There’s little to choose from between the uninspired low-end properties, all with basic rooms with shared bathrooms with cold water for around $5 per person.
Budgeting backpackers should check in to Luz en el Cielo Eco B&B Hostel (tel. 506/2642-0030, www.luzenelcielo.com , $15 pp dorm, $35–85 s/d cabins), an English-run hostel with three dorms, three cabins, and a shared kitchen plus laundry.
The best bet for location in this price range is beachfront Hotel Moctezuma (tel./fax 506/2642-0058, www.hotelmoctezuma.com , $15–30 s or $20–35 d), with 28 spacious and clean rooms; some have fans only, while others are air-conditioned and have TVs. It also has apartments. The main unit has a restaurant and bar directly over the beach.
The German/Tica–run Cabinas El Pargo Feliz (tel. 506/2642-0065, www.montezuma-hotel.com , $12 pp low season, $15 pp high season) has eight spacious, clean, basically furnished modern cabinas with wooden floors, chipboard walls, fans, WiFi, queen-size beds, tiled bathroom with cold water only, and hammocks on wide verandas. It has a rustic thatched restaurant.
Hotel L’Aurora (tel. 506/2642-0051, www.playamontezuma.net/aurora.htm , $35–55 s/d low season, $40–70 high season), also run by a German-Tico couple, is a whitewashed house surrounded by lush gardens. The 18 rooms on three levels have fans and air-conditioning, cable TV, and private baths with hot water. Upstairs is an airy lounge with bamboo and leather sofas, a small library, and hammocks. Rooms downstairs are dark.
I love the German-run Hotel Horizontes de Montezuma (tel. 506/2642-0534, www.horizontes-montezuma.com , $40 s, $45–55 d low season; $50 s, $55–65 d high season), midway between Cóbano  and Montezuma . This Victorian-style home has seven rooms around a skylit atrium—saturating the hallway of black-and-white tile with magnesium light—and opening to a wraparound veranda with hammocks. The appealing rooms have whitewashed wooden ceilings with fans, terra-cotta floors, sky-blue fabrics, and bathrooms done up in dark-blue tiles. Nice! A shady restaurant opens to the small pool. A solid bargain!
I like Casacolores (tel. 506/2642-0283, www.casacolores.com , $40–60 low season, $50–80 high season) for its five one-bedroom and one two-bedroom wooden cabins on stilts; each is painted a bright tropical color and has a kitchen and WiFi. It has a swimming pool and a lovely garden setting.
The El Sano Banano Hotel (tel. 506/2642-0636, www.ylangylangresort.com , $65 s/d low season, $75 s/d high season, including breakfast), above the restaurant in town, is a bed-and-breakfast with 11 air-conditioned rooms decorated in New Mexican style. They have satellite TV and hot-water showers.
The Hotel El Tajalin (tel. 506/2642-0061, www.tajalin.com ) offers a similarly priced alternative in the village center. Its relatively simple rooms include superiors with safes and fridges, and the hotel has free WiFi plus a TV lounge.
With a pool and deck in lovely landscaped grounds, Hotel El Jardín (tel./fax 506/2642-0074, www.hoteleljardin.com , $65–75 s/d low season, $85–95 high season) is the best choice in the village itself. It offers 15 elegant hillside rooms with fans, hammocks on the veranda, refrigerators, and private baths (some with hot water). Each is individually styled in hardwoods and shaded by trees in landscaped grounds with pool and whirlpool tub. It also has two villas.
The relaxing Hotel Amor de Mar (tel./fax 506/2642-0262, www.amordemar.com , $40–80 low season, $50–110 high season), 600 meters west of the village, enjoys a fabulous location on a sheltered headland, with a private tidepool and views along the coast in both directions. The two-story hotel is set in pleasant landscaped lawns, with hammocks beneath shady palms. It has 11 rooms (all but two have private baths, some with hot water), each unique in size and decor and made entirely of hardwoods. Check out its two beach houses.
The Luz de Mono Hotel (tel. 506/2642-0090, www.luzdemono.com , $75 s/d standard, $140 casita low season; $100 standard, $175 casita high season) has improved and is now one of the better options in town, although readers complain of poor service. Centered on a lofty circular atrium with restaurant with conical roof and bamboo furnishings, it has 12 hotel rooms, plus eight stone casitas (some with whirlpool tubs). The Blue Congo Bar hosts stage shows and is the liveliest place around—noise can be a problem if you’re trying to sleep. Rates include breakfast and tax.
Out of town, I like Nature Lodge Finca los Caballos (tel. 506/2642-0124, www.naturelodge.net , $76–130 s/d low season, $98–168 high season, including taxes), on a 16-hectare ranch midway between Cóbano  and Montezuma . Rooms here feature beautiful coral-stone floors and river-stone showers with poured-concrete sinks, tasteful contemporary furnishings that include Indian spreads on hardwood beds, and delightful patios with hammocks and rockers. Four new rooms have rattan or bamboo king-size beds and travertine balconies. A fan-shaped horizon swimming pool is inset in a multilevel wooden deck with poured-concrete, soft-cushioned sofas and lounge chairs for enjoying the fabulous forest and ocean views. There are trails and fantastic bird-watching, as well as a stable and a small spa. Meals include a full breakfast in the open-air restaurant, with WiFi.
The most romantic option is Ylang Ylang Beach Resort (tel. 506/2642-0636, www.ylangylangresort.com , $120 s or $140 d tents, $160 s or $180 d rooms, $255 s or $275 d bungalows low season; $140 s or $160 d tents, $185 s or $205 d rooms, $285 s or $305 d bungalows high season), a 10-minute walk along the beach 800 meters east of the village. Owners Lenny and Patricia Iacono have created a totally delightful property spread across eight hectares of beachfront that is a lush Fantasia of ginger, pandanus, and riotous greens. It has three three-story suites (for up to four people) with kitchens; a three-bedroom apartment; and eight concrete and river-stone bungalows, all accessed by well-manicured paths lit at night. All have fans, private bath, fridge, coffeemaker, and Guatemalan bedspreads. French doors open to verandas within spitting distance of the ocean. The dome bungalows have private outdoor showers. Deluxe safari tents on decks have been added. The coup de grâce is an exquisite free-form pool in a faux-natural setting of rocks with water cascading and foliage tumbling all around. Check-in is at El Sano Banano café.
If you want upscale on high, check into Anamaya Resort (tel. 506/2642-1289, www.anamayaresort.com , $145–245 s/d low season, $195–295 s/d high season), atop the cliffs above Montezuma, where it offers sensational views. Each of the seven delightfully conceived cabinas and villas is unique, though all are decorated with luxurious Oriental fabrics. The aesthetic throughout is superb. My favorite? The Bali Cabina, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls on three sides. A horizon-edge pool overlooks the ocean, gourmet organic dishes highlight the restaurant menu (open to the public for dinner), and it hosts yoga retreats, spa and massage treatments (including an infrared sauna), aerial dancing and even fire-dancing, plus movie nights (guests only.)