We had a wonderful opportunity to visit Book Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort, in Puerto Morelos last week. From the short (25 minute) professionally handled commute (from Cancun airport) to the opening greetings by all the staff of “welcome home” we knew we were in for something special. Pearl is a small hotel but opulent. It has the wow factor. Its goal is to be the most exclusive couples resort in the Caribbean. In that it succeeds, at least in our experience.

The staff are superbly trained to be attentive yet give you the space you wish. Some guests wish to very interactive, some are looking for a holiday of solitude and reconnection. It is a hotel that pledges to encourage you to be whomever you wish to be. From the very sexy and flirty to the simply elegant and private. There are only 88 rooms, with 12 of them being elaborate suites, and the hotel boasts 240 staff. The room are very comfortable, well appointed and large. The grounds are immaculate and eco-sensitive. There are multiple restaurants serving a variety of meals. The resort has 5-star amenities throughout.

What differentiates Pearl from other resorts is the emphasis on couples. (Singles are not allowed reservations). Pearl attracts a very loyal clientele that wish to be sensuous. Nudity around the pool is common but very relaxed during the daytime. Restaurant dress code at this time of day is simple and casual. In fact, with the very active and engaged animation and bar staff, the resort resembles top end fun destinations throughout the Caribbean from sun up until about 4pm. However, after 4 the focus transfers to more adult interests. The large hot tub comes alive with a laughter filled happy hour (the swim up bar staff are fantastic). Couples still have quiet space if desired but most are actively engaged in conversation. While there are no clothes to be seen in the hot tub, dress is very elegant for dinner and many couples have complete costumes for the nightly theme dances that include nautical, western, and neon nights.

Dinner is very elegant if you choose the Pearl restaurant. You may also choose a very cozy gastro bar for tapas or a larger common dining room. No matter where you go, the clothing is eye popping. You end up knowing the names of the serving staff as the level of service and interaction is so high. The word we use to describe the staff best is charming. You simply want to get to know them better.

There are some deals to be had if you pick off-season or follow the website and watch for specials. Otherwise the rack rate is very high. This is not a resort for the budget conscious. There are enticing extras such as the spa services. Or you can order special meals including one that is served on the beach where somehow you end up having a sizzling romantic encounter at the end of it – on the beach bed. Use your imagination. In fact, the hotel specializes in creating fantasy encounters. They have a senior staff member dedicated to bringing them to life. (Kind of like a wedding planner, but just for those fantasies you always wished would happen, but you had no clue where to start). Everything is done amazingly well, but make sure you are prepared for the bill when you check out.

Desire sells the feeling. The feeling of attention to detail and that you are important. You also feel very safe in the resort. In fact, if you stay on the resort for your entire trip, we don’t have any reservations about saying that safety should not be a concern at all when selecting Pearl as a holiday destination. This area of Mexico is well patrolled and very tourist focused. There is a safe in each room and guards on duty everywhere. If you wander the grounds at night, the only sounds you hear coming from the bushes are small local animals, the most predominant being little raccoons. The resort also sells the feeling of community. Everybody wants to belong to a group and you quickly feel like the other guests are your people.

If you prefer to focus on your partner and just be silly, the Saturday afternoon foam party in the pool is not to be missed. Jello shots are distributed during the swim and it is an opportunity to watch a hundred adults turn into children again. Or you can find a quiet pool side bed and focus on your partner in other ways…..so many choices.

Like any destination, there are downsides. The hot tub can be overwhelming for a first timer just dipping a toe into nudism or lifestyle activities. Expect to be approached by folks who may be fueled by liquid courage and who may not display appropriate decorum. Also expect to see sexual activities front and center. (On the flip side, if you are trying to decide between Desire Pearl and Desire Riviera Maya, the people we interviewed were unanimous in stating Pearl was the quieter and less aggressive of the two resorts).

We would also recommend sandals with good tread. We found the tile and polished concrete around the pool area to be slippery after heavy rainfalls. The staff works extraordinarily hard in keeping the water off these surfaces but just be aware.

Pearl sells plans of pre-paid nights. We were very surprised with the number of guests who had purchased the plans. To a person, everyone was thrilled. They wanted to be part of something, and generally the story was the same. They had traveled around, tried a bunch of other places and decided Pearl was home. The feeling was if this is where they planned on returning annually (or more often), then it was better to have a discount and some perks. We truly could not find anybody with buyers remorse.

