To investigate long-term effects of land use on the soil seed bank, we compared the abundance/density, species richness, life form distribution, and species composition of seeds sotred in the soil of four 15-20 yr-old second-growth stands, two old-growth stands, and two previously selectively-logged stands in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. Surface soil (10 cm deep, 4.7 cm diameter) was collected at 10 m intervals along three 120-160 m long transects in each stand (44-48 soil cores, 22-24 combined seed bank samples per site). Seed density was highest but variable in second-growth stands (8331-1435 seeds/m2), low and homogeneous in old-growth stands (2258-2659 seeds/m2), and intermeidate and highly variable in selectively-logged stands (1165-6954 seeds/m2), which also had contrasting logging intensities. Species richness was strongly dependent on seed density, but showed less variation. Life form distribution did not differ statistically among or within land-use categories. In each stand, herbs-forbs, shrubs, and vines dominated the seed bank (>75% of the species richness and abundance), whereas trees were a minor component (<20% of the species richness and <5% of the abundance) and were predominantly early successional. Shrubs and vines were most abundant in second-growth stands where regrowth vegetation was repeatedly cut before abandonment, whereas grasses and sedges were most abundant in the only forest stand that was completely surrounded by pastures. In terms of species composition, old-growth stands were more similar to selectively-logged stands than to second-growth stands, but across stands, selectively-logged forests were most distinct from the other two forest types. An inventory of the standing woody vegetation in each site showed little representation of the woody taxa found in the seed bank. We discuss these results in the context of the main factors that have been postulated to influence the abundance, life form, and species composition of tropical forest seed banks, and explore the role of the latter during intermediate phases of tropical forest succession and regeneration.