[Featured in The Fit Traveller]
Ibiza – the party capital of the world. When I tell people that Ibiza is one of my favourite holiday destinations, they tend to raise and eyebrow and look at me in a knowing manner – and when I tell them it’s to chill out and do yoga they roar with laughter. But Ibiza has so much more to offer than nightclubs and twenty-four hour drinking. This alternative travel guide details everything you need to fall in love with the quiet side of Ibiza; well away from the crowds of clubbers.
When I was a teenager I was desperate to go to this mythical island. I’d heard of the clubs, the DJs and the “sleep when you’re dead” mentality – and it sounded so darkly glamorous I was dying to be a part of it. I was also desperate to marry anyone in the band Oasis, was deeply suspicious of doing exercise and thought that wearing a skirt over trousers was the height of sophistication. So my choices were questionable at best.
Life carried on, and I finally made to Ibiza in my mid 30s, for a friend’s hen party. To be honest, I was terrified – I had visions of a concrete jungle of mega clubs, tacky bars and teenagers being sick in the street. My tastes had evolved by this point – I liked sleep. And good food. And my eardrums. The thought of spending a weekend cheek by jowl with drunk girls in pvc miniskirts shouting “oi oiiiii” to the deafening thump of relentless trance music was my idea of hell.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I landed on one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen – and found it to be full of exceptional restaurants, stylish beach clubs and wonderful people. It’s recent history, certainly in the last century, is one of Bohemian coming together – which is actually how the party scene emerged. If you look for it, there’s still a strong hippy vibe, yoga everywhere and wonderful hiking and adventuring to be had.
Ibiza is what you want it to be – which is one of the many things that make it magical. You can have any holiday you want there, from a week of high-end relaxation to a hedonistic dance-til-dawn weekend. You’ll find that once you “get” Ibiza it stays with you – for many people I know, it’s an annual pilgrimage (I confess I went back three more times that initial summer…). At the risk of sounding a bit “woo woo”, there really is a special energy there – which some say comes from Es Vedra, the rock formation just off the coast which, extraordinarily, is the third most magnetic point on the planet. Whether it’s a planetary force – or just what happens when a critical mass of souls come together to enjoy themselves – good things just seem to happen there.
So put your preconceptions aside, jump in and see what happens – here are a few tips to get you started. Welcome to my “I went to Ibiza and didn’t go to a nightclub” guide to having a great time.
Where to stay
Ibiza is not a big island – you can drive across it less than an hour – so nowhere is out of reach. Crudely speaking, the north of the island is the most untouched and hippyish – and most of the well-known nightclubs and activity are contained in the southwest.
Don’t let that put you off though – the southwest is also beautiful and, if you want to check out Ibiza Town and some of the great beach clubs, this is a good spot to be.
If you really want to steer fully clear of the party scene it’s best to avoid San Antonio and Playa d’en Bossa. These areas can get quite hectic – although the latter still has some great spots to eat at the far (most southerly) end of the beach.
To truly get away from it all, retreat to The Giri Residence in the north. This beautifully refurbished farmhouse is an intimate, luxurious and laid back hotel, comprised of only five suites. It prides itself on its exceptional service – from catering to whatever you feel like eating, to allowing you to reserve the entire spa for yourself. It’s the place to go for sheer self-indulgence.
One of many agroturismo hotels on the island, Atzaró is a sumptuous family-run hotel nestled in a large agricultural estate. There are 22 sophisticated rooms, a stunning pool and an excellent spa and restaurant – both of which attract people from all over the island. The gym also offers free classes for guests if you’re feeling active.
How to get around Ibiza
Ibiza airport is served by numerous airlines and can be reached easily from most Europe. It’s also one of the quickest, most efficient airports I have ever experienced.
Once you land it’s easy to get a taxi from the rank outside (the queue can look long, but it moves very quickly). Or the car rental companies are well signed.
If you’re keen to explore the quieter side of the island, it is very helpful to hire a car. Taxis are relatively easy to find in the busier areas – but you may wait a while to get picked up somewhere more remote (although once on Ibiza time, you may not care!). Taxis are metered and cost roughly €1 per minute.
If you’re renting a car, I’d highly recommend hiring a 4 x 4, or at least something sturdy. Some of the roads down to the beaches are pretty steep and things can become a bit hairy! I’d also recommend taking out full insurance for this reason.
The best beach clubs
Spending a day in a beach club on Ibiza is one of my favourite things to do. A long lazy lunch and a nap on a sun lounger by the sea in glamorous surroundings is my idea of heaven.
The best beach clubs tend to get booked up (especially in high season) so book online or call in advance – or ask your hotel to make you a reservation. Ibiza is not known for being economical – so expect to pay around €30 on average for a sun lounger for the day, and around the same for a main course.
A popular wedding venue – and it’s easy to see why. This fabulous spot by Ibiza’s famous salt flats perches on a cliff-top with panoramic views out over the turquoise sea in one direction, and lush pine forests in the other. You may even see a flamingo on the approach! The chic décor is white and turquoise and the vibe is hip and effortlessly cool. Following extensive (and selfless!) research I also believe the sun loungers are the most comfortable on Ibiza.
Come here for a late lunch and stay to enjoy a cocktail at sunset. The menu is typical Ibiza fare – lots of fresh fish (the sea bream tartar is to die for), Iberian ham (a must in this part of the world) – and the cocktails are legendary. Just beware the lure of the fabulous boutique after a couple of drinks!
Another great spot for sunset cocktails thanks to its dramatic location, Amante is truly a place you can spend all day. Offering everything from yoga breakfasts to open-air movie nights, this place is more of an experience than just a venue. Enjoy fresh a fresh Mediterranean menu of local produce, a great wine list or fresh juices. Or just sit and watch the world go by and enjoy the laid-back vibe.
