Going to Desire for the First Time

 

A few years ago, I spent a week staying at both Desire Riviera Maya Resort and Desire Pearl — two clothing optional couples only all inclusive resorts located just outside Cancun, Mexico. 

The plan was simple: meet up with one of my best friends, Mark, and two other friends (a couple) for some much needed R&R under the sun. Bathing suits optional.

I was there as a journalist to write about the properties, but over the course of the week I ended up falling in love with the clothing optional resort experience. 

 

 

Truth be told, inaugural visit to the Desire resorts wasn’t my first “nakation.” Before Covid, I spent 10 months traveling from Mexico to Jamaica and back again, visiting clothing optional resorts — including Desire’s sister property Temptation Cancun — to write about them for my weekly Toronto Sun column. 

People always have questions about what it’s like to visit clothing optional adult resorts and go skinny dipping in the tropics. If you’re reading this, you probably do too! 

So, let’s start with the most frequently asked questions about going to Desire for the first time. 

Are people naked all the time? 

Desire resorts are clothing-optional. This means that you have the option of being naked in most areas of the resort. However, if you’re worried you’ll see errant appendages pressed against the sneeze-guard at the morning omelette station, fear not. Clothing is required in the main dining areas for obvious reasons. 

Should I go to Desire Riviera Maya or Desire Pearl? 

This is probably the most common question I get. My answer: it all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. 

Before I arrived, I was told that Desire Riviera Maya has a more lively party atmosphere, whereas Desire Pearl is quieter and more retreat-like. This generally held true. 

The daily schedule at Desire Riviera Maya

The daily schedule at Desire Riviera Maya. See: Human Dessert

If you’re looking to make new friends (or playmates), Desire Riviera Maya is where it’s at. Designed to feel like a village, the property consists of a cluster of low rises that face tropical gardens and the Caribbean sea. Dreamy daybeds with flowing white curtains flank the beach and pool areas, where you can lounge nude. The rooms are on the smaller side, but we found we spent most of our time poolside (during the day) or enjoying the restaurants & bars (in the evening) anyways, so it wasn’t an issue. 

desire riviera maya pearl resort

Through the palms at Desire Pearl

In comparison, the atmosphere at Pearl is noticeably more mellow and has a quiet, romantic feel. While you can definitely still meet people at Desire Pearl, the resort is larger and more spread out, which means it’s easier to keep to yourself. While Pearl has a nightclub and jacuzzi lounge, it seemed much less busy than at Maya. The vibe was that of a secluded, couples-only romantic retreat (sans clothes). 

I like to break it down like this: 

Desire Maya: couple oriented, sexy and romantic. Has a lively party scene and lots of opportunities to socialize. Clothing optional. Couples only. 

Desire Pearl: couple oriented, sexy and romantic. Has a more relaxed, serene, retreat-like vibe but still with opportunities to meet people/socialize. Clothing optional. Couples only. 

Temptation: Sexy, fun, raucous party vibe with lots of opportunities to socialize. Topless optional. Couples and singles. 

Can I suntan nude on the beach? 

Yes! The beach area directly in front of the Desire properties is perfect for nude sunbathing. However, if you decide to move further down the beach — for example, to the public areas — you’ll need to put on a bathing suit or clothing of some kind. 

the dock at desire riviera maya resort

A scene from the dock at desire riviera maya

Will I feel self-conscious? 

Not going to lie, if you’ve never been to a nude resort, stripping down feels weird at first. However, that feeling quickly goes away when you look around you and see bodies of every shape and size. It almost feels more weird to have clothes on!

Here’s something most people don’t realize about clothing optional resorts: they’re incredibly body positive. You will literally see every kind of body possible. 

And when in doubt, a few margaritas help!

Is it okay to wear a bathing suit if I feel more comfortable in one? 

Definitely. As I mentioned above, it’s clothing optional. This may surprise you, but I can be a bit shy when it comes to showing off my body! The first time I visited Desire, I started off wearing a bathing suit and then slowly shed the layers as I became more comfortable. While the majority of the guests are (at the very least) topless, the crowd is extremely non-judgemental, so no one will fault you for wanting to ease into the experience by wearing a bathing suit. 

lunch outfit at Desire Pearl

Heading out to lunch at Desire Pearl

Are Desire Resorts just for swingers? 

