An island that once held dangerous criminals is now Costa Rica's 30th national park
Posted on 24/09/2020

EcotourismCosta Rica

Twitter Facebook 1 share

San Lucas Island Prison used to be home to some of the most dangerous criminals in Costa Rica, but despite the creepy undertones of this island, it's a place where wildlife is thriving. The prison was shut down in 1991 and San Lucas Island has now become Costa Rica's 30th national park, which is open to visitors who want to get a glimpse of the abandoned prison and also the creatures that inhabit the island.

Prison makeover

Prison makeover
Galyna Andrushko/123RF

The former prison island is located off the Pacific coast of the Gulf of Nicoya and is just a 40-minute boat ride away from the city of Puntarenas. The island has been vamped up and given a new identity in hopes that it'll attract visitors who are looking to discover parts of Costa Rica that are still a mystery. This new venture was started to develop ecotourism within the country and to drive the socioeconomic development of the area.

In an effort to give the island a new beginning, the island has been renamed as the San Lucas Island National Park. That's not the only modification done to attract tourists. The island includes new hiking trails that allow explorers to roam around with ease. They have also installed toilets and a 24-hour surveillance system. Last but not least, the government has equipped the island with electricity and water - something that wasn't present even when the island was a functioning prison.

Given that the island has remained almost untouched by human civilization, the jungles are brewing with life. Among the many animals that live on the island, there are howler monkeys, different species of spiders, snakes, deers and pheasants. Visitors can witness all these splendors while hiking into the depths of the forest.

Apart from these natural wonders, visitors are free to roam the prison grounds and there's a lot of astonishing things to see. There are seven cells in the prison and back in the day there were 70 prisoners allocated to each cell. The prisoners slept on the floor and were only allowed to have one hour of sunlight per day. The walls of the cells are filled with artwork that the prisoners did while they were cooped up in the dark. They did their graffiti with whatever they could find and the pictures they drew were mainly of women. The prison was notorious for the torture that took place within the confines and the walls have been stained with droplets of blood everywhere.

Back in 2003, the Costa Rican government had rejected the initiative of turning the prison island into a national park because of the brutality that occured in these prisons. However, the prison is now a recognized cultural heritage site. Visitors have access to 50 trained guides if they want to learn more about the dark history of the prison and how it was established.