HER: If you’re a regular consumer of lifestyle podcasts and blogs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Desire is the only swinger-friendly resort out there. When Hedonism does get mentioned, it’s quite often in a dismissive fashion. It’s as if all the cool kids are hanging out in Cancun, Mexico while the wannabe’s are relegated to Negril, Jamaica.
HIM: I have to admit, that attitude makes me feel a little defensive of Hedonism. Of course it has its weaknesses, but we have so much history there. However, after ten trips to Jamaica in four years, even I had to admit it was time for a change. So, instead of spending New Year’s Eve at Hedo this year, as we usually do, we opted to book a week at Desire Riviera Maya Pearl.
HER: After all, we’re swingers: our life is about trying new things. If we aren’t willing to be monogamous sexually, we certainly aren’t going to be faithful to a single resort.
HIM: And, while we tried to enjoy the experience on its own terms — just as we would a new partner — comparisons were inevitable. We were definitely keeping score.
HER: Let’s face it: weather is a big deal when it comes to a beach vacation. So I wondered at the wisdom of our choice when we arrived at the Cancun airport. It was windy, cool and very rainy. We spent the whole first day in our room, waiting out the storm.
HIM: It’s not like we don’t see rain in Negril; however, it tends to roll in with lots of warning, and stay for only a couple of hours. And it never feels cool, even at night. While we spent a wet, windy week in Cancun, with only one truly hot day, Negril is dependably hot, dry and calm.
Hedo: 1, Desire: 0
HER: I do have to credit Desire with having very good service, and that was evident from the moment we arrived. We were checked in immediately, with no waiting like we often have at Hedo. We were even brought glasses of champagne while we completed the process: a nice touch. And we saw that attentiveness all week long.
HIM: But I can’t help but wonder if all that courtesy was designed for one purpose only: to get us to buy an expensive, ten-year vacation membership at Desire. This is seriously a big, big problem. As soon as we were assigned our rooms, we were handed off to a young gentleman whose only job was to get us to agree to sit through a one-hour presentation on the merits of making a major financial commitment to the resort. It was as if they were saying ‘now that you’ve been here for 20 minutes, surely you would like to return again and again and again’. When we tried to decline, he made a heart-tugging appeal, stating that it would be better for him if we just said yes. We wanted that hour for ourselves. We didn’t want to have to be any given place at any given time on our precious week away.
HER: Ironically, in a place where consent is touted as ‘the golden rule’, where ‘no means no,’ ‘yes’ was the only answer the young man would take, and we bowed to the pressure like the guilty minded first-worlders we are. To use the word coercion would not be out of place. Two days later we sat through what turned out to be a two and a half hour hard sell of astonishing complexity. The bottom line was that they wanted us to make a $34,000 commitment on the spot.
HIM: Even though I have an MBA, I felt incapable of assessing the value of the membership without creating a multi-tab spreadsheet. The deal had more moving parts than a cross-jurisdictional corporate merger. And then it occurred to me: any deal that requires that much math is never good news for the customer.
HER: The verdict on this one is tough. I’d say the daily service at Hedo is not as consistently attentive as it is at Desire. But, importantly, there’s never any pressure to sit through an organized up-sell. This is a huge factor. Another point in Hedo’s favour is that tipping is not allowed there. On the other hand, it is encouraged at Desire, which becomes a hassle when you have to carry small bills around with you all the time, and then you have to decide who gets a tip for what. So, I think Hedo gets the point here.
Hedo: 2, Desire: 0
HER: I’d heard that dinner at Desire was an upscale affair. But I was disappointed when I arrived in my little dress and heels at the Aphrodite restaurant by the beach. It was nearly empty, and those guests who were there were in shorts and flip flops. This was not the look I had expected, and I felt a little self-conscious that I had bothered to curl my hair.
HIM: Sweetie, looking good is never a crime. And that mild awkwardness is just part of figuring out a new environment.
HER: I guess. Our special New Year’s Eve dinner the next night, however, was spectacular. Served at tables artfully arranged around the pool, the food was tasty and well-presented (in spite of the hair that kept getting blown into my face by the non-stop wind).
HIM: I agree. In fact, I’d have to say that the quality of food at the a la carte restaurants at Desire was consistently higher than Hedo. As for the breakfast and lunch buffets, they were probably equally good quality, with Hedo offering more options (like the always popular omelette and pasta bars).
HER: Well, I’ll take Jamaican food over Mexican any time, but that’s just a personal preference. For me, it’s just not a lifestyle vacation until I’m eating jerk chicken naked on the beach. One other thing I really missed was my late-night chicken wings at the beach grill, a staple of our post-debauchery routine at Hedonism. The room-temperature taco I had at Desire at 3:00am didn’t have the same kind of comfort food appeal. Still, overall, I think this point has to go to Desire.
