“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

- William Faulkner


Where I've Been

I’VE BEEN CALLED to the far flung corners of the world for most of my life. My father took me to remote areas far from home at a very early age. I have been chasing the elation of experiencing new and exciting places ever since. Now I want to share my 60 years of travels with you. I believe in the value of the internal shift that occurs when people seek the unknown.
Riley's Travels

Destinations in My Passport:

Bolivia, Ecuador, Australia, Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Key Largo, Key West, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Republic of China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Greater and Lesser Antilles, and all over the United States. I want to start giving you highlights on my favorite destinations.

Costa Rica

The country doubly deserves its Spanish name of “Rich Coast” from extensive shorelines on both Atlantic and Pacific oceans. “Pura Vida” meaning the pure or simple life is a common expression of the local gente who call themselves “Ticos.” They are well in-tuned to the natural paradise of their environment and give themselves over to a laid-back way of existence.

Costa Rica is the world leader in devotion of lands to national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges…about 28% of its total area. It is the most stable, long-lived democracy south of our border in the Americas.

The rainy season generally tends to be from the first of June until November. The opportunity for bargains is better in this period. Although a relative bargain, with modernization and prosperity, Costa Rica is moderately more expensive than many Latin American neighbors. There are always deals out there, from luxury accommodations to wood floors for your bare feet under thatched roofs with unwindowed views of the sea.

For the young adventurers interested in zip lining beneath the canopy, hiking up a volcano or exploring the Osa peninsula, the dry season is preferable. The west coast is more developed and mountainous with dramatic rocky views. The east side has a long gradual plain falling away to the sea. The fewer beaches here are whiter and there is more of a Caribbean vibe.

Young expatriates living the surfer’s lifestyle lounge in the beach hostels and bars. The transition months, May through September are considered the best for watching the 857 species of birds in Costa Rica. There are a number of lodges dedicated to this endeavor.

Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica

An Angler Destination

The Pacific side has been a Mecca for the traveling angler for decades, the optimal season running December through March.

Surfer's Paradise

During the wet months, swells roll in from the Pacific and the brown volcanic beaches on the west coast become one of the premier surfing destinations on the planet.
“Although it is rapidly modernizing, a trip to Central America is always laden with historical touchstones.”

- Riley Love


Every schoolchild learned of Balboa crossing the isthmus to discover a new sea in the European experience. As the land tracks west to east as he came to the shore, he called it the “Southern Ocean.” It would later be named the “Pacific” by Magellan as he sailed into its calm through the turbulent straits that today bear his name at Cape Horn. Subsequently, Balboa would suffer beheading by the governor, his future father-in-law and thus persist as an enduring metaphor for in-law relationships.

The United States invaded Panama in December 1989 to remove dictator Manuel Noriega from power. A stable democracy has flourished since that time. Ten years later a pact was completed to cede ownership of the Panama Canal to the native land.

Touring the Canal is well worth your time, particularly with the most recent expansion completed. It is one of the great historical achievements of mankind and continues to shape global economics and politics. It is a generator of wealth and prosperity and the magnitude of this is revealed to the eye.

The country has a higher percentage of rain forest coverage than any other in Central America. There are spectacular hikes for the explorer and a wealth of animals and birds. There are seven tribes of indigenous peoples to meet.

Although fishing experiences are to be had on the Atlantic side- Pacific Panama over the years has been as world class as it gets in our hemisphere. The mechanism at play is the presence of deep underwater structures such as the Zane Gray reef at Tropic Star near the Colombian border and Hannibal bank near Coiba. The Northern Equatorial Countercurrent brings cooler, more oxygenated water and the lower fauna on the food chain from across the Pacific. Where it hits these structures, it causes upwellings. These are parking lots for pelagic predators and a Fort Knox for the fisherman.

Historic Old Town in Panama

An Interesting Rep

Panama has over 50 banks and is a well-established international tax haven. It has been called “The Money Laundering Capital of the World.”

A Secret Trek

For the adventurous there is an unexpected opportunity…island hopping between several fascinating clusters on both the Atlantic and the Pacific sides.
“Nowhere in the Americas has our modern history been forged more dramatically than Panama.”

- Riley Love

Key Largo

Just south of Key Biscayne, the chain based on the Spanish term cayos for low lying mangrove islands, begins. These are solid limestone, constructed over millions of years as coral reef when the oceans were deeper. Just offshore Carysfort light marks the edge of the reef where the coral erupts from the surface at low tide 6 miles out. The third largest living coral reef in the world. This is Key Largo, famed by the movie, penned by John Huston, and featuring the star-crossed Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

The area along the sole highway down the keys is lined with cool places to stay from highly luxurious to reasonable. There is a certain vibe in these islands you start to sense early in your gut.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is our country’s first underwater national recreational area. Divers from all over flock here during the open lobster season. For the qualified there are famous reefs and wrecks. There are massive areas of mangroves for kayakers who want to commune with a manatee.

