Category: Sensual Travels

Have you ever had sex on a beach?

No, I’m not talking about the cocktail with orange juice and vodka. I’m talking about sand in your bathing suit and fish nibbling on your toes kind of sex. Think of the “From Here to Eternity” scene where the couple is making out, rolling around in the surf and dream about how hot and exciting that looked.
It turns out that many Canadian women have a fantasy about beach sex. In a new Ipsos Reid survey done for tripcentral.ca, women admitted that they had sex outside of their hotel room while on holidays. These women fantasized about sauna sex, hammock sex, public bathroom sex, and just about other private and romantic spot you can think of while on holiday. And who said that Canadian women are conservative!
I wasn’t surprised. When I speak to women about the best sex of their lives they invariably talk about parking, picnic blankets, or any place outside of the bedroom as their most memorable romps. Most people think that it is men that are looking for newness in the bedroom (and they would be right), but it turns out that it is women who overwhelmingly prefer the unique locations. Men tend to think about interesting positions and duration as their best sex. So holiday sex works for both parties.
I often ask my sex therapy patients how much sex they have on holidays. It’s a great barometer of the health of a couple’s sex life. If you have no outside stress, and your only decision of the day is a Mojito or Margarita, how easy is it to re-kindle some of that waning passion? Given that I think everyone needs sensual adventures, a great romantic holiday is one of the best things you can do for your relationship. It can certainly help your sex life. And in keeping with the survey results, if you can sneak out for some discreet shagging outside of the hotel room then the vacation ranks up there with the best sex of your life.

Sensual Travels

Naked Vacations
Sue reviews the top sexy vacation hotspots!
How to make friends at a Nude Lifestyle resort
Desire Los Cabos
by Sue McGarvie, Clinical sex therapist
By Sue “Sex with Sue” McGarvie and Blaik Spratt, Clinical Sex Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, authors of The Ethical Hedonist
Hedonism ll and Hedonism lll A reviewBy Sue McGarvie, and Blaik Spratt
Clinical Relationship Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, and Authors of The Ethical Hedonist…

Review of Hedonism 2 Negril Jamaica – The pioneer is still going strong

Hedonism ll A review

By Sue McGarvie, and Blaik Spratt

Clinical Relationship Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, and Authors of The Ethical Hedonist

When I was 16, I spent arguably the best summer of my young life as a counselor at a large family camp in Ontario . I was one of 60 co-ed staff. It was an amazingly fun place, and I made lifelong friends. Camp was singing by the campfire, raiding the boy’s cabin, skinny dipping, dancing at costume parties, and summer romance.

Going to Hedonism was the closest thing I’ve experienced as an adult to re-creating that community feel of laugh-out-loud fun of camp. Only instead of mystery meat in the dining hall, and outhouses with flashlights, Hedonism offers spectacular sunsets, unlimited perfect banana daiquiri’s, hot tubs, cabaret shows, and sensuous spa massages. And it’s the scurrying crabs, not mosquitoes that abound.

Forget what you’ve read about Hedo in Playboy, or the myth of it being a sexually aggressive place. The words we would use to describe the two Hedonism resorts are silly, zany, relaxing, casual, outrageous, sensual, saucy and friendly. Clearly, some of the legends are no more than wishful thinking. Nobody jumps you, and it isn’t a place to go trolling for sex. You would probably have more luck at a nightclub like Rick’s Cafe down the beach atop Negril’s cliffs (one of the 10 most famous bars in the world, and home to the fearless cliff divers). However if you want to make real friends who may want to play with you, then Hedonism does offer the best opportunity we’ve ever found to meet the group we call “Ethical Hedonists.” This is an open-minded and adventurous crowd.

People who “get” Hedo are almost cult-like in their love of the place. There are books written about it, Hedonism cocktail parties that organize themselves in large cities, and groups of travel friends that make an annual pilgrimage with names like “the Wild Bunch”, the Bubbly Bares”, and the BareAss Buccaneers”. It’s really about community and the need for like and open-minded people to congregate. Hedonism is not about orgies on every flat surface of the place. We did see some relaxed, but loving, open sexual play going on a few times between partners. It wasn’t offensive, and was limited exclusively to the nude hot tub. You had to look for it, and if you think it’s about getting all the sex you want there then you are likely mistaken.

We think the magic of Hedonism can best be defined by Serena, the nude pool bartender at Hedo lll, who said “It’s not craziness. Hedo is just about people being who they really are.” And having grown-up fun (which includes, but isn’t limited to a flirty sexuality) and relaxing in a place where nobody judges you- provided you offer the same in return. This means you can use your ball cap to comb your hair, dance naked, play the game that shows off the tattoo closest to your pubic region, pretend you are a Roman Emperor on toga night, or just honeymoon away from it all floating in the warm Caribbean Sea on a raft. It’s different from the elegant but over-dressed crowd at other resorts (fashonista’s at breakfast) Hedonism overall is much more down to earth and friendly.

There are two large resorts, the 27 year old Hedo ll in Negril (we were there during their anniversary week the end of October), and the newer, nine year old Hedo lll in Runaway Bay about three hours apart from each other on the coast of Jamaica. They have almost the same amenities, and similar cliental. They both have a 40% return of guests (unheard of loyalty for a resort, so those who love it, love it again and again), but if you have guests returning for over 27 years, they tend to now be in the 45 to 65 age group on average. Don’t get the idea that it’s a place for the over 50 crowd, there were a range of ages (we met five large “girls gone wild” groups of girlfriends in their 20’s having an adventure week together a la Sex in the City), and newly-weds wouldn’t be out of place. A majority (80%) of the guests are couples, unless they are in organized travel of girl groups, and the wandering single guy syndrome was something we simply didn’t see. And despite the perfect people shown in the brochure, (don’t go expecting to see nothing but gorgeous supermodels rubbing suntan lotion all over each other) the majority were ordinary looking people dressed in 45 sunblock and a smile. Hedo lll as a rule skews younger, but there was a couple in their 70’s who we met there as well. You can go online to www.hedonism.com and see what groups or activities are happening the week you’re thinking of attending, and register to start talking to other guests in advance of your arrival. We met people that greeted each other like long lost friends when they met after chatting a few times online. It allows you to recognize people, and gives you an opening to start conversations and have friends to have dinner with from the get go.

Kevin Levee, the General Manager of Hedonism lll calls Hedo a “facilitator”. “The Hedonism resorts open a door to play if you want it. Or simply lets you have an outgoing and interesting all inclusive vacation, on one of Jamaica’s great beaches if you just want to hang” he says.

Don’t let the stories scare you off. Both Hedo ll, and lll (there never was a Hedo l) are clothing optional – not nude. There is a place for all stages of undress at Hedonism. There are two definite areas at Hedo ll, one for the clothed (which is far, far larger than the nude section), and there is an invisible line in front of the dive shack that will have the smiling security guard handing you a towel if you cross naked. The nude pool and hot tub are discreetly tucked away at the far back corner of the resort. At Hedo lll there is the clothed and naked side, and there has also evolved a “confused” (not nude or prude) area they call the quad with its own gorgeous swimming pool. It’s open to clothed, topless, or nude, (wear or don’t wear whatever you want), and the two groups mingle easily. It offers a safe alternative for nudists who don’t want to see any open sex. The one thing I know about people who like to get naked in public is that they are a friendly bunch. They tend to be a more tolerant and open minded, with a philosophy of “we are all the same under our clothes”.

Kevin goes onto say (in his sexy Jamaican accent), “when you lose your clothes you lose your “isms”, and it’s just about people talking together.”

Jamaica has stereotypical tropical weather. Cloudless sunshine all morning, and heavy showers for an hour during nap time mid afternoon. And you need your nap. Unlike most comparable resorts, Hedo offers terrific nighttime entertainment right on the property. A large entertainment staff and the available nightlife were two of the things that brought most of the first timers we met to try out Hedonism. The music was well worth taking in. The Jamaican culture of music and dance was prevalent from the singing “eggman” at breakfast to a couple of the best dance bands we’ve ever heard play anywhere. We would have gladly paid separately to see the rockin’ Commitments-type band, or the exceptional reggae group whose style was tight, infectious and great to dance to. Hedonism also provided a strong house band during dinner and before the 70’s style disco (complete with age-appropriate music) got going. Or guests had the option to make their way to the notorious Hedo piano bars. The piano bar is half sing-a-long, half variety act, and all with mandatory audience participation, where the host changes the words of songs to be hysterically naughty. Late night has everyone congregating in the hot tubs, or doing a kamikaze waterslide that shoots you like a bullet through the disco. The hot tub bars stay open until the last patron stumbles their way to bed, often at 6 am. Each night is theme night where a good portion of the patrons dressed up in costumes that included a “pimp and ho night”, a pj’s and lingerie evening, a swashbuckling pirate themed night, and the infamous toga party where the staff leaves you a extra sheet on your bed so that the whole resort is wrapped up in billowing while cloth.

Beyond a raucous nightlife, consistently hot weather, and an all-inclusive price (tipping is disallowed, so we spent less than $40 extra for airport gratuities only), Hedonism is set on a spectacular coastline. Turquoise water that stays shallow for a good distance, offers world-class snorkeling right off the beach. We saw hundreds of multi-colored fish, rays, beautiful fan coral, and even an octopus within sight of the resort. Sailing, sea kayaking, separate reef snorkeling and scuba boat trips are offered daily. We walked thigh-high through the water as the sun was going down, and had to watch out not to step on the fish floating above the sandy bottom.

It should be noted that Hedonism isn’t five star rooms and impeccable venue. As one house inspector from Calgary said, “they have 100% humidity, salt water, and off-the-scale UV rays. The only way they could keep up with the peeling paint would be to close the resort down and paint for a month every year.” The resorts were clean, the rooms pleasant with the usual accessories, but abject luxury isn’t how we would describe it. This is a place you go to watch the picture perfect sunsets, hang on the beach, dance the night away, chat with exceptional people, and roar with laughter at the friendly stories. Most people just use their rooms to sleep in. The two complaints we heard expressed were about a shortage of beach towels, and the occasional presence of “working girls” (although we didn’t see any) who snuck in on a purchased night pass with other locals or guests at different resorts to see the nightly entertainment. They are escorted off property, and banned if caught “selling their wares”, but are a fact of life in a country with disparaging incomes.

