Ibiza: Live like a local

Ibiza is many things to many people and, while it continues to evolve, its allure remains. Be warned, you may want to book a one-way ticket

By Sam Lewis
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:19 BST, Updated 30 Jun 2021, 14:25 BST

The enigmatic limestone rock Es Vedrà soars out of the azure sea a few miles off the southwest tip of Ibiza. Tourists and locals flock here to watch the sun go down, preferably with a mojito in hand at the cafe Sunset Ashram, where a DJ mixes hypnotic Balearic beats. Others prefer to observe it from a nearby rocky outcrop while holding a tricky asana — contorting their bodies to the commands of a yoga guru as if in worship to Tanit, Ibiza's ancient Phoenician goddess of love and fertility. Legend has it she lives inside the rock, while others swear Es Vedrà is Homer's legendary Island of the Sirens, off whose shores Odysseus was lured from his ship. Who knows, maybe this magnetic effect explains why so many visitors to Ibiza never seem to leave.

The island became famous in the 1950s and 1960s with the arrival of artisans, painters, hippies and draft dodgers, and their legendary full moon beach parties helped make Ibiza the laid-back, free-spirited, hedonistic hotspot it is today. While much of the hippy culture has dissipated, the bohemian lifestyle lives on, predominantly in the north around the sleepy village of Sant Joan and San Carlos, where you can meet an eclectic bunch of nonconformist Europeans operating all manner of enterprises. While some run yoga retreats, others have converted secluded fincas (estates) into agrotourism hotels such as The Giri Residence, or homegrown organic vegetarian restaurants like La Paloma and Cicale.

For those who prefer something a little louder, the south remains the place to party, with megaclubs Pacha, Privilege and Amnesia still attracting islanders to their VIP areas on the nights the big-name DJs — the likes of Pete Tong, David Guetta, Erick Morillo and Luciano — step up to the podium. And there's a growing atmosphere of exclusiveness, with many new venues catering for those who want to let their hair down in unashamed luxury. Perhaps this is due to the new wave of immigrants — Elle Macpherson, Jade Jagger and James Blunt all have secluded villas here — and the fact that those who partied during the Club Tropicana years have grown up (somewhat) and now want to indulge in sushi and Champagne rather than a bag of chips and bottle of Estrella. High end beach clubs like Sands and Nassau have popped up along the previously run-down area of Playa d'en Bossa, while Ibiza Town's Marina Botofoch now has designer shops and restaurants, alongside a cabaret club and casino, making it more akin to Marbella or Miami.

A few miles on, a revamped Talamanca has not only attracted a new Pacha hotel, Destino, but a new luxury villa complex and restaurants, which range from the plush Sa Punta to the Fish Shack, where local Spaniards and celebs rock up to dine on the catch of the day.

Food glorious food

Not surprisingly, an island known for its hedonism has some great restaurants, as well as a cuisine that's as global as its residents.

With most partygoers sleeping till noon, lunch is typically a lengthy affair, taken at rustic beach bars such as the elegant El Chiringuito and edgy Sa Trinxa on the island's southern tip. Here you can feast on everything from gazpacho to dorada a la plancha (griddled fish).

The biggest change in the past few years has been the rise of new high-end beach bars like Blue Marlin, with Champagne, sangria and sashimi served in VIP areas or at your lounge bed. Don't let the casual dress code fool you — you'll need a reservation.

When it comes to eating out at night, most locals wouldn't dream of dining before 10.30pm. While the older Spanish jet-set head for upscale Italian cooking under the moonlight at the serene Las Dos Lunas, for casual French-inspired Ibizan cooking, El Clodenis in San Rafael is the place to go. Here, under olive trees in the peaceful walled garden of an old finca, fish and seafood are among the staples but it's also a carnivore's dream, with rabbit, lamb and free-range chicken on the menu.

Tourists in search of entertainment head to nearby El Ayoun, where Moroccan/French cuisine is served up in a courtyard of Bedouin-style tents and mosaic water fountains, while belly-dancers and fire-eating performers put on a show. But the new trend is to head into Ibiza's countryside to places such as KM5 and Aura for al fresco dining under twinkling stars and fairy lights. Here you can sip cocktails late into the night, serenaded by top DJs.

