.In Our Happy Place

Is Santa Cruz a blue zone city?

Santa Cruz is bluer than ever.

In March our noteworthy hometown earned a new ranking on a short list of 11 Blue Zone cities in all the US, second only to Boulder, Colorado—according to a recent assessment by online wellness platform Aging.com.

This new nomination has little to do with water. Instead, the term relates to Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, a 2023 Netflix documentary. The term “Blue Zones” was coined by Dan Buettner, a seasoned explorer, journalist and National Geographic Fellow who began noticing patterns during his worldwide travels.

In 2000 his research led him to Okinawa, Japan, drawn by its reputation for longevity. Inspired by what he discovered there, Buettner set off on a global quest with a National Geographic–backed team of scientists and demographers to identify the small set of communities where people live longer, healthier lives.

Armed with data and insights gleaned from interviews with centenarians, Buettner and his team identified five regions that stood out for their remarkable combination of longevity and high quality of life in old age: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and finally Loma Linda, California.

Buettner’s research shows there’s no pill or supplement or magic diet; it’s a cluster of mutually supportive things that keep these communities aligned to wellness habits associated with long, healthy lives.

To be clear, Santa Cruz was not named a Blue Zone by the official decision makers. Instead the website lists Santa Cruz as the second happiest city, another worthy merit.

But according to the researchers at Aging.com, Santa Cruz is an exemplary city for Blue Zone status. Preservation and restoration efforts in this city over the last 50 years have allowed for the presence of prevalent community gathering points, a bustling, prestigious and walkable college community, and strong tourist attractions.

A few of the key points the official blue zones have in common:

  • Diet: Blue Zone residents typically follow plant-based, Mediterranean-style diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. These foods are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which support overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • Physical Activity: Regular, moderate physical activity is the norm in Blue Zone communities. Instead of hitting the gym, it’s more common to engage in natural forms of exercise such as walking, gardening and manual labor, which help maintain cardiovascular health, muscle strength and mobility.
  • Social Connections: Strong social networks and close-knit communities. Residents enjoy regular social interactions with family, friends and neighbors, which provide emotional support, reduce stress and foster a sense of belonging and purpose.
  • Purpose and Meaning: Blue Zone inhabitants maintain active lifestyles and engage in activities that align with their values and passions, whether it’s contributing to their community, pursuing lifelong interests, or practicing spiritual or cultural traditions. Having a sense of purpose is linked to lower levels of stress, greater resilience, and improved mental and emotional well-being.

Clearly, it’s less about geography than healthy habits. Hugged by redwood-forested mountains, Santa Cruz County has 29 miles of beaches and an extraordinary number of state parks, dozens of trails for hiking and biking, and local farmers markets.

So to the question, is Santa Cruz a Blue Zone? We don’t need an official stamp to know the answer, and maybe it’s better to keep it that way.

Anyone ready to dive into the Mediterranean lifestyle is welcome at my new three-week workshop at Café LaMarea in Capitola. Visit ElizabethBorelli.com for details.


  1. For the last 10 years, I have visited all the Blue Zones in the world and found them to be exactly as named places where people do live to be long lived like 100. And I find indeed that Santa Cruze is very much like those five or six places in the world where longevity is the norm Did you know that Salinas is about to be accredited as a blue zone just down the street from us.

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