There are a few package-included on-site restaurants which take reservations in the morning, and three beach grills that offer typical beach fare (most notably amazing jerk chicken and pork, a Jamaican specialty). We ate everyday at the beach for lunch as it was that good, especially at Hedo lll, where the jerk festival was just finishing as we arrived, and their reggae restaurant had spectacular (but hot!) jerk meats. Otherwise, a large buffet was provided for guests that did offer a decent variety of food. Having made changes in the kitchen over the last year, guests commented that the food was much improved from the previous year.

One of the things we heard again and again when we asked why people returned to Hedonism (the place is littered with colored rocks with the names of couples and their dates visited) was the quality of the people – both staff and guests. We can’t say enough about the great staff, who went out of their way to say “ya mon” the Jamaican hello, every time you walked by. Everyone from Robert, the 25 year old maintenance guy to the General Managers were approachable and smiling. It was infectious to the guests, and without fail the people we spoke to stated the thing they liked best about Hedonism was the interesting and kind people that frequent the resort. Think of an amazingly friendly staff, with big hearts and a great spirit about them, and the kind of like-minded guests that morph into friends you stay in touch with long after the holiday is over. It really is that kind of place and we loved it and can’t wait to add our own painted rock as soon as possible.

Hedonism offers “booze cruise” boat rides a few times a week that you pay separately for, and go out for a three hour cruise. Their Saturday trip is a nude excursion that takes you to the snorkeling spots, let’s you splash down the attached slide, and shows you the magnificent Jamaican coastline. We heard a story about a recent nude trip that set sail out of the Hedo ll dock’s on the afternoon before the swashbuckling theme party. The participants brought along their pirate hats and plastic cutlasses on board as part of the festive theme during the cruise, and pirate lingo flowed. When a boat from a neighboring resort anchored close by to gawk at the naked revelers, and as the rum punch took hold, a group of naked Hedo men got into the spirit of things. They swam over and boarded the other boat (fake sword clutched in their teeth and pirate hats askew), and demanded “their beer or their women”. Stealing a few cans of Miller beer, they swam triumphantly back to the nude boat with their bounty to roaring laughter and leaving behind a stunned plundered vessel. That in essence, is a classic Hedonism experience. Being outrageous but fun, hanging with other silly new friends, and playing the part of a naked pirate on the Caribbean Sea . And where else can a group of middle aged people dress up and behave like pirates in the safest and most accepting of ways?

The 10 Quick Steps to Reaching a G-Spot Orgasm as described on the Sexapalooza stage.

Check the Sex with Sue Blog!

Sue reviews the top sexy vacation hotspots!

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Review of Desire Resort- Rivera Maya Mexico (Cancun) – more naked vacations

Review of Desire Rivera Maya

By Sue “Sex with Sue” McGarvie and Blaik Spratt, Clinical Sex Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, authors of The Ethical Hedonist

www.sexwithsue.com

As sex and relationship therapists we’re on a mission to seek out the most romantic, the most sexually charged, and the most unique erotic vacations for adult couples who we describe as “Ethical Hedonists”. Tough job, staying away from all those calorie- rich pina coladas and preventing sunburn on your naked parts, but it’s a mission we take seriously. No hurricanes this year to worry about, but if there are hardships to lying naked at a five star, all inclusive resort in the Caribbean , we just can’t think of them at the moment. As part of our nude and romance havens worldwide tour, we have just returned from a week this fall at the upscale Desire Rivera Maya resort 40 minutes outside Cancun Mexico . All in the name of science of course, (grin) our interest was to determine where on the sexual continuum of Ethical Hedonism, the couples staying at Desire found themselves.

Described as an “elegant and exclusive, clothing-optional, couples-only resort” Desire is an adult-only, 114 room, secluded resort somewhat off the beaten path. It’s situated between acres of mangrove swamps – take the “beware of crocodile signs”seriously – (we had five, 2 meter crocs swim towards us a few feet from the edge of the road outside the resort when we got out of the car) along with an interesting array of jungle birds and animals including a baby coatimundi (wild jungle raccoons that are social, curious and let you pet them on your way to dinner). The resort is located on the wayward side of the road, and is situated on a strip of Mexico ’s typically breathtaking Caribbean beaches, complete with white sands and warm, turquoise water. The beach includes 40 canopied beach beds (complete with drink-providing waitresses and cabana boys) situated along the edge of the water. These beds are the ultimate in decadence beach relaxation. Apparently couples frolicking romantically on the beach beds were a common sight in the past. Desire Rivera Maya had previously been sequestered from any other resorts, but as development has hit this area of the coast (with a new resort a little down the beach) the sexual adventure has had to be curtailed by the security guards asking you to take the sex inside your rooms, or upstairs to the hot tub. A few couples grumbled about the “evil bed police”, stopping their “from Here to Eternity” wave crashing. It deterred those who really enjoyed rolling in the surf and had loved the freedom to be intimate in the Sea, but overall the tone on the beach tended to be more romantic than sexual.

Desire Resorts claim it is for couples over 25, but the average age of couples we observed would probably be in their mid 40’s. We met one couple who were a remarkably active and well preserved 80, (if only we could all be at a nude resort at 80), most of the couples had been together for ten years or longer and were what we call the “empty nesters gone wild” group, or anniversary couples looking for something different. According to the staff (which has some variation depending on the time of year), guests were 20% Mexican/Latin, 20% European, 20% Canadian, and 40% American in nationality, all in varying stages of undress. Clothing optional, as opposed to nude means that bathing suits are seen, but the majority of the couples were either nude or topless throughout the day. They had typical resort games such as water polo and beach volleyball taking place, (nude volleyball is always an interesting eyeful) along with far more sexual ones such as the chocolate eating contest (where two couples compete to see who can drizzle and eat the most chocolate and whipped cream off their partners). Nobody was pressured to participate. The tone was entertaining and playful during the day, rather than sexual, and the evening theme was more erotic, rather than smacking of blatant sex. There is no “getting jumped in the lobby” fear that some people perceive happens at lifestyle friendly resorts. The activity staff was relaxed, but enthusiastic and did their best to be inclusive of everyone interested in participating, and respectful of those who wanted to read quietly, or simply lounge on the beach.

The large elevated hot tub (which is off limits to management and only manned by a bartender and one cleaning staff for the mountain of towels being used) gets going about 4 pm, and is the place to socialize until couples start getting ready for dinner at 7. The hot tub is surrounded by a bar and six beds (all in view of the hot tub) which are either draped or open depending on the level of exhibitionist tendencies of the couple in question. A few couples were seen playing on the beds, (mostly with their own partners, but with some group massages going on). However for the most part, people were simply flirty and friendly in and around the hot tub, and exceptionally respectful of couples who were only into each other. Provided you don’t stare, it’s quite acceptable to watch. And everyone is understandably curious, and wanted to see if the participants are having longer, or more interesting sex than they are. It can get wilder depending on the flavor of groups staying any particular week, but the concern that one young man had before coming to Desire of “being afraid to leave his wife alone while he went to the bathroom for fear she would be mauled” was completely unfounded. A couple of people approached us asking if we were lifestylers, but like most lifestyle aficionados we’ve ever met, they graciously understood the etiquette and body language of disinterest.

Three dinner restaurants (an Asian, a fine dining, and buffet style) had enough of a quality and variety to keep everyone happy, although we found the sameness of the breakfast and lunch buffets had us craving for anything beyond the typical beach food by the end of the week. This is not the place to go if you are trying to manage your weight – and we struggled to find things that weren’t deep fried, or carb loaded (although yummy). The service was outstanding. There is something about Mexican waiters that let them show their appreciation of you, without ever being schwarmy. The dress for dinner was sexy and elegant, and a second change into erotic costumes or lingerie was common for the late evening entertainment and disco, so paying attention to the days themes before you arrive meant you were up for prizes, and admired by the other guests. Disco themes include “pimp and ho night”, Latin fever, costume and mask night, and sexy pj’s, and participants were encouraged to do a strip tease or “show off” to determine who won the t-shirt for the most enthusiastic performance. A couples- only playroom off of the dance floor was popular for about an hour a night (after 11pm), and was the only other condoned, sex-friendly zone in the resort. However it took us two days to find the door leading into it, and with no windows, any active play certainly wasn’t in your face.

The highlight for us were the evening shows before the disco got shaking which were brought in activities including a classic rock band, body painting, lingerie fashion show, casino night (with an auction for Desire merchandise) and where you could find the entire cast of resort guests lounging on chairs, mingling, or just cuddling romantically after dinner on cabana chairs built for two. The late night hot tub action (we were leaving upstairs a few nights at 2 am and the action was just beginning), didn’t get going until very late, and there were a few groups who found beach beds after 3 am to continue the revelry. We marveled at their stamina.

Desire’s concept is certainly upscale, and anyone who tried the couple “Desire” massage (which included very sensuous touching, and a guided “happy ending” in a private room) raved about it. Desire seems to oscillate between the decadent “indulge yourself” mantra of “what goes on in Mexico”… while emphasizing their spa-like features of relaxation and health. To their credit, they had very little of the time-share, or excursion aggressive sales pitches that seem to be the bane of other resorts we’ve visited.

Occupancy at Desire is one of the highest in the Caribbean , with Rivera Maya being close to 80-100% filled from mid October until April. Martin Good, the charming General Manager said that they had purchased the vacant land next door, and were building another 40 units to deal with the occupancy levels, as you will struggle to get in any week during high season. He went on to say “about 40% of Desires guests were repeaters (we met one couple who had been nine times already), and that people seemed to really enjoy the concept”. Desire has no “spring break” feel to it, and with that kind of occupancy, and high end entertainment, the room rates are a bit dear. Rates vary during the high season range from $250 to $540 US a night per person, with bottles of wine, massages, and specialty foods like lobster being extra. This is not discount travel, and within an eight days time span, 90% of the guests turn over.

