• Emmy Ciabattoni

A Pedacito of Cliff Jumping in Montezuma, Costa Rica

“If you’re good at jumping, jump. If you’re not good at jumping, don’t jump,” said the guard at the entrance to the Montezuma Waterfalls.


We drove our ATVs for about thirty minutes to a path near the Butterfly Garden Brewery, where we’d begin our fifteen-minute hike to the falls. The other option was to hike from the trailhead at the bottom of the river, but it would take about two hours. We were exhausted from surfing in the morning so we opted for the shorter trail.


The first time we came we missed the path. It’s very discreet; it actually looks like a driveway. Because it is, in a sense. The path leads to a hotel parking lot overlooking the ocean in the middle of the jungle. It’s beautiful. You can take the hotel pathway to the waterfalls but it’s private, so you have to pay the guard one mil colones (about $1.20). We handed him the money, got some hot pink wristbands, and we were on our way.


At the fork in the trail, we could either go up or down; up for the upper falls and higher jumps, and down for the lower falls and smaller jumps. Our group, of five guys plus myself, opted for the lower jumps. I was relieved. We climbed along wet, jungle cliff-side, hung onto vines, and hopped across rocks to follow the river. Eventually, we came to a pool. The waterfall poured from 90 feet (30 meters) feet high and crashed into the rocky pond at the bottom.

A local boy told us that at least 4 people died trying to jump from that height. It was particularly dangerous because just beneath the jumping point, a meter-long rock formation jutted out. In order to miss the rock, you’d really have to launch yourself.

My boyfriend contemplating the jump at Montezuma Falls in Costa Rica
My boyfriend contemplating the jump at Montezuma Falls in Costa Rica

Two tween girls sat behind our group giggling; they were soaking wet and eating Quesitos, a Costa Rican form of Cheetos. One whispered to the other, “Let’s give them the show.” They dove into the pool, raced to the base of the waterfall, climbed to the underside, and dove through the veil into the water. Then they raced, swimming, to a huge boulder on the left of the falls. The girls scurried to the top in lightning speed and launched themselves off the top.

Of course, after a show like that, I had to give it a try. I swam to the base of the waterfall, where torrential rain poured down, and I grabbed hold of the boulders to steady myself. Copying the hand and foot placements of the girls, I made my way to the little rock platforms about three feet high. Standing on the underside of the falls, the water beat down on my head, arms, legs; it took strength to stand beneath the downfall, and I couldn’t see a thing. I dove off the platform and through the veil of water; into the pool. I swam to the left of the falls, towards the huge boulder, and made my way to the top. Standing there, it was probably about ten feet high. A bit taller than expected, but doable if the girls did it. I jumped.

Getting ready to jump in Montezuma, Costa Rica
Getting ready to jump in Montezuma, Costa Rica

On our way back up the trail, the boys insisted that we stop at the higher falls. Instead of a dirt river path, these falls were strictly boulders where people picnicked and napped. At the end of the rocks was a smooth ledge overlooking a higher level of pools, about 10 feet high. One after another, we jumped. While swimming, we spotted another jump at the edge of the pool...


I immediately knew I wouldn’t do it. I’m a 27-year-old female with no need to do things like this; but there I was, with a group of five high-adrenaline guys. Dan was very gutsy and I knew he would do it. But I wasn’t sure about anyone else…


Peering off the edge of the cliff, the plunge looked far; too far. My heartbeat quickened just looking at it. There was an eerie amount of empty space between where we were standing and the pool beneath. About four stories to be exact.


“Are you going to do it?” I asked my friend Jameison. He looked over the edge, sighed AHHHH in terrified frustration, and said, “I have to do it. I know I have to do it.” The other guys nodded their heads.


Oh no. It seemed like the general consensus was leaning toward the jump. As the girl, that didn’t mean I had to. None of us had to. But still…


Jameison went on, “The hardest part is letting go—all you have to do is let go, and jump, and you’ll be fine. That’s all you gotta do.”


My boyfriend sat on a rock in the corner, getting a whole other view at the height. He had said no a long time ago.


Some new people arrived and one just flew off the edge like he’d done it a million times before. His friend was there too, but bandaged from a burn and couldn’t go in. Then, Dan flew off the edge. Then Emmett. And Jameison. And then my boyfriend! WTF. I was the only one left. I slightly panicked. I knew I had to do it, too.

I peeked over the edge and my insides jumped. I knew that if I was going to do it, I couldn’t look. I’d just have to go. The bandaged friend was with me, at the top. I asked him, “What do you do with your hands?!” I could picture mine flailing frantically for the first couple of seconds of airtime. He said to put them at my sides; make my body into a needle.

That was the only information I needed.


I jumped.

Slicing through the air, like a needle.

And slipped into the cool pool.

The boys were in disbelief.

So was I.

 

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