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Montezuma Waterfalls in Costa Rica: The Best Ways to Visit

The Montezuma waterfalls consist of three cascading falls along a river in the bohemian beach town of Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. 

If you are in the Montezuma, Santa Teresa, or Mal Pais area; a visit to these falls is a must-do activity. They are impressive to see and you can even swim under them (or jump off of them if you are a risk taker). 

There are two ways to access the falls, plus several things you should know regarding how to swim under the falls, what we suggest wearing, how to avoid being scammed, and more. So, let’s get to it!

Montezuma Waterfalls at a Glance

  • You don’t need a guide to visit the falls
  • There are three different waterfalls that consist of the Montezuma Waterfalls
  • There are two different ways to access the falls. 
  • One access point is free and is just outside of the town center. This is best for accessing the largest waterfall. 
  • The second access point is best for viewing the two smaller upper falls

About the Falls

Montezuma Waterfalls in Costa Rica: The Best Ways to Visit

The Montezuma falls consists of three cascades. 

  • The cascade closest to downtown Montezuma is the biggest waterfall at about 80 feet tall. There is a large pool at the base of this waterfall which is the perfect place to go swimming. You can not jump from this waterfall. 
  • The middle waterfall has a height of about 40 feet high. People jump from here, but we strongly suggest NOT attempting this. To get here you will have to swim across the pool at the top waterfall.
  • The upper waterfall is the lowest with a height of about 15 feet high. There is a rope swing here that you can use to jump into the nice pool. It is super fun! For all you football fans, I found this video of Tom Brady and his daughter jumping off this waterfall.

Note: For all you football fans, Tom Brady also jumped off the middle falls.

Accessing the Falls from Downtown Montezuma (Riverbed Trail)

Montezuma Waterfalls in Costa Rica: The Best Ways to Visit

The most popular place to access the falls is by the trail near downtown Montezuma. This will bring you to the lower (and largest) waterfall. 

Driving Directions: You can find the parking lot and trailhead on Google Maps here. There is a dirt parking area at the entrance which can fit several cars. 

Admission Cost: It is free to access from here but you will have to pay a few dollars to park your car in the lot. There will be a local person collecting this fee in cash. You can pay in dollars or colones.

Opening Hours: They ask that nobody visits after 4:30 pm. This ensures that everyone is out of the area before the sun sets at 5:30 pm.

What to Know: 

  • Just be warned it is strenuous to get here. You will have to climb over slippery rocks and sometimes hoist yourself over tree roots and branches. There are some places with ropes that will help you hoist yourself up along the rocks.
  • The hike to the waterfall will likely take you about 20 to 30 minutes each way. 
  • If you are attempting this hike during the dry season your life will be much easier. The river bed tends to dry out and you can easily navigate up the rocks.
  • If you would like to access the upper falls after viewing the lower fall you will have to climb up a ton of stairs and pay 1,000 colones to access the rest of the trails.

Who This Access Point is Best For: 

  • This route is great if you really only care about seeing the big lower fall and don’t plan on venturing further up.
  • If you would like to swim, this is the best spot for it.
  • If you do not have a rental car, this is the easiest spot to access from the downtown area. It is just a short walk.
  • We do not suggest it if you aren’t in good physical shape.

Accessing the Falls from Above (Canopy Tour Trail)

Montezuma Waterfalls in Costa Rica: The Best Ways to Visit

The waterfalls are on public land, however, there is no way of accessing the upper waterfalls without entering private land.

The info for accessing this above seems to be constantly changing. So, this is what we know as of April 2024, but there is a chance it could be different when you go.

Typically, we park next to Butterfly Brewing Co. We always tell them we are parking there and will be getting lunch/ beers there after our hike. Sometimes they may charge you a few dollars to park in their lot.

From there, walk the trail into the woods. You will come to a checkpoint where somebody from a company called Sun Trails will ask for about $5 per person. Sun Trails owns the land abutting the waterfall and has built all the paths (and hanging bridge) in this area.

Once you pay the $5 you can access the upper two falls.

However, if you would like to visit the lower waterfall from the upper section, you will need to walk down a lot of steps. This obviously means you will then have to walk back up the steep hill on all those fun steps to get back to your car.

Driving Directions: You can find Butterfly Brewing on Google Maps here

Admission Cost

Sun Trails has two admission options. You can opt to just pay an entrance fee (this is about $5 per person) and walk the trails on your own.

Or, you can opt to take a guided tour. This costs about $70 per person. This guided tour departs from the Sun Trails headquarters.

In my opinion, the guided tour is completely unnecessary for this place. You can easily do the hike on your own.

Opening Hours: Their trails are open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Who This Access Point is Best For

  • If you are in decent physical condition you should be fine accessing the upper two falls. This is not nearly as strenuous as the hike to the lower waterfall.
  • This is a good option if you want to avoid the crowds at the lower waterfall.
  • If you would like to jump off of a waterfall, this is the route to take.

Important Tips for Visiting the Montezuma Waterfall

Montezuma Waterfalls in Costa Rica: The Best Ways to Visit

Here are some important Montezuma Waterfall tips for having an amazing visit.

What to Wear

  • Fast-drying shorts or pants and a hiking shirt
  • A bathing suit underneath your clothes if you want to swim
  • Water shoes such as KEEN. These are our ride-or-die shoe choice for Costa Rica. These shoes have great grips, provide enough foot coverage, are breathable, and are perfect for trekking through the water.
  • A sun-blocking hat. We love this one from Columbia.