But it is one of the only places that tolerate what we call “upscale sexual encounters done with taste”. The clientele are affluent, professional, open minded, and have the time and money to explore the boundaries of their relationship. Like with all nude resorts we’ve encountered, the minute you take clothes off, the barriers to meeting people come down. You make friends easily, and most people are happy to tell you about themselves. There is a “no camera policy” and discretion is expected. In interviewing as many couples as possible, Desire vacationers seem to fall largely into one of three categories. They were the “honeymooning type” – couples who were into each other and their relationship, enjoyed a sexually charged environment, but stayed away from the hot tub, disco, and simply re-connected monogamously. They may or may not be nude through their stay. The next third were what we call “exploratory lifestylers or nudists”. These were the couples that were open to “something happening” if it felt right (although many weren’t sure what that something might be), liked trying relaxed nudity, and may participate in a gentle, and somewhat innocent group massage. This group were committed to their own relationships but usually went home without seeing any kind of action as they were just testing the waters. The final third were the swingers, or lifestylers who were social, and interested in meeting and hooking up with like minded people, along with the group we called “indiscriminate lifestylers”, for whom this was about how many partners they could try on their week away. This group was friendly, but were really only interested in meeting other lifestylers.

On the whole Desire really is what you make it. Elegant, upscale, quietly naked and romantic, or with late night happenings, disco dancing, and hut tubbing along with 50 new friends and sexual adventures under the stars. We heard absolutely no complaints, about the resort, rooms, food, or service, and Original Resorts who run Desire Rivera Maya and their Los Cabos location have really found their niche. Anything the resort could control, they managed very well. We really can’t rave about the service more. It is very similar to Desire Los Cabos, in theme and layout (although Los Cabos in our opinion is the nicer, newer resort), however the type of guests seemed to differ at the west coast Desire Los Cabos. They get more of their visitors from California, (think Hollywood clothes, and way, way more silicone), and on the whole weren’t as laid back and relaxed as the “let it all hang out” group we met at Rivera Maya.

The clientele changes by the week, but as a whole, this is the sexy honeymoon most of wish we had, and can still have. It is worthy of its reputation, and a “must-try” on the bucket list of any adventuring Ethical Hedonist.

Creative marriage proposals at Couples Swept Away Resort, Negril, Jamaica

 By Sue McGarvie, and Blaik Spratt, Relationship Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Hosts, Authors of The Ethical Hedonist  radioshrink@rogers.com

 When you picture the most romantic place on earth to propose where do you think of? The Eiffel Tower? Moonlight in Venice? We had heard of some typically quaint but corny marriage proposals that include the videotron at hockey games, or the overdone, “ring-on-the-rose-stem” proposal. As die hard romantics who regularly speak at the bridal shows, we are always interested in smart proposal stories.  On a recent trip to Couples Swept Away in Negril, Jamaica we saw a succinct, but elegant proposal that combined a warm, windswept Caribbean evening, with a new way to ask for your sweetie’s hand in marriage. For guys, the goal is a memorable, yet idiot-proof proposal that allows her to be                                  moved to tears in private. 

Imagine a perfect evening on vacation away from the stresses of life, where you surprise the object of your affection with a private dinner on the beach. Serenaded by saxophone leading two piece band, you have a five course meal served by an unobtrusive waiter. The smell of hibiscus is in the air. As the fruit and dessert plate gets presented, you lift up the cover and carved in the melon centerpiece are the words “Will you marry me?” Creative, unique, and you don’t have to do anything beyond a quick email and a credit card number in setting it up.   

Couples Swept Away is a spectacular all-inclusive resort in the middle of Negril’s famous 7 mile beach, and one of the four Couples resorts in Jamaica. They are all adult only resorts, and are known for their emphasis on magical, romantic vacations. Couples is a mixture of wellness and decadence set on one of the best beaches in all the Caribbean. Complete with the requisite white sand, turquoise water, hot weather and starry nights. 

There is a top notch athletic facility and spa, along with juice and veggy bars for couples wanting to take care of themselves on vacation. Tennis, swimming, squash, water sports, yoga, aerobics, a serious weight-training gym, and healthy snacks strategically placed in case you need to keep your blood sugar up, Couples Swept Away had the most complete fitness and wellness component of any high end adult resort we’ve ever been to. 

The resort as a whole is safe, and open minded. The beach is well patrolled, and very clean. The three other Couples locations all have private nude beaches on property- or in the case of the Couples resorts in Ocho Rios – a completely nude island. Couples Swept Away doesn’t have a nude section, but the Negril beach has been known since the 60’s for tolerance to being topless, so smooching with your sweetie under a beach hut would only be looked at with an indulgent smile by the hotel. 

The facilities are truly elegant, beautifully maintained, and what is noticeable about this resort is the serious attention to detail. The ownership is local, and on site, and it shows. From the elegant staff clothing designs, to the unique lobby furnishing – it is evident that the staff and management are paying attention to the little things we often see missing in other resorts.  The turned down beds, along with Jamaican expressions printed on small cards on the pillow at bedtime we a lovely touch. A full size compliment of liquors in the in-room bar, flowers in the room, a wrap around porch, and special toiletries are a few examples of extras that are of course, all inclusive. A number of the rooms don’t have a television (in keeping with the romantic “get away from it all” theme), but will leave you a selection of reading material and music to help you connect. And with a strict no-tipping policy, you don’t have to worry about money anytime during your vacation.   

Having been to a number of resorts in Jamaica, and being used to the happy, smiling people – Jamaicans are some of the most musical and lyrical people on the planet – we met a number at Couples Swept Away that stood out from anything we had seen anywhere. The employees we absolutely delightful to meet.  We conversed with a range of staff from the crossing guard to the receptionist to the general manager at Couples Swept Away. All of them genuinely seemed to feel that “they worked for the best  resort in all of Jamaica.” The staff were empowered to make guests happy, and were rewarded for solving a problem with a guest- even if it took them away from their regular duties.  The piano bar is famous, and interactive and becomes the place “where everyone quickly learns your name.”   

 The Couples resort seems to have two major mandates. One is to emphasize romance in all forms, and they work hard to convince you to fall in love, propose, get married, honeymoon and spend your anniversaries there. They take romance seriously. Their goal is to make you feel all that schmushy, lovey, eye-gazing stuff that lovers rarely get a chance to experience between the kids, laundry, and work deadlines. Think rose petals on the beds, chocolate fountains, and spectacular sunsets. Couples is an outstanding place to have one of those simple, yet special beach weddings that save you the thousands of dollars in feeding extended relatives when you get married conventionally at home. So if you are planning on eloping down south to get hitched on the beach, give Couples Swept Away a serious look. Couples Swept Away is also appropriate for anyone else who might come down and share in the nuptials (we met grandparents and crazy brothers-in laws in the wedding party who all seemed happy with the resort). A good mix of decorum for extended family, but not too sleepy or staid if you are hoping for some hopping night life. It isn’t party central like a few of the Negril resorts, but it is five minutes from the infamous Rick’s Café (home of the legendary cliff divers) which is rated as one of the top 10 bars in the world, and always has colorful night life. With a full time department dedicated to weddings, and a large property, we witnessed a number of bridal parties at different times during our stay. 

The other goal at Couples is to turn every visitor into a repeat guest. They consistently rank second (behind Hedonism) for the highest recidivism (return) rates in Jamaica. We met people there on this visit who had been to Swept Away over 25 times. As a repeat guest, you get a special shirt, a package of extras at check-in, and an invitation to attend a repeaters dinner with all the staff and management, who make a fuss over you. A separate cocktail party invites the newcomers to a meet and greet, but it is with repeat vacationers, that Couples spends a huge amount of time and attention on.      

We had a few experiences that stood out at Couples Swept Away. Many of the other all -inclusives throughout the Caribbean have a sameness about them, but this one is truly five star. Two fabulous restaurants (one Continental, and the other Thai), had meals that rivaled the best a la carte restaurants in French St. Martin, and was the best meal we had on holiday this year. A martini bar, lots of different beach foods including a health hut, fabulous burgers and Jamaican jerk chicken, and a rum punch (that will have you singing in no time) fleshed out the other food and beverage highlights. However, like elsewhere in Jamaica the music blew us away.  The evening dinner band included a tight reggae quartet from Kingston that you would have happily paid for. Our favorite moment was at an early morning breakfast buffet at their main restaurant. A duo of acoustic guitarist and cello player strummed up popular songs while we ordered at the smoothie bar. Lincoln the guitar player, smiled and nodded while he played with his cello partner. In very  short order most of the restaurant had stopped eating to appreciate the music flowing through these two guys. They were that good. It brought a whole restaurant of people together as we all made eye contact to see if everyone else was as impressed as we were with the live, breakfast music. 

Compared to some of the other adult-only resorts we’ve reviewed Couples Swept Away is tame, but they nail their demographic of couples 25-55 who are looking for a safe, upscale romantic vacation.  With an emphasis on health, the resort has almost a “clean cut” feel to it -the wholesome side of adult-only vacations. Try as we might (and we did look for faults), we really had no complaints with our stay. All the guests we spoke to raved about it, and we were sad to leave.  With a tremendous occupancy rate (Couples Negril, five minutes down the road couldn’t show us a sample room as they were at 100% occupied for the next five weeks) despite difficult economic times.  Couple’s  guests come primarily from the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany and Italy, and were mainly in their 30’s and 40’s. With a 40% return rate, this resort seems almost recession proof, and is a testament to their great service, food, location and facilities. Expect to pay USD $4000 a couple per week (although there are some deals to be had on off weeks online), but everything from catamaran trips and 10 minute beach massages were free. So other than golf (also included) or the full spa services, (the spa was in a beautiful building, and did a brisk business with brides and couples massages) you should have no need to go off property or pay for anything else on your romantic week. Couples Swept Away is the relaxing, romantic, effortless, wonderful Caribbean honeymoon vacation (no matter if you are newly-wed, renewing your vows, or just checking in with eachother.) It  recharges anybody’s relationship.

Temptations/Desire Los Cabos. A great place to feel sexy

Review of Temptations or Desire Los Cabos
How to make friends at a Nude Lifestyle resort

Temptations/Desire Los Cabos

by Sue McGarvie, Clinical sex therapist

It’s not just that we’ve had 17 feet of snow this winter in my part of Canada , that has me wishing I could emigrate to Mexico . I have fallen in love with the lifestyle, and culture of our southern neighbors. The Mexico I experienced, was absolute paradise. Los Cabos Mexico, where I spent a week in March this year, is home to the most charming Latino waiters, almost perfect weather, the world’s yummiest coconut ice cream, and now arguably the best couples resort in the world. Move over Hedonism, the new Desire Resorts has got serious game.

