Costa Rica! The land of waterfalls, wildlife, beaches & volcanoes. We spent a few weeks in the Nicoya Peninsula so we are here to share with you the best places to explore while you’re here! We came during the start of the green season (May-October is the green/rainy season, November to April is the dry/busy season) so we were able to do all of these activities and it wasn’t very crowded. If you’re looking to come during this time expect some rain but still a lot of beautiful days too. The heaviest rain months are September to October where it basically doesn’t stop raining! So May & June are still good to beat the crowds and see the island all lush and green!
There are a few options on how to get to this part of Costa Rica from San Jose/Alajuela. We will give you the options and the cons and pros of both below!
You can take a small plane from Alajuela airport which is great because it’s super fast (only half an hour!). This option is only good if you have light luggage and are ok with flying in a tiny 12 seater plane. Be mindful of the weather though- if it’s too windy or rainy the planes may not fly! The flights are abut $100 with options for about 15KG of luggage.
Another option is to hire a car and drive. You can drive by land which takes about 5 hours or you can take the Puntarenas Paquera ferry across and drive your car onto the ferry! Keep in mind that car hire in Costa Rica is not cheap- you’re looking at about $80 a day. But if you want freedom to get around this is a great option! Make sure you get a 4×4 as the roads are terrible.
Take a private bus
There are multiple private tour buses that will take you from San Joes/Alajuela or your hotel directly for about $50 per person. Not a bad option but keep in mind you have to take your luggage out of the car and then onto the ferry and off the ferry where another car picks you up to finish the journey. If this is too much hassle you get to keep your luggage on the bus with the next option!
Take a public bus
This is what we did and by far the best option in our eyes! The bus cost us about $15 each and is about a 5 & a half hour journey. The best bit as that your luggage stays on the bus while you get on the ferry so no need to cart it on and off! A seamless and easy experience to get to Cobano (town in the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula). You can book the bus here.
We stayed in a Trusted Housesit while we were here in Montezuma but we have heard great things about Hotel Amor De Mar! This is the view from the back of the property. There are a bunch of nice hotels and hostels alike, plus some retreat centres so you won’t have any trouble finding somewhere nice to stay that suits your budget!
By far one of the easiest ways to get around the local hot spots is to hire an ATV! They are about $60-70 a day but the best to handle the rocky roads and also cheap on fuel. If this is out of your budget there are some local buses that run between towns every hour or two for about $2 each so you can hop on one of these. There are also local taxis which are red, look out for them and grab the number of one so you can Whatsapp them and organise them to drive you around!
Tips: There are heaps of ATV hire companies in Montezuma & Santa Teresa. We found the friendliest and best rates through Ollies!
Weekly Organic Market
Every Saturday from around 11-12;30 there is a local fresh organic market in the Montezuma town park. You can buy all sorts of fresh local produce, as well as local handmade items.
Get your bearings of the area
Once you get to Montezuma, there are a bunch of amazing activities that await you! We highly recommend grabbing a copy of the Zoom magazine which will give you local info and all the tide schedules as well as a Montezuma map by Insider Costa Rica. You should be able to grab these from a tour place in Montezuma town or in Santa Teresa.
This area of Costa Rica can be a little pricey for imported goods as they have to go a bit further to get here. If you’re staying for a while it may be best to bring some of these foods and goods with you so you don’t end up paying a lot of money for them locally here. You also will find very limited range of what you can buy so best to bring any important medicines or supplies with you!
Visit the Montezuma Waterfall
This gorgeous three tiered waterfall is quite the beauty! Located right in the heart of Montezuma you can get to this waterfall the easy way or the hard way.
Tips: There are two ways to get to these waterfalls. The easy way is up the road via some stairs- you pay $2 to use them and this brings you right down to the waterfall. The hard way is by walking up the stream. We recommend to either wear good closed in shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, or just go barefoot! That’s what we did. It’s about a 30 minute walk but you are rewarded by this giant waterfall at the end!
Wander along Playa Grande & Montezuma beach
These beautiful pristine beaches are a great way to go for a morning walk. You can start on Montezuma beach and head north where you will cross beaches and jungles. You will cross a white sand beach, a black sand beach and a red sand beach.
Tips: Check the tide schedule (you can find the tide schedule in the zoom magazine, pick one up at your local tour office in Montezuma), low tide is best for the walk.
Do a day trip to Tortuga Island
If you’re staying in Montezuma, this cute little island is a fun day trip! You can book a boat tour that will take you over to the island where you can snorkel, get fed an awesome lunch and relax in the turquoise blue waters! We paid abut $40 but pricing can vary depending on the season and which tour group you book through.
Tips: Book at one of the stalls in Montezuma town, just rock up the day before you want to go and schedule it in! Bring water, towels. lot’s of sunscreen and your GoPro if you want to capture your snorkelling adventure. It’s about a 45 minute boat ride each way and passes some pretty sites along the way.
Be amazed by a kayak tour at the Bioluminescent Beach
This experience was our all time favourite!! Have you ever heard of the bioluminescent phenomenon? The algae literally glow blue as you paddle on the kayak in pitch black. The sea shimmers like you are floating in the galaxy surrounded by stars! We would highly recommend this experience, it’s basically impossible to photograph so it is just something you have to do and experience for yourself!
Tips: We booked through this website which was seamless. The tours are held daily at 6pm. We highly recommend going on a new moon, or if you go on a full moon make sure it’s cloudy. If the moon is too bright it can take away from the experience. Bring mosquito repellent, swimmers and a flashlight. Enjoy!
Wander through the jungle at Curu Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge is a great way to spend the day. There is a beautiful beach and lot’s of walking trails where you can see many different species of animals. Everything from birds, frogs, crabs, monkeys & more! Not to mention an awesome bridge like the one below.
Tips: They open at 7am and close at 4pm. If you want to do the longer hikes get there early and wear closed in shoes and bring lot’s of water. Entry fee is about $15 each.
Visit the seaside waterfall El Chorro
This one is a nice free thing to do! A beautiful seaside waterfall and secluded beach.
Tips: To get here you want to search for Playa Cocalito in google maps. It’s about a 25 minute drive from Montezuma. When you park up just follow the signs to the waterfall, it’s a short walk through the jungle. Low tide is best so you can wander over on the rocks to the secluded beach.
Go on a hike through Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve
This nature reserve is a protected area full of rich and unique biodiversity in the region. It is home to many different species of wildlife and the long hike has an amazing rewarding pebble beach at the end!
Tips: This park costs about $12 each to enter. Bring a lot of water- you will need it and there is no running water along the trail or at the beach at the end. You have two options for the trails. If you’re fit and wear appropriate shoes you can do the long hike to the beach. It is about 2 hours each way (10KM return) and is full of ups and downs and slippery parts. If this scares you, you can opt for the short return trail which is about an hour. The long trail we think was definitely worth it! You get to an amazing pebble beach where you can see birds flying, lot’s of crazy crabs and gorgeous turquoise waters. Just be mindful of jellyfish in the water- one stung my hand when we were there!
Walk across to Cabuya Island at low tide
Just before Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve you can find this unique little island which you can walk across to at low tide.
Tips: Check the tide schedule, at low tide you can walk across. You also don’t want to spend too much time here as the tide will come in and then you will get stuck! There is a Cemetery on the island which has signs to keep out so we respected this and just wandered around the border.
We hope our guide helps you explore this region of Costa Rica! Have you been to Costa Rica? Would you come here? Let us know!
Happy travels <3