Costa Rica’s biggest and most substantial urban park is La Sabana Metropolitan Park. It is located in downtown San Jose and functions much like that of New York City’s Central Park. While in New York, many extravagant buildings stand on the outskirts and peer over Central Park, the opposite is found in San Jose. Many small modest buildings make up the city of San Jose, and the real architectural gems are actually housed within La Sabana Park. The round Gimnasio Nacional (National Gymnasium), is one such gem.
This 40,000-seat stadium is a brilliant architectural feat. Even though it has only been open since 2011, it has already endowed the residents of San Jose with performances from Shakira, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
La Sabana (The Savannah) encases a huge amount of green space where residents and visitors can picnic and play. This incredible facility has become a hub for community activities and houses a variety of sports facilities including tennis courts, volleyball, basketball and baseball areas, jogging paths and soccer pitches. The Olympic-sized swimming pool found here will also make serious swimmers quite happy. Soccer games break out all over the park at the drop of a hat, but you may want to brush up on your skills before joining one, as Ticos can sink a drop shot by age seven.
From the minute you walk into the park, you can feel history all around you. A statue of the 1930’s president Leon Cortez is placed at the park’s entrance and slightly behind the statue one can find a 16-foot menorah, where San Jose’s small Jewish community gathers during Hanukkah. Walk south of the Cortez statue and you will find the historically rich whitewashed Museo de Arte Costarricense, which used to serve as terminal and control tower when La Sabana was still an airport.
Recently, La Sabana’s vortex has led to a small building boom taking place around its perimeters. As San Jose continues to progress and grow, perhaps in the future La Sabana will be a spiting image of what Central Park is today.