For a particular kind of traveller, Ibiza is a quasi-religious destination. It’s not Macchu Pichu or the Taj Mahal but the island’s super clubs are temples for their disciples. The spas and yoga retreats are spiritual getaways for those seeking a much-needed city-dwellers’ detox. The White Isle is a utopia of sorts: sapphire water, bronze bodies and endless sun.
But while all of that still inspires an infatuation in the people drawn there, we’re not just talking about having your arms around a stranger at 4am in Pacha. The truth is, Ibiza has grown up. Today, it’s anything from surfer’s paradise to gourmet heaven, as much a culture trap as a sun trap.
On the surface, it’s easy to see why. The Balearic island boasts 210km of coast and 2,883 hours of sunshine a year (London gets half that); there are certainly no shortage of sandy coves or sunlight. But a lesser known side to the White Isle is that it calls four UNESCO World Heritage Sites its own, has the best preserved seabed in the Mediterranean, Las Salinas national park (making for incredible diving conditions), and is home to a rock formation believed to be the third most magnetic site in the world after the north pole and the Bermuda Triangle. Maybe that’s why people keep coming back.
Summer sees average highs of 26C, while shoulder season (May/October) hovers between 18C-21C – perfect for a visit thanks to less crowded beaches and restaurants, and cooler weather for hiking and exploring the rustic fincas surrounded by farmland or white-washed walls and terracotta rooftops of Ibiza’s old town.
North of the island is fairly lacking in tourism, as the package holidays and lads-on-tour tend to stick to south west San Antonio. As such, travellers looking for calm and quiet stay north – where most of the vaunted yoga retreats and best spas are – while party-seekers stay south at hotels like Hard Rock Hotel and Ushuaia (close to world renowned nightclub Pacha). With VIPs from all over the world dashing to spend summers here, fantastic food is plentiful whether you’re after an authentic Ibicencan prawn paella or Asian fusion (Nobu opened in 2017).
Beachside bars serving mostly tapas (chiringuitos) offer the most casual and traditional fare by day while high-rollers dock their million pound yachts in the marina to dine at glitzy hotspots STK and Lio by night.
For a more rock n’ roll vibe, visitors head to Ibiza Rocks, known for its daytime pool parties, or celeb magnet Pikes Hotel, which hosted the likes of George Michael and Freddie Mercury in its glorious 80s, and Idris Elba, Naomi Campbell and Jaime Winstone in more recent years.
Whatever you’re after, it definitely pays off to do your research in advance: hidden beaches, hiking trails, and scenic drives are best enjoyed off the beaten path.
Where To Be Seen
Between the nightclubs, dayclubs and celeb-filled restaurants, savvy travellers will look for under-the-radar favourites. DJs and property owners Christian and Alan Anadon – better known as The Mambo Brothers – grew up on Ibiza where their parents owned island institution Cafe Mambo. They recommend heading to Ibiza town centre. “There is a place called La Cava – we love the food, the wines and [they have] great coffee. You still get to see the Ibiza characters there like you did in the 60s. Always a great place to people-watch.”
At La Cava 80 per cent of the products are locally sourced, and they even use olive oil from olives grown and pressed on the island. Even better, the menu del dia is a fixed price menu available every day and offers three delicious courses for a very reasonable price. Don’t be fooled by its relaxed daytime facade, though; like most cafes on the island it stays open until 3am all year round.
For a complete change of pace head to Lio, arguably the island’s most famous celebrity hotspot. The legendary restaurant and nightclub’s impressive client list includes Michael Jordan, Eva Longoria, Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade, Olivia Culpo, and Romee Strijd. Head there every Sunday to see actor Idris Elba spin the best house music at his own residency, Studio 7, while every other weeknight you’ll be treated to arguably the best cabaret show in existence.
The performances include gymnastics, ballet, soul ballads and lots of hedonistic dance acts that will spark your sinister side. It’s expensive with most menu items hitting around the £80 mark but you’re paying for the show – and it’s worth it.
A number of super yachts are moored outside at the marina, making for a spectacular backdrop to the main stage, while their owners dance the night away to world famous guest DJs. Reservations are a must. Thankfully for London residents, The London Cabaret Club is set to host a six-week residency of Lio London in February so you won’t have to jump on a plane to get a taste.
Where To Stay In Style
There is no shortage of beautiful places to stay here – from privately owned villas set high in the hills to fancy sea-facing hotels – but for a unique experience the Anandon brothers recommend Las Mimosas boutique hotel tucked away on the quieter end of San Antonio Bay. “We go there to chill by the pool and relax. The vibe is amazing and you don’t need to be dancing on the hammock. So its a great relaxed spot with good style.”
Just renewed, it feels more like a Spanish country house than hotel with only 11 junior suites and six suites laid out over two floors. The Cala Bassa and Cala Conta beaches are a 15-minute drive away, while the airport is about 20 minutes away by car. And unlike most hotels that shut over the winter months, Las Mimosas is open year-round – as is their restaurant Mimo’s which serves must-try Italian comfort food.