If you are looking for an opportunity to spark up your relationship in a big way, or dip a toe in the world of sensuous and flirty adventures then this is definitely the place. You are immediately surrounded by friends. As the manager told us “Mexico is about people”. Talking with hundreds of guests and staff over a week, at least in this gorgeous slice of the Yucatan, it would be very hard to disagree.

Sue McGarvie & Blaik Spratt


Why the Couples resorts in Jamaica may be the best bang for your buck in nude travel this winter

As Florida home owners we bit our nails the entire week that Hurricane Irma approached the Sunshine State. The good news is that the massive hurricane only did moderate damage to Central Florida and left the Cove without power for a week. And our citrus tree survived the on slot. After leveling much of the Caribbean including wiping out big swatches of Orient Beach, Caliente DR, and the Florida Keys Irma left nudists with less choices this fall and winter. As we sit in November rain and sleet thoughts quickly turn to sunshine and frolicking naked. And no matter how much Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley playing the background it doesn’t replace the real thing. So where is the best bang for your buck if you want to be naked this winter?

We suggest looking to Jamaica.

We once spent a whole month at Hedonism ll in Negril. And went on weekend trips to explore the Couples destinations in and around the island. They were magnificent. The nude sections were small but the resorts more than made up for it with outstanding service and accommodations. Our favorite was Couples Tower Isle, Ocho Rios, Jamaica which has it’s own nude island. The resort has this to say about it’s private island.
” It’s more intimate. We can’t add hours to the day, but we can make every hour count with more of everything you love. From the island’s finest farm-to-table cuisine to heart-pounding recreation to on-island treks to Jamaica’s most renowned attractions. Because giving you more is what our all-inclusive hideaway is all about.”

We think it may be a great place to look at -especially before Christmas. The resort is offering both air and resort credit of up to $500 and given that Jamaica was largely unscathed it will give couples the getaway that’s heavy on the romance but lighter on the pocketbook.

Desire Pearl, Mayan Riviera, Mexico 2017

A tale of two worlds.
Having traveled a good part of the world, and experienced some amazing service, this resort is second to none when it comes to attitude, effort, politeness and making a guest feel special. The food and drink is spectacular (especially if you take the time to listen to your server. Their suggestions and knowledge of each chef’s specials can guide you to mouth watering local treats!)

The hotel is small to medium allowing a very personal feel. The facilities are wonderful. Even the beach which can be stony in the general area is quite passable. You can walk quite a distance feeling safe and you can walk out into the ocean.

The animation staff tries to engage you but recognizes those who wish to remain in their own worlds. However, the serving staff is ever present and this is most appreciated in an all inclusive.

Here comes the other world….DO NOT get sucked into a time share presentation. Run away screaming or make a big scene but no matter what is offered, take a giant pass. If you make the mistake be prepared to face the wrath of the sales team unless you write a big cheque. They get very impolite bordering on nasty. I don’t want to dwell on this as it ruins a wonderful property. Just be forewarned and stay resolute!

Back to the happy aspects. The price is upper end but you can watch for deals. And the hotel is perfect for a 4-night getaway from home. Cancun is easy to get to and relatively inexpensive. You will return home talking about your next visit to Desire. It leaves that kind of impression.

Naked in St. Lucia

Naked in St. Lucia
By Sue McGarvie and Blaik Spratt
Clinical Relationship Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host

As keynote speakers and therapists, we are often asked to suggest shared sensuous activities for couples. We always recommend exploring nudity for the first time. However try explaining to non- nudists about the appeal of being naked. Maybe if you have to explain it to someone, they never will truly understand it. For us, it is the pleasure seeking sensation of wind across your skin, the free feeling of being naked outside, or the complete avoidance of uncomfortable, wet, sandy, bathing suits. Either way finding places where you can be naked outside is one of life’s great quests.

We consider ourselves as much romantic adventurers as we do die hard nudists. We are busy finding new places to explore, and then make it our mission to locate the places where you can “drop the laundry”. So when we had an opportunity to visit St. Lucia, we packed lightly and made a point to source out opportunities to be naked. It may be fun to be surrounded by thousands of other like-minded naturists, but we discovered St. Lucia can allow you to be quietly naked, which has its own appeal.

