Michelin-standard cuisine, cocktails by a yacht-lined marina, super-luxury hotels, yoga at dawn on the beach – not what people expect when I say I’m off on one of my jaunts to Ibiza.
But the White Isle, as it is lovingly called by its adoring aficionados, is no longer solely the party haven it once was. Ibiza is bequeathed with over 220 square miles of colourful inland towns and villages, sprawling beaches with hidden coves more akin to those in the Caribbean and luscious pine forests spritzing the island with their delicate scent.
Think more complete relaxation, a mini wellness revolution and bars, hotels and restaurants that will see you longing to return again and again. Once visited, Ibiza is never forgotten.
Over the past decade, the spotlight has really shone on the North and the West of the island. San Antonio (or ‘San An’) for its super clubs and sunset strip dominates in the West, while the likes of Portinax and Benirras are often lauded for their exclusivity on the northern tip.
However, it’s the east of Ibiza that’s now the place to be thanks to the growing number of super-luxe hotels and restaurants that nestle comfortably next to traditional family-owned tapas bars. Not to mention the swathes of beaches, fashionable markets, healthy hang-outs and a sprinkling of celebrities on their £350,000 per week super-yachts too.
As Ibiza’s third largest town and hailed as its cultural and gastronomic centre, Santa Eulalia has been my island base for almost 20 years. From the famous Iglesia del Puig de Missa- the formidable 16th Century church watching over the town from high in the hills, to every foodie’s dream Calle San Vicente or ‘the Street of Restaurants’ as it is known by many, it’s the perfect place to begin any Ibiza experience.
Taking a stroll along Santa Eulalia’s famous marina, along the beach and into town, the wealth of opulent shops, plethora of yachts bobbing in the sea and the tempting tapas bars draw those-in-the-know from all over the world, year in, year out.
Rest your head
Santa Eulalia has a host of places to stay from small hostels and apartments to celeb-worthy hidden ‘fincas’- or farmhouses – and sprawling villas. But one of the resort’s newest hotels not only offers luxury rooms with sea views and a rare mix of rustic charm combined with modern style, but also a super spa and wellness experience that many may not associate with the hedonistic Ibiza of yore.
The Sol Beach House opened 12 months ago and is just cool enough without being too intimidating. The stylish rooms, with touches from flamboyant Spanish brand Desigual, are bright and airy with all the mod-cons and that all important view of the Med. It really is a chilled haven. Santa Eulalia’s array of hotels stretch from its hidden gems like the chi-chi Les Terrasses into the hills and Ibiza’s oldest ‘hostel’, the Buenavista, hidden under the famous Iglesia and still owned by the same family that opened it a century ago, to the super-cool Aguas di Ibiza which is five-star all the way.
Health for hedonists
In the past, it’s true that Ibiza has been a hedonist’s hang-out, from the artists that landed in the 1920s to the hippies that made the island their home in the 60s – and made Ibiza what it is. But health and wellness are now really making a mark in Ibiza, not least in and around Santa Eulalia. I was keen to explore the new fitness options available – nothing too energetic, just enough to lessen the guilt of the plates of tapas and G+T!
Luckily for me, the Sol Beach House is home to an enthusiastic wellness team offering the ‘Body and Sol’ experience. Detox massages, reflexology and a magnificent Total Wellbeing Asia treatment really were good for the soul – and I can be sceptical about such treatments. I even attempted outdoor yoga tuition and ditched my G+T for a purifying juice. Totally refreshing and left me feeling exceptionally zen-like.
If you’re looking to really overhaul your regime, where better than in the sunshine and by the beach. The team at 38 Degrees North work with you to kick start health and fitness with their luxury packages, inspiring trainers and variety of programmes to make sure you’re never bored, only revived.
And for healthy, hearty (and a bit hippy too!) cuisine, stroll down to Santa Eulalia’s sea front and put your feet up at Passion. Billed as the ‘Home of Health and Happiness’, I have to agree. The food is so colourful, moreish and varied that you won’t believe it’s super-healthy. There’s even fabulous organic wines on offer too.
But I am also partial to a hydrating juice and slurping on my ‘Vitabomb’ in my cabana (when a sunbed really isn’t enough) by the glistening pool at the Sol Beach House wallowing in relaxing, Balearic beats played by the in-house DJ, is the perfect way to while away a sun-drenched afternoon before an evening
A slice of the good life
Once relaxed and glowing with energy, it’s time to eat, drink and be merry – after all, you’re on holiday in Ibiza! Foodies may shun Ibiza as a gastro hotspot, but times are changing. Tapas and seafood always top the menu but there’s a burgeoning food scene that begs exploration.
