Montezuma Beach in Costa Rica

On Costa Rica's Playa Montezuma, Anything Goes.

Beach hammocks on Montezuma beach.
••• Christer Fredriksson/Getty Images

Liberal, laid-back Playa Montezuma is located on the eastern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. Montezuma Beach is one of the best Costa Rica beaches for budget travelers, especially those of the bohemian persuasion. The center of the smallish town is a people watcher's paradise, thronged with funky international backpackers, permanent ex-pats, and open-minded locals such as artists, surfers, and the people who love them.

What to Do in Montezuma Beach

Montezuma’s abundance of liberal influence makes for diverse and delicious cuisine in the town’s numerous restaurants. It also creates the perfect nightlife hub for Costa Rica’s biggest partiers, most notably at Chico’s Bar. Arts and crafts galleries are fun to peruse but don’t overlook the artisans selling their wares streetside.

What else? Take a snorkeling tour to Tortuga Island. Zipline through the jungle with Montezuma Canopy Tours. Rent a sea kayak or bicycle and explore. Volunteer at the new Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary. Or head to another beach near Montezuma:

  • Playa Grande: Just thirty minutes north of Montezuma, vast Playa Grande is a favorite surf spot. Nude beach seekers, listen up: rumor has it, clothing is optional on Playa Grande.
  • Playa Cocolito: Montezuma Beach claims everyone who hikes the two hours north from Montezuma to Playa Cocolito calls it “one of the best things they did in Costa Rica.” Keep an eye out for a striking waterfall, El Chorro, that tumbles directly into the ocean.

    The 20-minute waterfall hike south of Montezuma Village is popular with travelers—no tour guide necessary. Of the three waterfalls you’ll pass, only the second falls into a pool deep enough for jumping. Warning: The rocks atop the second waterfall are slippery. Several people have been killed attempting to jump, so use tremendous caution if you choose to partake.

    When to Go

    The dry season (also the busy season) in Montezuma is between December and April. Rain falls with relative frequency the rest of the year, though the vegetation is far more green and lush, and prices are lower.

    Getting There and Around

    From San Jose, catch a bus to Puntarenas, about two hours down the Pan-American Highway. From Puntarenas, take a ferry from the lancha terminal or the northwest ferry terminal to Paquera. From Paquera, you can catch a bus to Montezuma (the lancha ferries connect directly with the bus). If you prefer to rent a car in San Jose, Puntarenas’s northwest ferry terminal allows cars on its ferries.

    Speedboat water taxis also crisscross frequently between Montezuma and Jaco Beach on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Roads from the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula can be rather rough, but the drive is lovely.

    Once in the village of Montezuma, you’ll walk everywhere—generally, barefoot!

    Tips and Practicalities

    In the rainy season, the roads heading into Montezuma from Paquera grow slogged with mud, and you’ll likely need to drive a vehicle or catch a taxi with 4-wheel drive.

    A great Montezuma resource is Montezuma Beach, a non-profit website from which all advertising revenue is donated to local conservation organizations.

    Fun Facts

    Playa Grande at Montezuma Beach is said to be haunted! Allegedly, it was the site of an ancient burial ground. Camp overnight if you dare. . .

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