Both Maya and Pearl are “swinger friendly” and you’ll meet a lot of people who are in the lifestyle. However, you’ll also meet couples who are there to try something new and like the idea of potentially playing with other couples (or being in an environment where spicy fun is happening in the midst). There’s also folks who go to the resort for the simple reason that they like lounging around in the sun naked. There’s no “one” kind of guest!

What if I just want to relax and not get hit on? 

While the guests at Desire tend to be very friendly (there’s something about shedding clothing that just makes conversation flow!), the resorts are governed by a very strict, consent driven “no means no” code of conduct that everyone is asked to sign at check in. Anyone who violates it is removed from the resort. 

This is a huge part of why I love going to resorts like Desire and Temptation — it’s very much an “ask before you touch” kind of scene. We made tons of new friends around the resort and never once felt pressured to do anything. 

So, if you’re not looking to play with other couples, you can rest assured that you and your significant other will be left alone to enjoy your vacation together. However, if you’re looking to fulfill a fantasy with another couple, you have a very good chance of meeting like-minded people at Desire. Even if you’re only there for a few nights, connections tend to form quickly in an open and uninhibited environment like Desire. 

Is there places to relax, tan and read without music blasting? 

Definitely! Both Desire Maya and Desire Pearl have quieter areas. While the pool area at Desire Maya tends to be very lively during the day, the beach is very chill and relaxing. You can also relax on your balcony or in other pockets around the resort. 

As I mentioned above, Desire Pearl is a larger property and it was much quieter when I visited, so if you’re looking for a very laid back experience you might want to consider Pearl — even for a night or two. 

The chill pool scene at Desire Pearl

The chill pool scene at Desire Pearl

Can I go to Desire Resorts if I’m single? 

Both Desire resorts are for adventurous heterosexual couples only. If you’re single and looking for a sexy vacation, you might want to consider Temptation, Cancun which is a topless optional resort

Is it just going to be a bunch of twenty year olds? 

Nope! This is a more mature crowd, with the average guest age being around 35-45. I met plenty of attractive couples in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. However, you’ll also meet folks in their 60’s, 70’s and beyond! If you’re looking for a slightly younger crowd, Temptation, Cancun might be more what you’re looking for. 

Will I see people having sex in public? 

Yes. While public sex is only (officially) allowed in the jacuzzi lounge, there’s a good chance you’ll see couples boning in public — like in the SIN room or on their balconies, terraces etc. 

(FYI, I spent a very memorable afternoon in the pool stealing glances in between sips of Pina Colada of a very hot couple who were having sex on their nearby patio for all to see). 

What’s the food like? 

Whether you’re staying at Desire Riviera Maya or Desire Pearl, the food is what you’d expect from an upscale all inclusive resort. Both properties have a combination of buffet, casual dining and sit-down restaurants.

food at desire riviera maya

I have great memories of my dinner at Sahlo (the Aphrodisiac restaurant at Desire Maya) and the steak fajitas at Aphrodite (Desire Pearl’s casual dining restaurant — my go-to lunch spot!) And don’t forget the endless poolside nachos and guacamole! I know it seems weird to talk about the food at a clothing optional resort, but it’s really good!

Let Desire take you wherever it takes you! 

Whether you are a newbie or experienced nude traveller, Desire resorts gives you the flexibility to make the experience whatever you want it to be. If you want to get frisky and explore your sexuality in a safe environment, you can. However, if all you want to do is lounge around the pool and stuff your face with endless guacamole while wearing minimal clothing, you can do that too. 

While I never would have pegged myself for someone who enjoys a clothing optional vacation, the fact that I can go somewhere and be myself without judgement or the risk of unwanted sexual harassment, is a huge selling point for me.

Even Joe the Intern had a good time in the buff! 

And if you’re not sure whether you’re ready for a full-on clothing optional vacation, there’s always Temptation — Desire’s sister property that’s perfect for dipping your toes (or other body parts) into the world of nude travel. 

If you have any questions, I encourage you to reach out [skinnydipblog AT gmail.com]. I’d be happy to answer them!

