I’m lying on a white sandy beach in next-to-30-degree Caribbean heat in my best bikini. I’m drinking tequila out of a pineapple and I’m reading a book I bought from the airport on the way here. For the most part, this is just like any other holiday, only someone is getting vigorously eaten out in a hot tub behind me, and someone else just walked over to let me know of an all-girl orgy taking place on one of the beaches, to which “everyone’s invited.”
This is nothing to be alarmed by, because I’m at Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica, a clothing optional resort purpose-built for swingers — people who like group sex and/or partner swapping. The resort was built back in 1976 by the Jamaican government with a whopping $10 million budget. 2023 is the first year Hedonism has thrown a week-long event aimed at young couples and triads (aka throuples), Young Swingers Week, or Hedo Swing Break, where you must be aged between 19 and 49 to attend. My husband and I were invited to try the resort out for size during HSB (I’m 26 and my partner is 29), to experience the sex positivity, parties, activities, and, of course, swinging it has to offer.
Sex retreats are nothing new, but the popularity of sexual wellness travel is a rapidly growing market. By 2025, global wellness tourism is predicted to reach the $1.3 trillion mark. And sexual wellness travel is an increasingly popular area of the wellness industry, per The New York Times.
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A resort dedicated to sex
I recognise the woman inviting me to an orgy from a couple of nights ago: she’s one half of a couple me and my partner were talking to at a foam party, one of many themed parties Hedonism throws throughout the week. The two of them are high school sweethearts who reunited after their previous relationships’ broke down. Now, they’re married, and have sex with other people so they can “learn from others and improve their sex life.”
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“We’re full swap [this means they switch partners completely and often have sex with other people without one another present] and we worked really hard to get to a point where we can come out here and enjoy ourselves without any jealousy,” she says. Her husband tells me he loves his wife having sex with other people, as “other guys can show her what she likes, and it gives me ideas on what to do with her in the bedroom.” It’s their fourth year in a row at Hedonism. This becomes a theme throughout our week at Hedo (as the regulars call it). It seems to be absolutely no one’s first time here. In fact, their marketing manager tells me the week we’re staying has over 80 percent repeat customers staying. This is, in part, because the residents view the Hedo as a second home, looking forward to returning, seeing their friends and closing the door on the world’s sex negativity. A quick scroll through one of their private Facebook groups shows many couples announcing their “return back home” when they’ve booked another stay. It’s sort of lovely.
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Hedo is usually visited by older couples, one of which is Janet* and Dave*, who have visited Hedo every year since it opened. “We never miss a year,” they tell me on the night we first arrive. “And we don’t even swing.” When I asked why on earth they’d come to a swinger’s resort if they don’t participate, Janet says, “For the vibes. We come here to focus on each other, soak up the energy, and [focus on our own sex lives].” If my husband and I still prioritise sex like this at their age and feel this confident entirely nude (Janet wears nothing but a pink wig and some body jewellery), I’ll consider us winners. Janet and Dave have been able to stay during HSB, among a few other older couples, because they’ve been out there for months.
“We never miss a year.”
Before Hedo, my partner and I were monogamous. We’d fantasised about threesomes but nothing materialised. Most people checking into Hedonism don’t share our inexperience, but when you check in to the resort, staff members kindly advise you to discuss boundaries and limitations before you enter.
Thankfully, we made sure to have that all-important boundary chat about a month before flying out. The experience we planned out: observe the swingers and their antics Louis Theroux-style, eat lots of Jamaican food, focus on each other, and maybe have a little threesome if we’re lucky. Presuming the environment would be scary or seedy, we didn’t expect the latter to go ahead. The rules we established: neither of us would ‘fully swap’ meaning we wouldn’t have sex with anyone without the other being involved and we would only do hand and oral sex with other people.
What actually happened: An entire week of full frontal nudity, pretty-much-nightly group sex, wild parties, and a bunch of new friends.
What actually happened: An entire week of full frontal nudity, pretty-much-nightly group sex, wild parties, and a bunch of new friends. And our rules bent and changed every day as we learned more about ourselves each night. As soon as we arrived, it was clear that the resort was designed specifically to get you in the mood, and provide the environment and tools to help explore that.
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The nude side and the prude side
The main hall, where you check in and get a nightly buffet and sexy show is put on (think Magic Mike but including women and just better), is surrounded by multiple pools, a gift shop with sex toys and fetish gear, various bars, a disco, a cannabis dispensary and a BDSM playroom packed with everything you could need for exploring sexual desires, from a gloryhole to a sex swing, and romantic beds placed under a window so you can see the stars (wholesome!).
