Life in a Blue Zone: A Look Inside the Town of Las Catalinas

There is a lot of buzz about longevity and the fountain of youth after the release of the Netflix documentary in August. “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” examines five destinations around the world where people are living to 100. Author Dan Buettner collaborated with National Geographic and scoured the world to find where people live much longer than average. Through his travels, he unveiled Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya, Costa Rica as Blue Zones with the highest rates of living centenarians. These five spots share some similar elements — a plant-slant diet, belonging to a community, natural movement, having a sense of purpose and putting family first — that have been proven to promote longevity and health in residents.

Among its many wonders and enchanting landscapes, Costa Rica is home to the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste, a region that epitomizes the possibility of living life to its fullest and recognized as an extraordinary area known as a “Blue Zone.”  Nearby to this transformative peninsula lies Las Catalinas, a purposefully designed, mostly car-free town that embodies the very essence of living life well.  The town’s founder, Charles Brewer, had a profound vision of creating a vibrant community centered around a balanced lifestyle, where health, sustainability, fun, work, and fulfillment converge harmoniously.

Creating opportunities for better balanced living with a greater connection to nature is at the forefront of the coastal town of Las Catalinas. Las Catalinas began conceptualizing a compact master plan in 2006 that set out to implement a better way of living for the people who live, work and vacation there. Mostly car-free, the town and its textured hardscapes encourage maximum human-to-human interaction in a setting that harmonizes people with nature. Taking cars out of the equation means people spend more time outdoors on foot (or on bike) creating opportunities for spontaneous interactions, conversations, and impromptu socialization.

The concept of “Well-Living at Las Catalinas” finds its parallel in the Blue Zone lifestyle, a groundbreaking discovery that has unveiled five regions around the world where people live exceptionally long lives, often reaching the remarkable age of 100 years. The tangible benefits of the Well-Living lifestyle become apparent in the remarkable health, happiness, and low stress levels of its residents and visitors. Drawing inspiration from the time-honored traditions of Costa Rica, Las Catalinas embraces the Power Nine Principles deeply ingrained in the routines that have been scientifically proven to promote longevity and contentment. Las Catalinas has artfully crafted a way of life that pays homage to the lessons learned from the vibrant community of the Nicoya Peninsula. According to Gabriela Esquivel, developer of Well-Living at Las Catalinas, here is what living in a Blue Zone looks like at Las Catalinas.

Las Catalinas was built with one sole intention in mind: providing a space where people can live a healthier life. Sounds simple, but as time passes, the impact will be unprecedented. Imagine living in a car-free town with the infrastructure to encourage positive human interactions, a connection with nature, and the experience of natural movement through its walkability. A place that promotes spiritual nourishment, a sense of belonging, and access to nourishing foods. A place where options for unwinding range from a sunrise meditation to stargazing, or from sharing a glass of wine or a beer with your tribe to witnessing a sunset over the Pacific Ocean like no other.

Those who become part of this community naturally adopt a mindset focused on living well, embracing a lifestyle inspired by the Power Nine Principles, common lifestyle characteristics of Blue Zone communities identified by Dan Buettner and National Geographic. Well-Living at Las Catalinas focuses on several pillars stating that a healthy life goes hand in hand with nourishment (of your body, soul, and spirit), meaningful connections (with others, with nature, and with your purpose, values, and beliefs), movement (through sports, recreation, and natural movement), simplicity (available to all, through daily habits and rituals, being open to different scenarios, and finding gratification), and lastly surrounded by beauty (encouraging sociability, making people feel energized, and awakening creativity and inspiration).

Las Catalinas has been a leader in the movement to build highly walkable neighborhoods, towns, and cities. In 2022, The Congress for New Urbanism celebrated Beach Town, the first neighborhood within Las Catalinas, with a Charter Award recognizing the town for achieving “more equitable, sustainable, connected, healthy, and prosperous communities.” Being a car-free town encourages people to bike or get on foot from one place to another, making physical movement almost unavoidable.

“The practicality felt in our day-to-day is quite evident,” said Gabriela Esquivel, developer of Well-Living at Las Catalinas. “We are immensely fortunate to live in a town that integrates such vital elements for your health in an accessible, sustainable and enjoyable way.”

Movement: Moving Naturally

Aside from the versatile sports and recreational choices available at Las Catalinas including kayaking, standup paddleboarding, yoga, high-intensity interval training, mountain biking, hiking, and running, the opportunities for movement within town arise naturally, and most of the time, spontaneously and unplanned. A typical day in Las Catalinas starts with an early peaceful walk on their intricate network of approximately 26 miles of natural trails throughout a tropical dry forest. Residents are seen walking their children to school and walking to their place of work right after. Small groups of people are spotted in walking meditations and walking meetings throughout the day. Additionally, friends, co-workers and fellow community members meet for lunch at one of the town’s restaurants, followed by a walk to the beach or to one of the town’s meditation platforms at the end of the day to watch the sun go down and unwind.

Love and Being Loved: Putting Family and Friends First

In a walkable town, skipping time in traffic allows for more time and energy for what is important. Las Catalinas is continually promoting the importance of time spent with family and friends with weekly activities such as movie nights, live music events, arts and crafts sessions, wine tastings, kid’s clubs, taco Tuesdays, BBQs, workshops, art exhibitions, moon ceremonies, stargazing, yoga, pizza nights and more. These are all wonderful opportunities and activities that Las Catalinas puts together to foster connections in different contexts and scenarios.

Downshifting: Slowing it Down and Reducing Stress

Stress is a part of everyone’s life, but finding ways to reduce its impact is a significant focus for the town’s residents and visitors. Fortunately, Las Catalinas offers an array of options and spaces for downshifting in town to cater to different interests and needs. This could mean engaging in sound healing ceremonies at the town’s wellness center and gathering hub, hitting the trails on foot or bike, taking a walk in nature, practicing yoga, meeting up for outdoor workouts, paddleboarding, swimming in the ocean’s calm waters, meditating, meeting friends for a sunset drink, journaling on the rocking chair while sipping a cup of coffee or tea, or simply strolling through the town, admiring the beautiful architecture that imparts a sense of a calm like no other place.

Nourishment: Benefits of a Plant-Slant Diet

While food choices, preferences, and habits are entirely bio individual, Las Catalinas has ramped up their efforts to increase the availability of organic produce. This is to promote a higher consumption of plant-based foods. Not only is Las Catalinas accessing organic produce, but in collaboration with various local farms, vegetable gardens, and agricultural cooperatives, the town is making strides to use regenerative agricultural practices to support a respectful cycle of the food’s growth and the town’s interaction with it. This fosters a sustainable and efficient nourishment of the soil, and as a result, of one’s bodies.

Purpose: Belonging and Being Part of a Tribe

While this may look quite different for most people, choosing to become part of a community with such a clear intention naturally leads to the pursuit of similar purposes, at least regarding one’s health and longevity. Las Catalinas aims to provide more spaces for people to connect with themselves, with others, and with nature. Reimagining a better way of living by encouraging sociability, eating well, appreciating, and respecting nature, Las Catalinas offers an unparalleled Blue Zone inspired lifestyle for its residents and visitors. This is a place where people can feel better, feel healthy, feel like a contributor to the community and most importantly, encourage others to give themselves a chance to live a healthier, thriving, and longer life.