For another A-list option, lay your head at Nobu Ibiza Bay. Set in Talamanca Bay, the island’s nouveau riche hub, it’s a 20-minute walk to Ibiza Nueva marina where supper clubs Lio and Heart (the latter in partnership with Cirque du Soleil) are – not to mention the floating palaces of Ibiza’s jet set regulars.
The hotel itself is laid back luxe, with arguably the most renowned foodie credentials on the island, co-owned by Japanese celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. As well as three gourmet restaurants (Nobu, of course; plus the contemporary Mexican Peyote; and Chambao, which serves Ibizan/Mediterranean dishes), this outpost offers chef-led tours of the local fish market and farm that supplies the restaurants.
Welcomingly quieter than Nobu counterparts in London and Marbella, Nobu Ibiza has a fresh focus on its food; the rock shrimp tempura and black cod signature dishes never disappoint while a spinach salad with dry miso, yuzu truffle oil and fat king prawns will undoubtedly become the new favourite appetiser for many.
Chambao – the hotel’s laidback chiringuito beach restaurant – offers light specialities like charcoal cod bites and corvina ceviche alongside heavier fare such as charcoal Galician beef, paella and truffle and mushroom pizza.
Despite being a stone’s throw from legendary nightclub Pacha, the hotel and its slice of beach feel remarkably serene, with boats bobbing in the harbour and a clear view out to sea. With four restaurants, a Six Senses spa and a John Frieda salon, guests can happily use the hotel to bunker down for some R&R as much as for a trendy home base for the nearby supperclubs.
The Most Instagrammable View
It’s hard to find yourself anywhere with a poor view on the Ibicenco coastline, but you will be hard-pressed to top La Torre Restaurant’s clifftop panorama. “It’s the most romantic meal. Hostal La Torre for sunset is a must!” the brothers enthuse. Set high on Cap Negret, the dining terrace overlooks arguably one of the best sunset views on the island – and as such it’s near impossible to get a last-minute reservation at in summer.
With tables scattered haphazardly amongst the rocks, a small wooden stage for live music against the backdrop of the sea and a DJ console inside, you’d be forgiven for languishing away an afternoon-come-evening here. What’s more, the menu is just as enticing as the ambiance, with fresh local seafood like Ibicencan garlic red prawns and tuna carpaccio.
But no insider guide would be complete without a mention of Es Vedra. Gaining in popularity – and footprints – over the years, this magical place used to be the stuff of old hippies and locals exclusively. That’s because myths have followed Es Vedra from ancient history, not least that it was the home of the sirens and sea-nymphs who tried to lure Ulysses from his ship in Homer’s Odyssey. Reputedly, it is the birth place of the goddess Tanit, whose statue you will see all across Ibiza.
While the magnetic rock formation is steeped in legends that transmit a palpable feeling of peace, go in summer and you’ll hardly find a spot from which to take it all in. Visit during May or September instead with a picnic dinner and a bottle of hierbas, the island’s herb liqueur, and you might actually start to believe in magic as you watch the sun set.
The Best Dip
With countless beaches and sandy coves, choosing the best dip on the island is near impossible. But if you’re looking for a gorgeous beach complete with a bite to eat after an afternoon of sun, try Cala Nova. The beach is flat and long so the sea here is more ocean-like than the half-moon bays with still water Ibiza is known for. The plentiful waves and stronger tide make for great surfing.
Behind the beach you’ll find Aiyanna beach restaurant, a modern version of a tapas beach bar (chiringuito). Its laid-back, luxe decor makes the most of its natural surroundings using lots of palms and bright finca colours for table shade. You’ll want to set aside a few hours for a leisurely lunch here, as many ingredients are plucked daily from Aiyanna Ibiza’s own organic vegetable garden, and you’re more than welcome to leave your seat and go for a dip between courses.
The cuisine concept is a modern take on the traditional Mediterranean offerings, with fresh flavours, bold colours, organic local produce, superfoods and innovative sharing plates. Try the beetroot carpaccio with Lemme Lebanes cheese cream and local figs and the glazed grilled octopus with a red pepper muhammara.
Where To Shop
Sure, you’ll find your beach cover ups and party dress on every corner in San Antonio, but if you’re hunting for something particularly special, you’ll want to skip the tourist strip. The Anandon brothers recommend menswear store Antonioli. Situated in a matt black warehouse in Ibiza’s art district, with its beautifully-curated collection of chic clothing fresh off the catwalks, Antonioli feels like stepping into a futuristic gallery.
Among the rails you’ll find Marcelo Burlon T-shirts, Givenchy, and even a couture children’s range. There’s lots of black, interesting cuts, gorgeous textiles and some hefty price tags to match.