Costa Rica's
Los Sueños
Is Pura Vida...

The Pure Life of William Royster and "The Dream"

......... A View From The Monkey House

When we were first introduced to the idea of Costa Rica, it was by our friend and real estate developer Harland Peacock, who actually owns large piece of the country in Northern Costa Rica in an area called Guanacaste Province, which he plans to develop into a world-class resort.

I had always wondered about Costa Rica, the words meaning “rich coast” between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It had a Nobel Prize winning President, a 95% literacy rates, and conjured up images of paradise. But we have always been reluctant to travel to third world countries unsupervised.

Harland’s enticement for us to bring models to the heart of Central America was his family estate in the middle of the jungle. I must admit that the pictures were very alluring. It was 30,000 sq ft under roof, five levels, a maid, a chef, swimming pools cascading into each other, a river and waterfall in close range, and the water feeding the waterfall was a natural hot spring. It was as close a description to the “Garden of Eden” as I have ever heard. I was sold, and announced that the winners of the Trump Style International Model Search would travel to Costa Rica for a feature photo shoot.

I met with Harland, his brother John and Steve Love in Palm Springs to plan our sojourn in to paradise. Love had lived in Costa Rica for over 20 years and knew the country like the back of his hand. He was very likable, entertaining and seemed the perfect guide. But then, Harland and John started conjuring up Peacock family history, and the Peacocks’ connection to the CIA. It seems that the compound was a staging area for the Reagan administration’s fight against the Contras in the 80s. And I would later find out that in Costa Rica, the property is endearingly described as the “Ollie North House” - which would account for the helicopter pad on top on the roof.

Not to worry, we are not fighting communists in Central America any more, but as we chatted further, I learned that the house had two names depending on which brother stayed there. One was Brin d’Amour, which means “a little bit of love”, and the other was Monkey Tree Lodge because of the incessant noise created by the howler monkey on the other side of the river. When Harland started talking about the variety of poisonous snakes in the jungle, I started to get nervous, but I was okay.

But when he told me the golf carts were equipped with machetes and snakebite kits, and to NEVER go looking for my golf ball in the rough, I had heard enough. I decided this was probably not the appropriate place to take models with make up, curling irons, and thong bikinis for a photo shoot. If you have ever had a group of models whining because they had to stay at a Motel 6, you would know what I mean.

Please don’t get me wrong, the place is absolutely magical, as spectacular as Harland described, but we needed a more moderate environ to work our kind of magic. Harland has the property on the market, and from my standpoint, it is a steal.

Thank God for Ray Sidhom, a high-stakes black jack player, whom I met at the Trump Style International Model Search Finals in Atlantic City. Ray is president of Merchant Service Inc., one of the biggest bankcard companies in the world, and an avid sports fisherman. He has won many awards for his big game fishing prowess. When he learned the winning models were going to Costa Rica to shoot a feature and a cover, he informed me of this place where he kept his fishing boat during the winter. He told me to get in touch with Sales Representative Mike Hardy, and he would meet us down there and take us fishing.

Well needless to say, I called Mike, and he lead the way for us to be formally introduced to the Pura Vida that is Costa Rica, and the “Pure Life” that is Los Sueños Resort and Marina.

The pictures almost say it all. Los Sueños is a 1,100-acre master planned resort community with a 600-acre private rain-forest reserve. It is a 200 slip international marina with world-class sport fishing. It is an 18-hole championship eco-golf course, where the golf carts did not contain machetes and snakebite kits. It is million dollar luxury residences and ocean view home sites. It is 4-star luxury condominiums. It is a new Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort with a sprawling beachfront swimming pool, fine dining and a first class casino. It was every thing we dreamed of and more. It was the dream of one man, William Royster, President and CEO of Los Sueños Resort.

William Royster (at right with models and Sales Director Andrea Cooper) greeted us at a Welcoming Party at the Marriott Hotel upon our arrival. We had a chance to visit with this visionary developer and many of the residents of the resort, including David Belding, a top executive of the Mandalay Bay Gaming Group. The property owners are part of an international Who’s Who. I thought this place is the best-kept secret on the planet. Unlike the wild countryside and winding roads we experienced on the two-hour trip to the resort, Los Sueños is jewel cut out of the Costa Rican jungle and rivals any destination resort in the world.