Hedo: 2, Desire: 1
HIM: One of the things we hear a lot from people who love Desire is that the accommodations are far better. But again, the reality did not live up to the hype. The room was clean and adequate to our needs, but neither more spacious nor luxurious than the rooms at Hedonism. I think people who make these judgments must be basing them on the condition of Hedo’s rooms at the lowest point of management neglect many years ago. Since the new owners took over, many of the rooms have been completely renovated, and all of them have at least been refreshed.
HER: I do have to say that Desire has bathtubs, and Hedo doesn’t. So if you are the type of person who likes to have a long soak in your room (after spending the day soaking in the pool and the night soaking in the hot tub), well, Desire is your place. And, if you really enjoy baths (and paying extra for things), Desire does offer a range of accommodation options. Master suites have two baths and are the size of two regular rooms. And the penthouse suites have luxurious stone soaker tubs and private rooftop jacuzzis so you can be submerged every waking hour. That variety of accommodation simply isn’t available at Hedo. However, with prices already sky-high at New Years, we opted for the entry-level room and just had sex with people who had the bigger suites so we could experience the full range. 😉
HIM: It’s also worth mentioning that the grounds are noticeably better groomed at Hedo. The layout is more spacious and open, and there are gardens to explore. We were surprised to find that when we left our room at Desire each morning, the view from the top of the stairs included a gigantic septic tank (or something resembling that) and other mechanical infrastructure. This stuff is all kept modestly hidden at Hedonism.
HER: For us, Hedo edged ahead of Desire in this category.
Hedo: 3, Desire: 1
HER: While this may fit under the grounds/property heading, I think the beach is important enough to warrant its own section here. I love the ocean. I love sitting in lounge chairs watching the pelicans dive, the sand between my toes; I love floating in the salty water, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming through caves, and catamaran cruising. All of these things are part of what I love about the sheltered Seven-Mile beach that Hedonism sits on. And none of these things were possible at Desire. The beach is heaped with seaweed, which also makes swimming unappealing, and the rough waters are not conducive to snorkeling or boating. I thought this could be a function of the season we visited, but repeat guests admit it’s a weakness of the resort.
HIM: Hedo wins hands down here. They’ve been gifted with a fabulous natural beach, and they work hard every day to keep it pristine.
Hedo: 4, Desire: 1
HIM: I, on the other hand, am not much of a beach (or water) person. However, I have learned that, at lifestyle resorts, it’s all about the pool and hot tub scenes. These are where connections are made.
HER: In this respect, Desire Pearl is the clear winner. Hedo actually has four pools, but the pool and hot tub areas at Desire are definitely bigger and nicer than the nude pool at Hedonism. The pool attendants find you chairs and manage the umbrellas at Desire, which is a welcome change from the competitive chair wrangling we’ve often had to do on our own at Hedo. And the beds beside the hot tub are very convenient for a quick hook up when you meet an amazing couple in the hot tub who you just can’t let escape (we used them for this twice!).
Hedo: 4, Desire: 2
HIM: Speaking of sex (this is all about sex, right?), one of the recent additions to Hedonism that we love is the couples-only playroom. They have transformed the spa, which has an open air courtyard with shallow pools, by lining the floors with mattresses. They also have a separate room for a mild ‘dungeon’ with a sex swing, a spanking horse, tiered beds, and a shower. We’ve spent many nights there, either with other couples, or just the two of us, enjoying sex under the stars surrounded by other people doing the same thing.
HER: The ‘playroom’ at Desire, however, is a tiny, horseshoe-shaped storage closet off the bar at the disco. It’s lined with deep couches (not beds). We only went there once. We were one of three couples, and it felt like that was pretty much as many as the room could handle. When we talked about the playroom with our fellow guests at Desire, most did not know it even existed.
Hedo: 5, Desire: 2
HIM: We love to dance, and it’s always been a source of disappointment for us that the disco at Hedonism is rarely used. It’s a sad sight most nights: the music is pounding and the lights are flashing, but like a scene from the ‘Left Behind’ movie, there are no human beings in sight. At Desire, the disco is popular, which is a welcome change.
