Central Pacific Coast: Places to Explore

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Montezuma

Beautifully positioned on a sandy bay, Montezuma is hemmed in by a precipitous wooded shoreline that has prevented the overdevelopment that has affected so many other beach towns. Its small, funky town center is a pastel cluster of New Age health-food cafés, trendy beachwear shops, jaunty tour kiosks, noisy open-air bars, and older sodas (casual eateries). Most hotels are clustered in or around the town's center, but the best ones are on the coast to the north and south, where the loudest revelers are the howler monkeys in the nearby forest. The beaches north of town, especially Playa Grande, are lovely.

Montezuma has been on the international vagabond circuit for years, attracting backpackers and alternative-lifestyle types. At night, the center of town often fills up with tattooed travelers and artisans who drink in the street and entertain each other and passersby. When college students are on break, the place can be a zoo. Wags used to refer to the town as Montefuma, with fuma meaning "smoke" in Spanish—get it?—but, for better or for worse, Montezuma is being tamed. Plenty of grown-up lodging and dining options exist here, too.

North and south of the town center, however, have always been quiet, and the attractions here include swaths of tropical dry forest, waterfalls, and beautiful virgin beaches that stretch across one national park and two nature preserves. One especially good walk (about 2½ hours) or horseback ride leads to a small waterfall called El Chorro that pours into the sea, where there is a small tidal pool at lower tides.

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