St. Lucia, like all the Caribbean Islands, has a flavor all its own. St. Lucia is a small, primarily Catholic country of 150,000 friendly, but reserved people, with no advertised nude beaches. According to all the trip advisors we read in anticipation of the trip, nudity is not allowed anywhere on the island, and thus we expected to be clothed for the duration of the vacation. We also read that St. Lucia is a spectacularly beautiful place of waterfalls, rainforests, volcanic hot springs, and amazing scenery. At least the internet postings got that right.

St. Lucia is lush, green, and covered in flowering shrubs and multi-colored hummingbirds – even during the dormant season when we were there. As throughout the southeastern Caribbean, you get warm days and nights in the 28-31 Celsius range almost year round, and can expect small cloud bursts occasionally through the day. St. Lucia has a rich history of pirates, French guillotines, banana plantations and a mix of French and English cultures. Both France and England battled for the island (and each won seven times, with England winning the last bout), and although English is the official language, the locals speak a Creole dialect mix of French and English called patois which was fun to listen to.

Most of St. Lucia is mountainous and covered in jungle. The whole island is only 29 miles long, but you can expect driving the length of it to take over two hours. The roads are switch back and a bit of a roller coaster ride- especially along the west side of the island. Bring your Gravol or other travel-sickness medication if you are driving around the island much. We read one report that suggested that “St. Lucia allows you to get in touch with your calf muscles” which we found to be oh, so true. Almost everything in St. Lucia is uphill or downhill (although it seems more like uphill), and everyone is expected to climb flights of stairs. It’s not a great destination if you are ambulatory challenged.

The capital, Castries in the north is home to 50,000 people, shopping and a number of destination spas and resorts such as Sandals and Almond resorts. Further southward down the western coastline near the town of Soufriere lay the Pitons. The Pitons, are two volcanoes that UNESCO has deemed a world heritage site. We visited three resorts in Soufriere, overlooking the Pitons and the view rivaled anywhere we’ve ever been. What makes the view so magnificent is that resorts in Soufriere are built with only three walls and only a shade canopy to the block the sun where the fourth wall should be. That means open air in all the rooms, dining and common areas. It is a very different concept, and one of the few places in the world that has limited bugs, few mountainous creepy or slithering things, warm weather, is sheltered somewhat from hurricanes and tropical storms and is relatively crime-free and difficult to access along the mountain-side. You can sleep naked while feeling like you are completely outdoors, albeit the bed is covered in mosquito netting. During the day you can move back and forth without wearing a stitch between the luxurious comfort of a five star appointed room, and the outside while enjoying the delights of sun tanning, swimming, and bird watching within your own large, villa-like room. It’s like fantasy camping.

The three Soufriere area resorts we stayed at; Jade Mountain, its sister resort Anse Chastanet, as well as Ladera all had these three walled, open concept rooms, complete with their own large splash pools (about a third of the size of a regular pool). You could watch the stars from your king sized bed, or feed the birds, naked at the edge of the pool. It was absolute bliss to be naked 24/7, in and out of the pool with all the amenities of a hotel room.

Jade Mountain is a one-of –a-kind resort (partnered with the older, but quaint Anse Chastanet). We discovered that Jade Mountain is about beauty, nature, modern art and architecture all blended into jaw dropping scenery. Located on the edge of a marine reserve, the snorkeling and diving is said to be tremendous. With only 29 rooms, and only three years old, Jade Mountain is the uniquely designed specialty resort by Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy. He had been running Anse Chastanet (the less expensive but delightful family resort again with the great open aired rooms for nudist families) for 30 years, before he built the uniquely designed, secluded, adult romance gourmet destination of Jade Mountain.

The quality of the food at Jade Mountain/Anse Chastanet can’t be over emphasized. Jade Mountain boasts an American Academy of Hospitality Sciences five star rating for food and service. Much of the organic produce for both Jade and Anse Chastanet is grown on the owner’s surrounding 600 acre plantation including mangoes, spices, and chocolate used in their so named culinary festivals. We had grilled snapper followed with homemade rum and raisin ice cream for dessert that instantly became a most unforgettable meal. By day two the staff had an understanding of our food and beverage preferences, and was suggesting a favorite tea. With English Butler Academy trained butlers (they call them major-domos) at your service to fulfill any need, the attention to detail was superb. The Guild of English Butlers means that these professional hoteliers can unpack for you, arrange for your favorite foods at preferred tables, acquire hard to find items, and aid in travel arrangements. Given the service, and the privacy allowed in the sanctuaries (as these open-aired rooms are called) you could spend your entire vacation naked if your intention was to just relax and unwind.

