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Cabuya Island Cemetery in Costa Rica: Unique Place to Visit

The Cabuya Island Cemetery is located off of a seaside village called Cabuya on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica near the town of Montezuma. The cemetery is filled with unusual gravestones and can only be accessed during low tide when a rocky strip of land is uncovered.

This is one of the most unique, off-the-beaten-path things you can experience in Costa Rica. 

We created this complete guide to the Cabuya Cemetery island to give you all the details of how to have a successful visit including when to visit, what to wear, and fun things to do nearby while also being respectful of the sacred area and villagers.

History of the Cemetery

Cabuya Island Cemetery in Costa Rica: Unique Place to Visit

The Cabuya cemetery in the remote village of Cabuya has been used as a burial ground since the 1700’s.  Legend says it all started when local fishermen found a drowned person near the island and buried them there. It is still used today, with some of the graves being very recent.

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Several years ago there were bids from developers to buy the island, but the locals refused because of the deep history attached to this haunting island.

I also read that during a full moon, the funeral processions happen at night, adding to the island’s mystery.

Driving Directions

Cabuya Island Cemetery in Costa Rica: Unique Place to Visit

The easiest way to get to the cemetery is on the road from Montezuma. It will take about 20 minutes from the downtown area. The road is unpaved, but driven often and well matted down.

If you are coming from Santa Teresa or Mal Pais we recommend driving around past Montezuma instead of along the road near Mal Pais. This road is unpaved and involves some river crossings. During the rainy season it is typically inpassable. 

Type in “Cabuya Island” into your GPS and the directions to the island will come up. Additionally, I marked it on Google Maps for you here.

Pro Tip: Rent a car with Adobe through our site and get a 10% discount plus a second driver for free!

Parking: You can park on the side of the road where the road ends. There is nobody watching cars here (at least there has never been when we’ve been there) so please don’t leave anything of value in your vehicle.

The Walk to the Island

cabuya cemetery

From the parking area, you can walk out to the island in about 10 minutes. The walk to the island is flat but, it is covered in sharp rocks and it can be a bit slippery.

The island itself consists of flat dirt pathways.

During the walk out to the island you will likely pass local fisherman fishing on the jutted out piece of land that leads to the island. 

Because the island is only accessible during low tide it is best to get there about an hour before the lowest tide point. You will be able to walk out without any problems at that time.

This will allow you a few hours out on the island without having to worry that the tide will go in and you will be stuck.

You can check the tide chart here

What to Expect on the Island

cabuya island cemetery entry

When you arrive on the cemetery island you will be greeted by this beautiful white archway. Typically, you won’t encounter anybody else out here.

Feel free to walk around and look at the various grave sites. Some of the grave stones are very unique with things like an airplane propeller or full head sculptures.

On the rocky isle you will also find giant cabuyas that give the town its name. If you don’t know, cabuya is the name for the large palm-like bush that is prevallent in this area. 

From the island you can also enjoy beautiful views of the spectacular coastline. 

In total, you likely won’t spend more than about 30 minutes here. 

We have not snorkelled here, but apparently, the northern tip of the island is a great spot for it. However, we can’t confirm that so please be careful.

Safety Tips

isla cabuya
  • Make sure to pay close attention to the tides. It is very easy to get stuck out here if you don’t make it back before high tide. 
  • Be careful if you opt to swim off of the island. It can be rocky and I can’t confirm which areas are safe from rip currents. 
  • Don’t leave anything of value in your car unattended. 

What to Wear

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  • A sun-blocking hat
  • Sun-blocking clothing: The UV index here is high!
  • Sandals with a stable sole: The walk out here is very rocky. I suggest sandals such as Teva’s or water shoes like Keens
  • Bathing suit (if you plan to swim)
  • Rain jacket (during the rainy season)

What to Bring

Other Things to Note

beach cabuya

The main thing to note before visiting is that this is an active cemetery. People are still being buried here.

Please be aware of your surroundings and forgo your walk to the island if you notice that there is a funeral percesion going on. 

Our Experiences at the Cabuya Island Cemetery

Cabuya Island Cemetery in Costa Rica: Unique Place to Visit

We visit this area often because it is our favorite little corner of Costa Rica. The first time we went to the Cabuya Cemetery was on the day after a tropical storm. As you can tell from most of the pictures, it wasn’t the nicest day. However, we still enjoyed our walk around the cemetery.

We thought it was such a unique experience that we had to write about it for all of you. It’s not something most tourists will ever visit, but we are all about off the beaten path places.

So, if you feel the same way, I’m sure you’ll enjoy stopping here.

What to Do After

There are plenty of fun things to do in this area. Here are a few of our favorites….

Hike at Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

Cabuya Island Cemetery in Costa Rica: Unique Place to Visit

Cabo Blanco Reserve is located just past Cabuya Cemetery. This is actually Costa Rica’s first nature reserve. I

t is a great place if you would like to take a somewhat intense hike through the woods, see wildlife, and be rewarded with a beautiful beach. 

You can find out more with our guide to Cabo Blanco Reserve

Visit the Montezuma Waterfall

Cabuya Island Cemetery in Costa Rica: Unique Place to Visit

If you drive back into downtown Montezuma you will pass the main Montezuma Waterfall parking lot on the right side of the road.

These waterfalls consist of three cascades. You can jump off of the top cascade (which is also the shortest in height) but we suggest just visiting the cascade closest to the main parking lot. This is the highest cascade and you can swim under it.

Find out more with our guide to the Montezuma Waterfall

Check Out the Ficus Tree

There is a massive ficus tree on the side of the road that you can not miss on the road between Cabuya and Montezuma. It is so impressively large!

There isn’t a great place to park here, but we usually just pull our car slightly off the road to enjoy the impressive beauty of it. 

I marked it on Google Maps for you here.

Relax on the Beaches

Cabuya Island Cemetery in Costa Rica: Unique Place to Visit

There are several nice beaches near Cabuya (including Playa Cabuya) that are almost always empty.

Our personal favorite is called Playa Los Cedros. You will pass it on your way back into Montezuma. 

Nearby Hotels and Restaurants

You will have a greater selection of hotels and restaurants in Montezuma, but there are also a few excellent places directly in the town of Cabuya. 

Our favorite hotels here are:

For more nearby options check out our guide to the best hotels in Montezuma

Our favorite restaurants are: 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the unique Cabuya island cemetery is an interesting spot to visit on the Nicoya Peninsula. Just remember to be respectful of funerals or mourners and make sure to return to the mainland before the tide rises.

If you need any additional information about visiting Cabuya don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

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Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

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Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

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The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

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Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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