San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sports complexes promote physical activity across Costa Rica

Everyone knows that exercise and fresh air help maintain health. One of the aims of Costa Rica’s many polideportivos, or sports complexes, is to offer a place where everyone can freely walk a track, run, kick a ball or swim. Each of the country’s cantons has a Comité Cantonal de Deportes y Recreación, or sports and recreation committee, to provide for such activities.

The main reason for such attention to sports and recreation is to build up a corps of athletes in the country, whether competitive or hobby athletes. But equally important is to plant the idea of physical activity within the general public. 

Each canton of each province must have a sports and recreation committee by law, but the larger cities offer more. Alajuela, Cartago, San Antonio de Belén, San Ramón, and San José all have sports complexes that offer aerobics, swimming, baseball fields, volleyball, spinning, weightlifting and boxing. In addition, lessons are available in some sports, depending on demand. Reasonable fees are charged for swimming and for some lessons or use of equipment, but most areas are free for those who live in the canton or city, including foreign residents.

In smaller cantons and districts, the sports areas are more limited and may consist of only a soccer field and a track that are also used for school physical education classes and community activities. The phone book lists 67 Comités Cantonales de Deportes y Recreación; if your community is not listed, check with the closest municipality. 

Whatever your sport, mild or vigorous, there is an activity for you. In addition to feeling great after a workout, you get to meet Ticos and Ticas who also like to be active, and your health will benefit. 

The following are some of the bigger sports complexes listed and what they offer:

San José tops them all. The National Gymnasium, on the southeast corner of La Sabana Park, Calle 42, Avenida Central, is open daily for training or for personal use and for lessons including tumbling, boxing, weightlifting, exercise equipment and more. Outside in the park, you’ll find areas for games, bicycles, skating, running, kite flying and other activities. Sundays are good days to go, offering exhibits and activities for the public as well as good security. Parque de la Paz in southern San José’s San Sebastián district and Parque del Este in the eastern suburb of Curridabat both have areas for sports and walking. Call 2284-8748, ext. 164, for more information.

Polideportivos 2

Weight training at the San Antonio de Belén sports complex.

Joan Bougie

Northwest of the capital, Alajuela’s sports complex in Montserrat, behind and one kilometer west of Mall Internacional, was built for the National Games and offers free aerobics, activities for older adults, tracks for walking and running, a 50-meter pool for swimming laps, tennis courts, baseball, basketball, soccer and classes in sports including chess, which is a sport in Latin America. Reasonable monthly fees apply for swimming and some lessons. For information, call 2442-1757.

San Antonio de Belén, west of San José, has everything at its polideportivo complex, a great place for walking or running the track or using the gym with exercise equipment and spinning. Offered here are soccer, both indoor and out, basketball and swimming, including with aerobics. Call 2293-4638 for information.

North of the capital, Heredia’s sports and action fans can have all kinds of fun at the Palacio de los Deportes on Avenida Central, in front of the soccer stadium. The Comité Cantonal has an office there and will let you know what’s available at what fees. The complex offers swimming, spinning, a gymnasium, aerobics, classes and activities for children, seniors and adults. For information, call 2260-6872 or visit the “palace” and ask the security guard to direct you to the Comité Cantonal office.

Polideportivos 3

Tennis court at Cartago polideportivo.

Joan Bougie

To the east of San José, Cartago’s sports complex is proud of all the national athletes who have trained there – and it even has a Facebook page! The complex offers swimming, tennis, cycling, spinning, indoor soccer, volleyball and basketball and gym sports. Swimming costs ₡1,000 ($2) per hour in the lap pool. For information, call 2552-4558 or search for Polideportivo de Cartago on Facebook.

San Ramón, northwest of the capital, has refurbished its gymnasium, which is open daily from 2 to 10 p.m. and offers weightlifting, boxing, basketball and more. Swimming costs ₡10,000 ($20) a month with unlimited use of the 25-meter pool or the free-swim pool. A track for running can be found at the University of Costa Rica campus. Call 2445-0453 for information.

In the tropical heat of the Caribbean coast, Limón has a track where champion runner Nery Brenes began his career, as well as playing fields, a gymnasium with spinning, weights and areas for basketball, volleyball and soccer. The swimming pool is being reconstructed at present. For information, call 2799-0299.

Check with the committee in your area for hours and fees. Outdoor tracks are often available from 5 a.m. Activities such as swimming and aerobics are scheduled and differ from place to place. San Ramón’s pools are open all day, every day, while Alajuela has three one-hour sessions. Some of the other polideportivos listed in the phone guide are Escazú, Nicoya, Jacó and Pérez Zeledón. So, ¡Aproveche! Polideportivos offer convenient, inexpensive exercise without obligation.  

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