As a proud Costa Rican, I have always been aware of the longevity enjoyed by my fellow ticos and ticas. My grandparents thrived well into their 90s, which is not unusual in our beautiful, small country. Yet I was still intrigued by the secrets behind this and so I delved into the concept of Blue Zones, particularly the Nicoya region of northern Costa Rica. Over the summer, my journey led me to Dan Buettner's book, "The Blue Zones Solution, Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People" where I immersed myself in the research Buettner shared on living long and well. The insights were fascinating, prompting reflections on these findings and connecting them to my own relative’s daily habits, routines and rituals.
Surprisingly, shortly after I read his book, Buettner released a Netflix Series: "Live to 100, Secrets of the Blue Zones", which I excitedly watched of course, emphasizing the current relevance of this profound topic and confirming that this was an important topic to share on our blog.
Let’s dive into the Costa Rican Blue Zone habits that I personally find most inspiring.
Costa Ricans, like many in Blue Zones, have an affinity for coffee, including yours truly! Sipping on a cup daily is a cherished tradition here and it’s well known that Costa Rican has some of the best coffee in the world. I personally only drink one cup a day, but my parents for example, who were given coffee at a very young age will have 2-3 cups a day.
One of my favorite Costa Rican traditions is the afternoon cafecito, with family or friends. It marks a time of the day when we slow down and enjoy each other's company. Yes, we’re having delicious, healthy coffee that’s full of antioxidants, but the benefits include the opportunity to gather and connect. More on the importance of social connection below!
Delicious Yet Simple Meals
The Nicoyan diet, rich in superfoods like beans, squash, and corn, mirrors the agricultural practice of the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters is an ancient agricultural method practiced by indigenous communities, involving the interplanting of corn, beans, and squash, creating a symbiotic relationship where each plant contributes uniquely—corn provides a natural trellis for beans, beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and squash acts as a natural mulch, suppressing weeds and preserving soil moisture. This synergistic trio not only maximizes yields but also promotes soil fertility and sustainability.
Most Costa Ricans follow this diet and it’s best known as our famous gallo pinto, a rice and bean dish that we typically have as breakfast with eggs, plantains, fruit and coffee. This simple meal is nutritionally complete and is probably why breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Embracing the local cuisine is not just a dietary choice but a celebration of cultural richness.
Exercise in Blue Zones isn't a scheduled activity but a way of life. In Nicoya, elders engage in activities like handcrafts, gardening and manual tasks. Walking is another key aspect, with Blue Zone inhabitants choosing walking over driving, promoting both exercise and outdoor connection.
Though walking is easier in the rural areas of Nicoya and less of a daily habit for the city dwellers of San Jose. That said, I’m reminded of my 96 year old grandmother, who has always loved to garden, and my grandfather, who lived to 100, never retired and had a daily habit of stretching and exercising every morning.
A Positive Outlook
In the Blue Zones, maintaining a calm demeanor is integral to longevity. Daily decompression rituals involve socializing, dancing, and communal activities. The Nicoyan tradition of unwinding resonates with this—opting for genuine interactions over stress-inducing distractions.
This positive outlook isn’t just characteristic of Nicoyans, but of all Costa Ricans. In fact, we live by the mantra “¡Pura Vida!”hich means "pure life" or "simple life," ¡Pura Vida! reflects the spirit of approaching life with a relaxed attitude, no matter the situation.
Connect with Others
Community bonds are vital. The Nicoyan commitment to family and forming strong social circles mirrors Blue Zone principles. Perhaps it helps that Costa Rica is a small country, meaning your circle of friends and family are nearby.
I also believe that Costa Ricans generally come back to their country, though they might study or work abroad for certain periods of their lives. The political stability, high quality health care and strong educational system contribute to reeling Costa Ricans back. But at its core, I believe it’s the strong pull of those family and friend connections that make Costa Ricans thrive and live long, meaningful lives.
In the spirit of this Blue Zone wisdom, Tap Tap Organics embraces the ethos of Pura Vida—a life of vitality, well-being, longevity and community. The essence of Costa Rican living, coupled with the principles of Blue Zones, forms the foundation of our brand. Just as the Nicoyans have discovered the secrets to a long and fulfilling life, we invite you to embark on a skincare journey that nourishes both your skin and spirit.
Read our blog post 'Costa Rica Skincare Secrets’ it is a deep dive into the natural beauty and wellness practices that have made Costa Ricans thrive.
(Photo credits: Blue zones graphic (Netflix), Head to Toe (Monica Vargas), other photos taken by Patricia Fonseca Flores.)