Montezuma Waterfall, Extreme Hiking alongside Unspoiled Nature

Montezuma Waterfall at its fullest glory

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Nestled on the southern tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, Montezuma serves as one of the country’s well-kept secrets. Despite its small size and remoteness, this coastal town boasts plenty of exciting places to explore. One of which, Montezuma Waterfall, consists of a series of falls interconnected by a mind-boggling wooded trail, whose most extreme segment induces an adrenaline rush even among experienced hikers.

Segment 1 – Difficulty Level: Easy

Tucked away in the middle of a lush and dense rainforest, the waterfall is somewhat tricky to reach and accessible via three different locations. Two of the trailheads are situated on a private property a few kilometers from the town center and provide access to the waterfall’s upper parts.
The Butterfly Brewery Garden and the Sun trails entail an admission fee of 1,000 CRC and 2,000 CRC (1.5 USD and 3 USD) respectively, while the latter also offers three hanging bridges along the way.


Whereas the two aforementioned paths are slightly harder to access if you don’t have a car, they are physically less intense. On the other hand, the main entrance at the town center is the easiest to find, yet it is followed by a rough and perilous journey to the waterfalls that is definitely not for the faint hearted.


The main trail starts at the site’s parking (a 1,000 CRC fee), from where it meanders through a thick woodland, and shortly after reaches a rocky segment of the Montezuma River, where gently cascading waters form a couple of natural pools, popular among local families. You might mistake this stream of white water as the Montezuma Waterfall, yet our protagonist is hidden further away.


After crossing the craggy mini-fall, you’ll have to find the next part of the trail, which is far more difficult to do so than one might initially assume. With no clear marks to look for, you’ll have to wade your way through the shallow river into the other side, where the next leg of the journey begins.

Segment 2 – Difficulty Level: Medium

In spite of its singular noun, the Montezuma waterfall is actually a set of three interlinked falls, the largest of which plunges 25 meters (80 feet) into a naturally formed pool, while the two others are smaller and located further uphill. The deep forest pond with its rumbling waterfall is a mesmerizing sight to behold, as well as an ideal place for a mid-forest swimming experience.


Several nearby rocks serve as a diving board for thrill seekers who jump into the pool from a 10-meter height, however, it is strongly advised to refrain from doing so as multiple cases of death and severe injury have occurred in the past, particularly among tourists.


The waterfall is accessible through a significantly more difficult part of the trail, which during the wet-season (May to November) becomes extremely muddy and slippery. In fact, in order to safely complete it, you’ll have to cautiously walk along the trail while occasionally clinging to tree branchlets.


Following the slippery wooded path, a string of cables along a riverside rock is the only way forward, after which a labyrinth of boulders and exposed tree roots is the last thing separating you from reaching the waterfall.


Besides a swimsuit, additional pair of socks and a generous amount of water, sturdy footwear is the single most important thing to bring with you along the journey, as some parts are virtually untraversable without it.

Segment 3 – Difficulty Level: Difficult

By far the most challenging segment, the trail from the lower waterfall to the medium and upper falls is not only exceedingly difficult to find, but also entails a perilous and spine-chilling experience that awaits any intrepid visitor who dared hiking through this path.


As this rough trail includes nearly vertical slopes, most people who visit the site choose the significantly easier path. This painless option is slightly before the lower waterfall, where you’ll have to cross the river yet again, and then climb your way up via a 200-step staircase, whose access is sometimes accompanied by a modest fee of 1,000 CRC, as it passes through a private property.


If your thrill-seeking instincts are stronger than your sense of anxiety, make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for it. The risky path consists of three main parts, a steep slope that requires an arduous climb, an extreme descent which is possible only with the onsite fixed ropes and a relatively flat walkway in between. As previously mentioned, the trailhead is tricky to locate as it is not well-marked, and so, the seemingly off-the-trail ascent in front of the lower waterfall is indeed the right way through.


The middle and upper waterfalls, 12 meter (40 feet) and 5 meter (15 feet) tall respectively, lie straight over the lower waterfall. Like their larger counterpart, both falls drain into a swimmable natural pool around them, while the upper one also has a Tarzan style rope swing. As it turns out, jumping from a ledge at the tip of the upper pool into the middle waterfall’s pool is a common practice, nevertheless, it is extremely dangerous and definitely not recommended.