Costa Rican Adventure | A Search for the Long and Healthy Lifestyle

Posted on February 15th, 2017 & filed in Ethnonutrition, Food as Medicine, Nutrition

 I read about The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner way back in 2007 and it has always been  a dream of mine to research these clustered areas of longevity.  Besides Sardinia,  Japan, Greece and California, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica was the fifth Blue Zone where people live healthy lives to over 100 years of age.  I was thrilled to find out when we booked our flight to Liberia, Costa Rica that we were landing on the Pacific side of the country -not near the rainforests closer to San Jose.  Here is a story I wrote to share with all of you as I tuck it into my Ethnonutrition category.  As you will see this lifestyle and the food differs extremely from the SAD (Standard American Diet) here in the US.  Hope it reminds us all of what is good and that adventure is even better!

Costa Rica Feb 3-9,2017

Feb.3.  Flew out of JFK at 10AM .  Arrived in Liberia CR at 2:30PM (1hr. Back).  Had a problem  at ACE car rental ( too good to be true  $63.00 car rental for the week- what were we thinking??) ended up being our version of Mr Toads Crazy Ride to finally get to Azul Beach Club at 8:30 PM.   Once you took the right toward Playa Ostional off the paved road, our compact Suzuki bucked and pitched like a bronco and I whined like a howler monkey more worried that we were going in the right direction after sunset.   Took us a bunch of stops to ask for directions and calls to Azul Beach Club where Juan Jose guided us  through numerous calls like a pilot navigating unmarked rivers or shores.   He greeted us with a handsome grin like Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island and after providing cool moist towels he tonged over to us, he upgraded us to a two floor beachfront villa complete with embroidered hammock to recover from our truly wild ride.
Dinner was late but the ceviche and octopus salad was worth the wait and we finally felt like we were on our vacation again.

Saturday morning  we woke up finding our villa was close to the infinity pool with a private beach access. We made friends with the Iguanas and all the beautiful songbirds that serenaded us all night and all morning.  The complimentary traditional, very generous breakfast  consisted of freshly squeezed OJ, fresh fruit

salad, famous Costa Rican organic coffee  or herbal teas, 2 eggs , rice and beans, cheese, banana slices and sour cream.  I loved this breakfast so much and ordered it every morning.

I took a walk on our beach and noticed the sand was black and the waves were rough. Rip tide signs were around so we did not swim here.  But  there were many treasures  on this beach and a beautiful remoteness except for the local fishermen casting their rodless lines into the pounding surf for their daily fare.

Saturday, Feb 4.  In spite of last nights’ experience with the terrible quality of roads we ventured out to check out local beach in San Juanillo (5km but about 1/2 hr ride due to bad roads). Lunched at La Sodita which had delicious fresh fish tacos and fish plates!  Natural medicine cabinet in the back of this roadside restaurant which carried raw organic honey, healing herb such as moringa (see next post on this interesting herb), colloid silver  and coconut oil which I readily purchased for what I thought to be reasonably priced.

Sunday Feb.5.  Got braver today and targeted Nosada (35km) as our destination.  I had a case of high anxiety again, specifically when we had to drive thru a river (2 times each way) like we did in Eleuthera a few years back. We looked for a beach and found Olga’s Beach Club but was a run down place where I met my first elder Costa Rican who was in charge of the dusty gift shop full of dustier beads and strings of shells .  Of course I do not speak any Spanish so I politely repeated his discriptions of Tortullo, Santa Maria and ankle bracelets.   Priced at $10 or 5000 c I passed, and as I left the shop , this fine elderly man grinned widely with a toothy smile and croaked ”  adios, my darling”.  I smiled and thought of my reading about this in Blue Zones.  That these elder men were quite the lover boys.   So Nosada was not very interesting but we did stop back to the LaSodita in San Juanillo to talk with the owner about his stock  of natural alternative medicines.

Since it was Super Bowl Sunday I asked room service if they had any special menu. No such luck. No wings or nachos plus we watched the exciting game in our room missing all the trendy commercials which were replaced with regular Spanish ones.

Monday Feb. 6  The locals suggested trying Marbella which was north of us 10 min. away.   Here we did a drive by the beach but only stopped for groceries:  some local cheese , avocado, crackers to have with the sun dried tomatoes and macadamia nut nuts.  Probably not local as they were a bit musty.  On the ride there we saw an older man cutting across a field carrying a load of what looked like his catch of the day balanced on a log that he shouldered like a young water barer would carry.    Somehow on the way back we see him on the side of the road gleaming with pride as he displayed his catch of four ( between 10-20 pounders) fish “gurel???”. Not sure of spelling.   Well I wish I could understand Spanish at this time while he enthusiastically told me about restaurants and Santa Cruz and proceeded to pull out his machete and whisk a branch off the nearby tree to provide emphasis.  He then smiled a broad grin showing a wealth of teeth  inter spaced with caps of silver and gold and showed me his method of fishing to be using only a fishing line alone.   What a great snapshot of this Costa  Rican lifestyle!
Then to top it off we were howled at by a small troop of black monkeys with brown faces who responded to my monkey calls but were difficult to photograph.

