The perfect combination of nature, sea, history and culture.
It’s often difficult to find the perfect destination that caters to every member of the group. Saint Lucas Island, however, offers the perfect combination that is sure to make everyone in the group happy. Why? Let me tell you!
Saint Lucas Island, known as Isla San Lucas in Spanish, was made the thirtieth, official National Park of Costa Rica in August of 2020. On the island you can find an old prison! The prison functioned between 1873 and 1991, and gives the new National Park a unique cultural legacy and added historical importance to the already lush, island fauna, and wildlife.
EXPERIENCING THE ISLAND
Our tour begins at Los Sueños Resort & Marina, in Playa Herradura at 9am. We cruise for 45 minutes to get to the Island, which is only 8 km from the city of Puntarenas, and boasts more than 100 years of cultural prison history.
Upon arrival, you will disembark the catamaran via an original dock, dating back to the time that the prison was up and running. This detention centre was used to imprison “undesirables”. These prisoners were victims of the dictatorship of politician, Tomás Guardia Gutierrez, who wanted to keep criminals and murderers out of the city.
On the island, you’ll get to see what were once the dungeons, located at the end of the pier. You can even admire the original stone road built in the late 19th century. We’ll also take a visit to the commandery, pavilions and the “disco”. Stop and check out “the water tank” that was later converted into a punishment cell. All of these historical structures were built between 1927 and 1931.
In addition to the ruined historic architecture and vast biodiversity, it is the murals that tell the true stories of the people imprisoned within their walls. The prison administration allowed prisoners to express their feelings caused by the confinement, loneliness, the lack of visits and their desire for freedom, on the prison walls.
These drawings, which are still preserved in some cells, have become a major tourist attraction, immersed within a natural reserve spanning almost 500 hectares.
ECO-TOURISM AND BIODIVERSITY
Thanks to the official acknowledgement of Isla San Lucas as a National Park, species such as: monkeys, squirrels, armadillos, white-tailed deer, bats, crocodiles, and birds are being preserved. Reforestation work is also being carried out with native plants and fauna.
The San Lucas National Park also includes a marine life area where you can enjoy watching manta rays, turtles, as well as hammerhead sharks or dolphins.
In addition, archaeological sites have been found on the island that show that “Chara”, as it was known in colonial times, was inhabited more than 1000 years ago.
At the excavation site, known as Vigilante Alto, pottery for domestic use and stonework from pre-Hispanic times have been discovered. An island full of truly hidden treasures!
FROM PRISON TO NATIONAL TREASURE
A program called, The San Lucas Island Reactivation Route, seeks to turn this island into a destination that protects and preserves it’s identity, biodiversity and natural characteristics.
This incredible tourist attraction, filled with forest trails, beaches and abundant fauna, has made quite a distinguishable transition over the years. A once maximum security prison, where the most violent criminals in Costa Rica were held, has now become an unforgettable place to enjoy paradise!
José León Sánchez, an inmate at the time the prison was operating, published an autobiography entitled, “The Island of Lonely Men”, in 1963. Sánchez recounted his experience of mistreatment and hunger, and the story was made into a film ten years later. A similar story can be found at the famous Alcatraz, the penitentiary in the San Francisco Bay of the United States.
Today, the singing of more than 40 species of birds, the sound of the wind shaking centuries-old trees, and the constant swaying of the waves, immerses visitors into a completely different reality. Experience a unique island with historical memory, archaeological wealth, and a plethora of tropical nature.
Unlike the former inhabitants, who once utilized the island for imprisonment, the intention of those who now visit this historical site is to promote the development of the area and pledge witness to it’s valuable cultural heritage and meaningful ecological impact.
Immerse yourself in this incredible adventure aboard our Costa Cat II! Our staff will guide you into every facet of the Island, taking care of your safety and ensuring a meaningful experience while you also receive lunch, drinks, and snacks included as part of your tour. The trip will come to an end at 4pm when we arrive back at Playa Herradura.