Backpacking Montezuma and Santa Teresa – Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

The Nicoya Peninsula is a fairly remote but beautiful area of Costa Rica. We decided well in advance to spend Christmas and New Years in this region and in total we spent just under 2 weeks here focusing our time at Montezuma and Santa Teresa.

We would have spent longer, however, the Peninsular is fairly difficult to navigate if you don’t have a car and/or if you are on a budget. Shuttles from Santa Teresa to the north were up to $50USD per person!! See our post here for details on how we travelled from Jaco to Montezuma on a budget and saved $70USD!


Montezuma is a small town right at the bottom tip of the Peninsula, it is known for its beautiful beaches, a waterfall, quaint township and turtles. We deiced to spend Christmas here whilst planning our trip back in New Zealand.

We had originally booked into Hostel Pura Vida, but once we arrived we realised the place was not for us. Luckily we found Downtown Montezuma Hostel which does not take online reservations, so we were able to walk straight in and reserve a private double room for $28USD per night. The great thing about this hostel was that the bed you take is yours for as long as you like. This means it is a great place for travellers with less specific timeframes.

*update: we understand that as at mid 2018 the hostel is under new management and you can now book online*

Montezuma is growing in popularity at a rapid rate, new hotels are springing up and there is a hive of restaurants and bars in the small township. Prices remained fairly constant to Manuel Antonio, where it was hard to find a dinner for less than $10USD. Luckily there is a small supermarket so we opted to cook.

Christmas at the hostel was a great experience, we had a potluck dinner and did a secret santa. We were also blessed to be able to see the birth of baby turtles on Christmas Eve. There is a sanctuary right on the beach and they welcome visitors to watch during hatching season (Nov-Jan).

Reserva Natural Cabo Blanco 

A short and easy public shuttle ride from Montezuma takes you to Cabo Blanco. The shuttle costs 1,000 Colonies and takes you to the entrance. It cost $10USD to enter the park and it is well signed and easy to navigate. The main track leads you to a beautiful beach and if you are lucky you are able to see a lot of wildlife. We saw many Howler Monkeys and even a snake enjoying his lunch. We took a packed lunch and lots of water which is a must.

Boa constrictor eating an Agouti, Reserva Natural Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica

Santa Teresa

After a fairly sweaty but straight forward and cheap public bus from Montezuma we arrived in Santa Teresa to spend New Years, we stayed in one of the best hostel we have been too, Wavetrotter. However, it was on the pricy side at $60USD per night for a private double room with bathroom (high season rate). What we didn’t realise was that we had arrived a day early, lucky for us the people in our room decided to leave a day early so it felt like it was meant to be.

The road between Mal Pais and Santa Teresa is pretty much built up, so there are a lot of restaurants, bars and cafes to enjoy. We particularly loved ‘The Bakery’ as we were able to get a long desired espresso coffee! However, due to our hostel costs we decide to cook most nights which was easy as there are a number of Super Ronny supermarkets and the kitchen at Wavetrotter is well equipped.

The beach at Santa Teresa is a surfers paradise. It also looked to be a friendly learning beach, and there are many operators offering lessons for around $25USD. Although we opted not to surf it was great swimming in the waves and admiring the surfers. The sunsets were also amazing here. There is also an abundance of yoga classes, try the class at the Funky Monkey Lodge for $12USD and experience yoga in the forest, it was beautiful.

The one minor let down of Santa Teresa is the dust, many sections of the road are not paved so it made walking to the main village a difficult and dirty experience. However, you can walk along the beach and enjoy the slower pace of life.


Things to know

  • Costs are reasonably high in both Montezuma and Santa Teresa, it would be easy to spend $100 USD per day;
  • Be careful of rip tides at both locations, there are no lifeguards and the waves can be strong;
  • You cannot drink the water in Santa Teresa, we opted to buy the large 6lt bottles from the supermarket but expect to pay over 1,000 colonies ($2-4USD);
  • If you have time you can avoid the costly private shuttle and take the bus, a shuttle between Montezuma and Santa Teresa was $10USD per person, out bus trip in total cost about $3-4USD per person;
  • Watch the sunset every night in Santa Teresa, it is just amazing; and
  • Bring cash, there is only one cash line in Montezuma and 2 in Santa Teresa, it is also not uncommon for them to runout of cash! Most places will also only accept cash, even hostels.

We highly recommend you visit this amazing party of Costa Rica

Montezuma Beach


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