When considering remarkable discoveries in Costa Rica, your thoughts likely gravitate (and naturally so) toward new animal or plant species. (We have those!) But what if we told you that this particular breakthrough is related to human longevity? Welcome to the Nicoya blue zone, one of only five in the world.

If you focus on the northwestern region of Costa Rica – on that meaty peninsula hanging out on the country’s western coast – you’ve found a place where something amazing has unfolded: Here, on the Nicoya Peninsula, residents live significantly longer than individuals elsewhere in the world. 

Of course, everyone’s next question is “why?” So, let’s rewind. 

The History of Blue Zone Research

The History of Blue Zone Research

In 2005, Dr. Luis Rosero-Bixby, a demographer from Costa Rica, conducted a study based on a national sample of approximately 3,000 Costa Ricans aged 60 and above, with an intentional focus on the “oldest old.” In simpler terms, Rosero-Bixby delved into the lives of the country’s senior citizens, locally known as “ciudadanos de oro” or golden citizens, with a particular emphasis on those in the older age brackets. 

His findings revealed that Costa Ricans, especially men, who reach the age of 60 are more likely to enjoy a longer life compared to their counterparts worldwide. In a subsequent research paper conducted with William H. Dow and David H. Rehkopf, Rosero-Bixby disclosed that “for a 60-year-old Nicoyan male, the probability of becoming centenarian is seven times that of a Japanese male, and his life expectancy is 2.2 years greater.” Additionally, the Nicoya blue zone boasts one of the lowest rates of middle-aged mortality globally.

Initially met with skepticism from the scientific community and beyond, Dr. Rosero-Bixby’s findings were eventually corroborated by further research. Now, paired with worldwide research and expertise, it’s clear: Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is a “high-longevity island”… and we can all learn from its lifestyle.

Netflix’s Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones – Featuring the Nicoya Peninsula!

Netflix’s Live to 100_ Secrets of the Blue Zones – Featuring the Nicoya Peninsula!

Have you already watched Netflix’s Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones? If so, then you’re familiar with the world’s Blue Zones – Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; and our very own Nicoya, Costa Rica – where residents tend to live significantly longer. 

According to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Explorer and Fellow, a journalist, the author of The Blue Zones (Buettner was the first to coin the term “blue zone”), these specific areas are characterized by straightforward yet transformative habits, diets, and lifestyles of centenarians. Along the way, Buettner challenges common misconceptions about what leads to a long, healthy life… and it’s not about diet plans, gym memberships, or expensive supplements. 

So, what are these transformative habits? According to research, it can be as simple as choosing a mechanical gadget over an automatic one, as enjoyable as savoring a glass of wine in the evening, or as intrinsic as understanding your life’s purpose – and then, actively pursuing it daily.

Welcome to the Nicoya Blue Zone

Welcome to the Nicoya Blue Zone

The Nicoya Peninsula, home to Costa Rica’s wellness haven of Nosara, is one of just five Blue Zones. In the entire world.  

And while, admittedly, it all sounds a bit like alchemy – blend a specific place with your own lifestyle, and you can suddenly live longer, almost with no effort? – the science of Blue Zones is very real. And that science has helped uncover many of the similarities shared between the world’s Blue Zones, including here in Costa Rica.

In other words, the Blue Zones can teach us about the behaviors we should adopt, in order to live longer and more fulfilling lives. And since you’re here, you may already live – or be researching life – in a Blue Zone. And that can mean that long life just got a little easier, if you’re willing to adapt Costa Rica’s life lessons into your life in Costa Rica.

The 12 Patterns of Blue Zone Living

The 12 Patterns of Blue Zone Living

Buettner simplifies Blue Zone habits by breaking them down into four sections, each with three subsections. They are:  

  •       Move Naturally: This includes walking, gardening, and doing things by hand. 
  •       Positive Outlook: Extending to purpose, faith, and the ability to unwind.
  •       Eat Wisely: Prioritize plant-based eating, drink wine, and practice moderation. 
  •       Connect: Put family first, seek partnership, and find your tribe. 

Move Naturally

Residents of the Nicoya blue zone, including Nosara, don’t always hold memberships to fancy fitness centers. In fact, for many Blue Zone residents, a significant portion of their preferred physical pursuits doesn’t even fall under the conventional category of exercise: Movement and physical activity are effortlessly integrated into their daily routines. 

Nosara’s seemingly endless sandy coastlines, abundant wildlife, and lifestyle that revolves around the outdoors and holistic wellness has created a laid-back beach town and fostered a close-knit community of Costa Ricans and expats, drawn by the trilogy of sea, surf, and health.  

Check, check, check! Lots of Blue Zones lessons right there. But as far as movement goes, the Nicoya blue zone gets it right, almost effortlessly: Surfing, yoga, hiking, and other outdoor lifestyle pursuits aren’t exercise; they’re a way of life here. You do them because they’re enjoyable, not because your Fitbit has pinged you. And that’s a huge part of it.  

Cultivate a Positive Outlook

Buettner’s investigations also revealed that people residing in Blue Zones generally sustain a sense of tranquility, consistently reporting lower stress levels

Nosarans nurture peace of mind in many ways. Community is a huge part of the lifestyle here, and that’s a building block to unwinding. Surrounded by neighbors and a community that seeks many of the same goals you do, it’s easier to swap your doom-scrolling and couch-potato “relaxation” for nights out, dancing, and socializing 

Regarding faith and purpose – well, faith is a very personal thing, but in Nosara, you’ll often find that sustainable, eco-friendly living is a kind of belief system that pulls us together. We devote our time, energy, and resources to living consciously, cleaning up the beach, and more. This also provides us with a sense of purpose, marking yet another tick in our Blue Zone checklist.  

