You can feel it as you travel down the bumpy dirt roads, away from the touristy city of Tamarindo, into the Costa Rican countryside. A sense of relaxation and tranquility. Of calm. And Peace.
No concrete resorts, gas stations, or banks. No bright lights. No billboards or box stores. You are in rural, Blue Zone Costa Rica. Where the term “Pura Vida” (Pure Life) is more than just a saying on a souvenir shot glass, it’s a meaningful way of life.
Here, monkeys and parrots, and iguanas live in the green coastal forests, announcing the start of each day as the first light cracks the dawn. It’s an invitation for the locals to rise and begin their chores and the day’s labors. Saddled horses are hitched to posts outside the small tiendas. Ox carts are still functional farm implements. Dusty roads are lined with ancient trees, pastures with cows and goats, and small, simple homes where families enjoy meals on the porch.
It is this tranquility and escape from the modern stresses and western lifestyles that may be why this area, the Nicoya Peninsula, is one of five places in the world where residents live extraordinarily long and healthy lives. Here, life travels at its own pace – and visitors are transported to another, simpler time.
Blue Zones in the world
These areas are called “Blue Zones”, a term coined by National Geographic’s David Buettner, who led a team of scientists to discover why people in some areas of the planet live longer and healthier lives than the rest of us. They narrowed their findings to five regions, all in totally different geographical and topographical landscapes, and all with varying factors that led to the locals’ good health. Read David Buettner’s Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From The People Who Live The Longest, 2008.
One of those regions – Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula – is a roughly 80-mile long and 30-mile wide stretch of land in the northwest corner of the country, south of the Nicaraguan border. It is where Drift Away Eco-Lodge is located, on the Pacific Coast south of Tamarindo in the rural enclave of Playa Avellanas and Playa Negra (Los Pargos).
Other Blue Zones of the world are: Sardinia, Italy (where wine and laughter contribute to the longest male lifespan on earth), Loma Linda California (where a healthy vegan diet of the Seventh Day Adventists contributes to a lifespan 10 years longer than the average lifespan in the U.S.A.), Okinawa, Japan (where dedication to family and friends fosters the longest female lifespan on Earth), and Ikaria, Greece (where one in three people live into their 90’s and is basically free of dementia).
In the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone of Costa Rica, men over the age of 60 are seven times more likely to reach the 100-year mark than the global average. So what makes people so healthy in Nicoya, Costa Rica?
Nicoya Blue Zone foods
The Nicoya diet is mainly naturally sourced, unprocessed wholesome foods such as squash, rice, beans, and corn. Much of the food is still homegrown as homemade – such as tortillas, Gallo Pinto, plantains and tropical fruits, with meat thrown in just a few times a week. There is very little added sugar or processed snacks. Families tend to eat lighter meals early in the evenings, and eat larger meals at lunch time. Studies have linked diets that are fewer in calories to longer lifespans.
The water of the Nicoya Peninsula is also some of the hardest water on Earth – it is high in calcium and magnesium and contributes to low osteoporosis rates and low rates of heart disease.
Nicoya Blue Zone lifestyle
Family, friends and community are the most important aspects of life. Many people walk to visit neighbors and often live with extended family. They listen, laugh and connect. It is a sense of purpose in life that they call “plan de vida” or reason to live. It is what keeps many of the elderly working, active and contributing to the community.
The people of the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone also value hard work. The daily routine often consists of household chores and manual labor – physical exercise that keeps seniors fit and healthy – and out of hospitals and old age homes.
Nicoya is known for its sun. The sun shines every day consistently during dry seasons (December-May) and exposure to sun in healthy intervals is a natural source of Vitamin D, which helps with heart and bone health.
Costa Rica – like many Latin American countries – is highly religious (mainly Catholic), and belonging to a church and having a faith in a higher power can lead to less stress, a better sense of well being and sense of purpose.
This area of Costa Rica has very few smokers. Cigarette/tobacco smoking is not prevalent at all. There are no ashtrays, and no butts on the ground. That alone must add years to the average life expectancy here!
It is this low-stress, natural and healthy environment which makes the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone such a remarkable and relaxing place to visit.
Visitors to the Drift Away Eco-Lodge often say they can feel the stress leave their bodies as soon as they arrive. It is what makes this place ideal for retreats centered on well-being, yoga, mindfulness and health.
Make this magical area your next destination and explore and discover the health secrets of the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone.