Over the past two decades, various organizations have promoted cacao agroforestry systems as a tool for biodiversity conservation in the Bribri-Cabécar indigenous territories of Talamanca, Costa Rica. Despite these efforts, cacao production is declining and is being replaced by less diverse systems that have lower biodiversity value. Understanding the factors that influence household land use is essential in order to promote cacao agroforestry systems as a viable livelihood strategy. We incorporate elements of livelihoods analyses and socioeconomic data to examine cacao agroforestry systems as a livelihood strategy compared with other crops in Talamanca. Several factors help to explain the abandonment of cacao agroforestry systems and their conversion to other land uses. These factors include shocks and trends beyond the control of households such as crop disease and population growth and concentration, as well as structures and processes such as the shift from a subsistence to a cash-based economy, relative prices of cacao and other cash crops, and the availability of market and government support for agriculture. We argue that a livelihoods approach provides a useful framework to examine the decline of cacao agroforestry systems and generates insights on how to stem the rate of their conversion to less diverse land uses.