The free spirit of the Balearics has long been the world’s favourite dancefloor. Take a holiday in Ibiza these days, though, and you’ll find there’s a whole lot more going on…
The beach scene
Ibiza’s beaches are almost as famous as its clubs. At Playa den Bossa, the island’s biggest, you can carry on the previous night’s party at the bars lining the sand. At the other extreme, you’ve got pint-sized Puerto San Miguel, where seclusion is pretty much a given.
In fact, the north coast towns of Puerto San Miguel and Portinatx couldn’t be further away from the party. Save for a few bars and restaurants, there’s little to disturb the pine-cloaked hills and sandy bays. Head south east and Santa Eulalia cranks things up a notch, with a chi-chi boutique and restaurant scene. As for Facebook-worthy photos, enter Ibiza Town. Get some snaps of the old quarter – its whitewashed alleys and cobbled streets wear a castle for a crown.
Lastly, it’d be rude to mention Ibiza without paying homage to its legendary nightlife. Pack your clubbing gear if you’re heading to Playa d’en Bossa or San Antonio – they’re all about neon-lit bars and big-name clubs. Saying that, Playa d’en Bossa’s safe shoreline and waterpark make it just as popular with families as the big-fish-little-fish crowd.
Things to See and Do in Ibiza
The White Island
Although it’s Ibiza’s clubbing scene that earns it column inches, this island is pretty impressive on the beach front, too. The sands come soft and white here, and when it comes to picking a spot to park your beach towel you can choose between huge, super-stylish sweeps and dinky coves half-hidden by pine trees.
The big beach
Ibiza’s headline act is Playa d’en Bossa. Measuring up at two kilometres, it’s the island’s longest beach. The white sands are prime tanning turf, and the shallow waters are just the ticket for pint-sized paddlers. There are loads of cafés and restaurants lining the sand, as well as bass-pumping beach bars for those who like to keep the party going 24/7.
The secret beach
If secluded sands are more your thing, make a beeline for Cala Xuclar. This tiny, horseshoe-shaped cove is up in the north of the island, about five minutes’ drive from Portinatx. Surrounded by pine-cloaked hills, it’s edged with ramshackle fishing huts and has a teeny chiringuito dishing up tapas and fresh fish. And despite its small size, there’s plenty of room to spread out – the only people you’ll be sharing the sands with are a handful of in-the-know expats.
Vintage queens should make a beeline for Ibiza Town’s old quarter. It’s got loads of little boutiques where you can hunt down old-school party dresses and Spanish handbags that go back decades. In Santa Eulalia, the posh shops are near the main square and on Calle San Jaime – you’ll find things like Chanel sunglasses and silver jewellery. And in Playa d’en Bossa, the boutiques lining the sand are the place to pick up jewelled sandals.
Arty types can’t get enough of Santa Eulalia, and the place is full of galleries selling everything from wooden sculptures to oil paintings. The flower-filled main square is a good place to start, and you’ll find a few on Calle San Jaime nearby. Over in San Antonio’s town centre, meanwhile, you’ll find boutiques chock-full of clubbing gear – the Pacha shop is one of the biggies.
You’ll find dreadlocked hippies lining up alongside locals at Ibiza’s biggest hippy market. It’s in Es Cana on Wednesdays, and stalls heave with the likes of lace, leather bags and pottery. For something more low-key, head to the Thursday market in San Miguel village, a five-minute drive from Puerto San Miguel. The stallholders here sell everything from local honey to watercolour paintings.
Ibiza isn’t just about thumping tunes. Santa Eulalia is Ibiza’s culinary capital – you’ll never eat a posher paella than on Calle San Vicente, also known as the Street of Restaurants, and you’ll get top-end haute cuisine at the harbour. In Portinatx, chow down on traditional fish stews at the restaurants lining the prom.
Ibiza’s definitely earned its stripes as the world’s clubbing capital, and San Antonio is home to the biggest and best places to party. Join the masses on the seafront, or head for the West End, which is chock-full of cocktail bars and cafés. The party never stops at Playa d’en Bossa either, where the clubs lining the beach range from budget to blow-out.
Pa torrat amb tomata
This is breakfast the Ibizan way. A big chunk of rustic bread is whacked on the grill and toasted until it’s golden brown. It’s then rubbed with some salt and the inside of a tomato, to give it just a hint of flavour. A generous glug of olive oil rounds everything off nicely.
This tasty stew hails from Ibiza’s interior. Lightly spiced pork, lamb, chicken and sausages are cooked in their juices, and bubble away with whole sweet garlic bulbs, bell peppers and potatoes until the flavour’s really intense.
Ibiza’s answer to French bouillabaisse crams in a lot of fish. Expect everything from monkfish and seabass to crayfish and clams in this stew. It’s named after Zarzuela operettas – famous for their huge variety of songs – and is cooked in an earthenware pot called a ‘cazuela’.
Americans reckon they invented cheesecake, but Ibizans know better. Bite into a slice of this and you’ll find it really refreshing – mint and aniseed are added to the mix of fresh cheese and honey, giving it a herby flavour.
Islanders throw the A-Z of herbs into this traditional drink. It’s made from around 18 different plants, and it’s got a sweet, citrussy flavour with loads of aniseed and rosemary. The locals knock it back at the end of a meal – they reckon it helps their dinner go down.
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Set on Ibiza’s west coast, Cala Gracio is a really chilled out, get-away-from-it-all kind of place. But the resort comes with a bit of a twist. Its next-door-neighbour – about 15 minutes’ walk away – is none other than clubbing heavyweight San Antonio Town. As far as the beaches are concerned, though, this place comes with its own little duo.
Local legend has it that Cala Llonga was once a smugglers’ cove. Now a popular resort, it’s still got something of a secretive air. Set back from the main road that skims Ibiza’s east coast, the resort is cupped by pine forested bluffs. You’ll find more families than clubbers here, which explains why it’s treasured by both locals and tourists.
Cala Pada is a shy-and-quiet spot on Ibiza’s eastern edge. It’s named after its beach – a wide, horseshoe-shaped curve of sand backed by bottle-green pines. With only a handful of beach restaurants and cafés to its name, it’s world’s away from the island’s loud-and-proud party towns.
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