top of page

Costa Rica: New reopening of Natural Reserve - Island San Lucas!

Picture courtesy of SINAC

Isla San Lucas has a valuable history for Costa Rica formerly housing a prison, now abandoned, the island was designated as a national Park on August 2020 by decree 9892 and managed under SINAC (the national system of conservation areas) in the Central pacific Conservation Area.

San Lucas Island was a penal island for some of the worst criminals in Costa Rica from 1873 to 1991. It is often erroneously cited as the largest prison in Costa Rican history. It was founded by the dictator Tomás Miguel Guardia Gutiérrez.

An important detail of this island is that indigenous groups lived on San Lucas and the surrounding islands from 1,000 and 1,500 AD according to excavation sites. There are eight known archeological sites on the island, including apparent houses where stone tools and a metal object were found in the late 1970s.

The former buildings of the penal island are considered "Patrimonio de Cultura," or cultural heritage sites. The buildings include a historic dock that is still in use after the first dock was destroyed, a church, a medical building, temporary holding cells, a three-story main office, a large concrete disc used to hold a water tank, and water pumps. In addition, there are prison cells of varying security levels depending on the prisoners' crimes. The prison cells contain the typical graffiti of prisoners, such as religious phrases, pornographic images, signatures and drawings. There are also several water pumps and a cemetery under excavation on the island.

Here are some aerial views of the island and what can you see in the historical tour:

Video Courtesy of SINAC and the Presidencia de Gobierno

Since they decide, through this reopening, and that they were going to add this island as a new National Park, INCOP (Costa Rican Institute of the Pacific Ports) were extremely happy about this decision, because this is a significant piece of Costa Rican's history.

According to INCOP: "San Lucas is a very important and valuable heritage for our country and we hope that, by rescuing this tourist site, it will be strengthen the visitation in the City of Puntarenas and consequently generate more employment in this complex economic scenario as a result of the pandemic" .

For this opening the goverment did a big investment with urban furniture for the security cordon of the berth and the enjoyment of Playa Cocos. They also did the construction of trails, sanitation services module, collection center and water pumping system, with an investment of ¢ 174 million by INCOP.

As well, they are doing some structural intervention of the priority heritage area and rehabilitation of the old Medical Clinic building which are in process, with an investment of ¢ 150 million from INCOP.

The park will have also park rangers and policemen with day and night presence on the Island 24 hours a day. Juan Ramón Rivera, executive president of INCOP, assured that “our institution has carried out exhaustive work to achieve the reopening of Isla San Lucas, since, to date, we have made a strong investment of more than 520 million colones in the recovery of the dispensary, the chapel, the trails and the sanitary services, and we continue working to carry out projects such as the reconstruction of the headquarters, the cells and the moat, works that we estimate at more than 750 million colones."

If you want to do this historical tour you can contact this mayor tour operators or contact me to arrange it for you:

Have a nice time in Costa Rica!

*Amanda Urcuyo is a travel designer for Costa Rica and you can contact her for information on tours, hotels, rent a car or shuttles:

Check the items we have choose for you in the header and footer, this are perfect for your Costa Rica trip!

Disclaimer: a certain commission of every purchase through the ads goes to supporting Affluent Society and I. Purchasing through the ads is one of the best ways you can help support us. Thanks in advance.


Recent Posts

See All



bottom of page