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San Lucas prison island turns into Costa Rica's newest national park

From prison to... National park? Costa Rica has transformed its renowned San Lucas Island prison into a park packed with hiking trails and top-notch facilities.

San Lucas prison island Costa Rica national park

Every country has plenty of natural wonders you've probably never heard of (check out Canada's here), but few are as cool as Costa Rica's newest national park.

With coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific, Costa Rica is known for its stunning beaches, rugged rainforests and breathtaking biodiversity and you can find all of these at Costa Rica's latest prison – sorry, park.  

Move over Alcatraz, there's a new prison-island-turned-tourist-destination and this one has howler monkeys. Costa Rica's San Lucas Island off the coast of the Gulf of Nicoya was once home to a notorious, brutal prison. After a lot of TLC, the island has been transformed into a national park that welcomes tourists and locals. 

Don't let the word prison fool you: this park's new iteration comes with tons of new features. Throughout the kilometres of lush greenery and coastal area, you'll find freshly groomed hiking trails, top-notch facilities, 24 hour surveillance (old habits die hard) and new electricity and drinking water systems. 

There's also tons of wildlife both indigenous to the island and rescued here years ago at the former wildlife refuge. Who knows what living or, ermm, non-living things you'll find along your trek here. The old prison buildings are now considered cultural heritage sites, but we consider them kind of creepy. This prison island definitely belongs on a list of spooky yet stunning sites around the world

The new park was created to promote sustainable tourism to one of Costa Rica's most hidden (haunted?) and misunderstood gems. There are trained guides to help tourists understand the complicated history of both the island and the former prison. Sometimes the past isn't pretty, but this park sure is. 

If you find yourself wanting to travel south this season Costa Rica, along with other Central and South American countries, reopened borders to Canadian tourists. Costa Rica's San Lucas Island can only be reached via boat and the nearest city is Puntarenas, a port town known for strong surf and stronger coffee about 96 km from the capital of San José.

To learn more about the San Lucas Island National Park, go to visitcostarica.com

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