For glitz and glamour you can't beat the new Downtown Ibiza, restaurateur Giuseppe Cipriani's outdoor eatery within the Ibiza Gran Hotel, serving up Italian/Japanese-inspired dishes such as beef carpaccio, gnocchi, and mozzarella (brought straight from Italy, of course), paired with his infamous Bellinis. This season he's due to open a new restaurant on the Ibiza promenade, with, it's predicted, an equal measure of panache.

Places mentioned
El Chiringuito. Playa es Cavallet. T: 00 34 971 395 355. www.elchiringuitoibiza.com
Sa Trinxa. Las Salinas Beach. T: 00 34 637 826 183. www.satrinxa.com
Blue Marlin. Cala Jondal. T: 00 34 971 410 117. www.bluemarlinibiza.com
Las dos Lunas. Ctra. Ibiza a San Antonio KM 5.4. T: 00 34 971 198 102. www.lasdoslunas.com
El Clodenis. Plaza de la Iglesia, San Rafael. T: 00 34 971 198 335. www.elclodenisibiza.com
El Ayoun. Calle Isidor Macabich, 6, San Rafael. T: 00 34 971 198 335. www.elayoun.com
KM5. Ctra Sant Josep KM 5.6. T: 00 34 971 396 349. www.km5-lounge.com
Aura. Ctra San Juan KM 13.5, San Lorenç. T: 00 34 971 325 356. www.auraibiza.com
Cipriani: Ibiza Gran Hotel, Paseo Juan Carlos I, nr.17. T: 00 34 971 599 050. www.cipriani.com

Party people

It's not necessary to be nocturnal to have a good time on Ibiza, but it helps. Traditional clubs such as the legendary Pacha and Amnesia warm up around 2am with headline DJs typically making an appearance at 3am and playing sets until dawn. But in recent years there's been a move towards partying in the sun, meaning you don't have to wait until midnight to let your hair down. While many of the beach clubs enable you to dance away the afternoon in boozy bliss to the sound of live DJs, the Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel has been a trailblazer in ticketed daytime pool parties. And while most lead acts — the likes of David Guetta, Eric Prydz, Sasha and Luciano — don't appear until 9pm, that's early on this island. Unless you want to join the long queue of 18-30 TOWIE types, VIP's the only way to go — roped off on a raised platform so you can have a good look at the mayhem going on below. The VIP section stretches along one side of the lagoon-style pool, with magnums of Veuve Clicquot, cabanas and stylish Bali beds.

Elsewhere, by Ibiza Town's marina, a South-Beach-meets-Marbella makeover targets yacht-hopping billionaires. At the epicentre is Lio, a cabaret supper club nestled among the Sunseekers bobbing in the port, with the beautiful Dalt Vila in the background. With an interior as sleek and glittering as its clientele, diners feast here on Japanese fusion cuisine around a swimming pool-cum-stage while watching acrobats and dancers suspend their toned, tanned bodies from hoops suspended from the ceiling. Then, at 1am, the chairs and tables are cleared away and it's transformed into a nightclub — yet another tempting opportunity to party from dusk till dawn.

Places mentioned
Pacha Ibiza: Avenida 8 de Agosto. T: 00 34 971 313 612. www.pacha.com
Amnesia: Carretera Ibiza a San Antonio Km5. T: 00 34 971 198 041. www.amnesia.es
Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel: Playa d'en Bossa 10. T: 00 34 971 396 710. www.ushuaiaibiza.com
Lio: Paseo Juan Carlos I, Puerto Deportivo, Marina Ibiza. T: 00 34 971 310 022. www.lioibiza.com

Piles of style

Colourful kaftans, handmade beaded leather belts, woven sunhats and designer flip-flops and shades — chic bohemian style has become synonymous with Ibiza.

Ibiza's Dalt Vila (Old Town) is a good place for a shopping spree, with boutiques down cobbled alleyways selling all manner of crafted goods.