HER: True. One of the things we’ve always heard about Desire is that, because the resort is relatively small, people tend to travel together and follow the same schedule, and the disco is part of that circuit. On the first night, I was thrilled to see so many people dancing. The problem came when we returned night after night to hear the same, tired playlist. You know the one: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us,” LMFAO’s “Sexy and I know It,” Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” and then every song ever released with Pitbull in it. Every sex club we’ve ever been to seems to have pulled from the same online ‘sexy playlist’. Unfortunately, this is the stuff they played every night without variation at Desire. EVERY NIGHT. Of course, I can’t entirely fault Desire for this. It’s a universal problem. But can you imagine how great it would be if, say, the playlist were to change once in a while? Like, maybe rotate through a few different genres? And maybe get a DJ who can handle transitions between songs?! Gah! That would make such a difference! (Sorry — pet peeve) Both resorts are equally guilty of lack of imagination, but Desire gets this point for putting bodies on the dancefloor.
Hedo: 5, Desire 3
HIM: Both resorts have entertainment crews responsible for the daily activities that keep guests engaged, and for performing various shows in the evenings. It takes a versatile group of individuals to cover all these roles, and they work very hard. The crew at Desire does a solid job, for sure, but they don’t have a star personality to match Hedonism’s one-in-a-million Winston, and they don’t have a show to compete with Dirty Diana’s outrageously erotic ‘Milk Dance’ (if you haven’t seen it, it’s basically an extended visual metaphor for two men coming all over a woman’s body, improbably delivered with class and style).
HER: I love that routine. Another big difference for me was the fact that there is a proper stage for the crew to perform on (and for the audience to comfortably sit in front of) at Hedonism. At Desire, we had to stand around the dance floor in the disco for the shows. It wasn’t a great set-up. So I would say that, in terms of the entertainment crews, this is an example of one competitor doing very well, and the other doing very, very, very well.
Hedo: 6, Desire: 3
HIM: Perhaps the number one complaint that we hear about Hedonism is that they welcome single men, something that Desire does not permit. I have ambivalent feelings about this. We have definitely encountered the stereotypical creepy single guy at Hedonism, robotically stroking his cock as he edges closer and closer to you in the hot tub.
HER: Don’t forget the vacant stare. That’s pretty sexy.
HIM: But we’ve also had some great experiences with single guys. I’m talking about the ones who play their part with humility, good humour, and respect.
HER: We had a very sexy encounter with one at Hedonism. He was a single dad, a busy professional who just didn’t feel he had the time for a relationship at home. He told us that he treated himself to vacations at Hedo so he could enjoy some zero-commitment sexual connections in the sun. He was sweet and unassuming, with an attention getting cock. That’s not to say I haven’t felt creeped out a couple times by dudes ogling us while we fool around on the edge of the hot tub, but, now that they have the couples-only playroom at Hedo, you don’t have to give those guys a show if you don’t want to.
HIM: As for the rest of the guests, we have always heard Desire described as place for ‘more upscale’ travellers. This made us a little uncomfortable. The implication is that only ‘downmarket’ people go to Hedonism. But we were there. We’re pretty cool.
HER: And I’ve always loved the way pretensions drop away with your clothes. When you’re naked, you can only make an impression with who you are, not who you’re wearing. I care more about your kindness than what kind of car you drive. So the classist undertones of this comparison irked me. Besides, the resorts are almost equally (exorbitantly) priced, so this strikes me as another outdated stereotype.
HIM: The truth is, swingers tend to be interesting people regardless of their social status. Whether you’re meeting them at Hedo or Desire, you know you’re going to enjoy a lively conversation with a bit of naughtiness for good measure. So this is a close one, but I have to give the edge to Desire. You might miss the energy that the best single guys can bring to a lifestyle environment, but you’ll never have those uncomfortable moments.
Hedo: 6, Desire: 4
HER: We have a winner! It’s Hedonism with 6 points over Desire with 4.
HIM: But, hold on. While I agree with everything we’ve just said, I have to admit that something interesting happened over the course of our week at Desire. Once I got past all the ways it didn’t measure up to Hedonism, it dawned on me that I was having my best lifestyle vacation ever. I don’t know if it’s because of a change in me, or if there was something special about Desire that transcended our tidy categories, but I have to give Desire a lot of credit.
HER: What was the difference for you?
HIM: It’s hard to put my finger on it, but everything somehow came easier both socially and sexually at Desire. Am I delusional, or did you feel the same thing?
HER: Honestly, I didn’t feel a difference. We did make some great connections, and I think I had more sex with other people on this trip than I have in any of our trips to Hedo, but I don’t feel like the resort was the reason. I really think we’ve come a long way in terms of lifestyle confidence since last year. We probably would have had the same level of success no matter where we vacationed. The truth is, you can’t make a mistake choosing either resort.
HIM: Ok. Well, let me put the question another way: sometime next winter, we’re going to take another lifestyle vacation. If it was entirely up to you, where would you choose: Desire Pearl or Hedonism II?
HER: Neither. Let’s try Desire Riviera Maya!