20 Things You Should Know Before You Go To Hedonism II in Jamaica

 

In January, I spent four days at the notorious clothing-optional sex resort, Hedonism ii in Negril, Jamaica. Having recently visited topless optional resort, Temptation Cancun this past October, I thought I was prepared for my time at a swingers resort in Jamaica. I mean, how different could the two resorts be? Naked bodies? Check. Lots of sun & booze? Check. But really, nothing could have fully prepared me for Hedonism Jamaica.

I wrote about my experiences at the nudist sex resort recently in the Toronto Sun, but I thought it would be helpful to provide a few tips on what it’s like to go this clothing-optional resort.

1. You don’t have to be naked all the time.

You can wear clothes if you want! The resort is clothing optional and is divided into two separate areas — the “nude side” (where no clothes are allowed) and the “prude side” (where clothing is optional). You’re required to wear clothing in the public dining areas, however what counts as clothing at Hedo (as the regulars call it) is vague at best. It’s not uncommon to see people in see-through garments, fetish costumes or lingerie, just casually grabbing something from the dinner buffet. The longer you’re at the resort (and the more rum punch you consume), the less of a big deal this becomes.

2. But you will see a lot of naked people.

Even if you stick to the clothing-optional “prude” areas, you will still see a lot of naked bodies of literally every imaginable age, shape, size and gender. You will see nude dudes. You will see nude girls. JUST. SO. MANY. NAKED. BODIES. As I texted my friend on my first day at Hedonism ii, “it’s only 11am and I’ve already seen way more foreskin than is humanly necessary.” A few days in, you’ll get so used to the nudity that you’ll almost stop noticing it. Almost.

3. It’s swinger friendly.

It’s not officially a swingers resort. It’s also not officially a nudist resort. However, it’s definitely nudist and swinger and/or lifestyle friendly. I visited the adult’s only resort on a press trip in January during “Lifestyle Takeover Month,” so it was mostly couples (350 swingers + 5 female journalists. What could possibly wrong?) and the crowd was mostly aged 40+. Similar to my other adult only resort experience, in general the guests were older. I met lots of people in their 50’s, 60’s and older — and yes, they were naked. In general though, if you’re looking to play with another couple or individual(s), you’ll probably find some like-minded folks there.

4. You will see people having sex in public.

My first full day at the resort I walked out of my room, looked up and noticed my neighbors having sex on their balcony. They were eerily silent and all that could be heard from below was the sound of flesh slapping flesh. Lack of sound aside, public sex is the norm here and don’t have to go far to see it — especially on the nude side of the resort. Which brings me to my next point…

5. You will see things that can’t be unseen.

In the words of SNL’s Stefan, “this resort has everything!” Elderly men in thongs. Multiple women fellating one man in the Jacuzzi. People eating chicken naked. Strippers. Orgies. A stage show that involves melted soft-serve ice cream (I think/hope). Awkward naked crouching. SO. MANY. PENISES. It’s all here folks.

Two babes, a penis float & a beach 🏝 #nobasicbach

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6. There’s a room for that.

Want to have sex in public but don’t want the awkward chafing of the pool deck? Head to the Romping Shop Playroom. It’s basically a room filled with mattresses and writhing bodies. There’s also a bondage and kink area in an adjacent room. File this under: things that can’t be unseen.

7. There’s a culture of consent.

The goal of the resort is to provide a safe place, so there’s a strict ask before you touch policy. Anyone who is caught acting out of line and/or making people feel uncomfortable will be removed from the property by the staff. So, if you see something, say something.

8. The gift shop carries everything you need…and also a few items that you can’t imagine ever wanting or needing.

Like a penis shaped lighter that’s also a vibrator, a very confusing children’s book OR other items.

HedonismGiftShop

9. Going with a partner? Discuss boundaries first.

All the guests I spoke to said the same thing: if you’re coming as a couple, you need to discuss boundaries  before you get on the plane, so when you arrive you’re both on the same page. As Rick and Margaret — the couple I interviewed for my Toronto Sun piece — told me, “in order to have a good time at Hedonism, you need to trust one and other and be secure in your relationship. Come to the resort because you want to enhance your relationship, not because you’re trying to fix it.”

10. The resort isn’t fancy.

If you’re looking for a high-end luxury resort, Hedonism is probably not for you. The resort is a bit older and has a laid-back, lived in vibe. Guests come for the sex-filled, anything-goes atmosphere and the unorthodox “perks” (see above).

