Montezuma – Artisan Paradise or Failed Hippie Rejuvenation Project?

In my previous post I was continuing our little trip down the Nicoyan Peninsula in Costa Rica. We had already gone over the roughest road known to man and driven through the quiet towns of Santa Lucia and Tambor. Our next stop along the way was going to be Montezuma.

Of all the places on the southern tip of the Nicoyan Peninsula, we had heard the most about Montezuma. Of all the people we had talked to, there was never a negative word said about it. We hadn’t done a lot of homework, but we knew it had a few hotels and restaurants and had decided that if we spent the night, it would probably be in Montezuma. Neither one of us knew what to expect as we drove down the steep road leading into town and to be honest, we still have mixed feelings about the place. It is at once greater and lesser than we expected.

It is greater in that it is quite a cute little offbeat town tucked on the sides of a mountain with gorgeous beaches running along both sides of it. There are a dozen little restaurants and shops hidden along its curving streets and lanes. There is a nice park and play center right smack in the middle of it all. The people in town seem friendly enough and the prices, though not amazing, seem on par for that area of the world. There is a definite “earthy” feel to the town with yoga classes, all natural foods and organic fare available at a bunch of places. It’s a far cry from the adventure travel that Costa Rica’s known for. We even had decent healthy food at The Bakery Cafe while watching a pair of monkeys descend from the treetops to entertain us while we ate a late lunch.

Bakery Cafe - Montezuma, Costa Rica

That all being said, there seems to be an hidden undercurrent to the town. Both ends of the beach have a very large tent population with many tenters there for the long term. The majority of the locals seem be remnants of a 60’s hippie rejuvenation project that fell on hard times. I haven’t checked the stats but I would hazard to guess that the place has a higher amount of assault and petty theft incidences than neighboring towns. I will say that besides for walking on the beach after sunset we never really had a strong feeling of danger in the place though. Of course, with the kids we weren’t out too late and the town looked like it had a few parties that might go all night so who knows how the place changes as the night progresses.

In the daytime, Montezuma is colorful and loaded with craftsman and artisans. Even at night the streets come alive with tables and booths set up along the two main roads with people selling their crafts while cooking their supper on their little portable bbqs. Maybe it’s the hunger of the sellers eyes that gave us mixed feelings about the place. A lot of the artisans are gringos from the tent cities and need the few dollars your willing to spend on their clamshell necklaces, beaded bracelets and coconut pendants to prolong their extended stays in this little corner of paradise.

Even now Micki and I can’t really define what it was about Montezuma that left a bad taste in our mouths. In truth the kids had a great time and we enjoyed our stay.

I ask any of you who read this who have been or are planning to go what your thoughts on Montezuma are. I would love to know if you picked up that subtle thread of uneasiness that we felt or if the town is exactly what it pretends to be, a hippie inspired craftsman’s paradise of colorful people and nice beaches.

To complete this tale, after a day on the beach and after playing in the pool that night the kids were quite tuckered out.  We had supper in a gorgeous little Italian restaurant surrounded by the more affluent in the area. In the morning we got up and had a nice breakfast and let the kids run off whatever steam they had at the playground before deciding to continue our trek south.

In my next post in this series, I’ll tell you all about our crazy 4×4 off road drive over a mountain track to Malpais and our take on the much larger than expected surf town of Santa Teresa.

Safe travels Barefoot Nomads!

Have you been to Montezuma, Costa Rica? Do you agree with our take?  Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.