Montezuma – five days in paradise

Before our adventures began, we attended the wedding of some awesome friends. And, as luck would have it, the cousin of the groom (Abbie) happens to run a Hostel/Bed & Breakfast in Montezuma, Costa Rica. Abbie came down to Costa Rica years ago and fell in love with the place, and built the hostel Luz en Cielo from nothing into a business she now runs full time. When I shared our plans for a year of travel, Abbie generously offered to give us a place at Luz en Cielo at a discounted rate. Travel can make for weary work, especially when you’ve been camping in a tiny tent together on the beach. So as we bade farewell to the Yucatan and flew on to San José, we were looking forward to a little more privacy and quiet. Montezuma was perfect to both, and below I’ll share the information on hikes we did, where we stayed, and a recipe for our version of “comida tipica” that we ate for lunch and dinner.

For a visual tour of our stay, here’s the photo album.

The Town of Montezuma

Located on the west coast of Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula, Montezuma is a hip little beach town halfway between Cobano and Cabuya. It consists of the main road and one cross-street that leads to a smaller local road along the beach. To give you an idea of how small it is, it has two markets that sell food and around six restaurants. Yep, it’s tiny. But that’s exactly what makes it perfect: it’s so small that it’s hardly registered by the jungle, as monkeys greet you in the morning, birds flock in the trees, and butterflies flutter from flower to flower.

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Mushrooms growing on wood

Hikes

We managed to do three hikes while we were there: Montezuma Falls, Rio Lajas, and a beach hike. Montezuma falls is the closest and shortest, leading to massive waterfalls and swimming holes. To get there, we walked past the bus stop (along the road toward Cabuya), then turned right after the first bridge. The first waterfall is the most impressive, and you’ll often see Blue Morphos butterflies flying around near the base.

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The Montezuma Falls

There are two more waterfalls above this, but a private tour company owns the trail and charges 1,000 colonies/person ($2 USD) for use. We hiked up and weren’t that impressed with the subsequent waterfalls, although there is a waterfall that you can jump off up there.

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Fishing spiders, which can be found near water

The second hike we did was Rio Lajas, which starts about 7 km from Montezuma on the road to Cobano and leads to Rio Lajas falls. We did this hike in somewhat crazy conditions—because it was the end of the rainy season, the water was cloudy and in many places we couldn’t tell how deep the water was or where to put our feet. The river is the trail, so most of the time you’re walking in this:

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Stoytcho crossing Rio Lajas

We just knew that we should hike for about 2 hours, then take the right fork of the river. After two hours and 20 minutes of hiking, we came to a small tributary that could be a fork. We took it and found some falls.

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Some kind of waterfall at Rio Lajas

They were lovely and secluded, although looking at pictures of Rio Lajas falls now, we don’t think these are the Rio Lajas Falls. We’ll have to come back another time, hopefully in the dry season when the water is clear and the hike is much easier. There’s a bus to the falls that leaves Montezuma at 8:30 am, and a return bus that will pick you up at the bridge over Rio Lajas at 3:30 pm, costing 700 colones each way.

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The beach hike from Montezuma

The last hike we did was the beach hike to El Chorro falls, although we didn’t make it all the way to the end. This trail runs along the beach, through part of a national park. While these aren’t the azure blue beaches of the Caribbean, they have their own charm and are great for beachcombing, although don’t collect in the national park. We walked for about 2 hours on this, enjoying the beach and picking up seashells (that we threw back into the ocean later):

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Cowrys, cones, limpets, olivines, turbans, seaglass…the beachcombing hear is awesome!

 

Staying

We stayed in Luz en Cielo’s vacation rental, which was a huge break from shared rooms and our tent. We had a bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, and outdoor patio all to ourselves. Abbie, being the ever gracious host, includes breakfast with your accommodation – This isn’t your standard toast with butter and some fruit, but a full hot meal with fruit, toast, rice & beans, and scrambled eggs. And throughout the day, monkeys, coatis, and various beautiful insects of the tropics would come wandering by:

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A white-faced capuchin

 

Eating + our recipe for comida tipica

Since eating out cost $7-10 USD per person, we couldn’t afford to do much of it. Instead, we cooked most of our meals in the vacation rental. Here’s our version of comida tipica, which is pretty much every meal you’ll eat in Central America:

  • Ingredients:
    • Package of dry beans (can use canned)
    • Package of dry white rice
    • 1 plantain
    • 2-3 eggs
    • 2 onions
    • 5 cloves garlic
    • Salt
    • Cooking oil
  • Meal prep:
    • Prep beans: Rinse dry beans (about 400 g) and leave to soak for 6-8 hours in a pot with at least 2” of water on top. At end of soak, mince 3 cloves garlic and 1 onion and add to pot. Add ½ tsp salt as well. Turn on heat to high, and bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2-4 hours until beans are slightly chewy. If beans get low on water (any are exposed) before they’re done, just add some more water. When done, add additional salt to taste. If you have canned beans, skip the soaking step and just dump whole can contents (beans+liquid) into pot with diced onions and minced garlic. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. This kept in our fridge all week.
    • Prep rice: steam rice using your recipe of choice.
    • Making plantains: Heat 2-4 cm of oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Slice open the plantain and remove the skin, then slice the plantain into medallions at most 1.5 cm thick. They don’t have to be even, but the more evenly sized they are, the more evenly they will fry. Add one small end to the pot. When the small end begins to fry vigorously, add the remaining plantain medallions. Fry for 5 minutes on each side, or until as brown as you like. Remove from oil onto a serving plate.
    • Making the fried rice: (note, this is the reverse of my dad’s standard recipe, which results in fluffier egg and toastier/chewier rice). Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, and add garlic, onions, and rice to fry for 4-5 minutes with stirring every minute or so. When onions look translucent, push rice mix to the side and add more oil, then crack 2-3 eggs into the pan and scramble them. Mix rice and eggs, then remove from heat and serve.
    • Refrying beans: Done in the same pan we made rice in. Dump ½ to 1 cup of prepared beans into skillet and add ¼ cup water. Bring water to a boil, and while the water cooks off mash the beans with the back of a wooden spoon until it forms a paste. Remove from heat and serve.

– Natalie

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