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San Lucas Island covers 500 hectares and housed a prison for more than 100 years between 1873 and 1991.
/ San Lucas Island National Wildlife Refuge courtesy photo.

Published Tuesday, August 4, 2020

San Lucas Island tourism
project advances

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Since April 2019, the First Lady Claudia Dobles, who is involved in the reactivation project of the island, announced the advance of the San Lucas Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in the Gulf of Nicoya. The old prison closed in 1991 and transformed into a tourist destination.

"The execution of this project excites us for the great benefits it will bring to the Puntarena economy," Dobles said. "It is a project that successfully combines Costa Rican history and culture, seeking to conserve the island's natural resources."

In the reopening process, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and the National Museum have trained more than 50 tourist guides and tour operators. A second training is scheduled to take place today, Aug. 4.

According to the government, the process of reopening the island has been carried out in close coordination with the Puntarenas Chamber of Tourism, in addition to other public institutions.

The improvements on the island have cost approximately $554,480 financed by the Costa Rican Institute of Pacific Ports, among these improvements are: furniture installation, security improvements in the docking area and Cocos Beach, construction of trails, sanitary services, downtown garbage collection, and water pumping system, building repairs, and the hiring of the park ranger and a 24/7 island police service.

In January, the deputies of the Special Permanent Tourism Commission of the Legislative Assembly approved bill No.21287 entitled: Creation of the San Lucas Island National Park that designates the former prison site as a protected wildlife area and historical and architectural heritage of the country.

According to the file, the park includes the island and the coastal marine area.

"The land portion will consist of the insular part of San Lucas Island, located in the Gulf of Nicoya," said the Legislative Assembly in its statement. "The coastal marine area will be composed of the waters around the island with a depth of up to 6 meters."

Between these two areas, there will be dedicated sustainable tourism activities, the commission said.

Also, the bill calls for the island's sustainable tourism development, as well as the conservation and restoration of the old jail buildings that were installed on the island.

According to the government plan to activate tourism to San Lucas Island, the vision is to make a destination similar to Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay.

According to the government, approximately $2.4 million was saved from the budget of various institutions such as the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism and the Costa Rican Institute of Pacific Ports to be applied to the island project.

In the presentation of this project, Dobles said that the Island is expected to become a benchmark such as Tortuga Island of the Gulf of Nicoya.

"This is an investment aimed at the well being of the community of Puntarenas and the Gulf of Nicoya, by generating jobs and encouraging development,” Dobles said. “Also, we propose to be a reference in the best practices of construction and sustainable management, with works of low impact and concordance with its surroundings."

According to the government, the island has a deficiency of proper maintenance of the area and lacks public services such as water and electricity.

The plan to reactivate San Lucas Island has been presented in four stages, which will begin with the construction of the new facilities in 2021, said the government.

• The first phase includes the previous studies of the environment and the marketing study.

• The second phase establishes the amount necessary to invest in the infrastructure.

• The third phase contemplates making plans and preparing the respective construction permits.

• The fourth and last phase will be the construction of new facilities.

San Lucas Island covers 500 hectares and housed a prison for more than 100 years between 1873 and 1991.

Have you been to San Lucas Island?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to


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