Sep 30 2017

End of life Issues – Burial and Cremation in Costa Rica

It’s never easy to talk about death, but it is a fact of life that we will all die. In our home countries, we probably know the basics about what to do and choices that must be made when the time comes to bury our loved ones, or when planning in advance for our own burial. However, as an immigrant to Costa Rica, this is uncharted territory for most of us.
We met with a small group of expats and a representative of Jardines del Recuerdo to learn about how burial and cremation works in Costa Rica. Our thanks go to Joe and Debra Hammen who sponsored this event in their home and invited us to attend.

Following are the answers to the many questions that were raised, as well as a breakdown of services offered and corresponding prices:

What’s the process when a loved one dies in Costa Rica?

In cases of sudden death, such as death at home, a doctor must write the death certificate; otherwise, the investigative police (Organismo de Investigación Judicial or “OIJ”) must be called. The funeral home will not come to pick up the body without a death certificate.

Procedure: Call the police (911). OIJ will transport the body to San Joaquin de Flores for forensics. If an autopsy is needed, it will take two days. After the autopsy results are finalized, a death certificate will be issued. The funeral home will need the original document to give to the health department.

If death comes from a known illness, an autopsy is usually not required, though OIJ must make this determination. In this case, the death certificate is issued quickly.

Certified copies of the death certificate can be obtained through your Embassy. Usually 10-20 copies will be needed.

Can I donate my organs after death?

Organ donation – this is only possible if the person dies in an automobile accident or possibly in the case of sudden death. The individual can designate their desire to donate their organs on their Costa Rica drivers license. There is no other method to signify this intent. If the person dies from an illness, organ donation is not allowed.

For information about donating your body to science, please see our article, “End of Life Issues – Body Donation in Costa Rica.”

Is cremation possible?

Yes, cremation is an option in Costa Rica. If cremation is desired, the health department must authorize it. The death certificate must indicate, “Body to be cremated.” This is required by the health department.

If there is no autopsy done, the funeral home must have one done before cremation can be carried out in order to present the necessary documentation to the health department.

The body can be dressed and put into a corrugated coffin prior to cremation for viewing by the family. Relatives are allowed to be present at the time of cremation.

Approximately 24 hours after cremation, the ashes will be ready to give to the family.

With cremation, you can state in the paperwork how you plan to dispose of the ashes. No additional paperwork is needed to authorize burial on your property or at sea.

How Does Autopsy and Embalming Work?

The autopsy is an anatomical examination of a body. It is always required before a cremation or at the request of the judicial authorities.

Though embalming is not a standard procedure in Costa Rica, it is available if needed. The embalming is a process to slow the process of decomposition of a body to preserve it for longer. It is recommended for repatriations, when the deceased was suffering from serious illness, or when it will take more than 12 hours before the burial or cremation. As this is an extra process, there is an additional charge.

How Can We Repatriate the Body or Ashes to Our Home Country?

Jardines del Recuerdo offers the service of repatriation of bodies or ashes. They are experienced in such transfers, and comply with all international health and customs regulations. In addition, they offer prompt coordination with customs offices and airports according to your needs. It takes about one week to get the documents needed for transportation to another country.

Their services consist of:

  • Moving bodies: Includes metal enclosure and preparation service and makeup. In addition, their pathologists embalming the body, to ensure that it arrives in perfect condition at their destination.
  • Moving ashes: Includes special urn for the transfer of the ashes and shipping.

Options to send ashes back to your home country:

  • Eco urns: can be used for burial at sea or in fresh water
  • Metal urn: can be put inside a wooden box for transport
  • Plastic box: can be used for transport

The U.S. Embassy will issue paperwork needed for transport at no charge. Embassies of other countries may charge a fee.

What Will These Services Cost?

To give you an idea of contract terms and pricing, here is the information provided by Jardines del Recuerdo:

Contract Terms and General Information:

  • You can make burial arrangements in advance for a specific person.
  • The fund is transferable. (It can be used with any person that the service owner decides on the time you want.)
  • You can also name a person as beneficiary in the event the named person does not make use of the contract.
  • All contracts are authorized by the Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Commerce.
  • Guarantee of service without having to make any additional investment.
  • There is no refund if the services are not used.
  • If the person dies in a neighboring country, the body can be transported back to Costa Rica for normal burial or cremation.

Method of payment:

  • You can purchase the contract in a single payment or 18 months without interest.
  • If the deceased belongs to the Caja, the Caja will pay $200 towards the burial or cremation.

Burial Services

The burial service contract includes:

  • transportation of the body
  • wood coffin
  • luxury chapel
  • cafeteria service
  • religious ceremony
  • chorus
  • floral arrangements
  • mortuary
  • death notice
  • make-up and clothing service
  • administrative procedures with the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica

Burial Service Prices:


@ 575 colones/$

Serenidad  ¢  1.325.000 $2,304.35
Aurora  ¢  1.825.000 $3,173.91
Armonia  ¢  2.365.000 $4,113.04
Clásico  ¢  2.685.000 $4,710.53
Supremo  ¢  3.505.000 $6,149.12
Celestial  ¢  3.955.000 $6,878.26
Oasis  ¢  4.795.000 $8,412.28
Memorial  ¢  5.575.000 $9,780.70
Diplomático  ¢  6.195.000 $10,868.42
Presidencial  ¢  7.275.000 $12,652.17
Plenitud  ¢  8.925.000 $15,657.89
Del Recuerdo ¢ 11.825.000 $20,745.61

Cremation Services

Cremation & Ash Keeper contract includes:

  • transportation of the body
  • biodegradable casket
  • autopsy
  • metal urn
  • administrative procedures with the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica

Jardines del Recuerdo offers ecological, biodegradable urns, which preserve the environment:

  • “Geos” is made of organic substrate in order to bury the ashes or plant a tree
  • “Samsara” is made of sand in order to return the ashes into nature
  • “Nu” is a water-soluble urn made from saline and natural components designed to scatter ash in the sea

Cremation & Ash Keeper Prices:


@ 575 colones/$

Cremation ¢     935.000 $1,626.09
Ash Keeper* ¢ 1.385.000 $2,408.70
Ash Keeper Templo Votivo* ¢ 1.385.000 $2,408.70

* Ashes are kept at the cemetary

Purchasing Cemetary Property

Cemetary Property contract includes:

  • public deed
  • construction of the niche and maintenance service in perpetuity

Cemetary Property Prices:


@ 575 colones/$

Property with 2 niches
Azul ¢ 2.600.000 to ¢ 3.390.000 $4,521.74 to $5,895.65
Amarillo ¢ 3.900.000 $6,782.61
Property with 4 niches
Azul ¢ 4.850.000 to ¢ 5.305.000 $8,434.78 to $9,226.09
Amarillo ¢ 6.565.000 $11,417.39

Contact info for more information:

Ana Isabel Rodriguez Soto
Jardines del Recuerdo
(506) 2442-2829 – phone
(506) 8747-6284 – cell

Final Note

This article in intended for informational purposes only. Our main goal is to help demystify some of the end of life issues we face as immigrants to Costa Rica. We do not necessarily endorse Jardines del Recuerdo nor have we personally contracted with them for end of life services. There are other funeral homes in Costa Rica with experience shipping remains back to the person’s country of origin, some of which have cremation facilities. You can obtain more information on the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica’s “Death of a U.S. Citizen” webpage.

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