Whenever I tell people I live in Ibiza they have one of two reactions; incredulity or envy. Both reactions are understandable, after all, Ibiza is the crown jewel of the Med known for its hedonism and its natural beauty. And, yes, normal people live here. Well, normal might be an overstatement. Suffice to say, Ibiza is not just for partygoers and holidaymakers. There’s more to my beloved island than night clubs and beach bunnies and I love to take an Ibiza novice and show them the true heart of my adopted homeland. I had one such opportunity recently when a friend with presumptions finally decided to visit.
Finding accommodation in Ibiza is difficult because it’s almost impossible to choose between the various five-star and boutique hotels and the luxe private villas. Knowing my friend likes to have all the accoutrements of a hotel I chose the Seven Pines Resort Ibiza for the first part of her stay. Also, it meant I got to indulge in all the lovely offerings of this village-style hotel.
Set on a clifftop on the island’s west coast Seven Pines Resort Ibiza was once an enclave of private homes. Beautifully renovated and landscaped this place retains its village feel with townhouses in place of rooms. The views are beyond breath-taking and stretch out across the shimmering Med interrupted only by the rocky monolith of EsVedra. Mystics like to say the rock looming out of the water is the most magnetic spot in the world. There’s not a single scientist who will back up this claim, but it doesn’t matter because the magical pull of this mythical place is enough for me. Especially when its viewed from the resort’s The View restaurant or the Pershing Yacht Terrace. Cocktail in hand of course.
The hotel’s gym and personal trainers are among the best in Ibiza, but I convince my friend to take her fitness outside and sign us up via the concierge with a guided walk with Walking Ibiza. We set out in the early evening and head towards Atlantis. It’s an ancient Phoenician stone quarry from which the walls of Ibiza town were built. The hike down starts with a meditative walk around a rock spiral built by a long-gone hippy before descending the sheer dunes to Instagrammable rectangular rock pools filled with turquoise waters. The return journey is where it hurts but its way more fun than sweating it out in the gym and the sunset views are simply marvellous.
The next day we tootle around the west coast beaches in a Mahari jeep because they are just too cute to resist. Our lunch stop is Cotton Beach Club overlooking the sands of CalaTarida. We overdo it with their exquisite sushi menu and one too many cocktails. It is Ibiza after all, which means back to the hotel for a massage and treatment at the Pure Seven Spa and a little disco nap before the evening’s shenanigans.
Neither of us are clubbers (anymore) and while the pull to dance the night away is strong, we also want to preserve our energies for the adventures to come. We meet friends for dinner at the brilliant La Gaia in the Ibiza Gran Hotel which overlooks the ancient capital of Ibiza town. Chef Oscar Molina’s menu is a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine via the flavours of Ibiza and its completely mind blowing. One thing leads to another and despite protestations we momentarily end up on the dance floor at Heart – the eye-popping, beat-pumping collaboration between Cirque de Soleil and the Adria brothers. Old enough to call it a night before things get out of hand, we take a little stroll along the Marina before heading to bed.
I’ve convinced my friend to split her time between the west and east coast and move her sleepy body from the pool at Seven Pines Resort Ibiza to the one at Nobu Ibiza Bay. Determined to show her all the facets of this fabulous island I drag her away from the poolside juice bar to have a private yoga session with a remarkable yogi called Trish Whelan. You’ll need to book well in advance because she is simply the best Kundalini yoga teacher in the world. No exaggeration. There’s a multitude of retreats, therapies and wellness options on the island from shamanic drumming and sound baths to Watsu water massage and colour therapy. Ibiza is the hottest European wellness destination and we both decide on doing a retreat next season with the gorgeous girls at Ibiza Retreats. I love showing visitors this side of the island.
After yoga we drive through San Juan, a cute village in the north that’s known as the bohemian capital of the island. We’ll be back here on Sunday for the weekly hippy market to pick up an organic latte from the Meke coffee stand and buy loads of artisanal goodies. But now with bellies rumbling I steer us to lunch at Wild Beets in Santa Gertrudis in the centre of the island. This bright eatery calls itself a botanical restaurant and specialises in plant-based cuisine that even a meat eater will love. Exquisitely presented and immensely tasty we pig out on seasonal Buddha bowls and treat ourselves to an epic slice of raw beetroot cheesecake before grabbing some bottles of their iPurify cold pressed cleansing juices for later.
Santa Gertrudis is an enclave of cosmopolitan chic, so we take a stroll around some of my favourite boutiques on the island. First stop for me is always EsCucons. Owned by the people who run a gorgeous boutique hotel of the same name this small store is full to the brim with beautiful homewares and fashion. Nearby is new kid on the block Atelier with its attached restaurant (note to self: make time for breakfast here). It’s a crafters paradise with hand spun wool, embroidery kits and finished garments in an array of pale colours. There are a billion other little boutiques to check out, but I hustle my friend into the car to make sure we have time to stop by La GaleriaElefante and Sluizon the way back. Sluiz is a Dutch owned mega store for homewares, furniture and fashion and La GaleriaElefante contains a series of cave like rooms filled with trinkets, rugs, soft furnishings, jewellery and some of the most unique clothing to be found on the island.
