Costa Rica’s newest and 30th national park isn’t what you might think. San Lucas Island, in the Gulf of Nicoya, is 1.8 square miles of beautiful land and coastal areas, with wildlife including howler monkeys, spiders, deer, pheasants, anteaters and snakes. It also happens to be a former prison.
San Lucas Island became a penal island in 1873, founded by then-dictator Tomás Guardia Gutiérrez, and remained so until 1991. It was then rehabilitated into a wildlife refuge, the Tico Times reports. But as of Monday, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national park system in the country, San Lucas Island is now a national park. The former prison structures are considered cultural heritage sites and over 50 guides have been trained to show the island to visitors.