San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Little Mountain Town Is Most Pura Vida Spot

A small mountain community northwest of San José has been identified by the University of Costa Rica (UCR) as the cantón with the highest quality of life.

Valverde Vega, whose principal population center is the crafts mecca of Sarchí, sits on the western slope of Poás Volcano and, according to the study released Tuesday, it has the most favorable statistics in regard to health, crime and municipal efficiency.

Two other agriculture-based communities – Alvarado, in the hills above Cartago, and Palmares, west of San José – followed closely in the ratings.

The report ranked Heredia 50th for quality of life. Escazú came in at 74th, and San José was second to last at the 80th position. The Caribbean port city of Limón came in last, at 81st.

But the study didn’t evaluate only quality of life. Researchers also ranked communities based on business environment, quality of local governments, employment, infrastructure, innovation and the environment.

“The idea is for (the study) to be used as a political instrument, to help local leaders of similar towns share ideas,” said Anabelle Ulate, director of UCR’s Development Observatory, which created the Cantón Competitiveness Index.

Asked whether any part of the study surprised her, Quirós pointed to the innovation rankings. While one might expect the communities that play host to foreign technology giants like Intel, HP or Boston Scientific would top the list, she said, those localities didn’t quite make it to first place.

It turns out that Montes de Oca, home of the UCR, is Costa Rica’s Silicon Valley.

The report received praise from the government. Minister of the Presidency Rodrigo Arias held it up to reporters Wednesday as an important document and offered to get copies for them.

–Chrissie Long


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