Former Prison Island Gets a Makeover As Costa Rica’s Newest National Park

Beautiful aerial cinematic view of the San Lucas Island National Park in Costa Rica

Once the home of a wildlife refuge and a notoriously brutal prison, Costa Rica’s San Lucas Island now welcomes visitors to discover its new identity as the country’s 30th national park.

Located off the Pacific coast of the Gulf of Nicoya, San Lucas Island National Park is made up of both land and coastal areas that cover 1.8 square miles. With new purpose comes new features, so visitors can expect to find freshly minted hiking trails, toilets, 24-hour surveillance, and systems for electricity and water.

As reported by Lonely Planet, the wildlife that can be found on the island includes howler monkeys, spiders, snakes, deer, and pheasants. While in San Lucas, visitors can also explore the former prison buildings, which are now considered cultural heritage sites. Over 50 guides have been trained to help guests understand the history of the island and its former prison founded by the dictator Tomás Miguel Guardia Gutiérrez.

“San Lucas Island is part of Costa Rica’s history and heritage, so we are very pleased to reopen it as the country’s 30th national park," Gustavo Segura Sancho, Costa Rica’s tourism minister, told Lonely Planet. "It will greatly surprise visitors looking for quieter spots when on holiday.”

View of dock entry to San Lucas Island in Costa Rica

San Lucas Island National Park can be reached via a 40-minute boat ride from the city of Puntarenas, located 60 miles from San José. It is the second national park in the region of Puntarenas, following Coco Island National Park. According to Lonely Planet, the new park was created in hopes of encouraging visitors to discover the country’s hidden gems, while also developing sustainable tourism opportunities and contributing to the socioeconomic development of the area.

Americans interested in visiting Costa Rica and its newest national park should keep in mind that only residents of certain states and regions are currently permitted in the country due to COVID-19 regulations.

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