11. Bring your own shampoo.

My bathroom had hand-soap and a full-sized tube of ‘hair and body wash’ but no shampoo, conditioner or body lotion. If you need these items, I suggest bringing your own.

 

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#tbt to two weeks ago when I had actual hair volume (hi, I missed you) & was wearing colours.

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12. There’s an all you can eat soft serve ice cream station in the main dining room that’s open all night.

Need I say more? This was literally one of my favorite aspects of my stay.

13. The beach grill is your best bet for lunch.

Although the buffet is open for lunch, I ate at the beach grill which serves Jamaican and American comfort food (grilled cheese, fries, jerk chicken etc). Having lived in Toronto for 12 years, I’m picky when it comes to my Jamaican food. A guest favorite, the jerk chicken didn’t wow me, but I loved the curried goat and ribs — washed down with a Pina Colada of course.

 

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I’m going to miss these lunches at @hedonismjamaica #nobasicbach #oxtailfordays

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14. Eat at Harrysan for dinner.

Sure, you may have to wait for a table but it’s worth it. Harrysan’s Jamaican twist on Japanese Teppenyaki & sushi was my favourite meal at the resort. My advice: if you like fish, try the freshly grilled catch of the day. The fish is so fresh, it melts in your mouth.

15. Don’t wear your best shoes.

Planning to bring your favourite pair of shoes? Just don’t. Between impromptu tropical rainstorms, slippery pool decks and errant spills of all kinds, things have a way of getting messy at all inclusive resorts. I learned this the hard way when I threw up all over my brand new $475 Stuart Weitzman gladiator heels after my first and last Flaming Bob Marley shot.

16. If someone offers you a Bob Marley shot, just say no.

Made with Grenadine, Galliano, Creme de Menthe, Overproof rum and lit on fire, the Bob Marley shot is both fruity and minty, making you feel like you just drank a large glass of Koolaid and mouthwash at the same time. There’s no way drinking this can end well (see above re: shoes).

17. The spa is one of the nicest areas of the hotel.

I don’t know what this says about me as a sex writer, but my favorite part of adult themed resorts is always the spa. The spa at Hedonism is newly renovated with high ceilings and an assortment of natural, locally made products for sale. It’s the perfect space to retreat to for a massage if you need a break from the party.

IMG_2061

18. If you want to eat chicken late at night, you’re going to have to strip down.

There are two beach grills. The one that is open all night is located adjacent to the nude pool. If you want to sit and eat there, you can’t wear clothes. This is either the best thing or the worst thing ever, depending on who you ask.

19. Seems quiet? The party is probably happening at the nude pool.

One of the most disconcerting things about Hedonism is how quiet it seems during the day. On the days I was there, the “prude” areas of the resort felt almost deserted. As I discovered, that’s because the party is mostly happening on the nude side of the resort, with the pool being the nucleus of the debauchery. If you set foot there, be prepared to see more things that can’t be unseen (i.e. public sex).

20. All bodies are beach bodies.

Real talk: Hedonism II is not for everyone. There’s nudity. There’s sex. But there’s also a lot of acceptance. Similar to my experience at Temptation, I left the resort with a greater appreciation for my own body (flaws and all) and one massive hangover.

To sum up, Hedonism ii is either going to be your ultimate fantasy or your worst nightmare. You may end up loving it and becoming a regular (I met a lot of couples that have been coming there for 15+ years!) or you may end up wanting to burn your clothes by the end of your stay (or somewhere in between). It all depends on who you are and what you’re looking for in a vacation. All I can say is that Hedo is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Would you ever go to a clothing optional resort?

20 Things You Should Know Before You Go to Temptation Cancun

 

Last month I spent five hilarity filled, sun-soaked days at Temptation Resort, Cancun – a topless optional, “playground for grownups.” The adult-themed resort recently underwent 11 months of extensive, multi-million dollar renovations and a complete rebuild, lead by world-renowned designer Karim Rashid (you may own his garbage can). The result is a luxurious, ultra-modern and playful candy coloured space that makes you feel like you’re temporarily living in a pack of Jolly Ranchers.

