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10+ Secrets to Longevity in Costa Rica, Nicoya.

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Discover more than 10+  longevity secrets of Costa Rica, where people on the Nicoya Peninsula live an average of 10 years longer. 

The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica is renowned for its pristine beaches, lush forests, and one of the world’s five blue zones.

Costa Rica is one of the prime locations with a high concentration of centenarians who are vital, stay healthy, and have a strong sense of purpose.

Genes contribute only 20 percent to longevity, while the rest are primarily influenced by their healthy lifestyle and diet rich in local fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and physical activity.

Join me in uncovering the secrets of Costa Rican longevity, focusing on food and lifestyle habits that one can implement at home.

10+ Secrets to Longevity in Costa Rica, Nicoya, the Blue Zone

What is a blue zone?

Blue Zones are areas with unusually high life expectancy of residents compared to the global average. Thanks to the lifestyle and dietary habits that promote longevity, they have lower rates of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The idea of Blue Zones originated from research led by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, but it gained global fame through journalist Dan Buettner and his book, The Blue Zones.

Nicoya is located on Costa Rica’s west coast, just south of the Nicaraguan border. Other recognized Blue Zones include Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, and Loma Linda in California.

Why do people in the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone live longer?

Nicoya’s peaceful environment and people’s lifestyle play a pivotal role in their longevity. The residents are a mix of indigenous Chorotega heritage and other cultures that have settled there over time.

One factor is the “plan de vida,” or reason to live, which gives older adults a positive attitude and keeps them active. Another factor is the importance of family and the ability to listen and laugh. Nicoyan centenarians often spend time with neighbors, live with supportive family members, and find purpose in caring for children or grandchildren.

10+ Secrets to the Longevity of Nicoyans

Nicoyans eat whole foods

The heart of Nicoya’s longevity lies in its traditional diet, a vibrant blend of locally sourced, natural ingredients. Their staple foods include corn, beans, rice, squash, and tropical fruits, supplemented with lean proteins like fish and chicken.

A very popular dish with raw fish is Costa Rican ceviche.

With minimal processed food and emphasis on fresh produce, Costa Ricans consume all in moderation.

Peppers, black beans, ground corn, cilantro, coconut, yuka, squash, papaya, chilero sauce.

One of the traditional costa rican dishes is casado that contain beans, rice, cilantro and chicken.


Three Sisters of Squash, Beans, and Corn

The Mesoamerican diet features the “three sisters” of agriculture: squash, corn, and beans. This trio of crops have symbiotic relationship dating back thousands of years to the indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica. They support each other when growing and are eaten together.

Corn serves as a sturdy support for the climbing beans, while the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, benefiting the growth of both corn and squash.

Corn provides carbohydrates for energy, beans are rich in protein, and squash contributes vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that reduce the risk of certain cancers. This harmonious combination forms the foundation of many traditional Mesoamerican dishes.


Rich in antioxidants and compounds like linalool and geraniol, cilantro is a staple herb in Costa Rican cuisine. It grows well in the country’s tropical climate, adding flavor and medicinal benefits to many local dishes. Packed with antioxidants, cilantro can contribute to the longevity of people in the Costa Rican island.



Loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C, Papaya is a tropical fruit known for its sweet flavor and vibrant orange flesh. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes, making it a nutritious addition to any diet. 

Papaya is often featured in “ensalada de frutas” or fruit salad, where ripe papaya chunks are often included alongside other tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and watermelon.


 and they are readily available to quench any thirst.

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing like enjoying some refreshing “pipa” or young coconut water. If you’ve ever cracked open a green coconut, you know how incredibly thirst-quenching and delicious it is.

In Costa Rica a young coconut is called a “pipa” and they have less meat compared to brown ones, but they’re packed with hydrating water,

Pipa water provides essential vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrients like copper, manganese, zinc, potassium, sodium, magnesium, and selenium. Studies suggest that coconut water may help combat metabolic syndrome and support heart health by regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels.

strong family bonds are part of costa rica lifestyle

But that doesn’t mean play takes a backseat. Many residents have a preference for a simpler and more relaxed lifestyle, placing importance on spending quality time with family and friends, immersing themselves in the stunning natural surroundings, and finding joy in life’s small pleasures. “Life in these parts tends to be unhurried and intimately connected with the beauty of the natural world,” Carrillo said.

find your tribe – social connections

Being close to family and community is a big part of life in the Blue Zone of the Nicoya Peninsula. Families prioritize spending time together, often living near each other and helping one another. Children typically walk to school and play outside with friends, while multiple generations spend quality time together away from screens.

In Nicoya, older residents receive regular visits from neighbors who know how to listen, laugh, and cherish what they have.


a deep connection to their land and traditions

Modern Nicoyans, drawing from their indigenous Chorotega heritage, lead relatively stress-free lives. Their traditional diet, featuring fortified maize and beans, maybe one of the best nutritional choices for longevity worldwide. While hard work is valued, there’s also a laid-back attitude of “if it’s not done today, it can wait until mañana.” Rest time, including lunch breaks, siestas, and Sundays, is taken seriously for recharging.

physical activity outside with sunlight

Centenarians in Nicoya region live longer and healthier lives because their lifestyle is rich in physical activity. Most residents don’t have a car, and people often walk. They enjoy various outdoor activities like surfing, hiking, and farming under the sun’s rays, which not only keeps them physically fit but also aids in vitamin D production for strong bones and overall health. This consistent movement and sun exposure contribute to their quality sleep and overall well-being, potentially lowering stress levels and reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.


plan de vida – sense of purpose

In the Nicoya zone of Costa Rica, finding purpose in life, known as “plan de vida,” is crucial for living better and longer. Having a reason to wake up each morning and contribute to their community and loved ones can add up to seven extra years to their lives. Retirement can be challenging due to a loss of purpose, so it is important to stay engaged and find meaning in daily activities.

water high in calcium

Nicoyan water contains the highest calcium levels in the country, possibly contributing to lower rates of heart disease, stronger bones, and fewer hip fractures.

Interesting facts about Costa Rica

  • Despite its small size, Costa Rica is incredibly biodiverse, hosting around 5% of the world’s known plant and animal species.
  • “Pura Vida” is not just a phrase in Costa Rica; it’s a way of life. Translating to “pure life” or “simple life,” Pura Vida embodies the country’s laid-back attitude, emphasizing happiness and well-being. It’s a common greeting and farewell and reflects the country’s positive and relaxed culture.
  • Costa Rica is on a mission to become one of the world’s first carbon-neutral countries. It has made significant strides in renewable energy production, with over 98% of its electricity generated from renewable sources, primarily hydropower, wind, and geothermal energy. 
10+ Secrets to the Longevity of Nicoyans
Vladka on May 27th, 2024

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