Los Cabos Mexico , which bills itself as a place of guaranteed sunshine, (only six days of rain all of last year), is located on the tip of the Baja, where the sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean . It’s a thousand miles of desert, along Mexico’s west coast, Los Cabos has come into it’s own due to a spectacular coastline and the advent of desalination, and with bevy of fresh water out of the sea that has turned desolate scrub brush into an oasis. This is where the wealthy Californian’s come to vacation (typical real estate prices for a vacation property is over a US million). And at the Desire Resort, it is where the sexually adventurous come to explore the romantic and erotic side to their relationship.

Desire Los Cabos, is similar to Desire Cancun in many ways. An exclusive, couple-only, clothing optional, all inclusive hotel, with a boutique resort feel, with a maximum capacity of 150 rooms. Desire comes with complete privacy and serious security. It’s the honeymoon of decadence and sensuality that you may have always wanted. I find that like with any nude place, the minute you take your clothes off, your inhibitions go as well. That means fellow guests are open, and conversation and friendships start easily all over the resort. However unlike with a typical nude or clothing optional resort, (like the Caliente resorts where PDA’s –public displays of affection- can get you kicked out), there are places where you can be overtly sexual with your (or possibly someone else’s) partner. It is more centrally located than in Cancun, (in the zone tourista, as opposed to Cancun which is way, way off the beaten path). This means there is no nudity on the more public beach, (too bad, as the Desire Cancun beach beds are one of life’s great pleasures). It also means swimming in the ocean is out (the flags read FATAL due to the undertow), but provided you wore a bathing suit, the beach was a delight to walk. With no beach activities, it meant that everyone congregated in the rooftop hot tub, and heated, extra-large, central swimming pool. This central congregation meant it was easier to meet everyone staying in the resort on a first name basis.

This also meant you had less of the “gilded cage” feel, as you could easily walk to shopping, restaurants and leave the resort if you needed a change of scenery. So if you are social, and a perfect holiday is having everyone know your name and making friends, the west coast Desire may be a better fit for you, than the isolated, and spread out Cancun Desire. Overall I thought the food was good, (I hugged Antonio, my evening grill chef who made something he specially concocted just for me every night), and I loved the live music played outside between dinner and dance club opening outside on the mezzanine.

They’ve set the lay out well, so that sexual interaction happens only on the secluded hot tub area, or in the playroom in the dance club. Which means that if you choose not to watch the sex going on, (although who’s kidding, everyone is curious to see if their pool buddies are doing anything more interesting than they do), you can completely avoid that section. So with sex only going on in very specific places, you can otherwise treat it like any other first class resort except that a good 60% of the guests are in various stages of undress.

This is the place where you can be nude (or not), overtly sexual with your partner (or not), and meet other couples for friendship or more. Or you can stay to yourself, and honeymoon in an erotic environment. As Sylvia the Guest Services manager said “The experience at Desire is strictly what you make of it”. So Desire can be called sensuously discreet. It’s there if you want it, but sex is done with ease and elegance. I would say that only about 25% of the guests (in my humble estimation) were in the “swinging” or lifestyle play. Some people were direct in their approach that they were looking for an exchange, but most were just having their partner only eroticism. What surprised me was how many “first-timers” there were, who had never even been to a nude beach before. There was a large group of people who booked off Expedia looking for a vacancy, and although seemed surprised at how sexually open the place was, very quickly dropped the laundry and joined in on the semi-clothed frolicking. When in Rome … seemed to be the philosophy, and the comfortable atmosphere relaxed even the most prudish. I watched a Catholic, grade 1 teacher go from cover-ups, to commando, to sex in public with her husband, over a three day period. Desire has a minimum age of 25 posted on their website, and the age ranged from mid to late 20’s, with the bulk of the guests between 30 and 50. Certainly a 60 year old plus couple wouldn’t be out of place, but most of the bodies were better than average, and a majority had been enhanced. The crowd was affluent, well-preserved, and well-groomed, (with more than their share of silicone and botox).

The Los Cabos is less crowded than the always booked Cancun location (114 rooms), but my guess is that it will be as equally difficult to get a room over the next year as word gets out. During the high point of the regular travel season (March break, where every other resort was fully booked), Desire Los Cabos was at only 35% capacity. This isn’t a place you bring your kids, and around family holidays, the Desire resorts are slower. Times that are typically not “family holiday time”, you’ll find the parents have pawned off the kids and are engaging in the sensuous adult play that a trip to Desire offers. As an example, May, a warm month up north is 100% booked at Desire Los Cabos, when there are vacancies everywhere else.

A couple of things you may want to take note of when packing for Desire. With guaranteed sunshine, and predominate nudity, we went through far less clothes than anticipated. Although day time clothing needs can be put into a toiletry bag, most women dressed elegantly for cocktails, dinner and after dinner drinks, and for the disco party, every night is theme night. So my suggestion is bring a big suite case full of erotic costumes to be creatively silly. It is hot and sexually charged at the disco. Themes included Rodeo-cowboy, naughty school yard, pink, red, and black and white nights, jungle, along with emergency (fireman, nurse). Cancun had similar (but different themes), and it was an adult dress up, with a smile. You should also know that Desire has a camera verboten policy, so you won’t end up in someone else’s pictures naked. However, you may need to plan a day trip if you need pictures to take back to the kids because you can’t otherwise take photos.

Despite what a good job Desire is doing running its resort, it wasn’t perfect. The highlight was the staff and service. I can honestly say that I’ve never met a more gracious, more accommodating staff anywhere in the world. They learned your names from the get go, and made a point to make everyone feel special.

The food however, was a bit inconsistent at times. We had the best steak we’ve ever eaten on holidays, as well as the worst steak, only a day apart. I thought there could have been a more rounded out room service menu, and the pool lunch food was repetitive as the only option to eat. They had great bartenders however. I was very surprised as a therapist, (you would think even for strictly liability reasons), there wasn’t condoms in the playroom and hot tub areas. I also wished that the disco should open earlier for those of us who turn into a pumpkin after midnight.

Most significantly, I also felt that there was a real thirst for information on what is the erotic lifestyle, and there was a need for clear, non-judgmental facts about what full swing, lifestyle play, group massage, bisexual swap meant to the new attendees. Having tourists books in each rooms were helpful, but those weren’t the questions it took five margherita’s, and a week of beating around the bush to ask. Everyone it seemed, was looking for information on “how do you spice up your relationship with group play without messing up what you have”, or just “how do you keep it hot after years together?” Desire seems to be marketing to the large middle group that one guest described as “Empty Nesters gone wild”, who are curious, open, but very tentative in trying out any kind of extra marital play. Not the serious swingers who are open to anything and everything, but more than the romance marketed by conventional couples resorts. With a few minor changes (better training of their activity staff, more ice breakers, and delicately written information packages), the Desire resorts will be the premiere location for sensuous couples world-wide. Book your holiday soon, because as they make the final adjustments, they will continue to be sold out year round.

Review of Desire Rivera Maya – more naked vacations


Review of Desire Rivera Maya

By Sue “Sex with Sue” McGarvie and Blaik Spratt, Clinical Sex Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, authors of The Ethical Hedonist
www.sexwithsue.com

As sex and relationship therapists we’re on a mission to seek out the most romantic, the most sexually charged, and the most unique erotic vacations for adult couples who we describe as “Ethical Hedonists”. Tough job, staying away from all those calorie- rich pina coladas and preventing sunburn on your naked parts, but it’s a mission we take seriously. No hurricanes this year to worry about, but if there are hardships to lying naked at a five star, all inclusive resort in the Caribbean , we just can’t think of them at the moment. As part of our nude and romance havens worldwide tour, we have just returned from a week this fall at the upscale Desire Rivera Maya resort 40 minutes outside Cancun Mexico . All in the name of science of course, (grin) our interest was to determine where on the sexual continuum of Ethical Hedonism, the couples staying at Desire found themselves.

Described as an “elegant and exclusive, clothing-optional, couples-only resort” Desire is an adult-only, 114 room, secluded resort somewhat off the beaten path. It’s situated between acres of mangrove swamps – take the “beware of crocodile signs”seriously – (we had five, 2 meter crocs swim towards us a few feet from the edge of the road outside the resort when we got out of the car) along with an interesting array of jungle birds and animals including a baby coatimundi (wild jungle raccoons that are social, curious and let you pet them on your way to dinner). The resort is located on the wayward side of the road, and is situated on a strip of Mexico ’s typically breathtaking Caribbean beaches, complete with white sands and warm, turquoise water. The beach includes 40 canopied beach beds (complete with drink-providing waitresses and cabana boys) situated along the edge of the water. These beds are the ultimate in decadence beach relaxation. Apparently couples frolicking romantically on the beach beds were a common sight in the past. Desire Rivera Maya had previously been sequestered from any other resorts, but as development has hit this area of the coast (with a new resort a little down the beach) the sexual adventure has had to be curtailed by the security guards asking you to take the sex inside your rooms, or upstairs to the hot tub. A few couples grumbled about the “evil bed police”, stopping their “from Here to Eternity” wave crashing. It deterred those who really enjoyed rolling in the surf and had loved the freedom to be intimate in the Sea, but overall the tone on the beach tended to be more romantic than sexual.

Desire Resorts claim it is for couples over 25, but the average age of couples we observed would probably be in their mid 40’s. We met one couple who were a remarkably active and well preserved 80, (if only we could all be at a nude resort at 80), most of the couples had been together for ten years or longer and were what we call the “empty nesters gone wild” group, or anniversary couples looking for something different. According to the staff (which has some variation depending on the time of year), guests were 20% Mexican/Latin, 20% European, 20% Canadian, and 40% American in nationality, all in varying stages of undress. Clothing optional, as opposed to nude means that bathing suits are seen, but the majority of the couples were either nude or topless throughout the day. They had typical resort games such as water polo and beach volleyball taking place, (nude volleyball is always an interesting eyeful) along with far more sexual ones such as the chocolate eating contest (where two couples compete to see who can drizzle and eat the most chocolate and whipped cream off their partners). Nobody was pressured to participate. The tone was entertaining and playful during the day, rather than sexual, and the evening theme was more erotic, rather than smacking of blatant sex. There is no “getting jumped in the lobby” fear that some people perceive happens at lifestyle friendly resorts. The activity staff was relaxed, but enthusiastic and did their best to be inclusive of everyone interested in participating, and respectful of those who wanted to read quietly, or simply lounge on the beach.

