Nicoya, Costa Rica is one of the world’s ‘Blue Zones’ where people live longer than average. Residents eat whole foods, exercise daily, and drink calcium-rich water.

Nicoya, Costa Rica is one of the world’s ‘Blue Zones’ where people live longer than average. Residents eat whole foods, exercise daily, and drink calcium-rich water.
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica, is one of the world’s “Blue Zones,” where people live longer than average.
  • The people of Nicoya share a strong sense of purpose, eat whole foods, and prioritize rest.
  • Residents also integrate exercise into their daily routine and drink naturally calcium-rich water.

For some Costa Ricans, purpose and a positive outlook is an integral part of life, researchers say — and it could be helping them live longer, fuller lives.

Researchers studying the science of longevity have coined the term “plan de vida,” or “life plan,” the BBC reported, and they think it is one of the reasons why the residents of Nicoya, a 80-mile long peninsula located along the western coast of Costa Rica, regularly outlive the rest of us.

Within this rural beach community the average age is 85 — but many residents live to be over 100-years-old. In fact, residents here are three-and-a-half times more likely to live past 100 than the global average, the BBC reported.

As a result, Nicoya has been identified as one of the world’s five “Blue Zones” by researcher Dan Buettner — regions of the globe where people are thought to live the longest and healthiest lives. The spot was recently featured in his book and Netflix docuseries on the topic.

Here’s what makes Nicoya, Costa Rica so special.

The life expectancy in Nicoya is one of the highest in the world

Clementina Espinoza, 91, kisses her husband Agustin Espinoza, 100, in Nicoya, Costa Rica, on August 27, 2021.Ezequiel Becerra/Getty Images

Despite being one of the areas with the lowest income in Costa Rica, the average life expectancy for a resident of Nicoya is 85 years, compared to just over 77 years for the country as a whole. In the United States, life expectancy is 76.1 years.

Some of the habits that may contribute to the long lives of people in Nicoya include eating mostly unprocessed foods, prioritizing rest and friendships, and incorporating regular movement into their days — all features common to the other Blue Zones of Loma Linda, CaliforniaSardinia, ItalyOkinawa, Japan; and Ikaria, Greece.

Nicoyans eat whole foods and produce that they harvest themselves

Almuercito campesino, a Costa Rican dish which contains plantains, picadillos (vegetable hash), beans and rice.Sergio Amiti/Getty Images

Like residents of other Blue Zones, people who live in Nicoya eat a diet rich in whole foods, including squash, corn and bananas, and plenty of beans, reported U.S. News. They also eat relatively little meat.

Many Nicoyan men greet the morning by riding their horses through the mountains, and having a hearty breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and beans), homemade corn tortillas and coffee, Forbes reported.

Much of the produce Nicoyans eat they reportedly grow and harvest themselves, according to Forbes.

The water is high in calcium

A waterfall in Nicoya, Costa Rica. Water in Nicoya is naturally high in calcium.underworld111/Getty Images

A unique feature of Nicoya is its naturally calcium-rich water.

Just drinking or cooking with five liters of water in Nicoya a day is enough to reach the daily recommended calcium intake of one gram, ABC news reported.

The Blue Zones website suggests that higher calcium levels could explain the lower rates of heart disease, stronger bones and fewer hip fractures among Nicoyans.

People have physical activity built into their day

Clementina Espinoza, 91, attends to her garden in Nicoya, Costa Rica.EZEQUIEL BECERRA/Getty Images

People in the Blue Zones generally don’t exercise but are rather “nudged” into movement, Buettner said in his new book, “The Blue Zones: Secrets for Living Longer.

Instead of going to the gym, Buettner said people are more likely to walk around, garden, or do things by hand on a daily basis.

This holds true for the people of Nicoya, where physical activity is woven into their daily lives.

Take 86-year-old Juan Carrillo, who told Buettner in the Netflix docuseries that he still does activities like chopping logs for firewood. The work is intense, sweaty, and built into his day-to-day routine.

Residents of Nicoya are also known for taking long walks, an activity Buettner says we could all do to extend our longevity.

People prioritize rest over work

Felipa Enriquez, 99, sits outside her home in Nicoya, Costa Rica.EZEQUIEL BECERRA/Getty Images

“In Nicoya, just like all the other Blue Zones, people would never do a couple hours of work when they could be enjoying their family, or taking a siesta, or interacting with their friends,” Buettner said in his Netflix docuseries. “They slow down to make time for things that really matter to them.”

Prioritizing rest and relationships over work could help reduce chronic stress, which can lead to inflammation and glucose spikes, and ultimately increase risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, Insider previously reported.

“Now, with my old age, I think that you have to rest,” Carrillo said in the Netflix docuseries. But he also knows how to have fun.

After working, Carrillo said that he likes “to go out and treat myself.” Some of his favorite activities include heading out to the bar to have a cold beer with friends, and grooving on the dance floor.