Eat Wisely

The choices and quantities of our dietary intake can significantly influence our well-being and lifespan. However, the Nicoya blue zone demonstrates that the solution doesn’t necessarily lie in rigid, joyless diets. 

Instead, residents of Nosara often find that they naturally eat more vitamin- and protein-rich foods: from Costa Rica’s incredible varieties of fruits and vegetables to fresh seafood. The research is especially enamored of the Nicoyan “three sisters”: a longstanding, heritage pairing of beans, squash, and corn.

Blue Zone living also teaches us that drinking wine, especially in a mindful way – again, not scrolling your phone or watching TV, but rather in the company of friends, family, or even your backyard wildlife, as the sun goes down over the Pacific – is a common touchstone for long-lived communities. And, of course, it all comes down to moderation: Don’t cut out the good stuff, but rather balance it with your other lifestyle habits.  

Connect with Others

Age is just a number, and residents of the Nicoya blue zone spend lifetimes creating authentic connections with their community. This shared emphasis on genuine connection stands out as the most important commonality across all Blue Zones, likely serving as the most impactful key to longevity.

Moving to Nosara, as elsewhere on the Nicoya Peninsula, this can come down to several factors. For young families, this often includes a strong emphasis on family life: making time together a high priority. For others who move away from their home countries, this piece of the puzzle revolves around found family – or, in the Blue Zones parlance, finding your tribe. 

Surround yourself with a strong social circle that provides support and lifts you up. Create connection with people who encourage you to be the best version of yourself, whatever that means to you. And prioritize your partnerships, whether platonic or romantic.  

Life in the World’s Happiest Country

Costa Rica Life World’s Happiest Country

Of course, residents of the Nicoya blue zone have even more going for them: They live in one of the world’s happiest countries.

Did you know that, as per the Happy Planet Index (HPI), Costa Rica has clinched the title of the happiest country in the world for four consecutive years?

It’s true: Currently boasting a Happy Planet Index score of 62.1, we stand proudly at the top of 152 countries. By way of comparison, the U.S. holds position #122, Canada at #105, and European nations range from #4 (Switzerland) to #143 (Luxembourg).

Now, you might be wondering, what’s the secret behind being the happiest country on the planet? According to the HPI, it revolves around life expectancy (80.3 years) – ah yes, the Nicoya blue zone factor! – paired with ecological footprint and wellbeing (scoring 7/10 for Costa Rica), to build the overall sustainability equation. 

However, the true secret, which you’ll discover naturally once you spend time here, is that we Costa Ricans are a genuinely content bunch. In our world, smiles are abundant, and there’s always time for an afternoon cafecito. Time seems to flow a bit slower, yet somehow, you find you have more of it. There’s an ever-present opportunity to discover a new trail, a fresh forest, or an unexplored view. 

And then, of course, there’s the fact that we eat well, form genuine connections, cultivate a positive outlook, and enjoy our activity… but we’ve already covered that, too! 

So, what’s the real secret? Well, there isn’t just one. Or, at least, not one all-encompassing, single solution to the happiness equation. That said, we can share a handful of additional lessons curated from our time here on Costa Rica’s North Pacific: 

  1. Embrace the Pura Vida: It’s a way of life, a reminder to take it easy, roll with the punches, and enjoy the moment. Think of it as Costa Rica’s version of hakuna matata.
  2. Emphasize Personal Growth: Not so much about the specifics of do this or that, but rather the takeaways: Costa Rica emphasizes education and personal growth and the value of challenging yourself to new experiences and new knowledge.
  3. Protect the Great Outdoors: Costa Rica is 50% forest coverage and more than 25% of its terrain is protected within a national park, wildlife refuge, private preserves, and other types of parks. Enjoy the landscapes. Breathe the fresh air. And take a minute (or many) to marvel at just how biodiverse and beautiful your home is.
  4. Go Outside: In the Venn diagram of happy and longevity, the outdoors is an overlap! Costa Rica is a place where you can go outside, every day of the year. And while you’re outside, there are so many green acres, rugged trails, and waterfall swimming holes to explore, and uncountable peaks, mountains, and incredible views to summit… As we said, it’s a pleasure, not a chore.
  5. Nurture Your Relationships: Another overlap, unsurprisingly. Costa Ricans deeply value family, community, and interpersonal relationships. People embrace each other in greeting. Strangers wave as they say “¡adiós!” (a kind of passing hello/goodbye). Smiles are freely handed out. And people make time for each other.
  6. Work to Live: Costa Rica does its best to flip the paradigm of work as a fundamental piece of one’s personality: Instead of living to work, we work to live. That is, we work to achieve goals but work is not the goal. Life and its enjoyment are the goals. We take time off. We walk away from work email. We enjoy our weekends. And we make time for vacation.
  7. Eat Local: Speaking more to the enjoyment of food and its contributions to your happiness, you’ll be happy to know that Costa Rica grows fresh produce, year-round.
  8. Walk Softly: Costa Rica does so much right, when it comes to sustainability. What’s more, the country is forever working toward doing even more right – to being regenerative in every way.

Read More: 9 Lessons from Costa Rica, the Happiest Country on Earth

Questions about Life in the Nicoya Blue Zone

Questions about Life in the Nicoya Blue Zone

You have questions, we have answers! Whether you’re already well on your way to living in Costa Rica or just dipping your toes into research, we’d love to help you explore the possibilities of life (and longevity) in Costa Rica. 

At Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica, we’re committed to you. Not to selling you a property or spamming you with all the options, but to helping – genuinely and with good intent – to match you to the perfect property for your needs and wants. We thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry.

 We’re also proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica real estate. We have both condos and homes, land and businesses for sale. Go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.