What to Bring

  • A dry bag: We have this waterproof backpack that has been a lifesaver on many hikes. On this adventure, there is always a chance of your stuff getting wet from the waterfall spray or from slipping into the river. 
  • Bug spray and sunscreen: You will be in the woods so it can get a bit mosquito-y. Also, the sun is super strong here. Sometimes you might not realize how much sun exposure you are getting because of the shade of the trees, but trust me. I have definitely gotten sunburned here. 
  • A microfiber towel: These are great because they fold up small and dry quickly. You will want it for after your swim under the falls. 
  • A filtered bottle of water: Definitely bring plenty of water with you for your hike. It gets super hot and you will find yourself getting dehydrated quickly. There is no place to fill bottles along the hike
  • Snacks:  If you plan on checking out all the falls and want to do some swimming, you may want a few snacks. There is a small grocery store in downtown Montezuma. You can grab some snacks like granola bars and apples here.

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Safety Tips

  • We strongly suggest not jumping off the lower waterfall. You may see locals doing this, but that does not mean it is safe for you. They have spent many years figuring out the best way to climb up and how to jump properly. There have been tourist deaths in the past due to slipping from the edge or not jumping out far enough and hitting rocks on the way down.
  • Be careful while climbing on the rocks in the river. They can be really slippery. As we previously mentioned, some types of water shoes like Keens are super helpful for the great grip.
  • Be careful when looking out of the edge of the waterfall from the top. At Costa Rica waterfalls, security is often not like what you are used to. There aren’t any railings blocking off the edge of the falls. It can be easy to slip. 
  • Flash floods can happen at any moment (this mainly applies to during the rainy season). If the river seems to suddenly change colors or strength in flow,  it is best to get immediately to higher ground.

Hiring a Guide

You really do not need a guide for this adventure. You will have no problem navigating this on your own, especially during the dry season when you can easily watch where other people are going.

However, I have heard of a local man stopping tourists at the entrance to the parking lot at the lower falls and saying he will help them get to the falls.

I have read mixed reviews on the experience.

Some people say they were thankful for the help and tour provided by this person. Other people say they were tricked and thought this person was just being helpful. They were then asked to pay about $30 per person at the end for this man’s services guiding them to the falls. 

In my opinion, you don’t need a guide. Just politely tell anyone who offers to help you get to the falls that you are all set. 

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit is in the mornings. This especially applies to the rainy season because typically the rain will roll in during the early afternoon. In the morning. you will have a higher chance of enjoying this unique experience without crowds of other people. 

Keep in mind that the water levels will be very different depending on the time of year that you visit.

During the dry season (December – April) the water level will be very low. This will affect if it is safe to swim or jump off the falls.

Pay attention to what those around you are doing and look out for any signs. 

Nearby Hotels

Our Experience

montezuma waterfall hike

We have visited the waterfalls from both entry points. In my opinion, the lower access point makes the most sense because it allows you to view the most impressive waterfall.

The last time we did this was in March (basically the hottest time of year) and I was dying (as you can see from the picture above). I was totally unprepared for how much sun exposure and how exhausting the hike along the river bed would be.

The perk of the upper trails is that there is a lot more shade and fewer people. I just don’t feel as if the upper two falls are overly impressive. But, we live in Costa Rica so I may just be a waterfall snob at this point.

You might enjoy them!

What to do After the Montezuma Waterfall

Montezuma, on the Nicoya Peninsula, is one of our absolute favorite towns in all of Costa Rica.

It may be a small town, but there is a lot of fun stuff to do!

Get Lunch

As we previously mentioned in this article, the beers and food at Butterfly Brewing Co. are top-notch.

This is our top choice for a great lunch and fresh beer after your waterfall hike.

Hang Out on Montezuma Beach

Montezuma Waterfalls in Costa Rica: The Best Ways to Visit

Montezuma beach is one of our absolute favorite beaches in all of Costa Rica. It is not only beautiful but you can walk for hours and hours along pristine sands with parts of a wooded wildlife refuge sprinkled in between.

If you are feeling really ambitious you can walk for two hours to end at a beautiful waterfall called El Chorro Waterfall.

You, of course, then have to walk back.

Take a Boat Trip to Tortuga Island

isla tortuga

This is not something you will actually be able to do on the same day as the Montezuma waterfall, but a visit to Isla Tortuga is a must do activity while you are in the Montezuma area.

Isla Tortuga is an impressive remote island located off of the Nicoya Peninsula. It is only accessible during a day trip with snorkeling by boat.

Find out more with our complete guide to Isla Tortuga

Go Beach-Hopping

cabuya beach

There are several nice beaches in the area surrounding Montezuma. Our personal favorites are the beaches on the way to Cabo Blanco Reserve.

All beaches in Costa Rica need to have public access by law. This means all of the coastline is yours for exploring.

Find out more about this walk in our Montezuma beach guide.

For more tips, check out our complete guide to Montezuma. The guide includes all the best activities, great restaurants, good hotels, transportation tips, and more!

Conclusion: Montezuma Waterfalls

In conclusion, the Montezuma waterfalls are the perfect place to visit for an intense hike with the reward of impressive cascades that you can swim under. We definitely suggest checking out this spot of you are in the area.

If you have any questions about the Montezuma Waterfalls, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you plan your trip.

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