Nancy Brown discovers there’s a lot more to the White Isle than its party scene
Think of the White Isle, and its hedonistic party reputation is no doubt the first thing that comes to mind. However, beneath its techno exterior and superstar DJs lies a charming island full of rugged rocky coves, whitewashed villages and a laid-back bohemian vibe. The tiny Balearic island of Ibiza, off the north east coast of Spain, has an easygoing charm that has drawn a free-spirited crowd of artists, painters and hippies since the 1960s. Away from the superclubs, TOWIE-style pool parties and high-rise hotels, there are boutique retreats, Michelin-starred eateries, secluded beaches and even art museums to explore. Plus, wellness is big business. If you want to practise sunrise yoga, sign up for a residential bootcamp, swim in hidden lagoons or head out on a hike, you’ve come to the right place.
The five-star Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena (from £450 per night) is a haven of peace and tranquillity. A 30-minute drive from San Antonio, the boutique hotel is perched high atop a majestic cliff on the rugged north western coast. Carefully built into its surrounds, the 77-room Hacienda spills down the cliff side in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, with the luxurious cave-like bedrooms positioned to maximise stunning sea views. Arrive at sunset and the views of the burnt orange sky, dramatic cliffs and calm Mediterranean Sea are breathtaking. Shaded by palm trees, the Hacienda’s outdoor pool is beautiful, with an eclectic mix of antique chairs, seats made from old beer barrels and zebra-print sofas with gecko-shaped pillows. The La Posidonia spa has ten indoor and outdoor treatment rooms if you fancy a pamper, plus the epic Cascadas Suspendidas – a circuit of tiered, interconnected seawater lagoons perched right on the cliff’s edge.
Elsewhere, rural boutique hotel OD Can Jaume launches nine brand new villas this month (from £300 per night). Each elegant suite comprises a bedroom, lounge, bathroom and a rooftop terrace with hot tub and space to sunbathe. Surrounded by orange groves and palm trees, the hotel – a 19th-century Ibizan manor house – feels completely off-the-beaten-track, but is just 2km from Ibiza’s Old Town. The emphasis here is on relaxation, with breakfast running till midday featuring produce from the hotel’s farm.
The resort also hosts a weekly organic food market, La Huerta, in its grounds every Saturday. Offering a taste of authentic Ibiza, expect food stalls, fresh juices, cocktails and organic wine, all accompanied by live music. By day, there’s plenty to do. Relax on a cabana daybed by the pool, enjoy an in-room wellness treatment or explore the island on the free-to-hire bicycles.
You can’t come to Ibiza and not see mythical Es Vedrà. The rocky, uninhabited outcrop, off Ibiza’s south west coast, is said to be the third most magnetic place on earth and home to the sirens who tried to lure Ulysses from his ship in Homer’s Odyssey. The only inhabitants now are wild goats and lizards. The beach at Cala d’Hort is a great place to gaze out at the island.
Meanwhile, for the best views in Ibiza, head to the top of Sa Talaiassa. At 475m tall, the mountain is the island’s highest point and offers idyllic views and perfect peace and quiet.
Spend the day in Dalt Vila, the oldest neighbourhood in Ibiza. The walled hilltop Old Town boasts spectacular sea views and is home to winding, cobbled streets and a gorgeously Gothic cathedral. Partly residential, Dalt Vila offers a glimpse into the real Ibiza, plus the narrow streets house a variety of shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. Make a beeline for the Ibiza Museum of Contemporary Art. The historic building has been beautifully restored, with glass floors laid over an archaeological site, making for an enjoyable arty stroll.
For a state of the art health club combined with a stylish beach club experience (this is Ibiza, after all), look no further than San Antonio’s Cotton Fitness Club – the White Isle’s first beach club dedicated to fitness and wellbeing. With a fully-equipped gym, the island’s finest PTs and a full fitness programme with classes that take place on the sun deck, keeping fit never looked so good. And, when you’re done with the free weights and outdoor pool, sidle up to the massage platform for some pampering or pull up a chair at the restaurant and bar for healthy snacks and smoothies overlooking the picture-perfect Calo des Moro beach. Daily and weekly passes must be pre-booked, or sign up for one of the new retreats, which include bootcamps, hiking trips, spa treats and villa accommodation.
Just a ten-minute taxi ride down the winding mountain roads from the Hacienda lies Puerto de San Miguel. Once a fishing port, the small seaside resort is set around a sheltered bay and backed by pine-covered cliffs. Pull up a chair at Chiringuito Pascual and watch the holidaymakers head out on boat trips as you tuck into a seafood pizza washed down with a cold Estrella.
Elsewhere, Cala Martina Beach, near the Hippy Market in the north east, offers plenty of low-key eateries where you can enjoy authentic Spanish seafood.
Come sunset, head for the terrace of Café Mambo in San Antonio, where you can enjoy the last of the day’s rays, mojito in hand, as the resident DJ plays a selection of chilled Balearic beats. Nibble on Iberico ham, pan con tomate and manchego cheese and watch the revellers get the party started on the beach below as they gather at the island’s top sunset spot.
Back at the Hacienda, enjoy fine dining on the terrace of the Edén Restaurant. Overlooking the cliffs, there isn’t a bad table in the house. However, it’s the food that’s the real draw. Simple, organic fare – such as lobster paella, lamb with smoked aubergine and sea bass with vegetables from the hotel’s garden – is created by two-Michelin-starred chef Fran López and tastes even more sublime than that delicious Ibizan sunset.
British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair fly regularly from the UK to Ibiza. Visit the Ibiza Tourist Board here