However, unlike the UK, this new gastronomic boom isn’t down to celebrity chefs or Michelin stars, it’s thanks to high quality, local produce, restaurants that grow and rear their own fruit, veg and meats and a blossoming craft beer and gin industry.
I doubt in Ibiza if there’s a translation for ‘food miles’ with fruit and veg coming from island farmers, meats and cheeses created from ancient recipes and nuts, oils and honey flavoured with the island’s fragrant herbs and spices. Not forgetting the famous Sal di Ibiza, a sea salt that is used in everything from crisps to chocolates.
So what to eat and where to eat it?
Again, Santa Eulalia is hard to beat. A stone’s throw from the Sol Beach is Babylon, expect the likes of Ibizan tomato bread served with the in-house aioli, local gambas and calamari and the freshest of salads straight from the kitchen’s own nearby farm.
Up into the hills that encase Santa Eulalia is a hidden gem boasting not only outstanding food but also panoramic views – perfect for that all important Ibiza sunset. Sa Finca is run by a Belgian family who made Ibiza their home decades ago and delight not only with their locally-reared meats and luscious ‘moules frites’, but also some more unusual delicacies if you’re feeling brave – alligator or ostrich anyone?
But you genuinely are spoilt for choice in Santa Eulalia’s marina and town areas thanks to a large helping of traditional bars and restaurants and a smattering of Italians and Mexicans too. The likes of Calle San Vicente or ‘the Street of Restaurants’, Rincon di Marina, Royalty and Croissant Show have become veritable institutions and the places to catch up on the local news, indulge in real tapas and paella and cool down with a proper G+T served in the all-important ‘gin balloon’.
And speaking of gins, Ibiza produces several of its own – don’t go home without trying Law which uses local juniper, padron peppers and Sal di Ibiza. And on the subject of speciality drinks, Hierbas is synonymous with the Balearics. It’s an acquired taste with its origins dating back to the Middle Ages – expect aniseed, fennel, rosemary and thyme. Word of caution though – one is enough!
Cuisine plays a central role in Ibizan life, as it does all over the Mediterranean, and if you’re staying in a villa then the very best place to get stocked up is Santa Eulalia Market – it’s worth visiting just for the sights, sounds and smells alone.
Out and about
Ibiza is such a small island so it’s easy to explore whether on foot, in a car, on a boat or on the ‘Ibiza Bus’, which regularly leaves Santa Eulalia for neighbouring resorts such as Cala Longa and Es Cana as well as the infamous Ibiza Town or ‘Eivissa’. And this is definitely one to add to that bucket list.
As you fly into Ibiza, you skim over ‘Dalt Vila’- the Old Town – which dominates the skyline with its 16th Century cathedral, romantic lines of houses and its fortified town walls, a legacy of hundreds of years of invasions. It’s full of history and a must-see, day or night.
By day, stock up on trinkets from the range of quirky shops, stop for tapas in the main square (Les Locales is a top tip) and then hop on the hourly boat back to Santa Eulalia. By night – it all changes! Marvel at the eccentric parades providing free entertainment as you mingle with a mix of folk whilst meandering through the market-lined streets.
It’s hard to write about Ibiza without mentioning the institution that is Pacha, which celebrates 50 years in Ibiza this year and has grown from a small finca to a 3,500 capacity super club. But don’t let that intimidate you. As well as its delicious restaurant- which many might not even know about – and famous DJs including the likes of Pete Tong and Trevor Nelson, there’s one night that must not be missed.
‘Flower Power’ will take you back to Ibiza’s psychedelic past and hippy heritage with mesmerising acts emulating the likes of Bowie, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Whether you turn up in your shorts and t-shirt or with denim cut-offs and flowers in your hair, you’ll enjoy a fun, friendly and unforgettable night.
Whether you’re a sun worshipper, a foodie or culture vulture, Ibiza is a jewel in the Med’s crown. This bohemian island manages to do understated luxury exceptionally well.
Flights from Newcastle or Leeds-Bradford Airports with Jet2, Ryanair or Thomas Cook jet2.com
Ibiza Official Tourism ibiza.travel/en
Sol Beach melia.com/en
38 Degrees North thirtyeightdegreesnorth.com