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Nicoya Peninsula Day 7: Montezuma Waterfalls

Destination: Montezuma

Montezuma WaterfallI began the day with a walk by the beach and a stroll through downtown Montezuma. Blue and white magpie jays populated the downtown area like pigeons in New York. I found these Costa Rican birds to be more beautiful and less annoying. As I ambled about looking for lunch, the smell of fresh bread wafting from Cafe Buen Provecho enticed me into a cozy alcove where a bearded American named Roberto Acevedo was busy baking.

He and his wife, Melissa, learned to bake exceptional bagels and sweets back in New Jersey, and recently brought their craft to the Nicoya Peninsula. Maybe it was just that we had so much in common (same home country, same love of carbohydrates), or maybe it was their overwhelming kindness. Whatever the reason we immediately took a liking to one other. Montezuma had proven itself a wonderful place to socialize.

I ordered a pesto chicken sandwich, and after seeing how much I enjoyed it, the couple began serving me samples of their creations. I savored slices of bagel, white, wheat, multigrain, and sweet breads that melted in my mouth. I taste-tested mango marmalade and a "trial" homemade cookie dough ice cream that made Ben and Jerry's taste like a cheap knock-off. After washing it all down with a cup of coffee, I waddled out of the cafe and toward the entrance to the Montezuma Waterfall.

There are three entrances to the trail leading to the legendary falls, and the first is located at Restaurant Cascada. This longest of the three paths follows the river uphill near the second entrance, which can be reached by continuing along the paved road toward Cabuya. The third entry point is found at the Mariposario Butterfly Gardens, a 15-minute walk leading to the uppermost falls.

I chose the farthest access point from the top, just over the bridge at Restaurant Cascada. The trail was short, steep, and quite slippery in places. I was glad I wore hiking boots. A half an hour later I was at the falls, which were stunning. Midday had brought quite a few visitors, myself included, to ogle the cascade. The crowd was mostly European, mixed with a few Americans and Argentinians.

Reckless teenagers were jumping off the rocks, considered a preposterous activity by local Montezumans. My new friends at the bakery had lectured me this morning about a notorious German, among others, who lost his life diving off the slick falls. With the nearest doctor a 30-minute hike followed by a 20-minute drive to Cobano, and the nearest major hospital another three hours farther, jumping just isn't worth the risk. Luckily, no one got hurt -- except for me, on my return trip.

An exotic bird had distracted me and I carelessly lost my balance trying to snap a photo. With a twisted ankle and a small cut, I hobbled back downtown to Cafe Buen Provecho, where the owners pulled out a first aid kit and attended to my wound. I called a taxi, which took me back to the hotel. After a nap and an ice treatment for my foot, I was ready to return to the city center.

That night a talented juggler put on a fire show in the street. Passing tourists stared open-mouthed as he twirled and juggled fireballs near the library. He balanced long flaming poles from the tip of his nose, and danced beneath the blaze. Even the audience could feel the heat from the sidelines.

After an impressive 30-minute program, the performer asked a spectator to extinguish the flame. This proved to be an impossible task, and after many efforts he put it out himself, ending the act with a laugh from the crowd.

Nicoya Peninsula Day 7: Montezuma Waterfalls in Pictures