What makes the Peninsula of Nicoya, Costa Rica a Blue Zone™?

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Tropical wetlands of Rancho Humo Estancia, Nicoya, photo credit estancianchohumo.

 According to U.S. researcher Dan Buettner, a blue zone is an area in the world where people live the longest.  The best-selling author, New York Times contributor and National Geographic Fellow coined the term and found that the people of Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Icaria, Greece and the Peninsula of Nicoya in Costa Rica all produce a high rate of centenarians.  It’s not just the number of years’ people are living, but the quality of their lives.  What are their lifestyles like?



Favored mode of transportation in Nicoya, photo credit ticoclub.


The Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, comprises five areas: Hojancha, Nandayure, Carrillo, Santa Cruz and Nicoya, with a population of approximately 160,000.  It is a tropical area, covered mostly in dry forests and pastures with most of the people living inland.  Drinking water in the area has a higher concentration of calcium and magnesium than in other parts of the country.  Even though only 5% of the population belongs to the Native Chorotega tribe, they cook tortillas in the traditional way, soaking the corn kernels in a mixture of lime and water.  This process infuses the corn with calcium and unlocks certain amino acids.  As with most other Blue Zone™ residents, people in Nicoya eat very little processed foods, having mostly rice, beans, vegetables, fruit and corn, adding meat only a few times a week.



Modesta Chavarria competing at the Tortilla Festival in Nicoya. Photo credit ticoclub.


Physical activity, a well-known component of longevity, means non-strenuous constant movement.  Most people in Nicoya live off the land, and farming, cooking and housework keeps them busy.  Their favored mode of transportation is on foot or bicycles.  Reasonable exposure to sunlight also gives their bodies vitamin D, vital for bone and heart health.

Having a sense of purpose and belonging is vital to longevity.  Work, family and community all assist people in having active lives and a reason to live.  Faith has also been deemed important, and their belief in a higher being gives them peace.

Even British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver made his way to Nicoya to learn about what makes this area unique.  He spent time with the locals, cooking with residents over wood burning ovens, and learning about their diets and ingredients.  Check out the recipe he created inspired after his visit here.

Plan a vacation to the Peninsula of Nicoya, and stay at Rancho Humo Estancia Eco Boutique Hotel.  Immersed in the dry tropical forest and mangroves of the Tempisque River, you can do birdwatching, horseback riding and more.  Experience one of the five areas in the world where the quality of life and longevity of its residents is their claim to fame.



Variety of birds enjoying the wetlands, photo credit Rancho Humo.

Article by Katie Widdowson

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