After travelling so smoothly along the Samara and Nicoya highways I assumed getting Montezuma would be a breeze. But we hit the same sorts of roads that we hit on the way to Monteverde: unsealed metallic roads with plenty of surprise potholes (or was it Ajay’s driving?). I was sitting in the back with Lui every drive because he had become used to roaming freely in public transport vehicles or taxis. The car seat restriction was a regular battle I had to face every time I put him in the car. Fortunately, it still worked a treat in putting him to sleep.
When we arrived in the town of Montezuma it proved to be smaller than Samara and had a very steep descent down to the town. The map told us to cross the bridge to get to our Airbnb but unfortunately the road was closed for the day due to road works and the detour was a 40 minute again on terrible roads.
The Costa Rica Lonely Planet book said that Montezuma was an amazing place so I was hoping that all this trouble to get there was worth it.
We met our host at her mum’s hotel which was right on the water. She had an American accent so I assumed she was on a holiday visa. She drove a quad bike to our Airbnb and we followed in the car. At once point she crossed a bridge that I thought could only fit a quad bike, but then she waited for us on the other side of the bridge I realised we had to take the car over such a narrow bridge.
Once we reached our Airbnb, we were in for a surprise. Once we had parked the car, Corina introduced herself and showed us around the place. It was a two bedroom mansion on a five acres of land that bordered on the jungle. Corina, had grown up in this house in her teens. On a side note, I have fallen in love with Costa Rica and am hoping to retire there some day. So we kicked off our conversation about how she had found herself living in Costa Rica. Turns out she was born in Costa Rica to a German mum and American dad. That led to her being raised to speak three languages German, American and Spanish. She gave us some great insights into the ways ex-pats had made Costa Rica their home but could still send their kids to universities in other countries.
She showed us the amazing master bedroom with bathroom that looked at the jungle, and the many courtyards to sit and relax outside. From the upstairs balcony we could see the Pacific Ocean and in the evening when all was quiet, we could hear the waves crashing on the shore.
Corina showed us some of the fruit trees on the property. One was a citrus tree that had massive lemon looking fruits, another was star fruit which I found quite bitter to have on it’s own. She explained that during the rainy season the place looks very lush but we were in the peak of the dry season. In spite of it being dry, there were still lots of beautiful plants around the property.
The first beach we went to was not Montezuma but Playa Manchas because Corina had recommended it. The main attraction in the region of Montezuma is the blue clear waters amongst black rock formations with white sand and palm tree lined beaches. I marked it as my favourite beach in the area because it is as pretty as Montezuma but not as popular. Often there would only be one other family there.
The beach faces east. The first afternoon we went there, the sun was already hiding behind the hills creating plenty of warm shade on the beach. The water was warm so Ajay and I jumped in for a swim leaving the kids to explore the rock pools. When we rejoined them we found Carmelo and Giselle had created a crab race arena because there were hundreds of tiny shell crabs walking on the sand. Kenzo and Lui loved it.
On another afternoon we brought my swimming goggles to check out if there was much marine life. The snorkelling off these rocks was the best in Montezuma, according to a local tourist brochure. Unfortunately we didn’t see much but we did see a puffer fish.
Meanwhile, Carmelo and Giselle, bored of scaring Kenzo and Lui with the black crab rocks, decided to build a hut. Soon Ajay and Giselle were constructing while Carmelo was filming. The place had an entranceway and seats inside where Kenzo and Lui could play their drums.
We had originally planned to stay at Santa Teresa but this area was too expensive for the type of place Ajay wanted to book. It was only 40 minutes away so we took a drive there one morning arriving there at 7am. The town was bigger than Montezuma but still small, with many hippie joints available. We found that we couldn’t drive up to the beach and park because there were properties on the beach so we walked down a long path to get there.
The beach itself was beautiful. It was a medium surf type beach with sands that stretched for over a kilometre. Ajay and I went for a swim along with over a hundred other people who were also up early to enjoy Santa Teresa beach. Everyone was hungry because we had left the house without having had breakfast so as soon as cafes started opening at 8:00am we went for brekkie.
Malpais literally translates to bad water because there was no access to fresh water from this beach when it’s first Spanish explorers settled in the region. In spite of the name, the beach here is a gorgeous pebble beach. You’ll find no town as you drive past this beach and unless you’re deliberately looking for it, you won’t find the beach either. We had to drive down a road that looked like someone’s driveway so that we could park on a grassy bank by the beach.
There was plenty of driftwood washed up by the surf. During the rainy seasons, many trees collapse into the streams and rivers, washing out into he ocean. It can be very hazardous as they rush past, even on roads since many country roads that are close to streams do not stay above the water level during the rainy season. This beach was one where a lot of the debris would get caught and wash up onto shore. This provided a lot of entertainment for Carmelo and Giselle who tried balancing on a log and using it as their raft.
The surf here was moderate but because of the steep incline into the water, it was too rough for Kenzo and Lui to enjoy it so they played on the edge barely touching the water.
Meanwhile, the strong thrashing of the waves onto shore would throw little glass fish onto the sand waiting for another wave to take them back out to sea. Many of them suffocated on land or if a bird was lucky enough, it would get swallowed whole.
There were so many swimming in the water that gulls and pelicans feasted near where we played. They must’ve been great food for bigger fish because there were many locals fishing off the rocks. Some of their family would wait in the warm rock pools or up on the grassy bank.
Other than us, there were no other people swimming here and we only saw a couple of tourists explore this beach but on horseback. It was a gem for our family. This was the first beach since being in New Zealand where we felt like we were the only people on the beach.
We went down to Montezuma beach one morning. Just like Playa Manchas, this beach is gorgeous. It’s another reason why I have fallen in love with Costa Rica. It was 6am when we drove down here and the sun had risen over the water. Already we were starting to feel the heat.
There was an interesting bird on the rocks that looked like it had a short neck but when it felt threatened it would extend its neck by about a foot. The black rock formations gave this beach a signature look that many of the other beaches lacked. Had we not been to Playa Manchas, I would definitely have found Montezuma to be my favourite.
One morning we checked out the little village of Montezuma and spent most of our time at this playground. There were a couple of iguanas wandering around which were a great distraction to get the little ones off the playground when we began feeling the burning heat around 9am.
Corina’s mum owned this hotel and so she invited us to use it’s facilities when our internet cut out for two days. In all honesty, those two days of no internet were great because it forced me to focus on writing my book rather than getting distracted by other hobbies. The only problem was we were still planning our accomodation in London which was where we were flying to in less than a week.
We went down to the hotel which is by the ocean. There were shady areas to laze in a hammock or look out at the sea. But we were interested in the tidal pools so we walked along the rocks and found a beautiful natural aquarium in the rocks that we could jump into. Kenzo and Lui loved looking at the different sea creatures while Carmelo and Giselle tested their fear factor by jumping into a shallow rock pool (it was only neck deep in one spot). Maybe it’s just my sense of nerves because I once jumped off the rocks into water that wasn’t very deep and cut my toes on the barnacles at the bottom. Anyway, they survived and loved it.
There is such a variety of wildlife and it’s so easy to spot in Costa Rica that I felt like I was part of an Animal Planet documentary. We saw squirrels each morning and each afternoon. We saw big timid iguanas that ran very fast up trees – I was too loud and clumsy to catch a photo of it. Each time we saw it I would run inside shouting “Where’s the camera?” and by the time I would get outside it had scrambled up a tree. One time I was ready and waiting but the grass was so dry that each footstep crunched as I crept towards the iguana, scaring it away! There were so many moments like that where I wished we had a massive zoom lens. But as Ajay pointed out, which of us would want to carry around such a heavy piece of equipment.
We saw a cheeky monkey on a power line. When I asked Corina about them she seemed a bit disdainful of it. Possibly because they steal anything shiny. We saw a massive spider on the narrow bridge at night.
Most fascinating for us was when we spotted a creature that hopped like a rabbit but looked like a possum with no tail. We spotted one earlier in the morning as we were driving down to the beach. That same afternoon we were fortunate enough to have one roam past the patio. We think it was an agouti. It is a very timid creature so getting a photo was difficult. Every time I clicked, the agouti would hear the noise and dart to the next bit of shrubbery to hide. I followed this little guy all the way around the perimeter of the property until it found a hole in the fence to escape through.
Our favourite past time in Auckland was bird watching from the deck as we sat and had coffee. Montezuma allowed us the same sort of relaxation and the variety of birds far more. There is one bird that has a couple of feathers on the top of it’s head like a fascinator. There were red, yellow, brown, black and blue birds. There birds that had squawking sounds and birds with sweet songs. There were even birds that chased squirrels in the trees.
We had hoped to see monkeys in the jungles of Mexico but unfortunately only heard the intimidating noise of the howler monkeys. We often heard the same noise at night or in the morning close to our Airbnb. Corina told us that if we heard the noise then we would be able to see them from the house. Often they will eat the flowers in the trees above the carport. Ajay and I were super excited.
Often the two little ones woke before sunrise, around 5:30am. I went to the loo which looked out at the trees over the carport and heard the howler monkeys. When I looked out the window, some were sitting in the tree eating the brown flowers. I yelled to Ajay to grab the camera and go outside. We grabbed Kenzo and Lui to show them and ran downstairs to the carport to get a better look. Of course, that woke up Carmelo and Giselle who came outside as well. It was such a treat! There were 13 of them enjoying a variety of flowers from the trees above us. Kenzo spotted a baby howler monkey on it’s parent’s back.
Their noise freaked out Kenzo and Lui because it sounds like “a panther or a bear” as Kenzo describes it. But they are gentle creatures that do not like human contact, unlike other monkeys that love to steal things from tourists 🙂
These monkeys hung around for a while enjoying all the available yellow flowers before moving away into the jungle. The noise is so intimidating I assumed it was to scare away predators like humans but after watching them for so long I wonder if they are simply letting each other know where they are or what they have found.
I loved watching the way the parent would pull the baby off her back encouraging the child to feed itself but allowing the child to climb back on if it caught up. The child moved back and forth between two adults and I assume one was mum and one was dad.
Another afternoon we heard howler monkeys across the road so Ajay and I carried Kenzo and Lui to take a closer look. There were lots of them in the trees on the neighbouring property and they were communicating with another group that were further up the road. Another reason why I love Costa Rica – the wildlife is more abundant here than any other place I’ve seen! I miss Costa Rica 🙁 and not just because it’s warm there and I’m writing in the cold European spring =p
In fact, it’s a story about leaving Costa Rica and getting to London. Check out that post here.