ILLUSTRATION BY LOUISE BILLYARD
In 2005, author Dan Buettner discovered the secret to long life … sort of. What he found was five “Blue Zones”—communities that boast the world’s highest concentration of centenarians. In turn, some of these places have become desired destinations for health-minded tourists. Here, a guide to the Blue Zones, with a word of advice from Buettner: “These aren’t places where you go to be pampered. You have to be willing to meet people and have a conversation with them to really understand what they’ve done to live so long.”
A Mediterranean diet and low-stress lifestyle contribute to one in three Ikarians making it to their 90s. The island is known for its abundant geothermal springs, but another major draw is Greek-American celebrity chef Diane Kochilas, who hosts longevity retreats at which guests can cook and connect with locals at her country home.
NICOYA, COSTA RICE
Residents of this Pacific Coast peninsula are all about plan de vida—having a purpose in life. An excellent purpose for visiting is the W Costa Rica Reserva Conchal, which opened last winter. The resort’s Zona Azul Beach Club features cuisine from all five Blue Zones. Try everything, but do so at lunch—light dinners are one of the Nicoyans’ secrets.
LOMA LINDA, CALIFORNIA
About one-third of the citizens of the U.S.’s only Blue Zone practice Seventh-Day Adventism, a religion that promotes temperance and vegetarianism. You don’t have to observe the Sabbath on Saturday, but you can stop in neighboring Redlands for lunch at Plant Power Fast Food, a SoCal vegan mini-chain known for its dairy- and meat-free Big Zac.
Women live longer in Japan’s southernmost prefecture than anywhere else on earth, in part because they embrace the concept of moai (a lifelong social network). Make new friends over a meal at one of the restaurants at the Halekulani Okinawa, which opened in July. Be sure to load up on Okinawan superfoods such as goya (bitter melon) and beni-imo (purple sweet potatoes).
Residents of this island have longevity in their blood, literally: They carry a rare genetic quirk linked to long life. While you can’t take their DNA home, you can try thalassotherapy—an ancient practice of treating the skin with seawater, seaweed, and marine mud—at the newly renovated Acquaforte Thalasso & Spa. The resort also has a hammam, a solarium, and a sauna.