Isla San Lucas, Costa Rica

Discover one of the toughest and most severe prisons of the world and be amazed with its incredible history

Isla San Lucas, Costa Rica
Isla San Lucas
© Roberto Fernández-Morales

San Lucas , which belongs to the Puntarenas canton, in Costa Rica, is located in the Pacific Ocean, 8 km from Puntarenas city, in the Nicoya Gulf. This remote and quiet freshwater island constitutes the San Lucas Island Wildlife Refuge, whose aim is to protect the entire area, as it is a fascinating place which the indigenous villages used as a burial place between the years 1500 to 800 b.C., apart from its huge biodiversity and its amazing tropical beaches.

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In this beautiful island you can find a rich variety of fauna: howler monkeys, spiders, squirrels, armadillos, pheasants, deers, raccoons, anteaters, snakes, crocodiles, bats, and many other species of reptiles and birds, as well as hammerhead sharks, manta rays and turtles that live in its waters. The amazing and abundant vegetation, packed with mangos and jocote trees, matapalos, indios desnudos, amongst many others, highlights the marvelous nature of this island.

On the other hand, this island has a rather interesting historical past, as it was founded by the dictator Tomás Miguel Guardia Gutiérrez as a penitentiary where the most dangerous criminals in Costa Rica were incarcerated, being one of the toughest and most severe prisons in the country. Atrocities like gathering seventy prisoners in one cell, sleeping on the floor and having the right to only one hour of sun a day, imprisoning adolescents of fourteen years old for robbery, terrible diseases, hunger, murders… are just some of the horrible distresses suffered by the inmates there. For this reason, nowadays it is considered a historical attraction for those tourists that wish to know the harsh history of the prison, the inhumane conditions and some of the tortures that these prisoners suffered (for instance, the “hueco” and the “plancha” tortures). The sentence to José León Sánchez took place in this amazing setting. He was a prisoner and the author of La isla de los hombres solos (The Island of Lonely Men), a novel based on his own experiences, which made this prison one of the most popular ones at international level. Finally, the prison closed in 1991. One of the most interesting attractions of this prison are the hundreds of graffiti and big sized drawings with high sexual content that are painted in the walls of the cells, as La chica del bikini rojo (The Girl of the Red Bikini) or La chica del consuelo (The Comfort Girl), along with other two real-size works which the legend has it that were painted with the blood of a nurse who was murdered in the prison.

Discover many more astonishing things about this horrifying place, where the most curious and adventurous people will find the truths hidden inside the walls.

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Nicoya Gulf, Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

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