Hedonism II in Jamaica shows no mercy to those who are susceptible to being slothful. Located in Negril, this all inclusive sports resort for adult singles and couples (guests must be over 16 years of age) defies you to be a deadbeat. With its own racquetball, squash, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, horseback riding, endless water sports and acrobatic trapeze (circus-size, by the way!), Hedonism II is sort of like a sophisticated summer camp by the sea.
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.
'You can only get so much sun,' says Danny Hyman, a police officer from Suffern, New York. 'This place has a nice mix of sports and social activities.' Julie Barker, a UCLA student who has traveled all over Europe by backpack, adds, 'This is traveling without traveling. Everything is here at the resort.'
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.
This fall season brings even more challenges to Hedonism II--September is Pro Sports Month. Featuring waterskiing, windsurfing, squash, tennis and bodybuilding, sports pros like former national windsurfing champion Jayne Fenner and former World Professional Bodybuilding Champion Bev Francis offer teaching clinics and exhibitions. 'We came up with the idea of having a pro sports clinic when we were thinking of a way to boost occupancy,' says Alex Thomson, public relations manager. 'We wanted to get away from our image of being strictly a singles resort. This was a fun way of accomplishing our goal.'
Hedonism II also has a sporting way of serving its three daily meals--buffet-style in an open-air dining room. Due to the growing number of non-red-meat-eating travelers, Jamaican and Continental-style pasta, chicken and seafood are plentiful at each sitting. Lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and cheeses are also available if you are in a create-your-own state of mind. Ackee (a local fruit) and saltfish (an island specialty) are served together during breakfast several times throughout the week.
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.
Adventure awaits guests off the property as well. Just down the road from Hedonism II is Rick's Cafe, a popular location for sunset sightseeing. Set on a cliff, Rick's is better known for its impromptu entertainment. Tourists with enough nerve, dive, leap and plunge off 30-foot cliffs into the breathtaking Atlantic below.
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.
The most lively aspect of Hedonism II is its natural charm. Sudden tropical storms often provide entertaining light shows on the horizon while the nocturnal land crabs, which roam freely about the property, keep you captivated during evening strolls.
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'.