When I agreed to go on this trip, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had a lot of questions, concerns, and just general curiosities. I recently wrote about my Temptation experience in the Toronto Sun. However, I thought it would be useful to put together a post that answers FAQs.

Going to Temptation for your first time? Here are a few things you should know:

1. Going topless is completely optional.

Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty shy about showing my body in public. I was concerned that I’d get to the resort and be the only person hanging out by the pool fully covered. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Going topless is completely optional. Some people are topless, others are not. Whatever your comfort level, no one judges you (I even rocked a one-piece while hanging out on the beach!)

2. You will see boobs. Lots of boobs.

It’s kind of inevitable. Within my first 20 minutes at Temptation, I looked across the pool and saw a woman vigorously applying sunscreen to her very ample breasts. These kinds of moments become so commonplace that they kind of stop registering after the first day or so. Also, good call re the sunscreen. Apparently burnt nipples are not much fun.

When at @temptationresort …

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3. It’s not a Swingers resort.

Temptation is an “adult-centric, superior all-inclusive, topless-optional resort” designed to be a “playground for adults” aged 21+ who “love to party in a free-spirited atmosphere.” While Temptation is very clear that it’s not a Swingers resort, you will meet guests who consider themselves Swingers or Lifestyle (however, as one couple I spoke to told me with a wink, “we’re not swingers but some of the people we sleep with are“).

Everyone has their own reasons for coming to Temptation. Some folks just want to go topless and love the laid-back, friendly vibe. Other guests are there to spice up their relationship and/or test boundaries (even if they’re not actively trying to hook up with anyone, there’s the possibility that it may happen and sometimes that’s enough.) And of course, there are also people (like me) who just want to chill by the pool and eat as much guacamole as possible, with zero judgment. However you cut it, if you have a freak flag, this is the perfect place to fly it.

4. The crowd is older.

Although the resort is actively trying to bring in more millennial-aged guests, for the most part, the crowd is late their 20’s to early 30’s and up. The price point is a bit higher than a generic resort, so that tends to attract a more mature and established crowd. While I met a lot of people in their 30’s and early 40’s, there are also lots of guests in their 60’s and 70’s!

5. The vibe is very body positive.

Without really advertising it as such. You will see bodies of all different shapes, sizes, and ages in various stages of undress. There’s no judgment. There’s no shame. Everyone is just doing their thing. If you’re tired of worrying about what you look like in a bathing suit, this is the perfect place to go. By the end of my stay, I felt a renewed sense of acceptance and love towards my own bod.

6. The food is good.

I know it seems counter intuitive to come back from a sexy adult themed resort and want to talk about the food, but it was really quite excellent. With seven different specialized restaurants on the property, there’s a little bit of everything. My favorite restaurant overall was Sea Flirt. I loved their Mexican inspired breakfasts and modern seafood dinners. Dinner at Romanza (high-end Italian) was also excellent. Other favorites include the cheese empanadas and taco dorados at Rain (buffet), the guacamole & ceviche at Amores (Mexican/American) and basically all of the desserts. Also, bottomless fresh squeezed juices at breakfast!

7.  It’s all-inclusive, but bring money for tips.

Although it says all tips are included, the staff is really lovely and you’ll want to tip them. It’s just good form. I’d budget $20 USD/per day on tips.

8. You can easily plug in your phone and electronics in your room.

I thought I’d have to bring an adapter/travel plug set, but it turns out you don’t need one for Mexico. Inside the rooms at Temptation Cancun you’ll find these cute little nooks built into the wall on either side of the bed where you can easily plug in all your electronics. Also, no need to bring a straightening iron – there’s one in every bathroom. 

9. The gift shop sells Cialis and Viagra but may not carry items like gum and bobby pins.

I learned this the hard way (heh, pun not intended). Luckily there’s a drugstore directly across the street from the hotel where you can get all kinds of things — including deeply discounted over-the-counter skin products (Retin A, Kitocell) without a prescription. FYI, you cannot buy Xanax or Adderall without a prescription. I asked…for a friend.

10. Ordering room service off the TV is kind of amazing.

There’s a fancy, schmancy digital room service system that you can access through your TV. It’s 24-hours and all-inclusive. Perfect for those late night chips and guacamole cravings.