Back at Nobu Ibiza Bay I insist on booking into the John Freida salon to prepare for the evening’s outings. The team here are experts at making even the most windswept and sun-drenched hair look amazing. We start with champagne in the bar of the Gran Hotel Montesol. It’s the oldest hotel in Ibiza and its beautiful façade overlooks the main pedestrian street of the island’s capital. Before the bubbles get to our heads we take a wander up the romantic cobbled stone streets of Dalt Vila – Ibiza’s heritage listed old town. At the top of the ramparts the view stretches out forever as the sun sets and stars being to twinkle.
I lead my friend through the darkening streets and just as she thinks she’s about to be abducted I push open an old wooden door to my most treasured Ibiza food secret. Taller de Tapas (known as Ibiza Food Studio by locals) is headed up by ex-Noma chef Boris Buono. The diminutive space is a candle lit foodie paradise. Boris and his team prepare the culinary magic in an open kitchen and it feels more like an intimate dinner party than a restaurant. Much of the produce is foraged and all of it is local and paired with delicious natural wines. We stay way past our bedtime sharing laughs with Boris and his incredible team.
Every day is a beach day in Ibiza, so we pack our sunscreen and towels into the handmade baskets we picked up from EsCucons and head south to EsCavallet beach. The ride down goes through the salt flats where flamingos elegantly wade and herons pick through the scrub. I’ve been organised enough to book us a day bed at El Chiringuito and as the valet takes our car, we fall onto it marvelling at the golden velvety sands and the immense blue sky. Robert the Oyster Guy swings by our bed and deftly shucks a dozen French oysters in front of our eyes. We spend the day indulging in the Mediterranean menu, taking lazy swims in the sea and getting through our fair share of El Chiringuito’s famous white sangria. By now my once Ibiza-sceptic friend is googling real estate and wondering how she can transfer her life from London to the island. It really is like this every day.
If I had my way, she’d be staying in a different hotel every night but that’s not particularly convenient, so I swing by Casa Maca just to show my friend what she’s missing. This divine boutique hotel has views towards Dalt Vila and is set in a 400-year-old farmhouse. The interiors are country house chic and the gardens are full of homegrown produce that’s used in the restaurant. We take a sobering tea on the terrace while planning the evening ahead.
Dinner that night is at the exclusive Cas Gasi set in the lush valleys near Santa Gertrudis. This boutique hotel was once the family home of the owners and it shows. It’s elegantly warm and welcoming, full of antiques, books and art. The restaurant is brand new this season and matches the exacting standards of the hotel. We are lucky enough to share a drink with owner Margaret von Korff who regales us with stories of her early days in Ibiza. The setting is lovely and the food is a broad mix of Spanish favourites, locally caught seafood and vegan delights.
Breakfast at Chambao at Nobu Ibiza Bay is a cornucopia of deliciousness my favourite being the enormous hunk of honeycomb where guests can scrape off their desired amount of liquid gold. We decide to spend the morning between the pool and the hotel’s Six Senses Spa opting for full body treatments. The afternoon sees us strolling amongst the yachts in Marina Botafoch perusing the various designer boutiques and pop-up stores. Naturally, dinner at Nobu is a given and we take our seats at the bar overlooking the kitchen and delight in a selection of Matsuhisa’s signature dishes as well as some created especially for Ibiza.
My friend has requested two things for her last day on the island: beach and sunset. I decide to throw in a bit of culture too, so we head to La Salinas in the south. This is one of Ibiza’s most famous beaches and although it’s not one I visit frequently (I prefer the smaller coves in the north) it’s a great place to bring guests because the people watching is out of this world. Young men and women and everything in between parade up and down the sand promoting the clubs while kids frolic in the shallows and superyachts full of supermodels pull up further out. We swim and grab a snack at the down-home but too cool Sa Trinxa bar before heading to La Nave Salinas. This sandstone building at the end of the beach was once a salt warehouse but has been transformed by international art collector LioMalco into a hub of creativity. Every summer the gallery hosts a super-star show from artists such as Keith Haring, Bill Viola and Marco Brambilla. It’s the only gallery in the world where you can walk off the beach into a multi-million-dollar art show.
Now for sunset. It’s a hard choice but I finally decide on Experimental Beach. The cocktail list here is a work of liquid art mixing unique flavours and unheard-of combinations. The DJ supplies the perfect soundtrack to what ends up being a rather emotional sunset. The colours are overwhelming and we both shed a tear of joy at the beauty of life. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from ending the evening barefoot dancing and laughing our heads off. And just like that, she’s gone, back to the big smoke and the rat race and as I wave her good-bye at the airport I’m pleased as punch I’m not going with her. ◼
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© This article was first published in Feb-Mar 2020 edition of World Travel Magazine.