HIM: I should have seen that coming. You really are all about variety, aren’t you?
HER: What can I say? I’m kind of a slut.
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Liam & Kate are a married couple, very much in love, writing honestly and insightfully about their adventures in the world of non-monogamy.
11 Comments Add yours
Thanks so much!
Great review. It mirrors, in many ways, our thoughts but from a reverse perspective. After 15 some trips to the Desire resorts (RM & Pearl) we finally tried Hedo in November. And we loved it!
We differ only in that our assessment of the dining, food & service was much much in the favour of Pearl over Hedo.
There is one significant factor that emerges from the Time Share sales pressure you noted. Desire Resort sells memberships. That is their business model, sadly not only is the selling disruptive and annoying to what is a world class vacation experience, the unwanted outcome is a tier class of service based on your membership level. This is manifest in different colour wrist bands. As “Members” we have the benefit of specific perks available to us, like a personal Butler or other small things that enhance the holiday. Others do not, and it is clearly indicated based on the wrist band they wear.
As much as we enjoy the personal attention this provides, it creates a class distinction that can be distasteful. To hear a new couple visiting Desire for the first time being told “Oh sorry, those chairs are for Members only” is awkward at best.
We never felt this at Hedo. We met couples that had been to Hedo over 20 times, strolled through the area where Hedo encourages guests to create a sign of their fandom, and we admired the sense of community fostered by the resort.
This alone is Desire Resorts greatest failing in our opinion. The Membership model results in the only significant negatives of the vacation experience at Desire.
Nevertheless, we will return to Desire eagerly because, as you concluded, there is just something easy and seductive about the Desire rhythm that simple works to make incredible vacations.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment! We completely agree with your observation about the tiered level of service and the class divide it creates at Desire. From the different coloured bracelets that mark you out as not quite as cool as others, to the separate seating area for members only on the shady side of the pool that creates a physical divide, you can’t forget that you’re not one of the ‘elite.’ We hate that sort of thing. It’s not that we couldn’t afford the membership — He does quite well — we just prefer to keep our travel options open. But if you choose not to buy in, it makes you feel like a second class guest. I get that that’s what they want to encourage sales, but it doesn’t promote the kind of lifestyle experience I enjoy: that wonderful freedom when your clothes come off to just take people as they come.
And, for the record, I agree that the daily service is better at Desire. We just couldn’t get past the hard sell and the two levels of service, which is why Hedo got that point.
Thanks for reading!
What a wonderful review from a male and female perspective.I loved it,really did.
Yes,you can say something and you are not a slut.You are who you are,the way God made or brought you in this world we live.So,be proud of yourself thank God for giving you this comprehensive gentleman(husband).
Him:where should you choose for next winter,if it’s entirely up to you(Desire Pearl/Hedonism 2)
Her:neither one,we are going to Desire Riviera maya,baby
So,it’s a win win.
Thank you so much for writing this post! It has helped my wife and I pick a place to go next year! Jamaica here we come!
Excellent! We hope you love Hedo as much as we do!
I am so happy I read your review. We have never taken a vacation like this and now it is 100% clear that I do not want to go to desire because I do not want to experience being a second class guest and I will not buy a membership for sure as I have no experience with this kind of vacation. I love 5 stars hotels and this is too bad that our lifestyle vacation will not have fantastic service or food like we are used to because of a lifestyle choice. Isn’t there a 5 star resort that offers a lifestyle option?
Thank you for your note, Sophie. The only thing I can say in reply on such an obviously subjective matter is this: once you have experienced a vacation at a resort with complete sexual freedom (and all the unexpected social pleasures that come with it), the “luxuries” of other resorts will seem like sad compensation. No level of bespoke service could convince me to give up the infinite possibilities of being in a pool fool of naked revellers. But that’s just my personal opinion. – HIM
There’s no resort other than Desire that would technically be five-star (that we know of). But, if the membership thing is enough to keep you away from Desire, we would whole-heartedly recommend Hedonism. The food is very good, the service is great, and the resort does offer fully renovated rooms (nicer than most of the Desire rooms) if that’s important enough to you to pay up for.
Good luck, and (seriously) you will never regret either Desire or Hedo.
Great post! Sorry I’m a little late to the party, I found your blog doing a Google search of “Hedo versus Desire” because we are planning our first lifestyle vacation for next year and are really torn. So from what I can see from your blog entries, it looks like maybe you’ve gone back to Desire twice but not back to Hedo since. After more reflection and a whole pandemic thrown in there, have the scales actually tilted more towards Desire since then? Or is that just kind of how the trips worked out maybe because of planning to get together with friends that you happen to have met at Desire? Also curious if one of those trips was to RM vs Pearl?