Nearby is the largest subtropical wilderness on our continent, Everglades National Park at the tip of the Florida peninsula. This adds another spectacular option for the angler. Freshwater and saltwater species share some of the same brackish water. Low tide channels across massive flats and openings through the walls of mangroves to secretive hideaways where tarpon, snook and redfish can be targeted provide heart pounding opportunities.

Then the reef itself…our inner child never tires of skimming across those blue and green dabbled miles where to give pause allows an aquarium display of wondrous fishes to meet behind your boat. I dream of this place.

Key Largo

A Diver's Dream

Even without your scuba certification there are great snorkel trips, and you can swim with the dolphins nearby.

Bring Your Specs

Key Largo is on the short list of best bird watching sites in the world.
“The natives here live the outdoor life and are not given to facades. They have more grit than glamour and it’s an earthy paradise.”

- Riley Love

Key West

It’s been said that “location, location, location” are the three things that matter most as a destination. But this southernmost city could get by on personality alone. The aboriginal people called this island Cayo Hueso, or “key of bones” because of the myriad burial sites. Today it is one of the liveliest places in our country.

As a young man I had the opportunity to explore its cultural underbelly…halcyon days when you could drink at the bar with Captain Tony and Jimmy Buffet played for beers just a few feet away. Key West for me also was a lynchpin for its rich history of literary heroes.

Old Town Key West is a limited part of the island’s modern geography, but you would be hard pressed to exhaust the dining options and I double-dog-dare-ya to wear out the pub crawl down here which would in some form punctuate at the ceremonious sunset elbow bending at Mallory Square. There is lots of entertainment and cultural whirlwinds with every turn of the head. One does best with a “live and let live” attitude. Have some rum, try a Cuban cigar and kick back. It is a wonderful place for art shopping.

It surprises new visitors to the Keys how little beach exists. This is because of the world’s third largest living barrier reef which is also a national marine sanctuary extending up to near Miami. The Keys themselves are part of this ancient limestone coral made structure, formed when the seas were much deeper. It protects the shore from the pounding surf and the generation of sandy strands. But it is Disney Land for fishermen and for divers who flock like locusts when lobster season opens.

Although there are greater places for billfish and other target species, what sets this destination apart for the angler is the overlap of multiple fisheries here. There is offshore fishing, gorgeous reef varieties, inshore and bay fishing among the thousands of small mangrove islands and some of the genetically largest bonefish on the planet as well as tarpon and permit on the flats.

Busted Trip to Key West

Feelin' It

Consider renting a “Conch House” in old town for further immersion into the experience. These typically come with small private pools and intimate gardens.

In The Cacophony

There are myriad modern resorts and bevies of boutique hotels which make for delightful stays right in the best areas to explore and indulge in nightlife.
“A deep dive into the origins of this place opens the eyes for today’s culture and is well worth your time.”

- Riley Love

The Dry Tortugas

It begins just offshore from Miami, the marvel of the third largest living coral reef in the world. Curving westward across the Florida Straits, the spectacular bridges take us along its edge as far as Key West. But it continues further. Twenty miles from Key West an interesting stopover is the mangrove covered, uninhabited Marquesa Keys. But discovery awaits yet further a total of 68 miles out from Sloppy Joe’s bar at the Dry Tortugas.

The name derives from the many turtles taken by Ponce de Leon who discovered this group of seven small islands in 1513. “Dry “was to warn the potential visiting sailor that no fresh water existed here. It still doesn’t and neither does fuel, electricity, or internet services. The islands are rookeries for a number of bird species migrating across from South America. During the nesting season these keys are inaccessible.

There are daily trips from Key West via a large ferry boat or by sea plane. Entrance fees are required, and you can take a tour with a ranger with an informative lecture. It is possible to camp on Garden Key, but all provisions must be carried along as nothing is available. Earnest Hemingway and his “mob” journeyed here for four seasons to fish. During the last trip, they were stranded for 17 days by a tropical storm and exhausted their supplies then subsisted on fish at the end. It is possible to bring your own boat, but a permit is required. There are regular fishing charters from Key West, some of which overnight in the area.

The fishing experience is worth every bit of what it takes to get here. Overnighting at the Marquesas adds another dimension to the expedition. Then you will have been properly introduced to fishing the Florida Keys.

Dry Tortugas

Don't Miss It!

This is one of the only known breeding stops for the Magnificent Frigatebird.

A Piece of History

The massive masonry structure of Fort Jefferson sits on Garden Key. Initial construction predates the Civil War!
“Fishing is prohibited inside the Research Natural Area, a sanctuary with ongoing science projects. But nearby this coral reef complex is simply jaw dropping.”

- Riley Love

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