Hotel Atardecer is at the end of the world – or at least getting there makes it seem like it. The roughly five-hour journey from San José to Montezuma, a sleepy beach town on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, requires travel by both land and sea, over highways and bumpy dirt roads.
As if the town itself weren’t far enough removed from civilization, Hotel Atardecer rests in the hills a few kilometers above Montezuma. Steep and practically enclosed by a bright green tunnel of pure jungle, the road leading to the rustic property calls for four-wheel drive, and drivers of lesser vehicles have wisely deemed it impassable. A stay at Hotel Atardecer is the perfect getaway for those who want to escape society’s grind and clock some simple hammock-and-book time.
Upon arrival, visitors immediately meet hotel manager Richard Canizadez and his three tail-wagging, tongue-flapping dogs. Canizadez, a young, grinning surfer type whose curly black hair spills out from under a backwards baseball cap, manages business for the Atardecer’s often absent owner, and does so in his own refreshing, laid-back style. He offers guests as much space or attention as they want and is a veritable fount of local knowledge.
The buildings that collectively make up Atardecer – an office, two small cabins and a house – are simple in design, constructed out of treated pine and connected by a gravel path lined with flowers. A grassy area in the middle of the structures features a grill and tables for communal use.
Each of the cabins has two separate rooms, complete with hardwood floors and a double bed, protected by white mosquito nets. The rooms are simple and beautiful, opening up onto private porches where hammocks swing in the forest breeze. The panoramic view from the porches is stunning. Guests look out over the forested hills and valleys, past the neighboring town of Santa Teresa to the great Pacific, which seems to sleepily live up to its name when viewed from such a height.
The house, which offers the same fantastic view, is ideal for groups, with its multiple bedrooms, living area and fully stocked kitchen.
The area surrounding Atardecer, which takes its name from the Spanish word for “dusk,” is a haven for local wildlife. A troupe of howler monkeys lives in the towering trees by the property. Toucans and parrots also call the area home, and, at dusk, small bats begin their insecticidal darting. Deer have been spotted crossing the terrain in the early mornings.
Unfortunately, these animals come accompanied by their less pleasant jungle brothers: really big bugs. Four-inch black scorpions sometimes invade rooms by sneaking under cracks in the doors, but they are just another part of the back-to-nature experience that makes Hotel Atardecer so special.
For the vehicle-impaired who want to visit Montezuma, the town is about a half hour’s walk from Atardecer. Visitors who don’t feel like hoofing it down the hill can have the hotel call a taxi; fares run about ₡4,000 ($8). Montezuma is home to several restaurants and two grocery stores, as well as plenty of beach access. Its rugged beaches are known for their surf breaks. In town, visitors can also book scuba or ATV trips.
On Canizadez’s recommendation, The Tico Times made the short, muddy hike through the rain forest and down to a series of breathtaking waterfalls, which have carved two perfect swimming holes – complete with a rope swing – into the steep face of the hill. This natural spectacle cultivates the feeling that swimmers are at the bottom of a hole drilled directly into the face of the earth, its green walls rising vertically around them. Local young men throw themselves off branches and rocks into the murky water.
The perfect end to a Montezuma day is reclining in one of Atardecer’s hammocks, listening to the rain drum on the roof and watching it sweep over the hills.