The rest of the resort is split into two, the nude side (where all your clothes must be off for everyone’s comfort, and you can’t have a phone or camera on you) and the “prude side”, where you can keep your kit on if you want to. I’d say about 90 percent of residents party on the nude side, which meant my husband and I could hide on the prude side — pretty much considering it our own private beach — for the first day drinking, getting used to the place, and figuring out what to do.
Regardless of whether you’re ready to get your bits out or not, you’ll still have a great time as both sides have almost-identical incredible swimming pools, hot tubs, restaurants, bars and areas for lounging. Plus, Jamaica is beautiful. Just absorbing the weather and the landscape is an experience in itself.
However, all the parties happen on the nude side, and it benefits from a swim-up bar. Swarms of people are there ready to either swing (one guy in his thirties tells me he comes to hedo to “fuck around” because he’s a “man slut”) or make friends with like-minded sex positive people (another tells me he’s just happy to be around people who won’t shame him for loving sex this much, nor for being polyamorous).
Getting into the swing of things
Throughout the week, what Janet said sticks with us. Hedonism truly does allow you to be there for one another as much as you’re there for group sex. Amongst all the carnal sex constantly on display (seriously, you can’t nip out of your room for a coffee without seeing someone get railed, and I love it), the resort impressively manages to be a romantic space for genuine sexual connection.
You can’t nip out of your room for a coffee without seeing someone get railed.
When we’re not on holiday, my husband and I have clashing schedules and are both quite stress-addled people, so Hedo helped us get back on track mentally, sexually, and feel completely smitten with one another. Perhaps it’s being surrounded by couples totally in love and equally up for sharing (their tips, their experiences, and their partners) that does it, or the atmosphere so positive that not even an English person can feel shame. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Still, by day three, my partner and I had ditched the “we’re just here to observe” plan and jumped into the resort’s antics, well, full swing. After we became 75 percent tequila and shared a joint from the cannabis dispensary, my husband was unexpectedly kicking his pants off and marching over to the nude side with purpose, and I excitedly followed.
It took us less than an hour to make friends once we’d gone to our first nude pool party. It wasn’t the transactional environment we’d feared. Instead, it was similar to most UK sex parties in that most people just want to make friends, share stories, and enjoy the vibes. The sex, if it happens, is just a happy bonus.
By night three of eight, we’d developed a routine of meeting our regular pals for dinner, heading to the party Hedo had thrown for its guests that night, and ending the night with group sex in the nude pool — an orgy here, a threesome there, surrounded by on-lookers. Afterwards, we’d grab jerk chicken wings from the nude pool bar and chat about our lives. And it’s surreal just how natural Hedo makes all of this feel.
A week full of firsts
It’s by no means perfect. The rooms are in serious need of renovation (something they’re planning in the next couple of years) and our air conditioner leaked everywhere in our room in the middle of the night. There were also a couple of uncomfortable moments where a man touched me intimately without consent, and a staff member asked me to leave the resort with him so he could talk with me at a neighbouring resort. Staff members are strictly not allowed to join in with the play at Hedo and are not supposed to fraternise with customers, so I thought this was an ill-judged attempt to flirt on non-Hedo soil. I told both to fuck off, as did others around me who saw them. As frustrating as these instances were, it was good to feel protected by those in the lifestyle who know why this is unacceptable. I definitely haven’t experienced that support when the same problems occur in bars back home.
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Nonetheless, by the end of the week, when we’d sampled every restaurant, had sex in every way possible with more people than we’d imagined and even attended the wedding (nude, of course) of the couple we shared a taxi with from the airport. We’d made such close friendships with the people we played with that we were swapping contacts and making arrangements to book rooms next door to each other for next year’s Hedo Swing Break. We’re now proudly part of the Hedo community who refer to it as a second home.
At its core, Hedo is three things: abundant, liberating, and eye-opening. It’s impossible to feel bored with so much entertainment packed in, or to feel self conscious when everyone shares your sex positive nature. And there is so much to learn from swinging, about your own sexuality, other people’s, and all the variations of the lifestyle. Those who’ve been practising genuinely ethical non-monogamy for some time become experts in their own bodies and boundaries. There’s something hopeful about being immersed with so many people who just don’t give a damn, when the world sometimes feels like it’s getting more sex-negative by the day.
For me, Hedo was a resort full of firsts: first threesome, first foursome, first orgy, first time I’ve had sex with a woman and didn’t feel terrified of homophobic witnesses. First time I’ve had sex in public, or in front of other people. First time I’ve witnessed someone have sex while lip syncing and dancing to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I know It” in broad daylight. And the first time I’ve witnessed someone play ring toss from their own ass.
I’m excited to go back next year and cross more ‘firsts’ off the list. Couples who’ve gone for decades assure me “Hedo is never the same.”