The large elevated hot tub (which is off limits to management and only manned by a bartender and one cleaning staff for the mountain of towels being used) gets going about 4 pm, and is the place to socialize until couples start getting ready for dinner at 7. The hot tub is surrounded by a bar and six beds (all in view of the hot tub) which are either draped or open depending on the level of exhibitionist tendencies of the couple in question. A few couples were seen playing on the beds, (mostly with their own partners, but with some group massages going on). However for the most part, people were simply flirty and friendly in and around the hot tub, and exceptionally respectful of couples who were only into each other. Provided you don’t stare, it’s quite acceptable to watch. And everyone is understandably curious, and wanted to see if the participants are having longer, or more interesting sex than they are. It can get wilder depending on the flavor of groups staying any particular week, but the concern that one young man had before coming to Desire of “being afraid to leave his wife alone while he went to the bathroom for fear she would be mauled” was completely unfounded. A couple of people approached us asking if we were lifestylers, but like most lifestyle aficionados we’ve ever met, they graciously understood the etiquette and body language of disinterest.

Three dinner restaurants (an Asian, a fine dining, and buffet style) had enough of a quality and variety to keep everyone happy, although we found the sameness of the breakfast and lunch buffets had us craving for anything beyond the typical beach food by the end of the week. This is not the place to go if you are trying to manage your weight – and we struggled to find things that weren’t deep fried, or carb loaded (although yummy). The service was outstanding. There is something about Mexican waiters that let them show their appreciation of you, without ever being schwarmy. The dress for dinner was sexy and elegant, and a second change into erotic costumes or lingerie was common for the late evening entertainment and disco, so paying attention to the days themes before you arrive meant you were up for prizes, and admired by the other guests. Disco themes include “pimp and ho night”, Latin fever, costume and mask night, and sexy pj’s, and participants were encouraged to do a strip tease or “show off” to determine who won the t-shirt for the most enthusiastic performance. A couples- only playroom off of the dance floor was popular for about an hour a night (after 11pm), and was the only other condoned, sex-friendly zone in the resort. However it took us two days to find the door leading into it, and with no windows, any active play certainly wasn’t in your face.

The highlight for us were the evening shows before the disco got shaking which were brought in activities including a classic rock band, body painting, lingerie fashion show, casino night (with an auction for Desire merchandise) and where you could find the entire cast of resort guests lounging on chairs, mingling, or just cuddling romantically after dinner on cabana chairs built for two. The late night hot tub action (we were leaving upstairs a few nights at 2 am and the action was just beginning), didn’t get going until very late, and there were a few groups who found beach beds after 3 am to continue the revelry. We marveled at their stamina.

Desire’s concept is certainly upscale, and anyone who tried the couple “Desire” massage (which included very sensuous touching, and a guided “happy ending” in a private room) raved about it. Desire seems to oscillate between the decadent “indulge yourself” mantra of “what goes on in Mexico”… while emphasizing their spa-like features of relaxation and health. To their credit, they had very little of the time-share, or excursion aggressive sales pitches that seem to be the bane of other resorts we’ve visited.

Occupancy at Desire is one of the highest in the Caribbean , with Rivera Maya being close to 80-100% filled from mid October until April. Martin Good, the charming General Manager said that they had purchased the vacant land next door, and were building another 40 units to deal with the occupancy levels, as you will struggle to get in any week during high season. He went on to say “about 40% of Desires guests were repeaters (we met one couple who had been nine times already), and that people seemed to really enjoy the concept”. Desire has no “spring break” feel to it, and with that kind of occupancy, and high end entertainment, the room rates are a bit dear. Rates vary during the high season range from $250 to $540 US a night per person, with bottles of wine, massages, and specialty foods like lobster being extra. This is not discount travel, and within an eight days time span, 90% of the guests turn over.

But it is one of the only places that tolerate what we call “upscale sexual encounters done with taste”. The clientele are affluent, professional, open minded, and have the time and money to explore the boundaries of their relationship. Like with all nude resorts we’ve encountered, the minute you take clothes off, the barriers to meeting people come down. You make friends easily, and most people are happy to tell you about themselves. There is a “no camera policy” and discretion is expected. In interviewing as many couples as possible, Desire vacationers seem to fall largely into one of three categories. They were the “honeymooning type” – couples who were into each other and their relationship, enjoyed a sexually charged environment, but stayed away from the hot tub, disco, and simply re-connected monogamously. They may or may not be nude through their stay. The next third were what we call “exploratory lifestylers or nudists”. These were the couples that were open to “something happening” if it felt right (although many weren’t sure what that something might be), liked trying relaxed nudity, and may participate in a gentle, and somewhat innocent group massage. This group were committed to their own relationships but usually went home without seeing any kind of action as they were just testing the waters. The final third were the swingers, or lifestylers who were social, and interested in meeting and hooking up with like minded people, along with the group we called “indiscriminate lifestylers”, for whom this was about how many partners they could try on their week away. This group was friendly, but were really only interested in meeting other lifestylers.

On the whole Desire really is what you make it. Elegant, upscale, quietly naked and romantic, or with late night happenings, disco dancing, and hut tubbing along with 50 new friends and sexual adventures under the stars. We heard absolutely no complaints, about the resort, rooms, food, or service, and Original Resorts who run Desire Rivera Maya and their Los Cabos location have really found their niche. Anything the resort could control, they managed very well. We really can’t rave about the service more. It is very similar to Desire Los Cabos, in theme and layout (although Los Cabos in our opinion is the nicer, newer resort), however the type of guests seemed to differ at the west coast Desire Los Cabos. They get more of their visitors from California, (think Hollywood clothes, and way, way more silicone), and on the whole weren’t as laid back and relaxed as the “let it all hang out” group we met at Rivera Maya.

The clientele changes by the week, but as a whole, this is the sexy honeymoon most of wish we had, and can still have. It is worthy of its reputation, and a “must-try” on the bucket list of any adventuring Ethical Hedonist.

Sue reviews the top sexy vacation hotspots!

Naked Vacations
Sue reviews the top sexy vacation hotspots!

Review of Desire Los Cabos
How to make friends at a Nude Lifestyle resort
Desire Los Cabos
by Sue McGarvie, Clinical sex therapist

Review of Desire Riviera Maya – More Naked Vacations
Desire Rivera Maya
By Sue “Sex with Sue” McGarvie and Blaik Spratt, Clinical Sex Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, authors of The Ethical Hedonist
www.sexwithsue.com

Review of Hedonism 2 and 3 – The pioneer is still going strong
Hedonism ll and Hedonism lll A reviewBy Sue McGarvie, and Blaik Spratt
Clinical Relationship Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, and Authors of The Ethical Hedonist…

Creative marriage proposals at Couples Swept Away Resort, Negril , Jamaica

Creative marriage proposals at Couples Swept Away Resort, Negril, Jamaica

By Sue McGarvie, and Blaik Spratt, Relationship Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Hosts, Authors of The Ethical Hedonist radioshrink@rogers.com

When you picture the most romantic place on earth to propose where do you think of? The Eiffel Tower? Moonlight in Venice? We had heard of some typically quaint but corny marriage proposals that include the videotron at hockey games, or the overdone, “ring-on-the-rose-stem” proposal. As die hard romantics who regularly speak at the bridal shows, we are always interested in smart proposal stories. On a recent trip to Couples Swept Away in Negril, Jamaica we saw a succinct, but elegant proposal that combined a warm, windswept Caribbean evening, with a new way to ask for your sweetie’s hand in marriage. For guys, the goal is a memorable, yet idiot-proof proposal that allows her to be moved to tears in private.

Imagine a perfect evening on vacation away from the stresses of life, where you surprise the object of your affection with a private dinner on the beach. Serenaded by saxophone leading two piece band, you have a five course meal served by an unobtrusive waiter. The smell of hibiscus is in the air. As the fruit and dessert plate gets presented, you lift up the cover and carved in the melon centerpiece are the words “Will you marry me?” Creative, unique, and you don’t have to do anything beyond a quick email and a credit card number in setting it up.

Couples Swept Away is a spectacular all-inclusive resort in the middle of Negril’s famous 7 mile beach, and one of the four Couples resorts in Jamaica. They are all adult only resorts, and are known for their emphasis on magical, romantic vacations. Couples is a mixture of wellness and decadence set on one of the best beaches in all the Caribbean. Complete with the requisite white sand, turquoise water, hot weather and starry nights.

There is a top notch athletic facility and spa, along with juice and veggy bars for couples wanting to take care of themselves on vacation. Tennis, swimming, squash, water sports, yoga, aerobics, a serious weight-training gym, and healthy snacks strategically placed in case you need to keep your blood sugar up, Couples Swept Away had the most complete fitness and wellness component of any high end adult resort we’ve ever been to.

The resort as a whole is safe, and open minded. The beach is well patrolled, and very clean. The three other Couples locations all have private nude beaches on property- or in the case of the Couples resorts in Ocho Rios – a completely nude island. Couples Swept Away doesn’t have a nude section, but the Negril beach has been known since the 60’s for tolerance to being topless, so smooching with your sweetie under a beach hut would only be looked at with an indulgent smile by the hotel.

The facilities are truly elegant, beautifully maintained, and what is noticeable about this resort is the serious attention to detail. The ownership is local, and on site, and it shows. From the elegant staff clothing designs, to the unique lobby furnishing – it is evident that the staff and management are paying attention to the little things we often see missing in other resorts. The turned down beds, along with Jamaican expressions printed on small cards on the pillow at bedtime we a lovely touch. A full size compliment of liquors in the in-room bar, flowers in the room, a wrap around porch, and special toiletries are a few examples of extras that are of course, all inclusive. A number of the rooms don’t have a television (in keeping with the romantic “get away from it all” theme), but will leave you a selection of reading material and music to help you connect. And with a strict no-tipping policy, you don’t have to worry about money anytime during your vacation.

