks, and enjoy live tunes. 

You may not get great coffee and treats anywhere except in the Panaderia Cabuya Cafeteria.

When you’re in Cabuya, stop by Panaderia Cabuya Cafeteria for yummy coffee and treats. You can see their performance on TripAdvisor. 

You can hop on a direct bus from Montezuma to Cabuya, which runs multiple times daily, to get there. 

Just ask your hotel for the current schedule because it can change. 

You can also take a taxi, but that might cost you around 10,000 colones ($19) each way.

Don’t sleep on the Saturday organic market.

Every Saturday in Montezuma, a cozy organic market is near the beach. It’s just across from the Plaza de Fútbol de Montezuma and runs from morning until lunchtime.

It’s a great place to grab fresh organic fruits and veggies, delicious healthy snacks, refreshing coconuts, and even some unique jewelry and clothes. 

The market is bustling with local goods and always draws a crowd.

Piedra Colorada is where the river meets the sea.

Trekking to Coicalito Falls doesn’t excite tourists when visiting Montezuma. 

Still, one noteworthy stop is Piedra Colorada, where the river flows into the sea, creating small swimming pools and an inukshuk garden to explore. 

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and take some time to read the informative signs along the way, especially the ones near the border of Reserva Natural Absoluta Nicolas Wessberg.

Although you can witness turtle hatchings at the reserve, the beach is off-limits between 6 PM and 6 AM to protect the turtles and their nests, which volunteers safeguard throughout the night.

A popular way to get around Montezuma is on an ATV. 

An ATV is one of my favorite ways to travel around Montezuma. 

These vehicles are handy because you can zip to Cacalito Falls, Santa Teresa, and Cabuya. 

Renting an ATV in Montezuma costs around $85 for a whole day. It’s usually cheaper if you book your rental directly in town.

You will find more tourists around Santa Teresa.

Santa Teresa is a bustling, touristy town about 40 minutes away from Montezuma. 

While it’s a popular place to stay, finding accommodation there can be challenging as it often needs to be fully booked or more affordable for many travelers. 

If you’ve got a vehicle, you can drive to Santa Teresa in around 40 minutes. Use Waze instead of Google Maps to navigate, as the road can be rough and you’ll need a sturdy 4WD vehicle.

Save big on food expenses by eating at the local soda shop.

During my visit, I tried meals at three fantastic local eateries called “sodas,” where dishes cost less than $4 each.

I recommend the Balcon Del Mar for Sodas, where the casados (traditional Costa Rican meals) are superb, especially the chicken in sauce. 

Soda la Naranja is another fantastic alternative, especially for breakfast, because of its convenient central location.

Lower your expectations of the quality of food you find here.

The food in Montezuma is decent but nothing extraordinary. However, the place itself is fantastic.

Adjust your expectations when it comes to dining, and you’ll discover plenty of things to love!

There is also a sea turtle sanctuary.

One of the most incredible things to see is the daily turtle release on Montezuma Beach. 

If turtles have hatched, a conservation project sets free baby turtles into the ocean each day at 4 p.m. You can watch them go to the sea, which might take some time.

This release occurs on the northern part of Montezuma Beach at the A.S.V.O. Sea Turtle Hatchery, which is easy to locate. 

Walk toward Playa Grande along Montezuma Beach from town until you reach the rocks at the far end. 

Please only count on bioluminescence if it’s a new moon that hasn’t rained. 

Just off the Nicoya Peninsula, there’s a fascinating natural wonder called bioluminescence. You’ll see it firsthand when you go kayaking in Paquera Bay at night. 

It’s rare to find this glowing blue-green algae in Costa Rica, making a bioluminescence kayak tour a must-do activity when you’re in Montezuma.

However, if it’s not a new moon that hasn’t rained, you can ignore the bioluminescence Kayak tour in Montezuma. 

It depends on whether anyone who tells you otherwise is stealing your money.

Be careful about getting help. 

Only some tourists may have this experience, but it’s worth knowing about. Be careful when seeking guidance or help from individuals claiming to be guided around the area. 

Some of these guys might approach you if they sense you’re looking for an easy way to the falls. 

They’ll offer to assist you for a fee, claiming they are just helping people cross. But beware; once you’ve crossed and returned, he might demand a much higher price than you expected, which feels like robbery. 

Aside from that, waiters might even sweet-talk you with unadvertised specials, only to charge you higher prices once you order. 

And watch out for extra charges for coffee refills—they’re outrageous!

During the dry season, the town will get filled with backpackers.

Expect to see a lot of backpackers around town during the dry season.

The best time to visit Montezuma is during the dry season (December–April)

The ideal time to visit Montezuma is during the dry season, from December to April. This is when there is less rain and humidity, making it more comfortable for visitors. 

Remember that the dry season is also the busiest time for Montezuma, especially in January and February, so booking your hotel in advance is wise to secure your accommodations.

You need at least three days to enjoy your entire stay here.

Stay in Montezuma, Costa Rica, for at least three days (or 4 to 5 if you want a complete beach vacation). 

With this time, you can enjoy the beach, explore the town, hike to the Montezuma Waterfalls in the morning, and even take a couple of day trips to nearby places, depending on your interest.

On the first day, you can relax on Montezuma Beach and explore Montezuma Town. 

On the second day, you could surf in Santa Teresa or Montezuma and visit the Cabuya Island Cemetery and Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve. You can also see the Montezuma Waterfalls on the second day. 

The Tortuga Island Day Trip and the Bioluminescence Kayak Tour can occur on the third day. 

Only rent cars for day trips.

Walking or renting a bike are quick ways to get around if you stay in Montezuma Town.

But renting a car or ATV is best if you want to check out nearby places or go on day trips. Taking a taxi from the town center is also a good choice if you plan to avoid leasing a vehicle.

Like in many countries, you should agree on a price with the taxi driver before you get in.

Most of the restaurants are in the main square.

In Montezuma, Costa Rica, you’ll discover that most restaurants are clustered around the main square near Montezuma Beach. 

They offer a variety of food, from traditional Costa Rican dishes to pizza and sushi. 

These restaurants usually have a relaxed vibe, so you can expect a laid-back atmosphere rather than a fancy one.

Manuel Antonio vs. Montezuma: Which Is Better?

Manuel Antonio is more built-up compared to Montezuma. It has fancier restaurants, and the big draw is its national park, where you’re almost guaranteed to see monkeys and sloths.

Montezuma, on the other hand, has that classic surfer town vibe. The beaches are less crowded, and the town feels more laid-back without being too touristy.

What made my stay in Montezuma special was the feeling of being on a private tropical island. 

Is Montezuma worth visiting?

Montezuma is hands down among the best towns to be in Costa Rica. It gives off such island vibes, even though it’s not on an island. You could easily spend all your time here without getting bored. Even though Montezuma attracts tourists, it still has that cozy, relaxed feel.

The best part of everything has to be that if you go to the Montezuma waterfalls around 7 AM, you might have them all to yourself for a good couple of hours. 

The town has a few excellent restaurants, a supermarket, and a mini-market for essentials. Playa Grande Beach is just a 30-minute walk away if you’re up for a little stroll. It’s a lovely spot for swimming and chilling out, and the waves are okay for surfing, too.

Montezuma is worth visiting if you’re into peaceful nature and genuine vibes.


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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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