Tuesday Feb 7.  Talked to Steve, one of the locals and waiter at Blue 47 the excellent restaurant this morning.  I asked about his family and he told us his great grandmother was 104 y/o  when she passed and it was true that people live longer here.  He flashed his pure white teeth in a smile when I asked if she was with it and he said “yes she even did a shot of tequila sometimes”.  He said presently his grandmother was still alive approaching 90.
We asked about Tomarindo and his description was one that was hard not to believe.   He said they called it “tomagringo ” due to so many tourists and that it was just like NYC!!!
Nestor was most thrilled because half the way  of the 40 km distance was a normal paved road as opposed to the deeply crevassed gravel roads we were driving all week.  Turned out  Tomarindo was a mall of wall to wall kiosks and boutiques .  Not exactly NYC but very much like the boardwalk like Wildwoods or maybe a crowded LBI.   We found a white sand beach with a Witch’s Volcano Brewing Co. Beach bar that seemed to cater to surfers, beach bums and tourists where We ordered the jalapeño poppers and the Witches brew.   The food here in this very populated surf town was much closer to US fare: fried, sauced up, BBQed, cheesy and condimented. (Perhaps this is reason why some Nicoyans end up with stomach cancer.)

Then we went for a swim in the beautiful blue waters when a beer bottle baring American girl yelled out to us to watch out for the crocodiles and that was why they were taking the boats across the cove back to their hotels.  We looked at each other and proceeded to move closer to where the surfers were, secretly thinking that the crocs would get them first.
PS:  after our swim we got a confirmation from the bartender that a surfer got his leg chomped off last season in that cove.(oh!)
Dinner was a spontaneous decision to satisfy our carnivorous appetites and treat ouselves which consisted of ribeye with chimmichuri,  and fresh seafood fradiavlo over pasta.

Wednesday, Feb. 8 was what we thought was to be our last full day of adventure here on the Nicoya Peninsula turned out to be action packed!   We lucked out when Juan Jose informed us that the security guard, Johnny,  25 y/o Cost Rican native had access to a wild beehive in a tree trunk that he tends. He also had a secret eye drop brew that cleared hazy vision so I was intrigued.  He was willing to take us out to his neck of the island today and show us his and his family’s way of life .   I was so excited!   Problem was his English was very limited and we don’t speak Spanish. The extent of Nestor’s Spanish got us by with: “ano” or age, “natural medicina”  and “playa”. But half the time we showed each other pictures on our phones and his English improved dramatically after the couple of hours we spent with him.  He showed the wild tree hive,  the Costa Rican stingless bee, a tiny version of the insect that produces a tiny amount if honey.  Traditional hives were kept as well in the hacienda of his sisters neighbor where he stated specifically that the honeybee project here is so the people plant forage for these bees and they never feed sugar syrups or any other artificial feeds to these bees. I videographed these seemingly thriving honeybees and Johnny’s comments.
He proceeded to identify all the exotic fruits in the garden of his neighbor.  Words I noted on my phone so I could recall the: “jocota”, “maranion” and “guanavana”, an anti cancer remedy fruit.  He pointed out ayote, calabaza ,mango,orange, limon and other fruit trees. Now I just have to match the photos to the names of the plants…


We talked about the high calcium content in the water system. And how that affects strong teeth.
As a final stop, Johnny graciously invited us to his home to get a cool drink and meet his mom, a  friendly smiley woman who immediately brought us each a ice cold drink that resembled a smoothie but was actually their traditional staple drink made up of cooked blue corn and had a smokey sweet taste.  They then shared some of their local honey with us which I prize as one of the best.
I thought we were leaving when Johnnys mother started pulling all kinds of roots, squash, spices and all 3 varieties of corn that they use to make  tortillas and other corn based staples. She showed me a raw fish  resembling tuna and dried little whiting like fish and tossed a handful of corn to the 30 or so baby chicks she kept in her outdoor kitchen/ oven area.
Finally we said our thank you and left for hotel.

The rest of the afternoon was not spent relaxing by the pool like we expected to on our last day here.   First we find out our flight home to NY was cancelled due to expected snowstorm and second, the power is out in a 30 km radius of our hotel.  How long before our phones loose their charge? Who will cover me at work at The Joint on Friday ?   What will we do in total darkness from sunset to sunrise?   So many scenarios.   So we watched the sunset.  Thanked God for trip insurance and Lesia  (my travel agent),  opened the wine and sure enough the lights came on!  Tomorrow is a new adventure!  We will miss the place.

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