In 1991, Bill Royster took a six-month sabbatical, which ended up stretching into three years. He fished his way down the Pacific coast to Costa Rica, where he released an 800-pound blue marlin off Herradura Bay, as well as hundreds of sailfish. During the trip, he fell in love with the natural beauty of the Central American nation as well as its friendly people. As the owner of general engineering and development companies in California, he turned his attention to building what would eventually become the Los Sueños Resort and Marina. Since the turn of the millennium, the resort has become one of the world’s top destinations for those with billfish on the brain. When he’s not at work, Royster enjoys spending time aboard his 80-foot Donzi, Numero Uno, traveling throughout Costa Rica and the world with his girlfriend of 17-plus years, Sandra Gutierrez.
Q: What’s your favorite kind of fishing?
A: Marlin first, then sailfish. Both on dead bait.
Q: When did you catch your first billfish?
A: I was fishing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in 1974 and caught a striped marlin. I was down there with some friends, renting a boat. This was before the Cabo marina was even built. We had a great time and it was a wonderful week. I didn’t catch my first blue marlin until 1991 when I got to Costa Rica, though—plus we were releasing 10 to 15 sailfish a day, even back then. I thought I’d arrived in fishing heaven.
Q: How has Los Sueños impacted the worldwide fishing community?
A: When I first came to Costa Rica, there was no infrastructure for boats. Fortunately, I had an 80-foot long-range boat that could be sustainable for months. I knew I wouldn’t be the only one to fall in love with this country, and today, we sponsor one of the most competitive tournament series in the world—the Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown—and the seamount fishing between 65 and 120 miles offshore offers some of the best blue marlin fishing anywhere.
Q: Speaking of that, what are you doing to maintain and protect the seamount fishery?
A: Through our nonprofit fishing association—the Pacific Sport Fishing Association—we are currently working on legislation to stop commercial fishing in those areas and also trying to encourage the Costa Rican Coast Guard and government to monitor and enforce the existing laws.
Q: As the first marina project in the country, you faced some significant challenges. What were the biggest hurdles?
A: The first and largest was educating the Costa Rican Congress on what a marina could do for the country in terms of bringing in commerce and wealth by creating an environmentally-sensitive infrastructure and facilities. Once we convinced Congress, and the president at the time, of the positive nature of marinas, we were able to legislate the first marina law with 100 percent of the congressional vote. It was signed into law by the president at the groundbreaking of our hotel in 1998. That process took four years of legislation and negotiation. I am sure that if we would have done something like this in the United States, it would have taken much longer, but we were fortunate to have the complete support and backing of the government.
Q: How do you attract and keep so many good teams in the Signature Triple Crown series?
A: We have been running tournaments here since 2004. Over the years, a lot of those teams have really matured in the Triple Crown, which averages well over 40 boats a year. In 2019, our teams released nearly 4,000 billfish with an average of 45 boats fishing for nine days in the series. Our record year was 2016, with 6,570 releases with a 43-boat average. Ninety percent of the boat owners are homeowners; they not only fish our events, but also participate in other local tournaments. They also do a lot of fishing at the seamounts and enjoy the inshore fishing as well.
Learn more about Los Sueños Resort and Marina.
Q: Let’s talk boats: What do you like best about your enclosed-bridge Donzi compared to the bright red, hot-rod Cabo 45 you previously owned for many years?
A: I personally thought I would never own an enclosed flybridge boat. As I’ve gotten older though, I like not having the wind in my face! The Donzi has been a highlight for my whole family. They all used to fish on the Cabo with me for years, and they were hoping I was going to buy a larger boat. We have rebuilt the Donzi from the ground up—we just finished rebuilding the engines, installing new generators and we also added three Seakeeper 9s—so when we are at the seamounts on the overnight trips, it’s like being in the marina. It’s one of the most comfortable boats I’ve ever owned.
Q: There’s a beautiful course at the resort, but does anyone play golf?
A: Some of our homeowners golf, but it isn’t a primary attraction. Our profile is an active adventurer—outdoorsmen, fishermen, hunters—and people who are interested in sharing their hobbies with their families and friends. Los Sueños does not generally attract the private country club member.
Q: What’s it like competing with Sandra, your two daughters and now your grandson in one of the most competitive billfish tournaments in the world?
A: We have always been competitive characters, but have never been as successful as we were on the last day of the final leg of the 2019 Triple Crown, when we finished at the top of the leaderboard. It’s hard to explain how electric that was. Everyone was jumping 2 feet off the deck whenever [tournament director] Ashley [Bretecher] would broadcast the updates over the radio, announcing Numero Uno in the lead all day long. It was a good way to finish the season, and even better being that it was with my family.
Q: Who are some of your fellow competitors that you admire?
A: First are the Duffies; they fish as a family and they have won our tournaments several times—we hope they fish again next year. We really enjoy competing with Ed and Valerie Dunn also. They have become wonderful friends.
Q: What would you tell someone who has never experienced the fishing there?
A: The best I can come up with is you have to see it to believe it. No matter how incredible the photography you may see is, people constantly tell us that the photos don’t do justice to the in-the-flesh experience. It’s hard to describe.
Q: Anything keeping you awake at night these days?
A: Having a vertically integrated company with more than 800 employees in Costa Rica definitely comes with its challenges, but it’s never so difficult that I am overly concerned. I have a terrific group of directors that run the day-to-day operations. I am able to conduct the orchestra, they play the tune—and we are all fortunate enough to enjoy the melody.
Q: What does the future hold for you?
A: I don’t believe I will ever retire. I love what I do every day. To wake up each morning and look out over the marina from the terrace of my home and see what we’ve accomplished is personally very rewarding. To live in Los Sueños really is the dream.