By Columnist
updated 5/31/2006 2:20:56 PM ET 2006-05-31T18:20:56

Last fall, I noticed that my travel agency was sending a lot of clients to risque resorts. Destinations like Hedonism Resorts in Jamaica -- two SuperClubs properties where the management encourages skinny-dipping, pole dancing, toga parties, big biceps, baby oil, nude volleyball and other general naughtiness.

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Having never been to one of “those” resorts, and purely in the pursuit of investigative journalism (please see me regarding the Brooklyn Bridge if you bought that one), I decided to hop on a plane and take a peek for myself.

I would need company, of course, so I asked my girlfriend, at the time, if she would like to go to Jamaica for a week. I may have neglected to mention the name of the resort. Surprisingly, she was still game when she learned we were headed to Hedonism III, in Runaway Bay, where, we were assured, we would find “that famous uninhibited spirit where just about anything goes.”

What could that mean? Thoughts of bacchanalian orgies and throngs of naked women running everywhere did slip into my mind. But wait, did that mean there would be throngs of naked men running around as well? That gave me pause. But like its sister property, Hedonism II in Negril, Hedonism III is run on a “Super-Inclusive” basis, so the food and the booze would be free. And so would the beaches, the fitness center, the saunas and Jacuzzis, the windsurfing, the water-skiing, the snorkeling and scuba diving, the entertainment — and just about everything else you can think of, including the nude volleyball and, yes, the trapeze. Things were looking up! And I guess I could handle a throng of naked men so long as there was a female throng to offset it.

Required to be naked?
We were met at the airport and handed a cool cloth and a Red Stripe beer for the short ride to Runaway Bay. The front desk received us graciously — and let us know we had a wonderful suite on the “Nude Side” of the resort.

Uh oh. Was I required to be naked? They couldn’t make me, could they? Surely, mine isn’t the kind of nudity they wanted running around for all to see. And yet, I’ve always believed, “When in Rome … " But in Jamaica, thank God, it is different. When in Jamaica, it’s do whatever you want.

Whew, crisis averted. There would be no naked, beached-whale, white males from Annapolis on this trip. So, properly clothed, let me give you the inside scoop on a decidedly different week.

While I unpacked our bags, my girlfriend opened the shutters to take a look at the view. Immediately, she erupted in peals of laughter. Our suite overlooked the nude pool, the nude volleyball game and the body-painting station. Suffice to say, the players were not professional volleyball players. This was going to be interesting.

After the initial shock, we got the lay of the land and decided to explore. As I said, there is no pressure to do anything at all. Indeed, there is just one hard and fast rule at Hedonism: If you are going to linger on the Nude Side of the resort, you will have to be, well — nude. You can pass through (no cameras), but if you are going to stay, you’d better bring sunscreen for all those places where the sun does not usually shine.

Dressed guests can hang out on the “Prude Side” of the resort, or in one of the mixed areas where clothing is optional. We decided we would not be lingering on the Nude Side. In fact, most of our time was spent at a clothing-optional pool since it was uncrowded and close to our room. It also afforded us the modesty we wanted and a fantastic swim-up bar.

Still, nudism was all around, and a certain erotic tension permeated the air of the entire resort. Even when the guests are dressed, provocative clothing was the norm -- at breakfast, lunch and dinner. And each night was a theme night: Toga Night, Pimp-and-Ho Night, Pajama Night and so forth.

The food was exactly as the Hedonism brochure describes: wonderful, plentiful and varied. I recommend the jerk-chicken shack on the boardwalk overlooking the sea. The entertainment was excellent and the staff ensured everyone was having fun whether they were smacking a volleyball, soaking in the 50-person nude hot tub, swooshing down the Lucite water slide that snakes its way through the disco (yes, you read that right) or just relaxing in one of the many hammocks swaying in the Jamaican breeze.

It was certainly not your typical Caribbean week. We met plenty of people, including all the members of the band Hoobastank, which was pretty cool as they put on an impromptu concert for a few hundred guests. There were bikers and lawyers, accountants and pharmacists, secretaries and electricians -- people from all walks of life. All pretenses had been left at home, and no one looked at you any differently for anything you did or did not do, wore or did not wear. At Hedonism, it seems that your cares and worries float farther away than at any other resort. I can’t put my finger on just why, but they do.

Sneak attack by the Nude Side
Make no mistake, if you are offended by nudity, this ain’t the place for you. Personally, I am not offended -- nor am I a practitioner -- and I had a fantastic time at Hedonism. But beware: Some vacation suppliers offer “surprise packages” that do not reveal the name of your resort until you are in Jamaica. If the very idea of nudity offends you, do not select this option. You can usually opt out of getting one of “those” resorts.

My most memorable moments? Two come to mind.

  • Every afternoon, the Nude Side invades the Prude Side in a sneak attack that is something like a Chinese fire drill. They run over, climb the four-story Lucite water slide, zip down, splash into the Prude Pool and disappear just as fast back to the Nude Side. It is quite a sight to behold.
  • The second “can’t forget” moment was at the clothing-optional pool. I was lying on my chaise, in my bathing suit, reading Bill Clinton’s memoir when I heard a voice ask, “Is that book any good?” I lowered the book and came face to -- well, you can use your imagination -- with a naked man standing at the foot of my chaise. My girlfriend was in hysterics just waiting to see how I would handle that hairy situation.

When we left, the feeling of rejuvenation was greater than either of us had ever experienced on a trip before. Again, I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something, well -- freeing about these resorts. So, if you are a bit of an adventurer and can laugh at yourself and others around you, Hedo might be the place for you.

Our week ended all too soon and I was back on a US Airways flight to Baltimore. Knowing that real life was just around the corner, I was savoring the memories. I was half reading the final chapters of Bill’s memoir when the flight attendant asked me, “Is that book any good?” I’d learned my lesson. This time, I kept my nose buried and uttered a muffled “Yeah, not bad.”

Off-season rates at Hedonism (not including air transportation) begin at $2,100 per couple for a week. The price includes all meals, activities and alcohol. I recommend the Dirty Banana.

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