The San Lucas Island prison was so notorious that even the most hardened criminals wept when they learned that was where they would be sent.
Life expectancy was short, torture was common, and the isolation was mind-boggling.
The prison was opened in 1873 and did not close until 1991. The island facility remained inactive for many years. Then, in 2002, San Lucas Island was declared a National Nature Reserve, and then in 2020, it became Costa Rica’s 30th National Park.
The 4 ½ square kilometer island is home to a wide variety of wildlife and also has several pre-Columbian sites.
Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado visited San Lucas this week to see progress in renovating prison buildings as well as improving a series of nature trails. The restoration work is led by the Center for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Youth.
President Alvarado said the following on the island:
Puntarenas has great potential and we are proud that the joint work between the government and the institutional sectors has resulted in making the island of San Lucas a center for the promotion of tourism in this province.
Each of the projects carried out represents a further step towards the conservation and projection of this jewel of Puntarenas and also towards the revitalization of its economy. Tourists are already visiting the island, and several tour operators take visitors a forty-minute boat ride from Puntarenas.
As part of the tourist attendance strategy, training was provided to more than 50 tourist guides and tour operators by SINAC and the Ministry of Culture.
Another key step was the activation of online ticket sales through the National System of Conservation Areas page for greater convenience for visitors and tour operators.
There’s definitely still work to be done, but San Lucas is a truly unique Costa Rican national park worth visiting.