Hike up any stream and you'll probably find a waterfall

Hiking is an activity that almost everyone that comes to this part of Costa Rica wants to do. Montezuma tends to attract nature loving outdoors-types, rather than the “sit in the casino gambling away your children’s inheritance” types.

Being outside in the jungle for an extended amount of time is the best way to catch a glimpse of some exotic species or beautiful birds. And to really see a special and rare animal, such as an anteater or wild jungle cat, you have to log a lot of hours.

One of the good things about this area is that there’s almost nothing dangerous out there in the jungle. While we have a few jaguars and pumas, which are big enough to eat someone, there hasn’t been a known attack in 50+ years in this area. But the best thing is that we have very few poisonous snakes. Neither of the most dangerous species, the Terciopelo (Fer de Lance) nor the Bushmaster live in this part of Costa Rica. We do have tropical rattlesnakes, but they are extremely rare… nearly extinct. I’ve never seen one in the eight years I’ve been here. You don’t have to worry about leeches, malaria, scorpions, centipedes, or just about anything else either. The most dangerous creature is probably a large yellow wasp that has a vicious sting, or the Brazilian wandering spider, but you won’t see one during the day unless you’re sticking your hands into dark holes where they shouldn’t go.

But now, where to go? The problem is that there are very few official trails. Some people just hike on the less-traveled roads, some head to the national parks, and others just hike on the beach. All of these are good ideas. Here’s a breakdown of the best way to hike if you’re hoping to have a jungle experience and see some wildlife:

1. Hike up a stream! All rivers and streams are public property. You can walk up any of them that you want. Pick any of them that look interesting, park on the roadside, and start hiking through the river. Watch out for flash floods in rainy season however. In Montezuma, many of them have secret and almost unknown waterfalls and swimming holes.

2. Early morning beach walk. Start at very first light and you have a good chance to see some jungle creatures scampering around on the beach. A great idea is to walk north from Montezuma to Piedra Colorada, Romelia Wildlife Reserve, Playa Grande or beyond, starting at 4:30 am. This is probably your very best way to see an animal, and the most beautiful hike as well.

3. Cabo Blanco Park has a brutal 2 hour hike (each way) to a remote beach. I hiked it once and didn’t see a single animal. If you do this and hope to see wildlife, be the first one there in the morning so the animals haven’t been scared off the trails yet. For seeing wildlife, a better choice is Curu Park, which has many good hiking trails.

4. Montezuma Falls Hike. This is one of the best and most popular. There are all kinds of trails around Montezuma Falls, on both sides of the river. There are several waterfalls and many pools. Past the third pool with the rope-swing, it’s phenomenally beautiful… walk 30-40 minutes up-river from the top pool and you’ll love every minute. Again, be very careful of flash floods. People have been swept away in them during rainy season. If you see dark clouds up-river then pick another day for this.

5. Guide Hiking Tours – Go with Olingo Tour Guides for birdwatching or to see animals. They know the best spots to see wildlife and will help you spot the critters that you probably would just walk right past if you were on your own.

Detailed Hiking Articles

  • Romelia Wildlife RefugeRomelia Wildlife Refuge
    Known in spanish as “Refugio Mixto de Vida Silvestre Romelia” (RMVSR), this reserve is located just behind Playa Grande in Montezuma. Although this inscribed as a national wildlife refuge, it’s still managed by the original family who founded it, so it’s not public property and should be respected as such. So unless you’re ...
  • Curú National Wildlife RefugeCurú National Wildlife Refuge
    Curú National Wildlife Refuge, known in Costa Rica as “Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Curú” is the best park in the southern Nicoya peninsula. It offers scuba diving, a beautiful white sand beach, tons of wild animals including two reintroduction programs, cabinas for rent, mangrove swamps, hiking trails, and much more. Unfortunately, most tourists zip ...
  • Olingo Surf and Nature ToursOlingo Surf and Nature Tours
    The Olingo team are perhaps the best guides in the area. Professionally certified in Costa Rica, they work with many of the best hotels and retreat centers to provide surf instruction, horseback riding, birdwatching, guided sea kayak tours, etc. Note: This is the “high end” of nature tours, and it’s relatively expensive compared to self-guided ...
  • Playa CocolitoPlaya Cocolito
    Playa Cocolito is probably the most deserted beach in the entire Montezuma/Malpais/Santa Teresa area. It’s inaccessible by car, and so the only way to get there is to hike in. Tourists come here for two reasons… first because it’s an amazingly beautiful hike and for those who want to go farther than Playa ...
  • Cabuya IslandCabuya Island
    Cabuya Island is one of those magical spots that most people see, but few people actually take the time to walk out to. It’s a place of fear, legend, rumor, and excitement, supposedly haunted by ghosts at night, due to the fact that it’s been a cemetery for as long as anyone can remember. ...
  • Playa Grande of MontezumaPlaya Grande of Montezuma
    Playa Grande of Montezuma, not to be confused with an even more famous beach in Costa Rica, Playa Grande near Tamarindo, is a 30-40 minute walk north of town. A common destination for tourists and locals who would like to get away from the crowds (not that Montezuma’s closer beaches are ever actually crowded) but Playa ...
  • Rio Lajas FallsRio Lajas Falls
    This waterfall is legendary in the area, and few people have actually made the epic journey to see it. It’s a two-hour hike each way, so plan to spend the day hiking up to it… bring plenty of food and water. To get there, drive south from Montezuma to the Cabuya Bridge. You’ll see it’s a ...
  • Cedros FallsCedros Falls
    Los Cedros Falls is a little known, waterfall near Montezuma. To get there, drive towards Cabuya from Montezuma and pass Playa Las Manchas. The road will split, and when it comes back together, there will be a small bridge on your right. This is Rio Cedros, and the beautiful Playa las Rocas is on the ...
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