11. There are two pools, each with a distinctly different vibe.

The “sexy pool” is the party pool where things can get pretty wild, whereas the “quiet pool” is exactly what it sounds like: mellow and laid-back. I liked having a choice between the two.

12. There’s an unofficial message board where guests can connect.

Many guests come back every year or even multiple times a year, so it makes sense that they have their own message board. Cancun Care is a place where guests can connect, arrange meetups and talk about their experiences. It’s also where you can sign up for The Boob Cruise. Yes, that’s totally a thing and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

13. You will see and hear things that can’t be unseen/heard.

While on the way to our first dinner together, our group of journalists passed by a group of people partying completely nude on their balcony. While sexual activity is prohibited in public spaces, you will see things. Some of the things we witnessed: A very large man in a very tiny man-thong. The beginnings of what looked like a foursome popping off in the pool. An underwater blow-job/hand-job. More men in thongs. To quote my friend Laura, “my eyes will never be the same.”

14. If hooking up with a couple is on your sexual bucket list, this is a good place to turn that fantasy into a reality.

Not every couple at Temptation is there to hook up (see above), but if you’re looking for that kind of connection, this is a good place to meet other people who are open to it. Even if you’re not looking to “play,” you’ll probably get hit on — or at the very least checked out – by a couple. Everyone is really respectful though, so if you’re not into it, it’s totally OK to politely decline.

15. Temptation is an environment of consent and respect.

The hardest thing to get used to about Temptation is how decidedly UN-creepy it all is. There is a strict “no means no” policy that’s built into the Temptation Cancun resort guidelines that every guest has to sign off on upon check-in. People will ask you before they touch you — even if it’s just a hug.

16. If you’re a light sleeper and like to go to bed early, bring some earplugs.

The music from the outdoor nightclub Bash, usually winds down around 2 am. Depending on where your room is located, you might be able to hear it when you’re trying to sleep. If you’re a light sleeper (like I am) and tend to go to bed early, you might want to bring along a pair of earplugs.

17. You will make friends.

This trip was the first time since my #BiSC days where I went somewhere and felt like I met my people. I was lucky enough to go to Temptation with 8 other amazing, hilarious journalists. We started as strangers but ended the trip as friends. With that said, I feel like many of the returning guests would say the same thing about their Temptation experience. When asked what they love about Temptation, everyone says “the people.” Everyone is really friendly and open, so it’s incredibly easy to strike up conversations with strangers.

RED DEVIL PARTY at @temptationresort #karimrashid #partyon #designer #interiordesign #cancunmexico 2017

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18. You will go topless.

On my last full day at the resort, I worked up the courage to go topless. It wasn’t a big deal and it felt kind of amazing.

19. By the end of your stay, you’ll find yourself with 5-8 new BFFs, carrying around your possessions  (which include an armload of discount over the counter acne medications) in a rain-soaked hat.

AND IT WILL BE THE BEST THING EVER. #NoRegrets

20. Temptation will win you over.

Maybe it was the amazing people I met, the daily breakfast enchiladas I consumed or the sheer ridiculousness of it all (where else can you find a poolside “orgasm faking contest” or dance half-naked to Billy Ocean’s Carribean Queen while enjoying the best the swim-up bar has to offer?) but in just a few short days, Temptation managed to turn me from a skeptic into a believer.

For more Temptation-related stories, make sure you follow Joe The Intern on Instagram.



20 Things To Do on a Weekend Getaway to Vancouver

 

As someone who spent over a decade living in a major metropolis, people always ask me, “how do you survive living on the island?” First off, let’s get a few things straight: Victoria isn’t a big city but it’s not super small either. We’ve got bars. We’ve got coffee shops. We’ve got more marijuana dispensaries than is humanly necessary. While the shopping is somewhat limited, you can still mostly get what you need (unless what you need is a Zara store. I mean, come on Victoria). With that said, living on an island comes with limitations and the desire to “get off the island” can get strong. So, when that question comes up, I always answer: “regular trips to Vancouver!”

I’ve spent large chunks of time in Vancouver since I was child and like to think I have a decent handle on the city. After posting a bunch of photos from my recent trip two weeks ago, a friend commented, “I should get you to plan my next weekend in Vancouver! I never know what to do once I’m there.” So, I’ve decided to  do just that.