Having been to a number of resorts in Jamaica, and being used to the happy, smiling people – Jamaicans are some of the most musical and lyrical people on the planet – we met a number at Couples Swept Away that stood out from anything we had seen anywhere. The employees we absolutely delightful to meet. We conversed with a range of staff from the crossing guard to the receptionist to the general manager at Couples Swept Away. All of them genuinely seemed to feel that “they worked for the best resort in all of Jamaica.” The staff were empowered to make guests happy, and were rewarded for solving a problem with a guest- even if it took them away from their regular duties. The piano bar is famous, and interactive and becomes the place “where everyone quickly learns your name.”

The Couples resort seems to have two major mandates. One is to emphasize romance in all forms, and they work hard to convince you to fall in love, propose, get married, honeymoon and spend your anniversaries there. They take romance seriously. Their goal is to make you feel all that schmushy, lovey, eye-gazing stuff that lovers rarely get a chance to experience between the kids, laundry, and work deadlines. Think rose petals on the beds, chocolate fountains, and spectacular sunsets. Couples is an outstanding place to have one of those simple, yet special beach weddings that save you the thousands of dollars in feeding extended relatives when you get married conventionally at home. So if you are planning on eloping down south to get hitched on the beach, give Couples Swept Away a serious look. Couples Swept Away is also appropriate for anyone else who might come down and share in the nuptials (we met grandparents and crazy brothers-in laws in the wedding party who all seemed happy with the resort). A good mix of decorum for extended family, but not too sleepy or staid if you are hoping for some hopping night life. It isn’t party central like a few of the Negril resorts, but it is five minutes from the infamous Rick’s Café (home of the legendary cliff divers) which is rated as one of the top 10 bars in the world, and always has colorful night life. With a full time department dedicated to weddings, and a large property, we witnessed a number of bridal parties at different times during our stay.

The other goal at Couples is to turn every visitor into a repeat guest. They consistently rank second (behind Hedonism) for the highest recidivism (return) rates in Jamaica. We met people there on this visit who had been to Swept Away over 25 times. As a repeat guest, you get a special shirt, a package of extras at check-in, and an invitation to attend a repeaters dinner with all the staff and management, who make a fuss over you. A separate cocktail party invites the newcomers to a meet and greet, but it is with repeat vacationers, that Couples spends a huge amount of time and attention on.

We had a few experiences that stood out at Couples Swept Away. Many of the other all -inclusives throughout the Caribbean have a sameness about them, but this one is truly five star. Two fabulous restaurants (one Continental, and the other Thai), had meals that rivaled the best a la carte restaurants in French St. Martin, and was the best meal we had on holiday this year. A martini bar, lots of different beach foods including a health hut, fabulous burgers and Jamaican jerk chicken, and a rum punch (that will have you singing in no time) fleshed out the other food and beverage highlights. However, like elsewhere in Jamaica the music blew us away. The evening dinner band included a tight reggae quartet from Kingston that you would have happily paid for. Our favorite moment was at an early morning breakfast buffet at their main restaurant. A duo of acoustic guitarist and cello player strummed up popular songs while we ordered at the smoothie bar. Lincoln the guitar player, smiled and nodded while he played with his cello partner. In very short order most of the restaurant had stopped eating to appreciate the music flowing through these two guys. They were that good. It brought a whole restaurant of people together as we all made eye contact to see if everyone else was as impressed as we were with the live, breakfast music.

Compared to some of the other adult-only resorts we’ve reviewed Couples Swept Away is tame, but they nail their demographic of couples 25-55 who are looking for a safe, upscale romantic vacation. With an emphasis on health, the resort has almost a “clean cut” feel to it -the wholesome side of adult-only vacations. Try as we might (and we did look for faults), we really had no complaints with our stay. All the guests we spoke to raved about it, and we were sad to leave. With a tremendous occupancy rate (Couples Negril, five minutes down the road couldn’t show us a sample room as they were at 100% occupied for the next five weeks) despite difficult economic times. Couple’s guests come primarily from the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany and Italy, and were mainly in their 30’s and 40’s. With a 40% return rate, this resort seems almost recession proof, and is a testament to their great service, food, location and facilities. Expect to pay USD $4000 a couple per week (although there are some deals to be had on off weeks online), but everything from catamaran trips and 10 minute beach massages were free. So other than golf (also included) or the full spa services, (the spa was in a beautiful building, and did a brisk business with brides and couples massages) you should have no need to go off property or pay for anything else on your romantic week. Couples Swept Away is the relaxing, romantic, effortless, wonderful Caribbean honeymoon vacation (no matter if you are newly-wed, renewing your vows, or just checking in with eachother.) It recharges anybody’s relationship.

How to make friends at a Nude Lifestyle resort, Desire Los Cabos

It’s not just that we’ve had 17 feet of snow this winter in my part of Canada , that has me wishing I could emigrate to Mexico . I have fallen in love with the lifestyle, and culture of our southern neighbors. The Mexico I experienced, was absolute paradise. Los Cabos Mexico, where I spent a week in March this year, is home to the most charming Latino waiters, almost perfect weather, the world’s yummiest coconut ice cream, and now arguably the best couples resort in the world. Move over Hedonism, the new Desire Resorts has got serious game.

Los Cabos Mexico , which bills itself as a place of guaranteed sunshine, (only six days of rain all of last year), is located on the tip of the Baja, where the sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean . It’s a thousand miles of desert, along Mexico’s west coast, Los Cabos has come into it’s own due to a spectacular coastline and the advent of desalination, and with bevy of fresh water out of the sea that has turned desolate scrub brush into an oasis. This is where the wealthy Californian’s come to vacation (typical real estate prices for a vacation property is over a US million). And at the Desire Resort, it is where the sexually adventurous come to explore the romantic and erotic side to their relationship.

Desire Los Cabos, is similar to Desire Cancun in many ways. An exclusive, couple-only, clothing optional, all inclusive hotel, with a boutique resort feel, with a maximum capacity of 150 rooms. Desire comes with complete privacy and serious security. It’s the honeymoon of decadence and sensuality that you may have always wanted. I find that like with any nude place, the minute you take your clothes off, your inhibitions go as well. That means fellow guests are open, and conversation and friendships start easily all over the resort. However unlike with a typical nude or clothing optional resort, (like the Caliente resorts where PDA’s –public displays of affection- can get you kicked out), there are places where you can be overtly sexual with your (or possibly someone else’s) partner. It is more centrally located than in Cancun, (in the zone tourista, as opposed to Cancun which is way, way off the beaten path). This means there is no nudity on the more public beach, (too bad, as the Desire Cancun beach beds are one of life’s great pleasures). It also means swimming in the ocean is out (the flags read FATAL due to the undertow), but provided you wore a bathing suit, the beach was a delight to walk. With no beach activities, it meant that everyone congregated in the rooftop hot tub, and heated, extra-large, central swimming pool. This central congregation meant it was easier to meet everyone staying in the resort on a first name basis.

This also meant you had less of the “gilded cage” feel, as you could easily walk to shopping, restaurants and leave the resort if you needed a change of scenery. So if you are social, and a perfect holiday is having everyone know your name and making friends, the west coast Desire may be a better fit for you, than the isolated, and spread out Cancun Desire. Overall I thought the food was good, (I hugged Antonio, my evening grill chef who made something he specially concocted just for me every night), and I loved the live music played outside between dinner and dance club opening outside on the mezzanine.

They’ve set the lay out well, so that sexual interaction happens only on the secluded hot tub area, or in the playroom in the dance club. Which means that if you choose not to watch the sex going on, (although who’s kidding, everyone is curious to see if their pool buddies are doing anything more interesting than they do), you can completely avoid that section. So with sex only going on in very specific places, you can otherwise treat it like any other first class resort except that a good 60% of the guests are in various stages of undress.

This is the place where you can be nude (or not), overtly sexual with your partner (or not), and meet other couples for friendship or more. Or you can stay to yourself, and honeymoon in an erotic environment. As Sylvia the Guest Services manager said “The experience at Desire is strictly what you make of it”. So Desire can be called sensuously discreet. It’s there if you want it, but sex is done with ease and elegance. I would say that only about 25% of the guests (in my humble estimation) were in the “swinging” or lifestyle play. Some people were direct in their approach that they were looking for an exchange, but most were just having their partner only eroticism. What surprised me was how many “first-timers” there were, who had never even been to a nude beach before. There was a large group of people who booked off Expedia looking for a vacancy, and although seemed surprised at how sexually open the place was, very quickly dropped the laundry and joined in on the semi-clothed frolicking. When in Rome … seemed to be the philosophy, and the comfortable atmosphere relaxed even the most prudish. I watched a Catholic, grade 1 teacher go from cover-ups, to commando, to sex in public with her husband, over a three day period. Desire has a minimum age of 25 posted on their website, and the age ranged from mid to late 20’s, with the bulk of the guests between 30 and 50. Certainly a 60 year old plus couple wouldn’t be out of place, but most of the bodies were better than average, and a majority had been enhanced. The crowd was affluent, well-preserved, and well-groomed, (with more than their share of silicone and botox).

The Los Cabos is less crowded than the always booked Cancun location (114 rooms), but my guess is that it will be as equally difficult to get a room over the next year as word gets out. During the high point of the regular travel season (March break, where every other resort was fully booked), Desire Los Cabos was at only 35% capacity. This isn’t a place you bring your kids, and around family holidays, the Desire resorts are slower. Times that are typically not “family holiday time”, you’ll find the parents have pawned off the kids and are engaging in the sensuous adult play that a trip to Desire offers. As an example, May, a warm month up north is 100% booked at Desire Los Cabos, when there are vacancies everywhere else.