Ladera, the other resort we stayed at in Soufriere was voted the #1 hotel in the world in 2005 by Conde Nast readers. Again, they had these great open-aired villa-rooms with splash pools. Their slogan is “a view with a room”. An interesting feature of this hotel was the multiple bedroom villas. Two or three couples could share the villa and enjoy the benefits of communal nudity (while splitting some costs).

Soufriere boasts hot springs and sulfuric mineral springs and waterfalls in the area. It looked just like muddy water, but it is rumored to have healing properties, and was originally built for the troops of King Louis XVI of France. They are relaxing, and offer some privacy for nude bathing if you are discreet.

After lots of relaxation in Soufriere, we headed to the south part of the island for adventure and beach living. We landed at Coconut Bay, the largest resort in St. Lucia at over 300 rooms. We stayed on the adult-only Harmony side that had an outstanding spa with private showers for two, and an acceptance of topless sunbathing. We asked a number of locals about nude beaches, and they all laughed and said that there were a number of private beaches on the east and south coasts of the island available for nude sun tanning. One of the young women who worked at the resort said “she almost never wore a bathing suit when on the beach near her family’s home”. She said “to ask the locals”, they know where to go. Apparently the water taxi drivers have a few secluded places they can take you for a nude day at the water’s edge, but they don’t recommend going alone “as there has been some theft of clothing and money when left unattended”.

St. Lucia is a quieter, more relaxed nude holiday. The island can be more expensive than some of the other Caribbean islands, but it is a classy, cultural, and elegant destination for nudists looking for a new adventure.

Love and Architecture at Jade Mountain

Love and Architecture at Jade Mountain

Jade Mountain is a love story. It’s the blending of the love of St. Lucia’s famed Piton volcanic mountains and one of the most breathtaking views in the Caribbean. It’s the love story of how Nick Troubetzkoy, a Canadian trained architect created his vision for a five star resort and destination spa on the west coast of St. Lucia at Soufriere. It’s also a love story for most of the couples and honeymooners who visit. Jade Mountain is a one-of –a-kind resort. Partnered with its sister resort Anse Chastanet, we discovered that it’s about beauty, nature, modern art, and a blending of architecture into jaw dropping scenery. All this with truly exceptional gourmet food and service, Jade Mountain propels relaxation to the highest level in an adult only resort.

The quality of the food at Jade Mountain can’t be over emphasized. The resort boasts an American Academy of Hospitality Sciences five star rating for food and service. Much of the organic produce is grown on the owner’s surrounding 600 acre plantation including mangoes, spices, and chocolate used in their so named Caribbean culinary festivals. We had homemade rum and raisin ice cream that instantly became a lifetime favorite. By day two the staff had an understanding of our food and beverage preferences, and was suggesting a favorite tea. With English Butler Academy trained butlers (they call them major-domos) at your service to fulfill any need, the attention to detail was superb. The Guild of English Butlers means that these professional hoteliers can unpack for you, arrange for your favorite foods at preferred tables, acquire hard to find items, and aid in travel arrangements. They are available 24/7 with the push of a button on your firefly, a small little cell phone that you are given for the duration of your stay and which contacts the front desk or your butler instantly.

The rooms are called sanctuaries for a reason. They are huge, offering a fantastic view of the two famed Pitons (or mountains). The Pitons are the two volcanoes that UNESCO has deemed a world heritage site, and are bordered with a lush canopy of rainforest. St. Lucia is awash in color, even during the dormant season when we were there. The turquoise of the Sea, the silver of the volcanic sand, a rainbow of flowers, and the most beautiful multi-colored hummingbirds along with the spectacular St. Lucian parrot can best be described as a feast for the eyes.

