Think you know Ibiza? Discover the magical restaurants and bars beyond the beaten track.
Ibiza might have a reputation of being a party island but there is another quieter and more spiritual side to this delightful Balearic destination.
Full of beautiful beaches with fine white sand and crystal waters, it’s well worth visiting one of Ibiza’s most talked about spots, Benirras in the north-west of the island. Situated on the road between San Miguel and San Juan, thousands of fragrant pine trees line the valley that leads down to Benirras beach. It’s a fabulous place to watch the sun set and to see the striking rock of Cap Bernat, which people swim out to for its reported healing powers.
Listening to the sound of the bongo drummers, as the sun sets, it’s no wonder that artists, hedonists and hippies have been meeting here for years to enjoy, dance and drum the day and night away.
There are so many magnificent natural bays with their crystal-clear water and Cala Gracio in San Antonio is not to be missed. A small and cosy cove frequented by families, it’s wedged between rocky headlands and a soft lush forest of junipers and pines.
It offers many services, including a great beach bar, and the most fantastic restaurant El Chiringuito Cala Gracioneta. Set into the cliff side, the eaterie is renowned for its excellent food prepared by head chef Jerome Palayer.
Be sure to stop there for a relaxing lunch and sample its varied menu from fresh French oysters to the delicious Lobster Risotto and Iberian cut of pork and its home-made burgers. Topped off with a great wine list, friendly waiting staff and breath-taking views, you will be planning your return before you have even left.
The Ibizian sunsets are legendary and at least one must be experienced at a cool beach bar and Café Mambo in San Antonio, is one of THE places to watch it from.
The legendary venue turns 21 this year and has seen huge artists from David Guetta to Jamie Cullum and Fat Boy Slim pass through its doors. Every day at sunset it offers a unique ambience with fantastic chill out music and parties organised by the most famous clubs in the world enjoyed by the likes of Paris Hilton and Coleen Rooney. It offers an international menu with fresh fish, grilled meats, an extensive wine list and tasty cocktails.
If you fancy heading to the other side of the island then be sure to check out stylish art deco Hotel Es Vive in Ibiza Town. There you can lounge on big beds by the gorgeous pool or head to the roof terrace for delicious cocktails and sushi while admiring the views of the bay and the sandy beach of Figueretas.
A short drive away is the old town of Ibiza (Dalt Vila). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has an impressive fortress and cathedral.
Strolling around the maze of cobbled streets and apartments with wrought iron balconies, high ramparts and terraces behind a ring of medieval walls, it feels like you have been transported back in time. The town’s famous 13th-Century Santa Maria Cathedral built on the site of a Roman temple and the mosque is also worth a visit.
And if you really want to know about the history of the island, then drop into the Madina Yabisa Interpretation Centre, which uses audio visual technology to tell the history of the former medieval Muslim city which fell in 1235 to the Crusaders.
The local picturesque town of Santa Eulalia with its golden beach, impressive marina and many restaurants and bars is worth a visit and great for looking at the boats and people watching.
For a peek into the Swinging Sixties when hippies flooded the island, visit the colourful hippie market at Las Dalias located on the main road between Santa Eulalia and San Carlos.
Open on Saturdays and Monday evenings, it has a distinctly eastern vibe, and plenty of stalls selling handmade clothes, jewellery, exotic footwear, traditional crafts and Adlib, or white clothing made with, embroidery, crochet, and lace, is sold at plenty of stalls too.
If you have the energy after a big shopping trip to party, there are many beach bars and clubs on the island. Blue Marlin is one of Ibiza’s most famous beach clubs on the shores of Cala Jondal. It hosts many different DJ’s like Richie Hawtin, who is renowned for his cutting-edge techno sounds. This summer has seen Pete Tong hosting an exclusive residency inviting the finest electronic DJ’s to perform with him.
Another new club to open its doors this season has been HI formerly known as Space, in Playa d’en Bossa. It hosted Radio 1’s Big Weekend this August and pulls in thousands of fans every Friday and Saturday evenings with its Glitterbox and Black Coffee nights respectively.
A visit to Ibiza is not complete with a visit to Pikes Hotel. Set in the rural hills outside San Antonio, Pikes is a 500-year-old finca that was turned into a luxury hotel in the early 80s by founder Tony Pike with a rock ‘n’ roll theme and an outdoor pool and two bars. It soon became a party mecca for A-listers including George Michael, Grace Jones, Boy George and Freddie Mercury.
In recent years, Tony Pike has handed ownership over to Andy and Dawn, directors of Ibiza Rocks and it has been hugely successful.
This summer alone has seen the most fantastic DJ sets and gigs with Paul Oakenfold opening his residency there, DJ Harvey taking to the decks and even renowned band Primal Scream playing a sell-out gig in the Ibiza Rocks Hotel.
Spending a few hours sampling one of their delicious cocktails at the pool bar is a must as is eating at their restaurant, Room 39 (named after Wham’s Club Tropicana hit) which overlooks the pool and bar and serves up the most incredible food prepared by head chef Lee Milne (who has worked at award winning restaurants including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Vineyard at Stockcross).
He prepares an extensive sharing plates menu and the À La Carte menu boasts specialities such as local free-range Rib Eye of Beef and locally sourced Sea Bream topped off with a wine list that offers an extensive choice of local wines. Dining in Room 39, is so good you will want to return again.
And if you still have an appetite for partying then you have to go to the famous night-club Pacha. Based on the northern side of Ibiza City’s port since 1973, Pacha has 15 bars and various dance spaces that can hold 3,000 people. One of the best nights on the island is David Guetta’s BIG at Ushuaia where the legendary French DJ plays to sell-out crowds throughout July and August. His set is definitely not to be missed.
If you really feel like chilling, it’s great to catch a boat from the main island to the nearby Balearic island of Formentera. This unspoilt island with its clear turquoise waters is a stunning place to explore. On the famous strip of Migjorn, there are many beach bars and Flipper & Chiller serves delicious seafood and excellent grilled meat dishes.
You will find it hard to tear yourselves away after any time in Ibiza but it’s lovely to experience its two very different sides. You can’t help but fall in love with this wonderful island.
Pikes Hotel, Camí Sa Virera, Sant Antoni de Portmany, 07820, Spain
Tel: +34 971 342 222
Olivia Buxton has been working as a national newspaper journalist for the past 20 years and has held executive positions including that of Deputy Editor at Daily Express Saturday magazine. She currently writes culture and entertainment interviews for Mail on Sunday Event magazine, Mail on Sunday Health, The Mirror, The Sun and Closer Magazine.
Photographs courtesy of Pikes Hotel and by Olivia Buxton