Hedonism III: Naked truths about 'resort casual'

Travel Weekly's twentysomething-and-single associate editor Nicholas Pavlou checked out SuperClubs' Hedonism III resort in Jamaica. His report follows:

RUNAWAY BAY, Jamaica -- This resort has a certain stigma attached to it. Why not? Playboy Channel's "Night Calls" cast has visited here, controversial nude weddings took place on Valentine's Day and the see-through water slide has generated headlines of its own.

So it's no surprise that Hedonism's vacation image is that of a playground for the self-indulgent, a Dionysian feast for the 21st century.

What, exactly, does that entail? What are the expectations of guests who come to party hearty -- naked or clothed -- on a weeklong package?

The answer is simple: Hedonism III is Spring Break for adults.

Guests opted to try Hedonism III's see-through waterslide with and without bathing suits. This atmosphere kicked in as soon as the transfer bus picked us up for the hour-and-a-half drive to Runaway Bay, 40 miles east of Montego Bay along Jamaica's north coast. Meeting and greeting took over.

Two twentysomething single guys from New York and a pair of over-30 single men from New Jersey compared stories and shared expectations about the week ahead. All discussion centered on carnal activity and inebriation.

The rest of the bus was couples. A Maryland twosome were repeat guests of both Hedonism III and its sister resort, Hedonism II in Negril.

Why did they return?

Hubby singled out the weather and the food -- he ate fish three times a day -- as main selling points, but he quipped, "Even if you're not somebody who gets crazy, you'll always be entertained by the people who do."

That was pretty much the theme of my Hedonism stay. The resort does a fine job of entertaining. With activities such as nude truth or dare, strip pool volleyball and toga and pajama parties, what's not to like?

Most of us on the bus stayed in contact with each other during the week with updates and progress reports. The anecdotes were illuminating. Hedonism III has two sides -- Nude and Prude. Each has its own beach, common areas, pools, bars and grill.

To gather notes for this story, I passed briefly through the Nude area. However, I wasn't in the buff and therefore wasn't welcome.

The beaches, both Nude and Prude, are disappointing in size and quality. They are manmade because the natural coastline is littered with sharp, jagged stones. An expansion is planned but not soon, according to a spokesman.

The resort tries to make up for its lack of beach area with three large pools: the Nude pool; the main pool with bar seating and a pool table smack dab in its middle, and the Prude pool with a swim-up bar and sun terrace above. Dining was an important part of everyone's schedule.

Hedonism III has four restaurants plus breakfast room service from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and special Snack Attack packages from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Tropical Terrace, the main dining area and venue for nightly entertainment, served three meals and a midnight buffet. The food here does not disappoint, offering something for every palate.

My personal favorite was roasted pig, the centerpiece of a Hawaiian-themed night. The beachfront Scotch Bonnet served lunch and dinner.

Although the service was slow at times, the Jamaican specialities -- especially the jerk chicken and pork -- were great. I had problems reserving a table at the Pastafari and Munahana restaurants, both of which require reservations.

The Italian restaurant Pastafari was less difficult to book, and I did eat there twice. Although the mood lighting was too dim and almost put me to sleep one night, and the portions were small, the shrimp and calamari platter was excellent and the waiters were patient.

Our solution to the small portions: Sample heavily from the antipasto buffet or order side dishes to fill up the plate.

Reserving a table at the Japanese restaurant was nearly impossible. Several guests reported they either had not been able to obtain a reservation, or it took several lengthy attempts. Munahana's chefs cook in front of the patrons, and the atmosphere is very festive.

Hedonism III boasts six bars along with Tropical Terrace and Octopussy Disco. Entertainment at the Terrace includes magicians, talent shows and concerts.

The Battle of the Sexes pits teams of men against women. They compete to see who can change beds the fastest or identify a spouse's rear end by touching it while blindfolded.

The Piano Bar and Octopussy Disco stay open until the last person leaves. This strategy seemed a little unnecessary, however. Most singles looking to hook up had already done so and vanished long before it got really late.

The Piano Bar is an intimate room serving drinks made with top-brand liquor while a piano player belts out karaoke tunes. It's too bad that the size of the room prohibits more than 30 guests.

