Fill the Bucket List – Costa Rica

Playa Samara, Costa Rica

A bucket list has never been my forte. I’ve never enjoyed making a list of activities that I’d probably never carry out. I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but let’s face it, a lot of bucket lists are never completed. But then again, it’s hard to complete a compilation of extraordinary activities and rare opportunities that often involve traveling to far away places. And while I am on board with the idea of accomplishing great things and am a big proponent of having goals and following one’s dreams (I mean, my husband and I do write about early retirement), I don’t believe in making lists just “for the fun of it.”

That just doesn’t suit my personality type.

If I’m making a list, it’s to get something done. It’s practical, well-thought out and has steps in place to make things happen. Even the thought of making a list that may not give me the satisfaction of placing those well-deserved check marks next to each and every item on that list makes me uncomfortable. Am I a control freak? Maybe. Okay, definitely. But that’s beside the point. The point being, lists are made to help you accomplish things and are meant to be completed.

Enter Maggie and her Fill-The-Bucket List. It is a list that “focuses on the opportunities you have had and the things you’ve taken a chance and done.”

Hello?! Why have I not heard of something like this before? I don’t know about you, but thinking about what Mr. FI and I have already done gives me more hope and motivation to reach our goal of retiring early. And certainly more than making a list of things we haven’t done. After all, what’s a better indicator of one’s future success than their current successes? If you’ve already achieved goals that you thought were out of reach, there’s a pretty good chance you can do it again, and that’s pretty exciting. So on that happy note, I’d like to take a moment to revel in our very own Fill-The-Bucket List. Shall we? Lets.

Kayaked in Costa Rica (And Lived)

Once Mr. FI and I decided we would go to a language school in Costa Rica, we were ready to try some things that we couldn’t in good ol’ Montana. Like surfing, or kayaking to a nearby island to snorkel. Sounds nice, right? Well, the surfing wasn’t bad, despite my lesson happening in the rain and spending the majority of my time and energy learning to swim against the waves, but the kayaking…well I never plan to do it again. Or at least not in an ocean. It all started out great. We set out for Isla Chora ready for a day of snorkeling and the weather was lovely, the group we were kayaking with was fun, and the waves were small. Then, as we neared the island, we slowed down to discuss our strategy with the guide. There was a small strip that we were to follow between the mainland and the island to avoid the waves that went over rocks and reef underneath. Mr. FI and I decided to hang back so we could follow everyone else’s lead as we’d never done this before. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t help at all. Our guide did not lead us on that strip–so one by one, Mr. FI and I watched as each kayak flipped over by very large waves. Trying desperately to correct ourselves and get on the strip, we started paddling with all we had away from the waves. Minutes later, when we thought we might be alright, we felt our stomachs drop as our kayak began to rise higher and higher above the rest of the water. We had managed to catch the very top of a wave that crashed us into the rocks and reef below.

Since I was in the front of the kayak, the boat continued to glide over me. So every time I would hit a rock or something on the bottom of the ocean with my foot or shins, I would bounce back up and hit my head on the kayak which would force me back down again to scrape against the coral below. This happened about 3 times before I was able to finally get up above the water and breathe. Once above water, I swam to the boat (with one leg, the other was feeling some pretty decent pain) and gathered all of our things that scattered about in the water (our water bottle, the paddles, our snorkeling gear, etc). The whole time I’m wondering where the heck Mr. FI is and finally I see him swimming towards me. Exhausted from the fight just above the water’s surface, we half swam, half rode the waves into shore to rest. Needless to say, snorkeling didn’t happen because the waves were too high (turns out a storm was coming in) and all of us just wanted to rest anyway. So we took a quick break and then bee-lined it back to shore before the storm hit. All-in-all, this experience made for a good story. I can say I’ve done these things and look back and be grateful for our mostly good fortune…and for life vests. Thank GOODNESS for life vests.

Zipped-Lined Through a Rainforest

If you ever get the chance to visit the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, do it. One of my favorite memories of Costa Rica was when we visited this forest and zip-lined through it’s canopies. Well, I zip-lined through it. Poor Mr. FI got a stomach bug on the day our group had this event scheduled. If we go back or travel somewhere else where it’s offered, I’m making sure he gets a chance to try it.

What I loved most about it was how long most of the lines were. It didn’t feel like you had to hike forever just to zip-line for 2 seconds (I’ve heard this is an issue with other zip-lines). What I hated most about it was the Tarzan Swing. A gradual descent is one thing. Jumping off a platform to swing on a rope about a canopy of trees is not my thing.