Most of St. Lucia is mountainous and covered in rainforest. The whole island is only 29 miles long, but you can expect driving the length of it to take over two hours. The roads are switch back and a bit of a roller coaster ride- especially along the east side of the island. Bring your Gravol or other travel-sickness medication if you are driving around the island much. We read one report that suggested that “St. Lucia allows you to get in touch with your calf muscles” which we found to be oh, so true. Almost everything in St. Lucia is uphill or downhill (and it seemed more uphill to us), and everyone is expected to climb flights of stairs. Meals at Jade Mountain meant that we had to climb 10 flights of stairs to get to the dining area, with no elevator option. Fortunately, the food would motivate anyone to climb. If you are mobility challenged, you can request an upper room, but it is a resort on a hill and the lay-out of the resort requires a level of fitness to in order move around easily.

The rooms (or sanctuaries as they are called) are self contained units that come with everything you need to relax (no television, phone or radio). The sanctuary does have its own tranquil infinity pool in the three sided rooms which means you have the best of living both inside and outside for your entire stay. (authors note: The sanctuaries are rectangular with no outside wall. That means open air in all the rooms, dining and common areas. It is a very different concept, and one of the few places in the world that has limited bugs, very few mountainous creepy or slithering things, warm weather, offers reasonable shelter from hurricanes and tropical storms and is relatively crime-free and difficult to access along the mountain-side. Think tropical camping with decadent comfort and push of a button service. The sanctuaries really do have to be seen to be believed.)

The full 29 rooms were occupied during our visit, but the place seemed empty, with everyone living in their villa-like sanctuaries or taking in one of the adventure excursions. With a majority of people able to do anything from sunbath, partake in gourmet room service, swim, and relax completely undisturbed for the entire time while never leaving their rooms, the sanctuaries offer absolute privacy for couples wanting to get away from it all. Jade Mountain really is romance personified. The small touches are well thought out. There was local poetry on the pillow (St. Lucia boasts the highest percentage of Nobel Lauriat’s per capita on the planet) and live guitar music at dinner. The owner’s cocktail party and the sunset cruises added to the ambiance.

As therapists, we’ve long believed that adventure leads to connection within a relationship. Anything that gets your adrenaline pumping together will bond you as a couple. One of the driving reasons to visit Jade Mountain is the duality it offers. At Jade Mountain there is the aforementioned complete tranquility of the sanctuaries, as well as the opportunity to take in couple adventures off the resort. We went zip lining, and during that tour had a quick lesson in the growing of bananas, bay leaves and cinnamon. We checked out the historic town of Soufriere. Other adventure couples took in the whale watching, rum tours, volcano hiking, and ocean kayaking. The honeymooners we spoke to were just happy to be together and uninterrupted. Many were on the joint honeymoon package with a half-and-half stay at Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet (where there was more beach living and marine life). Jade Mountain offers a shuttle service that can take you up and down to the beach that is situated on the edge of a protected marine area. A number of beach bars and restaurants are included on your Jade Mountain meal plan at the beach level Anse Chastanet resort so you only have to make the strenuous hike (or not-so- strenuous short car ride up the hill) once per day.

Jade Mountain is well on its way to becoming a complete destination-spa resort as well. Between a full menu of organic, low fat foods and a holistic health professional spa director with a well-trained staff (including a former US Navy fitness instructor), you can heal the body as well as the mind. And as mentioned, you have easy access to the famed volcanic hot springs and mineral baths which have been espoused to cure everything from arthritis to intestinal disorders. With all this emphasis on health (and all of the stairs to climb), you can avoid the five pounds of holiday bulge from too many umbrella drinks. You actually may return leaner than when you left without feeling like you’ve missed out on amazing food. It will be worth watching Jade Mountain’s evolution into a new level of spa and health centre.

Jade Mountain, while spectacular, is priced outside of normal vacation budgets, and lends itself well to short “get-aways” or long weekends. We travelled lightly and were able to get on and off the island over three days. We met a Miami physician and a New York lawyer who loved how they could arrive easily and leave without once hearing a telephone. It is perfect for intimate honeymooners, or couples wanting to recharge together. Many of the guests fly in via helicopter from the Hewanorra International Airport in the south of the island (which is a seven-minute flight), and land on Jade Mountain’s own private heli-pad.

With all of these amenities, Jade Mountain firmly falls into the highest end romance resort destination as the place to try this year.

Desire Resort, Riviera Maya. Why it shold be on you bucket list.