Octopussy Disco is the best place -- and the only late-night place -- to hang, dance, drink and mingle. As one single guy put it, "It's one or the other. There's nothing in between."

Off-site tours at extra cost include Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios, catamaran party cruises, all-terrain vehicle safaris and Blue Mountain bicycle adventures.

Daytime facilities include a basketball court, two tennis courts, beach and pool volleyball, a fitness center, spa treatments and a games center with table tennis and board games. Guests can windsurf, water ski, kayak, snorkel and learn trapeze feats at the circus clinic. Diving requires certification.

Two rooms on the Prude side served as the gift shop, accommodating no more than eight people in each room. Arts and crafts are for sale around the resort.

Hedonism III provides exactly what its name indicates -- a self-indulgent, worry-free vacation for those who want to get totally loose -- if only for a week.

Male-pattern boldness: Resort needs 'more single women'

RUNAWAY BAY, Jamaica -- Most of Hedonism's guests are from the U.S. The Midwest sends the couples while singles hail from both coasts, although East Coast ZIP codes predominate.

Half the guests are couples who prefer the nude accommodations and activities. It's this group, too, that comes back for more.

Kevin Levee, general manager, said that Hedonism III may have the highest percentage of repeat guests in the SuperClubs chain.

What's the most frequent complaint? Guys complained to me over and over about the lack of single women in comparison to the number of couples and single men. A New York male put it this way: "That's not how they marketed Hedonism."

Resort officials recognize the problem. Hedonism's sister resort in Negril does have more single females, and Hedo III is "definitely trying" to attract more from that market, Levee said. The challenge lies in changing the perception of the resort as solely a haven for nudists, Levee said.

"We want to show that Hedonism is a place where guests can have a lot of fun but keep their clothes on if they want to," he said.

Incentives to attract single women include a Threesome Is a Freesome, in which three female guests stay for the price of two, and Fourth Female Free, where four stay for the price of three.

There's no problem getting single men to Hedonism III. I figured it must be the activities. During my abbreviated, four-night stay, I was treated to a bikini swimsuit competition and a Jamaican model contest. That's not too shabby from my perspective.

Too bad I missed the Playboy group that arrived the following week. However, without the lovely swimsuit participants, the singles ratio would have been even more male-dominated.

I also judged Hedonism's middle-of-nowhere location to be a flaw. Unlike Hedo II in Negril, Hedo III offers no outside-the-resort entertainment, such as bars, dining and attractions, other than a few tours.

Despite what Levee said about the importance of visiting area attractions, Hedonism III clearly wants its guests to indulge themselves within the resort's friendly confines.

Although both Hedonism resorts have special features, Hedo III has more "bells and whistles, like a Jacuzzi in each bathroom and four restaurants," Levee said.

Things to bring for nudes and prudes

If you're single and mingling or accompanied by your partner, here are some items to bring to Hedonism III:

  • A large container for drinks. Except during the swimsuit competition when half yards of Red Stripe beer were handed out, most drinks came in small glasses, heavily watered down. Bring a large cup, mug or stein, and the bartenders will fill it up --- again and again.
  • Sunscreen. The sun is mighty powerful -- especially on areas of the body not normally exposed to full daylight. Many guests build a base before arrival with visits to a tanning salon.
  • Over-the-counter medicines like aspirin, antacids and diarrhea remedies. Buying them at the gift shop is expensive.
  • Accessories for events like toga and pajama parties. The toga costume, especially, requires some planning. What Hedonism gives out as a costume hardly qualifies as anything more than a washcloth. Although guests were told "No sheet, no eat," many chose not to go Roman-style. Others reveled in it, adding tiaras and crowns of olive branches.
  • Pants. Don't laugh. Pants are required at Pastafari and Munahana restaurants. Most guests also wore light pants at night when they were trying to look their best.
  • Smokes. Smokers should bring enough to support the habit. The gift shop carried only Jamaican brands.
  • Condoms. I didn't see them at the gift shop, nor did I see dispensers in bathrooms. However, I met guests, both male and female, who brought enough latex to accommodate sailors in port.
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