Close your eyes and imagine Costa Rica. Open them. We might not know if you imagined the white sand beaches or the tropical rainforests, but we’re absolutely sure you imagined a heaven on Earth. Costa Rica is the number one most visited country in Central America for a very good reason. Between the breathtaking views and the best weather in the world, there is very little opportunity to get dreary in this tropical paradise. Boasting the highest health ratings in the region and the happiest people on Earth, Costa Rica is a common destination for those looking to rejuvenate their souls by finding relaxation, health, and peace.
99% of Costa Rica may perfect for a relaxing vacation, but this small Central American country is not without its horror stories. Tales of demons and ghosts decorate the country’s oral tradition, and many of these tales have been verified by both locals and visiting tourists. If you’re a thrill seeker, you may just find a goldmine in Costa Rica. Check out these 5 haunted trips for the paranormally inclined, then head to the beaches for some meditative relaxation time, you’re going to need it.
1: Haunted Durán Hospital
Located just north of Cartago, The Durán Sanatorium was founded in 1918 with the intention of serving tuberculosis patients during the epidemic. Failing to cure the ever-increasing load of tuberculosis patients, the hospital shifted to an asylum for the mentally ill, then was briefly converted into an orphanage, and lastly a maximum-security prison. After its strange and largely unsuccessful history, the hospital was abandoned. Since then, the abnormal amount of activity within the seemingly empty hospital has earned its title as the most haunted building in Costa Rica.
The reports of paranormal activity started before the hospital’s closing. Patients claimed a monk came in the night to cure patients, yet no such monk was on staff or seen during the day time. Once abandoned, the reports became more frequent and more serious. Along with the monk, a small girl now roams the halls of this abandoned hospital, rumored to be the daughter of Dr. Durán himself, who contracted tuberculosis and died while visiting the hospital. While alive, she spent her time on the roof of the building and the connecting steps. Visitors to the hospital now often find their paths to the roof blocked by this small ghost.
The chipped paint, patient-drawn graffiti, and creaky floorboards have made this a tourist attraction and entries can be scheduled. For only around $2, you can wonder freely around the campus and explore the building. This is not a popular destination, however, as visitors report strange figures in their photographs, odd noises, cameras and cellphones malfunctioning without cause, and a generally unsettling ambiance.
2: Cubaya Island Graveyard
Currently a vast and rocky beach, Cubaya Island was originally a rustic graveyard to indigenous Costa Ricans before Spanish colonization. Located on the southern tip of the Nicoya Penninsula, the graveyard was well maintained even after colonization, only fading into obscurity during the country’s modern development. It’s now a popular spot for beach hikers and snorkelers, there’s only one problem: it’s haunted.
When you arrive to the island, don’t ignore the bleached, hollowed trees, looking like cleaned bones in the sand. Don’t ignore the mysterious, stone arch leading to the grave spots either, these all set the scene for a haunted graveyard. In past times, when a person died, the funeral was celebrated all night long in the graveyard by candlelight. These candles could be seen from the hills and nearby beaches. While this tradition has long died out, the candles seem to be lingering. Local fishermen warn sightseers to enjoy during the daytime, but leave much before sunset. At night, the island emits strange noises, ghosts are seen, and candles flicker all night long. Feel free to enjoy the ideal snorkeling and walk through the ancient stone structures guarding the unmarked graves, but be sure not to linger too long. By nightfall, you’ll want to be safe at home.
3: Playa Grande & Montezuma Beach
The beaches in Costa Rica are absolutely breathtaking and may be the true reason behind Costa Rica’s popularity with tourists. With over 800 miles of shoreline, this small country is filled with people relaxing in hammocks, enjoying cold beers in the tropical breeze. Whatever the reason for your trip to Costa Rica, you’re going to want to hit a few beaches before you return home. But please choose your beaches wisely, some of them attract paranormal visitors.
Costa Rica has a rich indigenous history and culture. The indigenous civilization gathered often upon the shores, and to this day most beaches are protected areas for members of indigenous tribes. With the country’s rapid development, most tribal cultural and ancient history has been covered, and the beaches are now developed with bars, hotels, and watersport companies. Two beaches, however, have not been able to totally move on from the ancient times. Both Playa Grande in Tamarindo and Playa Montezuma on the Caribbean coast are frequented by ghosts. Locals and tourists alike report paranormal encounters while on these beaches at night. Both these beaches served as burial spots at some point in the distant past, and it seems that the occupants are not yet ready to give up their eternal beach homes.
4: San Lucas Island Prison
Located off the coast of Puntarenas, the San Lucas Island Prison has such a dark and disturbed history that it’s no wonder the walls still tell stories. In 1873, this prison was built under Spanish presidential orders. Here, murderers and rapists were mixed in with indigenous rights activists and political prisoners, basically anyone who caused a challenge for Spanish colonialization. Horrendous things happened in this small island, by both the prison guards and the prisoners themselves. The prison was eventually abandoned and never converted or destroyed, yet a strange amount of activity is still seen within the walls.
Multiple stories of ghosts, the spirts of both the prisoners and the guards, are told by local families around campfires. One, however, caused such an international concern that the popular television team Ghost Hunters International came to check it out. In this tale, a young nurse who was killed by criminal prisoners while working her rounds continues to occupy one of the holding cells. She paints the cell in her own blood and has made it impossible for anyone to enter. Her soul has been seen by countless visitors and no amount of interventions have been able to remove her from the holding cell. As San Lucas Island is today a protected national park, the prison cannot be touched. You can still find tour companies willing to show you around the holding cells and prison campus, but only during the daytime.
5: Venado Caves
The Venado Caves in the Arenal Volcano National Park may not be haunted, but you definitely don’t want to be down here after having visited any of the previous eerie destinations on this list. This formation is estimated to be around 20 million years old, and a tour will consist of being lowered into a dark void, hiking via headlamps through strange rock formations and underground rivers, and quietly sneaking through bat dwellings, trying not to wake them. The eerie rock formations truly show the shifting of the tectonic plates that caused this phenomenon. You’ll see piles of bones, or rather marine life fossils, strange lizards and fish, and hopefully no large spiders. The entire trek will take around 4 hours and should only be attempted by experienced hikers and thrill seekers.