Uli Wiesmeier  /  Corbis file
A woman lies on tree-trunk by the sea in Sardinia. Five of the world’s 40 oldest people live on this Mediterranean island off the west coast of Italy.
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updated 2/21/2007 12:25:30 PM ET 2007-02-21T17:25:30

What is the secret to prolonging your life? Well, it depends on whom you ask. Could it be that there is a fountain of youth? Or that a regimented diet of noni fruit will keep you young and healthy? Or is it better to take a glass of Italian table wine each night before bed? We definitely vote for island living as a way to bring happiness and decrease stress. Before you make that plunge, however, here are some of the world’s best spots to partake in island-life rituals that’ll keep you young at heart.

Okinawa, Japan
Per capita, Japan has the highest number of centenarians, so we decided to start here. Even more surprising is that Okinawans tend to live longer than any other ethnic group in the world. Out of every 100,000 people in the United States, 10 make it to age 100; in Japan the number is 20 – on Okinawa, it’s 50. So what, exactly, is their secret? Magic sake? Well, a diet low in fats and reasonably small portions is one ticket. But on Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands archipelago, you’ll also find a mild climate year-round, an explosion of flowers (which always make you feel good), a love for the shamisen (a three-stringed instrument) and white-sand beaches found on its southern islands. www.ocvb.or.jp/

New Zealand
Any place where you find legends of demi-gods throwing fish hooks to create islands and giant octopuses chasing canoes through bays is worth exploring. In addition, New Zealand has the whole ersatz Middle Earth connection – we know Gandalf the Grey was pushing the upper ages. (What was he – 1,000?) The life-extending power of the earth’s energy can best be witnessed around Rotorua on North Island. There, you’ll find gurgling mud baths, 104-degree waterfalls and geothermal springs reputed to have curative effects, including the aptly named Hell’s Gate, a Maori-owned geothermal reserve. www.rotoruanz.com

Moorea, Tahiti
Loads of giant, healthy things sprout on the trees, vines and plants of Moorea, including papaya, vanilla beans, breadfruit and pineapple. Then there is the noni, the miracle fruit that is supposed to (if you believe the labels of bottled noni products) prevent aging. We recommend a glass of noni juice in the morning, and in no time at all, we’re sure you’ll be able to bike around the 37-mile road that circumnavigates the island, passing Cook Bay and Opunohu Bay. These South Pacific surroundings have inspired artists and writers for centuries. Taste the fruits, smell the tiare: This is the real Bali Hai from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. And who doesn’t live long on Bali Hai? www.tahiti-tourisme.com/

Bimini Islands, Bahamas
Yes, Bimini is the rumored location of the mythical fountain of youth. Thus far, is has yet to be definitively discovered on these Bahamian islands just south of Grand Bahama Island, though there is a commemorative park and freshwater well on South Bimini called Fountain of Youth. While on these islands, soak in the Healing Hole, a spring on East Bimini with waters full of natural lithium and sulfur (these minerals are supposed to be good for you). An awful lot of relaxing goes on here, especially from one end of a fishing pole – Hemingway started the trend. www.bahamas.com/

Cayman Islands
We weren’t exactly surprised when we saw government statistics that ranked the Cayman Islands 13th on a 2006 list of countries’ life expectancies (80.07 years in the Caymans). What’s there to worry about, anyway, in this Caribbean tax haven where more than 259 banks are on the roughly 22-by-eight-mile Grand Cayman – especially if there’s an account in your name? Think about it real hard when you take your nightly stroll, pina colada in hand, on the island’s Seven Mile Beach. www.caymanislands.ky/

Sardinia, Italy
If you are a non-believer in the long-life recipe of red wine and olive oil, seek evidence in the interior village of Orroli on Sardinia. Five of the world’s 40 oldest people live on this Mediterranean island off the west coast of Italy, and Sardinia has twice the typical ratio of centenarians, according to a scientific study titled A Kent’Annos (an Italian saying that means, “May you live to be 100”). Add to its list of long-life attributes: pine forests, lakes and mountains (meaning fresh air), and traditional village life (which means organic farming and no shortcuts). Should you venture outside the village, you’ll also be treated to some pretty fine Mediterranean waters. www.italiantourism.com/

Each issue of ISLANDS Magazine explores the most beautiful island destinations in the world, from tropical island outposts to the sophisticated gems of the Mediterranean. Our top-rate photographers and writers discover the quiet beaches, boutique hotels, and unique cultural experiences that make island travel unique.

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