If you want to feel the sand between your toes, head for an afternoon at El Chiringuito. Set on a beautiful stretch of pure white sand on Es Cavallet, this place is pure Ibiza – beautiful white décor, fabulous people watching and an extensive menu of healthy salads, wood fire grilled fish and meat and delicious sharing plates. A relaxed place to watch the world go by – and it has easier access to the sea than the slightly rockier Amante and Experimental.
A place so special I almost don’t want to write about it! Set in a tiny cove, Ex Xarcu is a real gem – simply a great understated restaurant, with a few sun loungers, next to the glittering sea. It’s a far cry from the overt glamour of some of the more polished parts of Ibiza – but it’s because of this that it ranks in many “best kept secrets” lists in the heads of Ibiza veterans. After a dip in the sea, retreat to the rustic restaurant and enjoy a great bottle of wine and some traditional Mediterranean cooking. The salt-crusted sea bass or paella get my vote.
A great alternative is Es Savina, a little further around the coast. It’s a similar set up – albeit slightly less intimate – sit under the trees and enjoy the best seafood Ibiza can offer.
[Es Savina: Calle Cala Jundal, s/n, 07839 Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Islas Baleares, Spain]
Where to eat
The Fish Shack
No website, no reservations, no menu and no credit cards… just simple fresh fish caught that day, grilled and served with salad and potatoes. The Fish Shack is another great Ibizan institution in Talamanca (a great area to explore for really chilled-out beach life). Loved by everyone from locals to celebrity DJs it really is worth a visit. Grab a beer and enjoy simple delicious food by the sea.
[The Fish Shack: Es Pouet de Talamanca, s/n 07819 Santa Eulalia des Ríu Islas Baleares]
While you’re in the area, check out Rehab beach club, for a chilled out post-lunch drink.
If you’re after a hippy vibe, head to Elements on Benniras beach on Sunday to enjoy the sunset. Every week people congregate at Benniras to enjoy the hypnotic drumming ritual that takes place – a tradition that has it’s roots in an anti-war gathering in the early 90s. It’s an amazing spectacle, and incredibly atmospheric.
Elements’ rustic charm is perfect in this setting. Great food, juices and cocktails as well as massages and yoga are on offer.
Food with a view doesn’t come much better than this. Es Boldado commands a spectacular view over Es Vedra – the mysterious magnetic rock formation. As ever on Ibiza, delicious seafood and paella are great options here – or try the famous “black rice” variation made with squid ink (more delicious than it sounds!).
This is definitely a venue for lunch – the view is too good to miss, so get there before dark.
[Es Boldado: Camí de Cala d’Hort, s/n, 07830 Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Illes Balears]
A must for vegetarians – or anyone who just likes really good healthy food. Passion has 4 main cafes dotted around the island and offers brilliantly creative and nourishing healthy dishes – and legendary carrot cake! It’s predominantly vegan and vegetarian – but there are plenty of options for carnivores too.
What to do on Ibiza
Visit Ibiza Town
Ibiza Town is the biggest city on the island, and well worth spending some time in. Start with some yacht spotting down by the marina, and wander up through the streets to the ancient drawbridge that takes you inside the walls of historic Dalt Vila – Ibiza’s Old Town and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The winding medieval streets of the old town are packed with dangerously tempting shops, galleries and absurdly picturesque restaurants. If you’re there for dinner, visit Plaza del Sol for great night-time views and delicious Italian inspired food.
Down in Ibiza town visit the fabulously French Croissant Show [Plaça de la Constitució, 2, 07800 Eivissa] for breakfast with a side of people watching, and I love Bali Bowls next-door for a healthy lunches and smoothies. For gelato, I still dream of Vivi’s Creamery [Carrer del Mestre Joan Mayans, 6, 07800 Eivissa] – which has delicious vegan rice milk options.
Shopping-wise Ibiza town is a treasure trove – so I suggest bringing an extra suitcase. Must visits for me are Emonk for the perfect bohemian boots and D Lain on Carrer d’Annibal, for beach cover-ups so stylish you’ll wear them out in the evening too.
Visit a hippy market
Ibiza is well known for its hippy markets – of which there are several on the island. Often with live music, they’re worth a visit just to soak up the atmosphere – as well for unique and inspired shopping opportunities.
Get out and explore nature
Ibiza is a beautiful island to explore. It’s amazingly green, thanks to its thick covering of pine – and the contrast of this with the bright blue water is simply breath taking. So take a walk, hire a bike or sea kayak and see what you can see! The north of the island is especially good for this.
If you’d like a tour, try Can Gato Ibiza – brainchild of wonderful Ibizan soul, Gato Saurez, who offers bike tours, walks and even paramotor flights. Or Walking Ibiza, where you can enjoy guided walks and kayaking tours with Ibiza-born Toby Clarke.
Take a boat to Formentera
While visiting Ibiza, it’s also worth taking a detour to Formentera – the tiny island to the south. Formentera is Ibiza’s chilled out little sibling – famed for its exquisite turquoise waters and uber-relaxed atmosphere.
There are regular ferries from Ibiza town (the journey takes about 40 minutes) – and once there you can rent bicycles or scooters to get around the beautiful countryside and fabulous beach restaurants.
If you’re feeling flush, hire a boat for a day and have a skipper show you the sights. There are numerous places to do this but Blue Ocean Ibiza at Marina Botafoch is a good option.
Do some yoga
The more alternative side of Ibiza and yoga go hand in hand – so it’s not hard to find a yoga class on Ibiza. Your hotel will be able to recommend somewhere nearby.