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

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 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.

Breezes Negril (formerly Grand Lido).

Grand Lido Negril – A review
By Sue McGarvie and Blaik Spratt
Clinical Sex Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, and Authors of The Ethical Hedonist

We’ve both had a few friends who decided to skip the big production and head down south to get married. No seating arrangements to organize, no huge expense of feeding extended relations, and no church ceremony for couples who have rarely darkened a church door. Getting married in a simple ceremony on a beach (whether you elope or drag immediate family down with you) has the advantages of having your honeymoon start immediately, and enjoying the breathtaking view of turquoise water, lush vegetation, and a sunset of pinks and purples that beat any kind of man-made decorations.

Most resorts in the Caribbean offer weddings – usually under a simple trellis overlooking the water. Sometimes they are set apart from the rest of the resort, but we’ve found many are wedged between the jet skis screaming in the background, and beach walkers tromping by. We know because we’ve accidently stumbled by a few beach weddings in the search for interesting seashells. Oops. This trip we saw four beautiful weddings far at a distance, in the wedding cabana at Grand Lido Negril over the time we were there, (and later having run into three of those brides who raved about their ceremonies). Although sold as an upscale Superclub concept, it seemed that Grand Lido is also a perfect venue for elegant and romantic weddings.

Grand Lido is a majestic resort on one end of Negril’s famous seven mile beach of white sand. The resort reminded us of one of those perfectly turned out southern ladies – well appointed, gracious, classic, and understated. Laid back with a traditional style, young couples (and parents, even grand-parents coming for a holiday or attending a wedding) will appreciate the quiet refinement of the grounds, sumptuousness of the food, and sophistication of the other guests.

Given all polish that is Grand Lido Negril, (and classic elegance really are the words we would use to describe it) what’s really interesting about Lido is its slightly flirty feel. Between the oversized drinks, the activity staff that greet you with a wink and a smile, and the fact that half the resort is clothing optional (yup, they have a nude beach), Lido feels decidedly grown up. We met a number of people who had been coming to Grand Lido for decades, loving its mix of relaxation and discernment. Many of them had started on the huge regular beach, and had migrated to taking off their wet, sandy and uncomfortable suits over the years. And as we said before, taking your bathing suit off is the second hardest thing you’ll do on vacation. The hardest thing is putting it back on. The resort didn’t have a sexual feel, just a relaxed openness about it that was nonchalant and accepting. Many had made great friends over the years as clothing optional bars, pools and hot tubs lend themselves well to starting conversations with strangers. Nudity really does lend itself to openness.

Terrific staff was mentioned again and again as the reason guests returned for an annual trek to western Jamaica. Without fail we experienced very friendly, relaxed hospitality, and the staff seemed kind and long serving. And the good service isn’t artificially enticed. Tipping at any of the Superclubs is simply not allowed, and so with the exception of paid catamaran “booze cruises” and European spa service, you don’t spend any money. The spa seemed busy (due to a plenary of weddings), and offered a variety of services at comparable prices.

We had a fantastic meal in the Japanese restaurant – which was fun and inclusive with eight to a table. They were sensitive to food allergies, and the food was varied and plentiful. The service at the French restaurant was great, although we found the food mediocre with some good dishes and some not-so-great ones. We did however enjoy the live piano dinner music that accompanied the food. During the day, we ate jerk chicken at the poolside Jamaican restaurant and it was notably tasty.

Evenings (after dinner in one of the five restaurants), a band played up-tempo reggae dance music. One of things we really loved about Jamaica was the music everywhere. All the Jamaicans moved beautifully (wish we could dance half as well), and even the lowly house bands are head and shoulders above the mediocre music played at resorts anywhere else we’ve travelled. Grand Lido is not really known for it’s nightlife (the resort is usually quiet by 10:30), but it is literally across the road from the notorious Hedonism ll resort, where you can get a night pass to see the shows, piano bar, and dancing if you are looking for more action. Lido is about relaxation, romance and fine dining, and you may be disappointed if you expect a lot more in the way of serious night life. The nights we visited the piano bar there was only guest karaoke (we couldn’t take the Tammy Wynette “Stand by Your Man” cover and left after one song), but found sitting in the hot tub with the cognac and cookies they had left in the rooms a much more typical Lido late night experience.

