Costa Rica people has held its place at the top of the list of happiest countries in the world. The small
Central American country was ranked highest in 2009, 2012, and 2016, by the Happy Planet Index.
Costa Rica is also home to one of just five Blue Zones in the world, the Nicoya Peninsula, which
provides a great window into why the Costa Rica people are the happiest in the world.
What is a blue zone?
A blue zone is a place where people live longer and remain healthier and happier than anywhere
else in the world. The Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica is such a place. Journalist
Dan Buettner conducted a five-year investigation of these special places to gain insight into why
people are living so much longer, while maintaining optimal health and happiness. What he found
was similar in all of the blue zones and a good indications of key factors of happiness.
Family and community
In general in Costa Rica people, family and community are very important and an integral part of daily life.
Oftentimes, and as seen in the Nicoya Peninsula, multiple generations live within close proximity,
if not in the same house, to one another and are actively involved in each other lives. Neighbors
treat one another more like extended family. There is a great sense of connectivity between those
living in the same community. It is this connection that contributes to the overall happiness and
health of those residing in Costa Rica.
Sunshine and work
Agriculture is a major component of the Costa Rica people economy. Many spend their days working
with their hands outside, whether farming, fishing, raising cattle, pigs, and chickens, or working to
care for and cultivate the land. Remaining active, even in old age, is a key component to staying
healthy, strong, and happy. When the body is active happy hormones are released. Spending time
outdoors also helps to supply the body with vitamin D, which plays a major role in both physical
and mental health. A lack of vitamin D has been linked to osteoporosis, heart disease, and
Diet and sense of purpose
Families and communities, like those in the Nicoya Peninsula, typically eat home cooked and farm
fresh meals three times a day. The traditional Costa Rican diet consists of homemade corn
tortillas, rice, beans, plantains, cabbage and carrot salad, and a protein such as chicken, pork chop,
steak, or fish. Oftentimes, the women in the family prepare these meals daily for their families.
Sometimes, extra tortillas, empanadas, or even entire meals are prepared and sold within the
community. Costa Rica people take great pride and joy in taking care of their families and friends.
65 years ago, President Jose Figueres abolished the military in Costa Rica. He literally took a
hammer to the wall around the national military headquarters. These headquarters were later
transformed into a national art museum. Figueres announced that funds once spent on the
military would now be allocated for education, healthcare, and environmental protection. Since
Costa Rica has been demilitarized, Costa Rica has had no conflict either civil or with neighbors that
would require staunch military action.
Peace for all
Good healthcare, education, and employment opportunities
Even though the GDP of Costa Rica is less than $8,000, there are few people who are unemployed,
uneducated, hungry, or homeless. In fact, Costa Rica has a literacy rate of 97.8%, an average life
expectancy of 78.6 years old, and an employment rate of 91.5%. While there is no perfect country,
Costa Rica does for the most part have its priorities straight when it comes to caring for its people.
Just imagine if other countries spent more money on health and education than on the military.
Costa is a great example of this policy.
The big picture
The Nicoya Peninsula is a prime example of how, when these components are present the people
tend to lead healthier, happier, and longer lives than those living elsewhere. It also indicates a lack
of materialism has a positive impact on a country’s happiness index. In Costa Rica there is an
emphasis on family and community, as well as leading an active and purpose filled lifestyle. Also
the fact that Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and bio diverse countries in the world is an