Can a vacation help you live longer? Maybe if you choose to visit one of the world's Blue Zones. The book The Blue Zones , written by Dan Buettner, publicized four parts of the world where a startlingly large number of people live to one hundred and doing so in relatively good health. According to the book, the areas are the Nicoya coast in Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan and Loma Linda, California in the U.S. What do these places have in common? People there seem to move around a lot, eat a wide variety of healthy food and have strong family ties.
It is not uncommon to return from a vacation a few pounds heavier and less than refreshed. I visited the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica to see what a vacation in the Blue Zone might be like. In addition to healthy fruits and vegetables, the area also has mineral-rich water, which luckily is safe to drink.
After flying into Liberia, we took a small plane to Punta Islita. (I was traveling with my two sons.) The "airport" was just an airstrip with a small shack that welcomed us with fresh coconuts. I stayed at an isolated resort, the Hotel Punta Islita and began my Blue Zone adventure. Although I wanted to have a classic Costa Rican vacation, I did want to experience the benefits of a Blue Zone.
The set up of the hotel helped tremendously. In order to get to breakfast, we had to hike to the top of a small cliff. (There was the golf cart option for those who were feeling lazy.) And then we got to eat a very healthy and hearty meal of organic eggs, rice and beans fresh papaya and star fruit; star fruit trees dotted the paths of the property. The resort is definitely an ideal spot for those seeking a super active vacation. After breakfast, we hiked back down to the beach and went surfing with the Costa Rican surfer dudes who offered lessons, rented boogie boards and were even generous enough to bike back home and get some extra rash guards for us to use.
Since we were in Costa Rica, we also went zip-lining. That's where I got to bond with my kids, as they made fun of me every time I screamed as I zipped across the rainforest. We soaked up the amazing culture by spending time with some of the neighborhood children and visiting the town's small art museum.
Not every moment of our trip was a Blue Zone moment. Some of our meals were indulgent. In addition to water, I drank a few guaro sours -- how can you say no to the national drink? And I spent an afternoon at the spa and several hours just lounging in the hammock outside my casita.
I did manage to check off most of the Blue Zone requirements and felt super healthy after a few days. I think the most important Blue Zone factor for me was the outdoor activity. I walked up and down the hilly paths much more than I would at a more traditional hotel where you only stroll down the corridor to the elevator. I also felt pretty good eating locally grown food and spending time with my kids doing things we had never done before.
Next stop -- perhaps Sardinia?