Your search results

What is a Blue Zone and why the Nicoya Peninsula?

Posted by Oe Marketing on January 24, 2024

In terms of definition, Blue zones are geographical places with a high proportion of long-lived individuals, many of whom reach the age of 90 or 100. There are five Blue Zones in the world, one of which is on the Nicoya Peninsula; the others are Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in the United States, and Icaria in Greece.

These communities share traits such as good physical and mental health, a healthy traditional cuisine, respect for family, deep faith, constant movement, and a clear sense of purpose in life.

What did the Blue Zone concept come from?

The concept of Blue Zones first developed in Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain’s demographic and statistical studies, but writer Dan Buettner’s study with a National Geographic team, as well as the publishing of his book The Blue Zones, helped to promote it worldwide.

During one of Buettner’s most recent trips to Costa Rica, he described Blue Zones as a place in which inhabitants live

“a type of lifestyle and environment that promotes longevity. They are places where people tend to walk more than drive, eat more vegetables than meat, eat a diet rich in beans or grains like maize, and place a high value on family. They have networks of friends that share healthy habits.”

The Blue Zone of the Nicoya Peninsula is known for the beauty of its landscapes, tourist attractions, and conservation areas, but most importantly for the stories told by the region’s long-lived residents, who have outlived Costa Rica’s life expectancy and continue to be lucid and active, as well as for living long, healthy lives.

Currently, three emblematic examples of this Blue Zone include centenarians José Bonifacio “Pachito” Villegas, from Pochote de Quebrada Honda, Nicoya, who rides a horse every day at age 100; Trinidad Espinoza, who recounts anecdotes from Costa Rica in the 1930s continuously while she feeds her chickens; and Dámaso Mendoza, age 102, who, when receiving a visitor, always talks about her years as a dancer and how she enjoys the company of the five generations of her family. They join 42 other centenarians on the Blue Zone Nicoya Peninsula, which is divided into five blue cantons: Nicoya, Santa Cruz, Hojancha, Nandayure, and Carrillo (source: Jorge Vindas, a field researcher for the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone Association).

According to the most recent Ministry of Health data, this region will be painted “blue” for many years to come. With over 900 people over 90 and over 5,000 residents over 75, the vast majority of them are in good health in their old age.

Blue Zone Nicoya Peninsula Centenarians

According to Costa Rican demographer Dr. Luis Rosero Bixby’s research, Nicoya Peninsula people had a 10% lower death rate than Costa Ricans of the same age across the country. “The five cantons of the peninsula continue to appear with growing longevity, which we have confirmed everywhere we look. They not only live longer, but their metabolism improves, cognitive impairment decreases, and they perform better. I consider myself fortunate to have discovered this wisdom, but the credit belongs to the elderly. This tendency has existed for many years, but I was the first to identify it in the data,” revealed Bixby, a pioneer in longevity research.

The Blue Zone Nicoya Peninsula’s centenarians have also aroused the interest of Costa Rica’s National University (Universidad Nacional), which is doing a study on the subject this year. In parallel, the ICT has emphasized the Blue Zone concept as part of its wellness tourism strategy as a distinguishing feature in promoting the destination, whereas the Ministry of Culture and Youth has identified the long-lived inhabitants as bearers of a tradition that they can help preserve for future generations.

These Blue Zones have a direct impact on the country’s tourism promotion because they are ideal for wellness tourism. This is compatible with the goal of broadening the country’s tourist offerings and diversifying into high-growth companies such as wellness tourism. This is why the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT, Instituto Costarricense de Turismo) developed the Wellness Pura Vida national strategy, which seeks to differentiate Costa Rica as a wellness destination offering unique, transformational experiences. A Blue Zone helps the country’s continual quest for quality of life, benefiting both Costa Ricans and tourists.

“Year after year, our polls reveal that Costa Ricans are what set our destination apart, and spending time with the elderly is always a rewarding experience. The Blue Zone Nicoya Peninsula, in addition to aligning with our Wellness Pura Vida strategy, is a key driver of wellness tourism across the country, underscoring the importance of creating unique travel experiences. “These centenarians teach us the value of small things,” said Mauricio Ventura, Minister of Tourism, with delight.

Contact RE/MAX Blue Ocean today and our team of experts will help you find the Blue Zones home of your dreams

Compare Listings