Could this possibly be one of the best day trips currently in Costa Rica? For some, this is just an afternoon walk. The Montezuma Waterfalls are a set of three different size waterfalls that are a perfect afternoon activity for anyone. The majority of the people who hike this trail stay at the bottom (the biggest waterfall) but there is so much more to do here. I have seen locals jump from 25 meters up but I wouldn’t suggest this. What I do suggest is making it a priority to see these. You might even have to go back more than once during your stay.
There are multiple ways to access all of the Montezuma waterfalls. Some do cost money, however, it isn’t much at all when you factor in the amount of fun you just had. Depending on the type of adventurer you are, I would suggest certain routes to take. There are periods of steep climbing but it only makes the jump into the waterfall that much better. Costa Rica is known for its adventure and this will easily live up to that. Now let’s get into my complete guide to the Montezuma waterfalls.
Directions to the Montezuma Waterfalls
When I hiked the Montezuma waterfalls, I was staying at a hostel in Montezuma. While this may be common, it is also common to come from other parts of Costa Rica. This could be either for the day or even longer when visiting these waterfalls. Here are some directions from popular places to the Montezuma Waterfalls.
San Jose to Montezuma
Most people who come to Costa Rica will be flying into San Jose. This means getting from San Jose to Montezuma is their biggest obstacle to hiking to the Montezuma Waterfalls. There are a lot of ways but here are just a few.
- Fly from San Jose to Tambor airport and then take a bus to Montezuma
- Take the public buses all the way to Montezuma: This is the cheapest option but also the longest and most difficult. For more information about this option visit Rome2Rio.
- A very popular option is taking a shuttle. There are many companies you can choose from, as you will notice when landing in San Jose and seeing all the signs. One of the most popular companies is Topicaltours. The cost of it is $40 one way.
Santa Teresa to Montezuma
There is so much to do in and around Montezuma that I don’t suggest only coming for a day. If you do decide all you want to see is the Montezuma Waterfalls, then here are some of the ways to do that.
I would say the most popular mode of transportation is renting an ATV and doing it this way. There are a ton of ATVs going through to Montezuma and Cabuya. The guy we purchased ours from in Santa Teresa suggested that we do that as a day trip. Another way is if you already have a car, which is the most realistic option for most people. There are buses to take but I haven’t done that and a taxi is good if you have multiple people to split it with.
Montezuma to the Trailhead
If you are staying at a hostel in Montezuma, you are most likely already close to the trailhead of the Montezuma waterfalls. When you come down to the main street of Montezuma, stay on the main road and don’t take a left to go downtown. Keep walking until you cross a small bridge. Just past this will be the trailhead. This is the main entrance and it also has a parking lot. There are other ways to enter the park but this is by far the most popular one. We will go over the other options in this guide.
Other Activities in Costa Rica
- 14 Epic Things to do in Puerto Viejo
- La Fortuna Waterfall
- El Chorro Waterfall
- Isla Cabuya: Island Cemetery
Montezuma Waterfalls: Which Entrance to Take?
There are three main ways to enter the Montezuma Waterfalls. Two of the ways cost money but it’s not much. The most popular way is to use the free path. This free path generally only leads to the main (lower) most popular waterfall and it’s also the biggest. It is possible to get to the upper waterfalls without having to pay any money. Below is a map of the three main entrances and where they are so you can figure out which one is best for you.
My Suggested Hiking Gear
Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.
- KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
- Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.
Montezuma Waterfalls Trailhead and Parking:
This is the most popular entrance to the hike. This is absolutely free as long as you don’t take the stairs that you see across the river. If you do, the cost is 1000 CRC, so this option will definitely be worth it for the majority of people. The lower waterfall is the main one that is accessed through this entrance but is still so much fun if that’s all you want to do. Below is a picture of the stairs that cost money. They charge because these stairs actually run through property owned by Sun Trails Tours. The entrance used by Sun Trails costs 2000 CRC and that is shown as the 3rd route on the map above.
Montezuma Waterfall Canopy Tour
There are many different ways to enter the Montezuma waterfalls and see them for yourself. A cool way to do this is to add another adventure on top of it. Many people who come to Costa Rica love to go ziplining. It is a fun activity to see a lot of nature and it is extremely unique. There are many reputable companies that do this tour such as Zuma Tours and Tropical Tours. Tropical Tours costs $45 from Montezuma and $75 from Santa Teresa. Zuma is $5 more expensive but we used them for our tour to Isla Tortuga and really liked them. Here’s a list of what you get if you choose to do some ziplining:
- Consists of 9 cables and 13 platforms
- See many different species of animals such as white-faced monkeys, parrots, iguanas, and maybe a few howlers.
- Access to the Montezuma waterfalls where you get to enjoy the beautiful scenery and swim in the pools.
Related Blog Post: 10-day Itinerary in Costa Rica
Sunshine Sanctuary and Butterfly Brewing Co.