The thing we need to note about Grand Lido Negil, (besides the nude pool- smile) was the physical location. Lido is set on a spectacular coastline. The turquoise water that stays shallow for a good distance offers world-class snorkeling right off the beach, which can be hard to find at a resort of Lido’s quality. 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 had an easy walk up the beach for a good hour of soft sand and shoreline, which was as romantic a stroll as we’ve had anywhere. Security guards are stationed at the entrance to each resort along the way and we felt completely safe, and were able to walk drink in hand.

There are a few interesting things about Grand Lido Negril that are worth mentioning. A plaque at the bar at the far end of the resort says it is home “far bar” to the band Little Feat (can you say “Be my Dixie Chicken?”) and their fans who are compared to deadheads (legions of the Grateful Dead band) for their dedication to attending hundreds of concerts. The Feats appear at Grand Lido every February and pay homage to the bartenders and hospitality of Lido as well. Grand Lido also used to have a 147-foot M/Y Zein, a luxury power yacht that was originally presented as a wedding gift to Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by Aristotle Onassis that took guests out on sunset cruises. A number of the guests we spoke to remembered it, and said it symbolized the kind of resort it was, and the honeymoon atmosphere of the place. Unfortunately it was sold as the yacht became a bit leaky and tired at the end of her life. But that majestic “Grand old Dame hotel” feel still lingers about the place. And they probably have one of the coolest trees in the middle of the property that we’ve ever seen. It is a 100 plus year old cottonwood tree that is so statuesque, and so magnificent, that it looks like a Disney caricature of what a tree should look like. And it makes a one-of-a-kind place for wedding pictures.

The casual elegance of the place really lends itself to the dress code. A bathing suit, a wrap (that turns into what Blaik calls “his man skirt”), good sun hat, fitness clothes, and a couple of evening dinner outfits, (maybe even less if you don’t go off the nude side during the day) is really all you need. We didn’t see people getting all dolled up for breakfast, and since we travel in Tilley adventure clothes (the most amazing clothes that let you wash them wearing them in the shower), they took up from excursions, to dancing, and travel. We went to the French restaurant Le Piacere for dinner with another couple from Ontario and the guys needed dinner jackets. Blaik shook out his travel Tilley blazer from the bottom of his suitcase and was complimented on his dapper look. Check us out standing in near the cool Lido tree.

They offer a decent gym (the one at Hedonism across the street however, is four times the size) and may be worth checking out if you are a serious fitness buff. Grand Lido has a tennis court and they claim they have a PGA rated course up the road that free to use for guests, but we never saw anyone playing tennis or golfing. Everyone was mesmerized by the ocean and there was lots of floating on the water sprawled on rafts. So if you’ve got a sports lover and beach book worm combination in your house, Grand Lido would make a great combination so that everyone got the kind of vacation they really wanted.

Our interactions with the water staff were pleasant. In speaking to divers, they had an outstanding experience diving on the far reefs, and the help and instruction – like all the service got great reviews.

Grand Lido is a fabulous all round choice if you are looking for water sports with its ocean bay location and one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Or, if you are simply looking for an upscale vacation, nude or not, it is well worth putting on your itinerary.

Hedonism, Jamaican Tourism and how the bus ride to Negril is forever changed

One of our most vivid memories of our first trip to Hedonism stared in the SuperClubs holding room in the Montego Bay Airport. We were handed a bottle of water and asked where we were going. Hedonism 2 was our tentative answer. “Ah the Zoo” said the Jamaican porter. “You get the narley bus”.

It was a bus ride to remember. Three hours of windy roads, small fishing village, goats in the middle of the road, a couple of beer and bathroom stops and a gaggle of Jimmy Buffet wannabees singing Bob Marley songs at the top of their lungs. Unlike the ride back to the airport where everyone left double fisting banana daiquiris before falling into an exhausted stupor most of the way. All with sunburns and in various stages of undress.

The bus trip now may be the way have gone the way of the dodo.
Hedonism has dropped the free airport transfers. In response to a new tourism tax that the Ministry of Tourism has levied on Jamaican resorts.

