In an old-growth tropical wet forest at La Selva, Costa Rica, we combined radiocarbon (14C) dating and tree-ring analysis to estimate the ages of large trees of canopy and emergent species spanning a broad range of wood densities and growth rates. We collected samples from the trunks of 29 fallen, dead individuals. We found that all eight sampled species formed visible growth rings, which varied considerably in distinctiveness. For five of the six species for which we combined wood anatomical studies with 14C-dates (ring ages), the analyses demonstrated that growth rings were of annual formation. The oldest tree we found by direct ring counting was a Hymenolobium mesoamericanum Lima (Papilionaceae) specimen, with an age of ca. 530 years at the time of death. All other sampled individuals, including very large trees of slow-growing species, had died at ages between 200 and 300 years. These results show that, even in an everwet tropical rain forest, tree growth of many species can be rhythmic, with an annual periodicity. This study thus raises the possibility of extending tree-ring analyses throughout the tropical forest types lacking a strong dry season or annual flooding. Our findings and similar measurements from other tropical forests indicate that the maximum ages of tropical emergent trees are unlikely to be much greater than 600 years, and that these trees often die earlier from various natural causes.