A couple of things you may want to take note of when packing for Desire. With guaranteed sunshine, and predominate nudity, we went through far less clothes than anticipated. Although day time clothing needs can be put into a toiletry bag, most women dressed elegantly for cocktails, dinner and after dinner drinks, and for the disco party, every night is theme night. So my suggestion is bring a big suite case full of erotic costumes to be creatively silly. It is hot and sexually charged at the disco. Themes included Rodeo-cowboy, naughty school yard, pink, red, and black and white nights, jungle, along with emergency (fireman, nurse). Cancun had similar (but different themes), and it was an adult dress up, with a smile. You should also know that Desire has a camera verboten policy, so you won’t end up in someone else’s pictures naked. However, you may need to plan a day trip if you need pictures to take back to the kids because you can’t otherwise take photos.

Despite what a good job Desire is doing running its resort, it wasn’t perfect. The highlight was the staff and service. I can honestly say that I’ve never met a more gracious, more accommodating staff anywhere in the world. They learned your names from the get go, and made a point to make everyone feel special.

The food however, was a bit inconsistent at times. We had the best steak we’ve ever eaten on holidays, as well as the worst steak, only a day apart. I thought there could have been a more rounded out room service menu, and the pool lunch food was repetitive as the only option to eat. They had great bartenders however. I was very surprised as a therapist, (you would think even for strictly liability reasons), there wasn’t condoms in the playroom and hot tub areas. I also wished that the disco should open earlier for those of us who turn into a pumpkin after midnight.

Most significantly, I also felt that there was a real thirst for information on what is the erotic lifestyle, and there was a need for clear, non-judgmental facts about what full swing, lifestyle play, group massage, bisexual swap meant to the new attendees. Having tourists books in each rooms were helpful, but those weren’t the questions it took five margherita’s, and a week of beating around the bush to ask. Everyone it seemed, was looking for information on “how do you spice up your relationship with group play without messing up what you have”, or just “how do you keep it hot after years together?” Desire seems to be marketing to the large middle group that one guest described as “Empty Nesters gone wild”, who are curious, open, but very tentative in trying out any kind of extra marital play. Not the serious swingers who are open to anything and everything, but more than the romance marketed by conventional couples resorts. With a few minor changes (better training of their activity staff, more ice breakers, and delicately written information packages), the Desire resorts will be the premiere location for sensuous couples world-wide. Book your holiday soon, because as they make the final adjustments, they will continue to be sold out year round.

Picture credits:
www.desireloscabos.com, www.desirecancun.com

The new temptations of Los Cabos


It rained in Los Cabos while we were there early in 2009. We mention this because while rain is not so unusual elsewhere, however in the desert of Los Cabos Mexico, on the end of the Baja peninsula (with a 1000 more miles of desert to the north) it only rains less than 10 days a year. Everyone apologized for the one afternoon of bad weather, and even at 23 degrees Celsius, we saw local Mexicans bundled up in parkas as we walked down the beach in our bathing suits. The cacti bloomed, plants sprouted, hummingbirds flew, and the staff scurried to take the mattresses inside. Otherwise, you can expect bright, blue skies, along with amazing sunsets and sunrises guaranteed. You need to slather on the sunscreen – the UV rays aren’t to be taken lightly), and expect low to mid 20’s during the winter day (70’s Fahrenheit) and a few degrees cooler and windier at night. The spring, summer and fall temperatures, and brilliant sunny days only go up from there. Los Cabos is an upscale “ Palm Springs type Mexico” destination (as opposed to Cancun, or “Disney Mexico” where the other Temptations resort is located). Los Cabos is where the wealthy and sexy go to play, and the lowest priced real estate advertised is only a mere million USD for a bachelor condo. Temptations Los Cabos is in keeping with this elegant, fashionable holiday with both luxury and playtimes as part of their vision for this particular resort.

Having been huge fans of the Los Cabos Desire resort before it morphed into a Desire Lite” or the new Temptations Los Cabos, (which happened in February of 2009), we weren’t sure how the changes were going to effect this unique resort concept. Desire Resort is a couples-only, clothing-optional, public sexuality accepting, exclusive adult play vacation destination, and runs close to 100% occupancy in their expanding Cancun location. Desire has been Hedonism’s main competitor, only more up-market and without the single men hovering around. Desire, where you can be nude all day (nudity is accepted everywhere but in the restaurants) has changed to Temptations (at the Los Cabos location only) in response to a new behemoth of a hotel being built next door. We watched the construction workers take their breaks gawking at the naked women sunbathing or frolicking in the hot tub just before the Temptations take over. Most of the hot tub participants mooned and waived (we were afraid more than one of the workers might fall off the upper levels of the construction project when one 30 year old beauty did naked yoga). So in order to guarantee the privacy of their nude guests from leering patrons with telescopic cameras, Desire has become Temptations and has toned the nudity and sexuality way down. Compared to Temptations Cancun (read our review), Los Cabos is expected to be a much more up-market saucy escape as opposed to the “anything goes” aspect of Desire. Maybe it should be re-branded as something other than Temptations (Indulge? Sinful?) as this resort will take on a life of its own – a little bit of the original Temptations, a little bit of the previous Desire and become something new entirely. The plan for Temptation Los Cabos is to keep as much of the sensuality of Desire- without the overt sexual play. In Temptations Cancun, (we were there late in the fall of 2008), guests were primarily singles and some couples, primarily under 30. A little older than the typical Spring Break crowd, but singles in their 20’s ruled the pools in Cancun, and were bused out nightly to the hopping clubs on the Cancun strip. It felt like party central for the recently graduated college crowd. Temptations Los Cabos is insisting that it will be almost exclusively couples (with maybe small groups of single women). Desire had a minimum age of 25 posted on their website, and the age before the February 2009 change over to Temptations started from late 20’s, with the bulk of the guests between 30 and 50. Certainly a 60 year old plus couple wouldn’t have been out of place. Most of the bodies were better than average, and a large proportion had been surgically enhanced. The crowd was affluent, well-preserved, and well-groomed. The new crowd at Temptations will probably settle as more of an early 30’s crowd, primarily from the west coast of Canada and the United States It will be interesting if the 30% Latin visitors increase with the new change over from Desire to Temptations.

The hotel bas made an effort to keep the couples only aspect by having only one king size bed available in all of their rooms. This means that you won’t get the hoards of single men that flock to Temptations Cancun as they fill up a quad room (four single beds to a room and all-night drinking parties). Single men certainly change the dynamic of a resort, and have kept many couples from trying Hedonism for the first time. Single women may share a king size bed, but the single men in attendance would need to pay alone for the double occupancy. According to Silvia McNamara the Guest Services Manager, the other aspect in Los Cabos that doesn’t happen at Temptations Cancun is that they are covering the Jacuzzi lounge, (huge, swim up bar and hot tub) and keeping it clothing optional. Temptations Cancun has a few whirlpools alongside their pools (and the same temperature as the swimming water). Original resorts – the ownership group of Temptations and Desire are trying hard to keep their market share in the adult only resort destination. For guests lamenting the loss of the Desire concept in Los Cabos, management has made a deal with the neighboring hotel to clear out any potential gawkers for four weeks this year, and six weeks next year to have Desire “let’s get nude again” take over weeks at the lowest occupancy times during the year. These weeks are your chance to re-kindle friendships and be naked in guaranteed great weather once more.

So what’s changed now that it’s Temptations instead of Desire? The Desire “voyeuristic beds are gone” (where you could watch all the sex going on, or indulge in all your exhibitionist fantasies), and are to be replaced with more privately screened “cocoons” lounges beside the hot tub. The Jacuzzi is still open to 3 am with a private bartender, and is even more hidden. Expect it to get more than a little flirty later in the evening, with sexy noises coming from those covered lounges, but the relaxed open, sex that happened daily at Desire will be gone. This is very different from the Cancun Temptations, which has you sign a waiver at check in that will have you tossed out if there are any public displays of sexuality. Even as Desire, the guests were respectful of your privacy and space, with less than 30% in the “swinging” or Lifestyle movement. Most of the couples were just hoping for re-connecting romance from their partner, and the opportunity to pick up the sexual charge from their surrounding environment.

However if even the possibility of hearing sex might offend you, then you don’t ever need to go up top to the hot tub. Around the pool has changed to topless only, and while they still have sexy games the activity staff put on, just anticipate that the overall tone will be slightly subdued from the past. The flirty tequila water volleyball will still happen, dirty darts, and sexual trivia will still be engaged mid afternoons around the pool. The activity staff are fun, and good humored (a little too competitive on the volleyball court playing with out of shape tourists who had been drinking), but for the most part they offered lively and fun games as an alternative to those just wanting to bask in the rays and do nothing more strenuous than sit up to give their drink orders. The themed costume nights are dropped in the disco, (no more jungle or cowboy nights) and the playroom has been dismantled. They are also opening the disco up to locals and other resort guests in Los Cabos to come in for an evening of dance. It will be interesting to see if there are any takers in making the disco more vibrant due to outside influence and if there are any curiosity seekers willing to visit from outside the resort. Our big complaint about the resort is how late it is before the evening activities begin. With the hot tub opening at 3 pm, most of the guests make their way up for “happy hour” from 4 to 6 pm (we were pruny, overly heated, and had our fill of the strong drinks within an hour), the hot tub is a great place to socialize, but the pool bar shuts down and everyone doesn’t congregate again until 10 or 10:30 when the karaoke, live entertainment or outside fashion show gets started. Dinner never took longer than an hour, so we ended up back in our rooms after dinner, and most of the time couldn’t re-motivate to go back out after 10 pm. The disco doesn’t get hopping until after midnight, and with such spectacular weather you want to be able to be up with the sun.

The drop in price point from Desire of the posted rate of $300 a night, (there are deals to be had online if you are flexible on your travel weeks) and Temptations is at half of that. This means the menu has been simplified and Temptations is only offering the less costly options of food. Our favorite smoked salmon has been taken off the breakfast menu, and the food went from being good to merely mediocre. The poolside lunch buffet (the only food option during the day) had a daily sameness about it that became very unappetizing after a week. They have also dropped their 24 hour room service menu (now only breakfast is available as room service) although there is food and drink always available somewhere on the premises if you are hungry at 4 am and want to wander the grounds and find it. The resort is incredibly safe not to worry for even late night wanderings- fenced in with a security presence, and they have added extra security given the new night passes available. The nice thing about the location is the easy access to taxis and the town of San Jose del Cabos.

