The monocot family Costaceae Nakai consists of seven genera but their mutual relationships have not been satisfactorily resolved in previous studies employing classical molecular markers. Phylogenomic analyses of 365 nuclear genes and nearly-complete plastome data provides almost fully resolved insights into their diversification. Paracostus is identified as sister to all other taxa, followed by several very short branches leading to discrete lineages, suggesting an ancient rapid radiation of these early lineages and leaving the exact relationships among them unresolved. Relationships among Chamaecostus, Dimerocostus and Monocostus confirmed earlier findings that these genera form a monophyletic group. The Afro-American Costus is also monophyletic. By contrast, Tapeinochilos appeared as a well-supported crown lineage of Cheilocostus rendering it paraphyletic. As these two genera differ morphologically from one another owing to a shift from insect- to bird-pollination, we propose to keep both names. The divergence time within Costaceae was estimated using penalized likelihood utilizing two fossils within Zingiberales, †Spirematospermum chandlerae and †Ensete oregonense, indicated a relatively recent diversification of Costaceae, between 18–9 Mya. Based on these data, the current pantropical distribution of the family is hypothesized to be the result of several long-distance intercontinental dispersal events, which do not correlate with global geoclimatic changes.