San Lucas Island Wildlife Refuge

San Lucas Island Wildlife Refuge

San Lucas Island wildlife refuge, Isla San Lucas is an island in the gulf of Nicoya with vast biodiversity, beautiful scenery, and an incredible history! Isla San Lucas was the site of a penal colony with a reputation of being one of the most violent and cruel prisons in the world. The prison had an underground prison cell network where the most dangerous and hardened criminals in Costa Rica lived from 1873 – 1991. Because of the terrible conditions in which the inmates lived, there are many stories of the horrors the convicts endured including starvation, disease, and attempted escapes. The story of these inmates can still be seen on the blood stained walls. There is a caretaker that lives on Isla San Lucas who gives tours.

But of course, the former prison is not the only reason to visit San Lucas Island Wildlife Refuge. As it’s name implies, there is a wide variety of wildlife to be seen. The island is inhabited by howler monkeys, deer, turkeys, and snakes. In the waters surrounding the island you may see hammerhead sharks, rays, turtles, and barracuda.

San Lucas Island Wildlife Refuge is 1156 acres and was established in 2001. It is located in the Puntarenas Province and you can only reach the island by boat from Puntarenas. From the Interamerican Highway turnoff at signs for Puntarenas. This is also an easy day trip from many of the resort areas on the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Note: If you would like to read more about the Isla San Lucas penal colony I suggest a book written by an innocent prisoner (Jose Leon San Chez). The book tells a story of the pain and suffering experienced by the prisoners. It is titled: “La Isla de los Hombres”.

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