The facilities are beautiful – immaculately maintained and with loads of hot towels available everywhere. The beauty of the desert landscape and sand dunes leading out into the Pacific Ocean is every bit as nice as any resort in Los Cabos. There are no water sports and no swimming in the ocean given the lethal undertow and rip tide present. The swimming condition sign always flies black and there is absolutely no swimming in the ocean in front of the resort. There are public beaches down the road however. A real disadvantage if you like to swim in the coolish ocean – but an advantage if you like to meet people as everyone congregates around the heated swimming pool. This central congregation meant it was easier to meet everyone staying in the resort on a first name basis. The beach is great to walk, safe (provided you don’t venture more than ankle deep in the water), and we enjoyed watching the pelicans and other sea birds diving for fish right off the crashing waves. We watched whales breeching a little further offshore. Temptations is a small boutique hotel (150 rooms), and looks especially tiny compared to the mammoth Hilton’s and Riu hotels that grace the hotel strip in the twin cities of Cabos San Lucas and San Jose del Cabos where Temptations is located.

There is talk that Original Resorts (a small, four resort, family owned business, based in Mexico) is on the prowl for the prefect location for another Desire location. We can only hope. Now with only one Desire resort, there is a huge market for choice in the sexually charged adult resort business. The occupancy in Los Cabos is expected to increase given the lower price point, and it is still one of the few adult-only vacation options, and one of the few marketing sensuality. The challenge for Los Cabos Temptations in getting their guests numbers up in comparison to Cancun’s location is that Los Cabos can be difficult to get to. With daily flights running only from Dallas/Forth Worth, Phoenix and Los Angeles, the entire mid-west, and northern US and Canadian markets are largely inconvenienced to get to this desert paradise. We took an Air Canada Vacations flight from Toronto that flew once a week, and was $500 more expensive (and three hours longer) than the daily flights direct to Cancun.

Like any new change there were some bugs to be worked out. The resort will have a Desire feel for many months as they implement the complete change to Temptations. They had already geared the staff up for the handover with the new menus even during the Desire days in late 2008. By day four of our visit we were tired of the reduced choices on the menu. The dining alone will keep the age of guests down, and the possibility exists of grabbing a cab and taking in one of the restaurants that are no more than 15 minutes away from Temptations downtown location. There is a shopping center right across the street, and although the area is small, it is worth an afternoon bus ride to see the beauty of the buildings and the starkness of the surrounding desert. This also meant you had less of the “gilded cage” feel, as you could easily walk to new scenery (or to visit the local pub to watch a sports game) and leave the resort if you needed a change of scenery.

It will be interesting to watch how Temptations walks the line between flirty and sex and appeals to that huge middle group of 30 plus couples looking for a sensuous – but safe- adventure that spices up their relationship without leaving a bad taste in your mouth. We felt that the Desire concept was great if you had communicated as a couple about your limits, and were looking for a naked paradise with like-minded people for an escape. We thought Temptations Cancun was best suited for the under 30 single crowd. There is much to be said about vacations that don’t have unsupervised children splashing and spoiling an afternoon at the poolside. Maybe Temptations Los Cabos will be the half way point and be a better choice in adult only vacation than a Sandals or Breezes resort because it offers a sensuality to an open-minded culture looking to be (if only ever-so slightly) naughty.

An Earth Day (er …well Earth week) review of romance travel and adventure

www.sexwithsue.com, www.azulik.com

St martin and tulum 2010 053
Eco Mexico- Earth Day article

By Sue McGarvie and Blaik Spratt, Clinical Relationship Therapists, Travel Journalists

Mexico in the past hasn’t been known for its recycling programs or environmental concerns. Recently that has been changing in a big way. Eco tourism, while not a new concept has really begun to take off.

As the planet celebrates Earth Day we went looking for examples of Green Mexico during a recent eco-minded trip to Tulum. Known as the “eco coast”, Tulum is home to a few large resorts and many small, six to 20 room boutique hotels. It is an area of authentic Mexican feel, lots more wilderness, and a bohemian, Jimmy Buffet laid back lifestyle.  Many of the Tulum resorts have an emphasis on being green. Driven by the close proximity to the Mayan reservation and the indigenous “spirit led” Mayan Shamans, there is a movement afoot to respect the land. Tulum is in the heart of Mayan (or native Mexican) country.

This part of the Yucatan is home to beatnik travelers, authentic Mexican music and amazingly fresh and healthy food. The Eco Tulum is a chain of resorts made up by three villa hotels Azulik, Copal, and Zahra. The concept is to provide huts on the beach, and blend in as closely as possible with the natural environment. In fact, the whole resort fits into the landscape better than anyplace we’ve ever visited. There are no lights, no outlets (so leave your hair dryer at home), and a generator powers a ceiling fan during the day. The rest of the time you are feeling a bit like you are in an episode of Gilligan’s Island. If you are looking for an accessible, convenient, well groomed hotel- this isn’t it. Eco Tulum is the opposite of a “big box resort” and we heard again and again how much guests were looking to stay anywhere but at one of the typical all inclusives. Each hut was unique, the pathways were made of sand and the stairways to climb into the hut were not for anyone with a disability. Some of the stairs were downright scary, but they had muted lighting at night, and the area had a very safe feel. The rooms were beautiful, clean, entirely made of wood (including a huge bathtub made out of a hollowed log) and offered a beach that would rival anywhere in the world.

There are iguanas on your deck, and gekkos in your room. The pelicans, ospreys and other large sea faring birds cast shadows over the patio canopy beds all day. We were woken up by spider monkeys on the thatch roof along with the nocturnal Kinkajou (a monkey-like mammal). Dolphins are known to swim up and down the coast, and crocodiles are common in the neighbouring mangrove swamps.

Eco Tulum has now introduced a recycling program and had separate recycling boxes out for batteries. And you needed to bring batteries. The downside of rooms with no power is that you had to set up your candles in advance of going for dinner otherwise you returned to pioneer-like blackness. It is a way to get in touch with your circadian rhythm (we were in bed by 9 pm and up with the sun). We found the candle light too dim to read by, and would strongly recommend packing flashlights or head lamps for walking. The wind blows constantly from the sea, and the waves ranged from gentle to spectacular during the week long visit. With Tulum’s wild coastline, it would be an astounding place to be in a mild storm.

One of the most notable things about a movement to more eco understanding in the Yucatan is the appreciation of the native Mayan peoples. The eco Tulum resorts and it’s adjoining Mayan Spa had both a Shaman and holistic healer on staff. They use only organic products, and many of the treatments are done with natural plants picked from the spa garden just minutes before treatments. They are known throughout the area for their traditional Mayan Temascal. A Temascal is a native sweat lodge that has been used for both healing and ritual purposes in Mexico for thousands of years. Throughout the Temascal, the Shaman used different herbs in conjunction with red-hot stones, misting, chanting and singing to cleanse the body and spirit. It is an interesting two hour (or longer) process that is to leave you feeling re-born.


The municipality of Tulum has been putting in bike paths to encourage this form of transportation. Biking really is the way to get around eco Tulum. They have them for rent inexpensively all over. You can tour the Tulum ruins, or head off to discover one of the 3,000 cenotes (fresh water sinkholes) in the area. Think of a limestone lagoon that opens up into underwater caves as part of the underground water table.
They are all different, and the one we visited was like a small, deep lake filled with fish. It reminded us of swimming in a fish tank.  We were able to snorkel, and see the entrance to the underwater caves that are so popular with divers.

In keeping with the eco-theme of this trip, we opted to go on the highly recommended Sian Ka’an community tour. This tour absolutely made our trip. Sian Ka’an is a protected natural reserve of 630,000 hectares that crosses traditional Mayan land and is now a UNESCO heritage site as well as a wildlife reserve. Sian Ka’an Community Tours is an international success story. Many Mayan’s had been living in “reservation-like” communities in the jungle without a source of income. Many Mayans didn’t speak Spanish (only their local Mayan dialect), and despite vast knowledge of the jungle and various biospheres, they were just eeking out an existence. With the aid of a couple of non-profit NGO’s (including Equator Initiatives) that help indigenous peoples with sustainable development, the Mayan community near the Sian Ka’an reserve got together and started a business giving tours. They did intensive training in English, and business management. All of the money from this low cost tour ($99 per person including lunch, snacks, park fees, and transportation) stayed locally. It was a great education and we left feeling like we contributed to the local community.

Our seven hour tour included a guided hike through secluded jungle ruins. It followed with an adventure into an underground Mayan passageway built in 300 BC (where we got up close and personal with some fruit bats). We then went into the jungle on the Mayan reservation where we tasted edible roots, smelled copal bark, and burned dead termite mounds as a bug repellent. We climbed a 17 meter tower to observe all eight biospheres in the park before jumping into boats to re-enact a 1000 year old trade route crossing across two crystal clear lakes. After lunch we did a river float along a natural passageway through the grass savannah. We floated peacefully four kilometers an hour for a few kilometers at the edge of the mangrove trees- nursery to millions of baby fish. During our section of the river we saw vultures, a variety of multi-coloured song birds, and countless tropical fish. We ended the day with a snorkeling trip to a nearby cenote with an opportunity to hand feed schools of fish.

The final piece to our eco holiday came in a unexpected place as we made our way back up the coast to Cancun. We made a point to stay overnight at the El Dorado Royale resort in the Mayan Riviera to see their organic greenhouses. The El Dorado is one of those huge all inclusives and is changing the way produce is grown in Mexico. They currently produce over 1.5 tons of fresh vegetables a day. They supply all of their El Dorado and Azul chain of hotels, sell vegetables and herbs at reduced cost to employees and are now able to sell more to other neighbouring hotels. Besides the awe inspiring volume of food produced in the automated greenhouses, what is cool is that the growing medium is crushed up coconut shells and beach sand. The agronomist on staff is using abundant natural products to produce tomatoes the size of grapefruit along with a plenary of other herbs and vegetables.

Our eco holiday was affordable, personal, and left us feeling healthy (actually down a pound or two given the exercise and fresh foods). It was also a feel good story as we left Mexico feeling we had connected to the people, culture and land that is Tulum.

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