Witnessed “La Arribada” of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

Every year during rainy season, the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles will swim to a beach in Costa Rica for a “mass nesting,” all of them arriving within about a week’s time. The numbers vary from year-to-year, but hundreds of thousands will come to the beach of Playa Ostional to lay eggs in holes they dig out with their flippers. It’s a slow process (after every few minutes of digging they stop and collapse and breathe in big gulps of air before starting again) but eventually they’ll lay up to 100 of their golf ball sized eggs and then head back out to sea.

To get to this island from the school that Mr. FI and I attended, we had to cross many rivers. Be it by rickety/broken bridge on foot or through the water in the back of a little truck that picked up tour groups.

It rains off and on all day and you find yourself hoping that you don’t get stuck in one of the many, muddy rivers the little truck drives you over. But I would say it’s 100% worth your time if you’re in that neck of the woods during the week these turtles make their trek to Ostional’s shores.

Visited Two Volcanoes

I’m not sure if this is an actual saying, but I’ve heard more than one traveler call Costa Rica a “poor man’s Hawaii.” Essentially, Costa Rica has much of what Hawaii has to offer (beautiful beaches, great weather, culture, volcanoes…) but for a fraction of the price that traveling and staying in Hawaii might cost.* While in Costa Rica, we were able to experience a good deal of “Poor Hawaii” and its less-expensive charm. One of the most impactful parts of its landscape (aside from its cloud forests) are its volcanoes. We had the pleasure of seeing two of it’s six active volcanoes: Arenal and Poás. Volcán Arenal was the more “classic” volcano, given it’s shape and the fact that it rumbles and occasionally shoots lava into the air. You know – the type of volcano you’d model your science project after:

Volcán Poás, however, is a “caldera volcano,” meaning that it’s less of a cone and more of a crater shape. It’s still active, but instead of spewing lava it sets off geysers and has steaming, gurgling lakes. It also creates an extremely fertile soil which produces some pretty delicious coffee.

Adding to the List

As you may have noticed, all the items on this Fill-the-Bucket List are from Costa Rica. Although I have traveled elsewhere and have a list of my own that might be fuller and include titles such as “Kissed by a Matador” and “Walked the Cliffs of Moher,” I wanted to put this list on the blog because I love this list. It’s a list that I get to reminisce about with my best friend. It’s a list that I can’t wait to add to because it won’t just be me checking off experiences, he’ll get to check them off too. Memories are something to be shared and a list of memories is a list worth making. What experiences have you had that you love to share with people? Have you made a Fill-the-Bucket List? 


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  3. Penny (@picksuppennies)

    We are headed to Costa Rica and Nicaragua this summer. I was really excited before, but I’m super excited now! I don’t know that we’ll do nearly as much as you two did (we only have 8 days)…but thanks for the inspiration. Love this!

    1. Post
      Mrs. FI

      Oh how fun! I’m glad we could help get you pumped for your next vacation 😉 I’m sure you’ll have a blast (there’s a lot you can do there in 8 days) and I can’t wait to hear about it! Thanks for commenting!

  4. our next life

    Hello, pretty new site! I love your new design!! And what a cool list of things you guys did in CR. That kayaking experience sounds quite harrowing — I can see why you don’t want to do that again. But wow — the turtles nesting. The volcanos, the zipline. (Our only zipline experience was in the desert — not as pretty). It all sounds amazing!

    1. Post
      Mrs. FI

      Thanks, ONL! We’re still adjusting and tweaking it, but it’s getting there! And I’m glad you liked the list! It was such a fun experience and one of the reasons I’m always telling people, if you can study abroad in college, DO IT. We wouldn’t have had nearly as many experiences as we did if we weren’t in the country for months at a time, I’m sure. If all goes according to plan, ER will be like college was for Mr. FI and myself…minus the homework. 😉 Thanks for commenting!

  5. Maggie

    I’m so glad you joined the fill-the-bucket list party! Costa Rica sounds wonderful! I love celebrating things we’ve already done – and you are awesome showing that it’s a great way to reminisce and celebrate a vacation! I could make a whole fill-the-bucket list all about Cambodia! I love it!

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      Mrs. FI

      Thanks, Maggie! It was a great idea, we just had to jump on board 😉

      So glad you like the post! I’m sure your FTB List of Cambodia would be fascinating. The travel bug has been hitting us pretty hard lately…I think we’ll be adding to our FTB list soon enough! Thanks for commenting and sharing your list!

      1. Maggie

        I’m so glad you participated, as I said before… and I have totally been trying to figure out how to get the family back over to Cambodia lately. The travel bug is here as well!

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