Costa Rica Study Abroad: Montezuma

I really should be studying for my midterm tomorrow, but instead I want to tell you about the day trip I took to Montezuma, Costa Rica last weekend.

I have no idea how, but we managed to get 14 people to meet up at 4:30 in the morning in order to go to Montezuma!  You see, we had thought about doing an overnight in Montezuma in order to celebrate New Year’s Eve there, but all of the hostels online were booked.  Instead we decided to get up super early, take the 5am ferry to Paquera, and then the bus to Montezuma so we could have the morning to hike to the waterfall.

Getting to Montezuma from Puntarenas

Unfortunately, it is not a direct trip from Puntarenas to Montezuma. That makes sense considering Puntarenas is a strip of land, barely connected to the mainland.  In order to reach Montezuma from Puntarenas, we first had to take the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to Paquera (₡880= ~$1.60).  Although we we had to get up super early, the sunrise was absolutely gorgious and worth it!

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Sunrise from the Puntarenas-Paquera Ferry

Once we landed in Paquera, we immediately headed to the bus where I got to use my Spanish to ask how much the bus to Montezuma cost (₡1800= ~$3.25), and when the last bus was going to leave Montezuma (4:15pm).  The last ferry back to Puntarenas was at 8pm, so we knew we would make it back well before then.

The bus ride from Paquera to Montezuma lasted about 2 hours and was rather terrifying.  I’m not sure if it was the road or the bus, but the ride was extremely bumpy.  It also followed curving mountain roads through the forest (tame jungle?) and the bus would slow down long enough for other vehicles to pass us.  However, I enjoyed seeing the scenery and trusted the driver new what he was doing.

Breakfast

We reached Montezuma sometime before 9am.  By then we had all been up for ~4.5 hours by then, so we grabbed some breakfast at Soda el Balcon del Mar.  I don’t normally drink coffee (I absolutely hate the flavor), but the early start to my day called for some major caffeine.  I ordered a café con leche (coffee with milk) and eggs with bacon.  I had to add three sugar packets to my coffee in order to drink it and the bacon was actually just ham mixed with the eggs.  However, the coffee gave me the pick-up I needed and the ham and eggs were delicious, so I can’t complain!  The woman who served us was equally willing to speak in Spanish or English depending on each person’s proficiency level.

Hiking to Montezuma Falls

Once we finished breakfast, we began our trek to the nearest waterfall, Montezuma Falls (45 minutes away according to the map at the bus station).  Once we got off the street and onto the trail, a Costa Rican began to help us with traversing the river.  He acted like he was just there to make sure everyone stayed safe, but we should have known better.  Once we reached the large waterfall (a 25-30 minute walk from the bus stop instead of 45 minutes), our helper asked for a tip and offered to take us snorkeling for ~$20 per person.  We gave him an extremely small tip in the hopes that he would be so disgusted with us that he wouldn’t try to follow us back.

The hike to the waterfall was tricky but would not have been impossible for us to do on our own.  There were a lot of solid roots on the path to use as footholds or to grab for balance.  The water around the rocks downstream of the large waterfall wasn’t too deep nor too fast.  It’s definitely not a groomed path and takes a lot of balance and ankle strength, so keep that in mind if you decide to hike to a waterfall in Montezuma.

The fall itself was beautiful!  It’s about 3o feet tall (I’m guessing) and is the first in a series of three falls.  For the other two, you have to climb up a nearly vertical path to reach them so we stuck with the lower fall.  Unfortunately for some of the people in my group, this particular fall is not very good for cliff diving. Rocks stick out throughout the entire fall so you would have to jump pretty far to clear them.  However, there are some tall rocks at the edge of the pool that are good for jumping/ diving since the water is pretty deep.  There was one local who climbed up to a ledge next to the waterfall and did a perfect swan dive into the pool!  It was awesome but also terrifying since had to make sure to clear the rock wall.img_0228

Almost all of my group swam in the waterfall pool for the rest of the morning.  I have not gone swimming in over 3 years and the last time I swam was in the Caribbean where salt water kept  me afloat.  As I started swimming from one side of the pool to the rock outcropping you can see below, I started to panic a little as I realized 1) I was not traveling very far with each stroke and 2) it was a lot harder work than I expected and I couldn’t fully catch my breath as I swam.  I also can’t keep water out of my nose without pushing air out, so I had to keep my head above water which made swimming even more of a chore.  I flipped over to my back towards the end which was a lot easier.  Lesson learned: I need to take adult swimming lessons after I graduate and have the time…

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Relaxing at the Beach

After we finished up at the falls, we headed back towards La Playa de Montezuma (the Montezuma Beach).  This beach was a lot cleaner than the one in Puntarenas, probably because it’s near where the Pacific Ocean enters the Gulf of Nicoya so not as much driftwood makes it to the Montezuma Beach.  I did a much better job of swimming in the ocean thanks to the salt water.

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Wrapping up Our Trip

After the beach we had lunch and then walked around the tourist shops.  Everything was a lot more expensive than in San José, so I only bought some ice cream.

At that point it was almost 4:00pm and we hadn’t seen any monkeys yet! That was one of the reasons we had come to Montezuma. A ton of hotels and hostels have either “monkey” or “mono” (Spanish for monkey) in their names, but that was beginning to feel like false advertising.  We made our way back to the bus stop, when low-and-behold, a monkey (white-headed capuchin)  came by and grabbed a banana from one of the buildings by the bus stop!  We were more than a little exited to see it and the locals probably thought we were crazy!

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Seeing the monkey was a great end to our Montezuma trip.  We took the bus back to Paquera, caught the 8pm ferry to Puntarenas, and then prepared ourselves to celebrate New Year’s Eve which I briefly discuss in Costa Rica Study Abroad: Week 1

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