You can see where Sunshine Sanctuary is on the map given previously in this blog above. It is the second route located in the middle of the map. If you end up taking the stairs to the upper waterfalls and don’t want to hike all the way back through, you can take this route up to a parking lot and then follow the roads back to Montezuma. There are also some accommodation situations called Sunshine Sanctuary and these rooms give you access to private entry for free.
There is also a really nice brewery right at the end of the dirt path called Butterfly Brewing Company. We stopped there for a post-hike beer after our second time going and we loved it. Covid has really put a damper on many businesses and it was nice to show our support. There is a parking lot in this area and the trailhead is right next to this. At the end of this path is where the guy is sitting to collect the 1000 CRC.
Montezuma Waterfalls: Trails For Each
Getting to the 1st waterfall (lower) from the main entrance is pretty straightforward. It is super popular so you will be following people the whole way. Once you get to the lower waterfall you will then see people up top and wonder how to get there. Below I will explain how to access all 3 of the waterfalls.
Waterfall #1 (Lower)
Follow the trail from the Main Entrance for a couple of minutes and you will start to see the flowing water from the river. Climb over these rocks but be careful because a lot of them are slippery, so take your time. Once the river starts to open up a little bit you will then want to transition onto the trail that goes through the woods. The trail is short and will lead you to an area with ropes that you have to hold onto to help climb across the rocks. This makes you feel like a true adventurer. Shortly after this, you will be at the main waterfall where the vast majority of people will be at relaxing. This whole area is completely free.
Waterfall #2 and #3 (Upper)
While these waterfalls aren’t as big as the lower ones, they are just as fun. There are fewer people here and areas to jump off into the pools. I personally enjoyed it more than the lower one because of the crowd. If you go earlier in the morning then there will be far fewer people here. In order to access the other two waterfalls, you can either take the steps and pay 1000 CRC, do one of the tours or go the back way for free. I will only be going over the stairs option in this section.
When you are hiking to the Montezuma waterfalls from the main entrance, about 3/4 of the way there are stairs that lead directly up into the forest. It is on the opposite side of the river and the path you are taking, so it can be hard to spot. Keep an eye out for a rope and potentially some other people taking this route. While this is a safe way to access the other two waterfalls, it is straight-up and can be difficult for those not in great shape. Good news though that isn’t a crazy long hike. After you pay your 1000 CRC at the top, keep following the path until you get to the other two waterfalls. The first one you see is the shortest and you will see everyone jumping off this one. There is a larger one that you will see some others jumping into that was too high for me.
How to Not Pay for the Upper Waterfalls
If you are up for another adventure or simply on a budget, then this section is for you. There is a way to get to the upper two waterfalls without having to pay the 1000 CRC. If you are extremely afraid of heights then maybe this option isn’t for you. Once you get to the lower main waterfall you might see some people going to the back corner and climbing up. It is hard to see but there is a path into the woods from here. The first main section of this is straight up and can be a little scary. There are ropes to hold onto at one point but once you get past this short part, you will be walking a very easy trail until the last section.
After this section of the hike, you will then have to climb down. There are two huge ropes that will help make it a lot safer but it is straight down. Once you go down these you are at the upper two waterfalls. If you look to your left, that is the 12-meter waterfall and to your right is the 4-meter one. If you want to jump from the smaller waterfall, you will have to go around to the side and climb up or jump in the pool to then climb up. When leaving the Montezuma waterfalls, in order not to pay, you have to go back the same way you did and climb back down. Otherwise, you will have to go up to the smallest waterfall and take the stairs to then pay the 1000 CRC.
What to do at Montezuma Waterfalls
Montezuma Waterfall Jump
The Montezuma waterfalls are a fun place to relax and enjoy the hot day. There are many places to sit in the shade and multiple areas to swim. There are multiple areas to cliff jump as well and one of those even has a rope swing to do a waterfall jump. I was short on time but others were doing it and it looked super fun. If I went back I would have to try it myself.
The most common activity at the Montezuma waterfalls is sunbathing and swimming in the pools. Make sure to bring a towel! You can easily sit here for hours and the time will fly by. Bring some food for lunch and even a couple of beers to enjoy the beautiful day in Montezuma.
What To Do After the Montezuma Waterfalls
Immediately after the hike you can grab a beer at the Butterfly Brewing Company down the road or stop to get lunch at one of the amazing sodas. I would highly suggest that you stay in the town of Montezuma for at least a few nights. The town is a small, very neat hipster town. There are so many other activities to do. Montezuma has many beaches you can check out but my absolute favorite is Playa Grande. It is a massive stretch of beach that seems to go on forever. You will practically be by yourself with the feeling of being on a remote island. Be careful and watch your stuff as the monkeys are known to steal personal belongings.
Final Thoughts on the Montezuma Waterfalls
These waterfalls have it all and it is such a short hike compared to some other ones. I went there twice during my stay in Montezuma and wished I could have gone more. You will always leave satisfied with a day well spent.
Thank you for reading my guide on the Montezuma Waterfalls! I hope this helps you plan your itinerary in Costa Rica.