The most talked about talent on the island is jewellery designer Jade Jagger, who opened a showroom, Jade Jagger Ibiza Atelier, at the foot of Dalt Vila, this winter. Meanwhile, the capital is also home to designer shops, such as reVOLVER, which offers an eclectic range of brands from around the world, including edgy diffusion lines from international designers, as well as cool cult labels.

Elsewhere, many restaurants, hotels and beach clubs have onsite boutiques selling handmade silk kaftans and jewellery, and some even run fashion shows. The best take place at the Atzaró, an agrotourism hotel that has a 110ft catwalk set in a beautiful orange grove with live DJs and Champagne on tap. Local and international collections are showcased — watch out for brands by local designers Monica Perez Ibiza and Boho Style.

As well as the global talent, it's well worth hunting out the island's craftsmen. On the edge of the car park at Salinas Beach you can watch Eduardo Genta creating bespoke leather shoes, belts and handbags. For leather goods, go further north to Triana in Santa Eulalia and Taller Can Cameta in San Miguel.

Meanwhile, at World Family Ibiza in San Carlos, hippy couple Alok and Merel create beautiful bags and belts inspired by Indian and Afghan styles. They started out selling their wares on a stall in Las Dalias Hippy Market and have since partnered with hip brand Paul & Joe, selling via fashion website my-wardrobe.com.

But if you don't want to leave the luxury of your hotel or villa sunlounger, call up IbizaFlair. Founded by long-term island resident and lifestyle expert Viviana Lucarini, the company has a vast knowledge of Ibiza-inspired fashion finds and will bring them to your door. Extravagant? Whimsical? Welcome to Ibiza.

Places mentioned
Jade Jagger Ibiza Atelier. By appointment. E: sales@jadejagger.com
reVOLVER. Calle Bisbe Azara, 1. T: 00 34 971 318 939. www.revolveribiza.com
Atzaró. Ctra. Sant Joan KM 15. T: 00 34 971 338 838. www.atzaro.com
Triana. Lista de Correos CP:07840 Santa Eulalia. T: 00 34 971 193 584.
Taller Can Cameta. C/De la Iglesia, 10 CP, 07815 San Miguel. T: 00 34 971 334 833.
World Family Ibiza. Crta. San Juan, km.17.5 (next to Can Curune). T: 00 34 971 333 201. www.worldfamilyibiza.com
IbizaFlair. T: 00 34 608 695 025.

Top 10 local tips

01 VIP guest list: Splash out and be one of the privileged few at a table with a bird's-eye view of the action and an iced magnum of Grey Goose.

02 Live music: Dance to a live violinist and saxophonist on the sand every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at the Salinas beach bar/restaurant Sa Trinxa. www.satrinxa.com

03 Private yacht: Enjoy a day trip by Sunseeker to the neighbouring island of Formentera for lunch. Or go by private water taxi with Hot Fish from €300 (£257) for up to five people. www.hotfish.eu/en

04 Yoga: Take a class with Ibiza Retreats on Salinas Beach or get them to come to your villa. www.ibizaretreats.com

05 Fashion: Lost your sunnies? Head to Queens of Joy for emergency shades and California Christiana Republic (CCR) jumpsuits. www.queensofjoy.eu

06 Sunset: See the sunset at Cap d'es Falcó in Ses Salines National Park (armed with mosquito spray) or try the beachside Sunset Ashram. www.capdesfalco.es

07 Eat in: Rather than barbecue, order in Alex Sanchez, head chef and manager of The Chef catering company. www.thechefibiza.com

08 Polo: Ibiza now has a polo club — watch the chukkas while chilling to Balearic beats. www.ibizapoloclub.es

09 Market: Try San Jordi Market on Saturdays to meet locals selling vintage clothing and bric-a-brac.

10 Sleep: Try Pacha's new hotel, Destino, or the more exclusive Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel. www.destinoibiza.com  www.ushuaiaibiza.com

More info

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Mallorca, Menorca & Ibiza. RRP: £12.99. (DK Eyewitness)
Discover the hedonism of Ibiza in the 2004 film, It's All Gone Pete Tong.
There are a number of English-language newspapers and magazines on the island, including the weekly Ibiza Sun and Majorca Daily Bulletin.

Published in the National Geographic Traveller – Luxury 2013 special issue


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