Here’s some of my favourite things to do and eat in Vancouver, as seen through the lens of someone who visits the city regularly.

1. Eat at Guu Izakaya.

“You want me to eat at a place called Guu?” is what most people ask. I always tell them, “yes, yes a thousand times yes!” If you haven’t experienced Izakaya (Japanese tapas) before, Guu should be your first stop. Luckily, there are a bunch of locations around the city, each with a slightly different menu. One thing I have to order at every one I visit is their Tuna Takaki. It’s simply the best I’ve ever had.

2. Shop at a Japanese dollar store.

If you’ve never experienced a Japanese dollar store, you’re in luck because Vancouver has quite a few! I’ve recently fallen in love with the newly opened Miniso chain, which is more upscale and a great source for cosmetics, housewares & sheet masks, but Yokoyaya (International Village) and Daiso (in Richmond) are also worth checking out.

3. Stay at the Burrard Hotel.

Described as “Melrose Place without the murder” The Burrard Hotel is my go-to for when I’m not staying at my sister’s place. The decor is delightfully retro and the palm tree filled courtyard makes you feel like you’re somewhere much further south. Joe the Intern likes their selection of art by Dina Goldstein that’s scattered throughout the hotel.

4. Look at pretty things at Nordstrom.

Nordstrom used to be a novelty reserved for trips to the States, but now there’s stores in Canada. The downtown Vancouver location is stunning and a great source of inspiration if you’re like me and you love looking at & touching pretty things. The selection is curated to suit an Asian market, which I find generally means more whimsical, adventurous pieces. There’s also a bar. Inside the store. You know, because.

5. Eat a Japadog.

If you’re in Vancouver and you’ve never experienced a Japanese style hotdog, you need to visit Japadog. They have carts throughout downtown as well as a storefront restaurant on Robson street. It’s a Vancouver institution and likely one of the best street meats you’ll ever consume. My favourite is the Kurobuta Terimayo. If I’m going to send my body into a gluten spiral, this is my first stop. (American friends: they now have two locations in LA!)

6. Go bro-watching at the Cactus Club.

I think it’s accurate to say that a lot of people here have a love/hate relationship with the Cactus Club. Going to one is a bit like hooking up with an ex that has a “meh” personality but is hot and surprisingly good in bed. The Cactus Club is a chain restaurant that always makes you feel a bit like you’re stepping into an Entourage episode, but you stay because they’re in all the best locations (like overlooking the water in Coal Harbor or English Bay) and the food is actually quite excellent.

“I got 99 problems, but this beach ain’t one” – English Bay Cactus Club Cafe #beach #vancouver #patio

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7. Go on a Vancouver Foodie Tour.

Want to experience some of the best food Vancouver has to offer in one afternoon? I seriously recommend booking a Vancouver Foodie Tour. A few summers ago, The Secret Agent and I went on the Guilty Pleasures Gourmet tour and it was amazing. Not only are you going to eat some delicious things, you’ll also get a great overview of the city’s culture.

8. Go for drinks at Long Table Distillery or The Keefer Bar.

Head to the Long Table Distillery for a few drinks before you head out for the night. This small tucked away micro-distillery has a cool, industrial-style tasting room for handcrafted spirits and some of the best craft cocktails I’ve tasted. Craving more cocktails? Check out The Keefer Bar in Chinatown. I still haven’t been there yet, but reliable sources say it’s amazing.

9. Swim in the pools at Kitsilano or Second Beach.

Vancouver public pools > your public pools. Vancouver is home to several excellent public pools like Kitsilano (which is saltwater!) and Second Beach in Stanley Park. Both spots have scenic waterfront views that rival any hotel pool in the city.

10. Eat something deliciously greasy at Hons.

By now you’ve probably figured out that Vancouver is a hub for amazing Asian food. Is Hon’s the best Chinese food in the city? Probably not. But it’s kind of an institution and it serves damn tasty Cantonese comfort food. Think perfectly fried and just a little bit smoky rice noodles with beef, crispy fresh Gai-Lan with oyster sauce and plates of bbq pork all served by staff in matching T-shirts.

11. Have sushi at Shiro.

If you’re walking along a street in Vancouver and you don’t pass at least a handful of sushi restaurants before you reach your destination, be concerned. Very, very concerned. There’s just so. much. sushi. here. Shiro is my favourite in the city though.

