Since the 1960s, when it was a favorite hippy hangout, Ibiza has constantly reinvented itself, changing the slant on the party scene every decade while losing none of its rebellious spirit.
These days, beautiful people and ordinary folk alike make an annual pilgrimage to this shrine to eternal youth, congregating on what was once a step along the hippy trail that went from San Francisco to Kathmandu.
The island’s peculiar cocktail of visitors was created in the early 1970s, when millionaires and aristocrats began to moor their yachts in the marina and come ashore for a slice of the action in the shape of Ibiza’s first disco, the iconic Pacha.
This was in an age before VIP areas, and it was common to see international jetsetters such as Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, Roman Polanski, Nina Hagen, Ursula Andress, Niki Lauda or Carlos Sotto Mayor (Jean-Paul Belmondo’s girlfriend) rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi.
A pirate’s paradise
The city of Ibiza is something of a pirate town, with its statue of local buccaneer Antoni Riquer, who is said to have sunk a hearty number of ships despite his inferior resources.
The impression these sailors would have had of the old town would have been of a pyramid with the UNESCO heritage site Dalt Vila at its crest. Those who come to party on Ibiza rarely get around to a cultural fix, but there are plenty of tourists who do delve into the island’s history with a stroll around the city’s cathedral, castle and archaeological museum.
Part of the fun of Ibiza is about seeing and being seen, and La Marina and Sa Penya are the capital’s funkiest neighborhoods for this type of game.
If you’re serious about making a splash, you can get an early start with breakfast on the terrace of the fabled Montesol hotel and keep going until the small hours and beyond. Stores, bars and restaurants stay open late, enticing tourists to eat, drink and blow a month’s salary in one night while showing off their tans and cutting-edge outfits.
Hidden coves and ‘chiringuitos’
For those looking for some privacy, the nudist beach of Punta Galera in Sant Antoni is tucked between cliffs and an expanse of emerald sea. Sant Carles, Pou des Lleó also has an intimate air and a scattering of quaint fishermen’s cottages.
But if you’re looking for a more upbeat beach scene with easy access to food, why not try nearby Fonda Pou des Lleó (poudeslleo.com) which specializes in paella for €21. Cala Mastella is famous for its El Bigotes chiringuito (650 79 76 33), which has been perfecting the local dish of rice and bullit de peix – Ibiza fish stew (€22) – for the past 40 years. But if it’s sardines you’re after, the Es Calódes Multons beach in el Port de Sant Miquel, Utopía prepares this delicacy on Fridays for €13 while Sundays is couscous day, a plate of which will set you back €25.
The choice of restaurants in Ibiza town ranges from its oldest establishment, the modest Bar San Juan (Guillem de Montgrí, 8), which offers a dish of the day for €15 to El Bucanero (elbucaneroibiza.com), in the port area, which concocts Mediterranean fare from fresh ingredients for €35. Or there’s Plaza del Sol (plazadelsolibiza.com), with a simple menu of salads, juices and sandwiches from €25.
Dining at the cabaret club Lio (lio.ibiza.com) isn’t within everyone's budget, with prices starting at €180, but it’s not just dinner you’re paying for – it’s a complete experience that includes a vaguely erotic/camp show and the transformation of the restaurant into a disco with pool.
Open all year round, Teatro Pereyra (teatropereyra.com) is an option for night birds who are allergic to big dance music and oversized clubs. It has been hosting live concerts since 1988 and maintains some of the old hippy vibe.
If you aim to sleep in Ibiza, Es Vivé hotel (hotelesvive.com) is as good a choice as any. Reminiscent of Miami’s old quarter with art deco detail, a double room starts at €242; meanwhile La Ventana hotel (laventanaibiza.com), on Dalt Vila, has double rooms from €100.
The insomniac trail
If all-night raves are your poison, you could try the so-called hoteles-jaleo, which offer 24-hour action. Or just stick to the macro-discos such as the legendary Pacha (pacha.com); or the world’s biggest disco Privilege (privilege.com); Amnesia (amnesia.es) for crowds of 5,000; Space (spaceibiza.com) for electronic sounds or Es Paradis (esparadis.com), which hosts the famous fiesta del agua – the water party which has usurped the fiesta de espuma – foam party.
Ushuaïa Beach Hotel (ushuaiabeachhotel.com), at Playa d’en Bossa, gets the party started at 5pm by the pool and promises luxury, fun, siestas, oysters and sunrise capers. Leonardo DiCaprio christened the presidential suite here, which goes by the name of ‘I'm on the top of the world’. No doubt The Beach star enjoyed its 180º views from the horizontal comfort of its outdoor terrace jacuzzi.
The quiet interior
Rural Ibiza is something else entirely. While frenetic clubbing reigns on the island’s fringe, its interior is swathed in silence and offers a range of rural hotels from which to savor the peace. These suit all budgets, from Can Domo (candomo.com) in Santa Eulària with double rooms from €180, to the luxury The Giri Residence (thegiri.com) on the outskirts of Sant Joan, starting at €395.
But if you really want to “check out” for a while, why not try the convent of Carmelitas de Es Cubells, where single rooms go for a neat €45. Not only is it cheap, it’s a stone’s throw from the beautiful beaches of Ses Bosques and Cala Llentrisca.
With such tranquillity at its core, Ibiza is ironically the perfect place for meditation. The town of Es Cubells has a monument to the famous Catalan hermit Francesc Palau, who spent long periods on the tiny island of Es Vedrá eating nothing more than birds’ eggs and drinking the water from a nearby spring. Now associated with legends and magic, Es Vedrá has become the place to watch the sun go down. Aquabus Ferry Boats (aquabusferryboats.com) organize five-hour excursions for €29 that circle the rock.
Food-wise, the Can Berri Vell restaurant (canberrivell.es) in Sant Agustí is as good as any of the open-air bistros on the waterfront. A 17th-century house, it runs an excellent kitchen, but is only open at night. Prices start at €50. For an authentic touch, La Casita Verde (greenheartibiza.org) opens on Sundays, offering cheap food and tours of its ecological facilities.
English version by Heather Galloway.