Our party included Trump Style Model winners, Dennis Levinson, Austin Miller, VP – Grand Casino of Gulfport and his friend John, Steve Connell, businessman from Reno, who was checking out Harland’s property, and Houston Ma, venture capitalist from Orange County. We went everywhere and David Bell and Bo Hitchcock photographed everything described in the brochures. There was a lot to do and see, and thanks to Andrea Cooper, Sales Director, we saw it all. Andrea hails from Canada, but seems right at home in this tropical setting. She wears many hats, and publishes as very sharp magazine entitled Lifestyles Costa Rica lauding the benefits of purchasing real estate at Los Sueños Resort and Marina. She seems the official goodwill ambassador of Los Sueños, and she had me convinced. I did not want to leave. (The Models at left stand poolside at the Monkey House over looking all of Los Sueños Resort)

It is a great story and it is Royster’s story. Back in 1991, he was aboard his 80-foot long-range sport fishing yacht off the coast of Costa Rica. He had just released a 700 lb black marlin when he began to fall in love with this paradise. Following negotiations and postponing his own retirement, he purchased the land and 10 years later opened a spectacular new resort and marina complex that is attracting boat owners and fishermen from all over the world.

The waters surrounding Costa Rica are usually calm and the rides to the fishing grounds short. Long known as one of the world’s premier big-game destinations, the country offers traveling anglers the opportunity to match skills with three heavyweights — blue, black and striped marlin — as well as enormous numbers of big Pacific sailfish. This makes Costa Rica one of the few places where anglers get a real shot at the elusive “grand slam”- catching and releasing three different species of billfish in one day.

Located in the heart of Central America, Los Sueños is the place for pure relaxation and a wonderfully exciting marine life. It is the only government-sanctioned, international marina in Costa Rica and the only world-class facility in Central America. The marina can accommodate vessels from 20’ to 200’, with all the amenities boaters expect from a sophisticated facility.

At the heart of the Los Sueños Community lies the spectacular Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort, which has received high praise from the travel industry for its stunning Spanish colonial architecture and traditional Costa Rica warmth. “I don’t think there’s a Marriott resort that equals this hotel,” say Gonzalo Aguilar, General Manger. “With 201 rooms and 11 suites, it is smaller than average, so we can manage it along the lines of a boutique hotel with a highly personalized level of service.”

One of the hotel’s principal attractions is an 18-hole golf championship golf course designed by Ted Robinson, Jr. Dennis Levinson (at left points to the "Monkey House") and I played the par-72 course through the Resort’s rainforest reserve, offering challenging play in one of the most unique environment in the world. It is not uncommon to see sloths, scarlet macaws and toucans. The monkeys were everywhere and served as our gallery. Interesting enough, all the caddies are trained by a leading Costa Rican naturalist guide, so they are able to point out the unique native species found along the fairways.

On the ninth hole, we came upon a large wood sculpture called “Dreams of the Grand Ceibo.” It was carved out of a 300-year old ceibo tree that fell during a storm in 2001. It was a majestic tree that served as inspiration for the resort’s logo, so instead of removing it or cutting it up for firewood, Royster decided to make a monument out of it. He commissioned renowned Costa Rican woodcarver Fabio Brenes Morales to create the sculpture, which represents man’s relationship with nature.

After the two-hour drive through the jungle, we did not know what to expect. During the trip, the girls had a look of anxious anticipation. Our driver, Harold Guerrero was the perfect tour guide through the mountain roads. He kept their hopes up with promises of paradise and splendor. Harold (seen left with Lisa Marie Perkins) was jewel, spoke fluent English, and owns his own transportation service called Tourism Services. We would have been lost with out him.

After Mike Hardy placed the girls in their own luxurious condo accommodations, their faces turn from anxiety to joy. The models stayed in the condos of Brennan O’Donnell, a Los Sueños property owner. Then property manager Larry Savage (Stay In Costa Rica Condo Rentals) took us up to our place that over looked Royster’s entire dream. We stayed in what was called the “Monkey House” and it was any thing but. Spacious, open aired, swimming pools over looking Los Sueños. It was as if we were on top of the world and could see forever. Stay In Costa Rica offers luxury accomodations of 2 to 6 bedroom homes and condos. Their toll-free number is 866-888-6424.

Each night we sat around the Monkey House and discussed the day’s adventure. On the final night, we cooked chicken picante, celebrated Austin and Brenda Kelly’s birthday, and watched the sun go down. As the sun set over the ocean, monkeys scrambled around the perimeter, the models were swimming in the pool, Austin fed our resident Coatimundi, and I stared out into the distance to see the breadth of Royster’s vision, the scale of his accomplishment and the opportunity he has opened up to the rest of the world. Royster dubbed this vision “Los Sueños” (Spanish for “the dream”) for obvious reasons. It will become a boating, fishing, golfing and destination resort and luxury living Mecca. It is just a matter of time. The one picture looking down on the resort says it all, yet it says so little without experiencing the Pura Vida of Los Sueños…the “Pure Life” of William Royster.