Here’s the skinny.
“As part of the agreement, all arriving visitors will be required to pay a US$20 fee, which will be included in the ticket cost, effective Aug. 1, 2012. The agreement will also see the introduction of a new daily accommodation tax per occupied room, per night of US$1 for properties with less than 51 rooms, US$2 for hotels with 51 to 100 rooms and US$4 for hotels with 101 rooms and above, effective Sept. 1, 2012. Currently, unlike most destinations, hotels in Jamaica do not charge an accommodation tax.”

But how do you get there you may ask? You can still pay to get ground transportation. Or as Chris Santilli says in her book “Tales from the Naked City”

Hedonism. Now with 3 closed, everyone is back at 2

Hedonism ll and Hedonism lll 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 clientele. 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?

El Dorado Royale. Something different in 5 star all inclusives

El Dorado Royale Review

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

On the surface the El Dorado Royale is just one of a number of five star all inclusives that frequent the coast from Cancun along the Mayan Riviera to Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Albeit an enormous resort with over 630 rooms and 450 acres of land. The property includes horse and camel (yes camel) stables, its own desalination plant, and with ocean frontage so wide that you need a golf cart to get you to dinner. With over 1000 employees, the El Dorado Royale and the attached high-end El Dorado Casitas Royale is like a small city. Think of a land where everyone says “Hola” as you walk by. The resort emphasizes their specialized beach butler service, personal concierges, impeccable grounds, and wedding and spa services. You can find the same services at many other resorts but what stands out at the El Dorado Royale is the food.

The El Dorado is an adult only resort that emphasizes unbelievable, wildly varied, all-inclusive gourmet food. If you are a foodie who is tired of huge restaurant bills but don’t want to compromise on quality then the El Dorado is the holiday you need to explore. They have gourmet theatre where you can watch the chef prepare while you eat, or alternatively take day classes in gourmet cooking in the Mexican Fuentes restaurant. The food was fantastic. We are still talking about the duck/lamb combination dinner with the best chocolate lava cake (warm, melt-in-your-mouth, hmm) that has ever been devoured. It showed amazing restraint not to order a second dessert with its side of Baileys ice cream.

Over all the El Dorado is the “no surprises vacation”. You can bank on warm weather (when not during the rainy season), five star service and rooms with a Wow factor. Swim up plunge pool rooms, outdoor double (or quadruple) showers, indoor Jacuzzi’s, rose petals on the beds and overall abject luxury. You have the choice of 11 pools, 15 different bars (and over 50 different umbrella drinks), seven different restaurants, and three “gourmet corners” for emergency late night pizza and healthy choices. You could happily book your parents, honeymooners, even grandparents and know that there would be universality to the food, accommodations and service that you can bank on. Elegant, sophisticated, adult, and very high end are the words we would use to describe the El Dorado Royale.

But we wanted to look beyond the amazing food, weather, and property to find out what was truly special about the El Dorado. And we found it in the most unexpected place.

Mexico has been late in embracing environmental and “green” concerns. However in keeping with a new recyclable and organic emphasis at the El Dorado, the Mayan owner has embarked on an ambitious new greenhouse program. With acres of greenhouses using the latest technology, this new program is defining freshness for hotel foods, and offering up a model of organic farming. Yup, the El Dorado luxury winter palace for discriminating tourists is getting into farming vegetables in a big way. 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 a 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 materials are crushed up coconut shells and beach sand. The agronomist on staff is using abundant and readily available natural products as a growth medium for the plants. They use natural tree saps as insecticide and their own bee colonies for pollination. Coupled with perfect temperatures, and loads of light it represents ideal growing conditions.

The staff has really bought into the concept of fresh, organic food as a way to differentiate the resort from a crowded marketplace. Our tour was conducted by an enthusiastic tennis pro turned junior agronomist and everyone from the bellmen to the wait staff knew how special the greenhouse program is to the resort. With plans to expand to fruit, berry and additional herbs, the greenhouse is one of the ways that the El Dorado chooses to be serious about food. The chef picks his produce every day for dinner, and works with the greenhouse staff to try different varieties for subtle flavours. The resort offers daily tours of the greenhouse for interested guests, and can include samples of home grown vegetables as take aways to add to the fresh fruit bowl found in all the rooms.

It is an organic success story at a resort that has embraced healthy living among all the decadence. And the care put into the all inclusive food that the El Dorado Royale serves is definitely a difference maker when selecting a holiday resort.