12. Treat yourself to dinner at Wildebeest.

If you’re looking to go for a higher-end meal and like things meaty, hit up Wildebeest in Gastown. I can be a bit of a scene on the weekends, but I’ve had some of my favourite meals from the past five years at this restaurant. I also recommend Pidgin (Asian/French fusion) which is right around the corner.

Our Smoked Boar Belly is one of many #happyhour reasons to leave work early. 5-6pm every day! #treatyoself

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13. Take the Skytrain to Aberdeen Centre.

If you’re in the mood to be transported somewhere totally different, take a quick skytrain ride to the Aberdeen Centre – a large Asian shopping mall just outside the city in Richmond. You’ll find stores like Hong Kong’s Giordano that aren’t available elsewhere in Canada. Hint: stop at the food court for lunch and/or some delicious Asian desserts.

14. Enjoy a decadent meal during Dine Out Vancouver.

If you’re like me and love fine dining and are also budget conscious, Dine Out – a yearly event where high-end restaurants offer prix-fixe menus at a reduced cost – is probably going to be your jam. This past winter, a friend and I took advantage & had a wonderful meal at Yew.

15. Shop at Front & Company on Main.

Located on a the hip Main St street, Front and Company features a mix of previously worn name brand & designer items and new pieces. It’s also where I go to sell items from my wardrobe  – and let’s face it – where I get a huge chunk of my clothes. Most of my profits usually end up going back into the store because I almost always find something gorgeous to buy every time I visit.

16. Eat some Pupusas on Commercial Drive.

Commercial Drive (“The Drive”) is probably the area of the city that most reminds me of Toronto – in the best way possible. Old school Italian businesses press up against hip bars, vintage shops and Indian take-out. While you’re there, make sure to try some pupusas (delicious El Salvadorean corn patties stuffed with melted cheese, beans & meats) at Rinconcito Salvadoreno.

17. Look for treasures at Community Thrift & Vintage in Gastown.

Cobblestone lined Gastown is now home to a lot of trendy bars, restaurants and shops, but tucked away amongst the hip high-end sneaker shops and furniture stores, you can still find a bargain at one of two Community Thrift & Vintage stores. Not only are the stores super cute and well curated, they’re part of a social enterprise initiative that provides supportive, employment opportunities to women living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

18. Grab a drink in the “Gayborhood” and wander around the West End & English Bay.

Davie Village (aka the “gaybourhood”) is a vibrant neighborhood located in the West End of downtown and is the heart of the city’s gay community. I love this area – especially in the the summer and around Pride weekend when the night life (and day life) spills out on to the street. Imbibe at one of the many eateries, bars or lounges and then head for a romantic stroll around English Bay (one of the best views in the city).

Hanging out in English Bay aka “fake California.”

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19. Discover discount designer duds at the consignment stores of South Granville.

Adjacent to some of Vancouver’s wealthiest neighbourhoods lies South Granville. This hood is home to stores like Anthropologie, James Perse, Max Mara and others. It’s also where the rich folks go to dump their wardrobes. My favourite place for scoring deals is Turnabout. Think lots of lightly used high-end to mid-range designer pieces for fair prices. Tip: if $30 Alice and Olivia dresses are your thing, head to the basement. That’s where you can find the clearance racks and deepest discounts.

20. Eat tacos at Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop.

These are the best tacos I’ve found outside of L.A. There’s now a location on the island so I don’t make a point of eating there when I’m Vancouver anymore, but it’s good. Oh so good. There’s a couple of locations around the city, the newest being in the financial district. Try the chicken tinga taco. It’s mouthwatering.

Vancouver friends, where are some of your favourite spots in the city?!

The 20 Guys You’ll Meet Online Dating in Victoria

I’ve been Online Dating in Victoria on and off for the past year or so. It’s been entertaining to say the least. However, often when I take a break from dating and log on to my account a few months later, I feel like it’s always the same people online. Yes, the names, faces and identities may have changed, but it always feels a bit like I’m meeting the same 20 guys over and over again. So, with the help of Joe the Intern I’ve put together this post. Skinny Dippers, I present to you “The 20 Guys You’ll Meet Online in Victoria.”

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