Long before the ’60s hippie movement made Ibiza (or Eivissa in Catalan) a pit stop in their global migrations, the Balearic island held spiritual heft. The mythical home of the Carthaginian moon goddess Tanit has, for millennia, attracted those seeking a wicked good time. Nowadays, of course, the White Isle is known worldwide for its high-voltage nightlife—which segues into dazzling sunrise mornings into day parties at the pool into sunset beach sessions. But while the over-the-top intemperance has ruled the conversation of Ibiza, its din blocking out any sort of nuance, the idyllic isle offers so much more.
Most of the madness centers around the island’s two major hubs: Sant Antoni de Portmany (aka San Antonio) and Ibiza Town—as well as its beach-club suburb Playa d’en Bossa. But leave them in the rearview and head to the remote areas of the isle, and you’ll find spectacular, sparsely populated beaches and profound tranquility.
These organic allures of Ibiza are now finally being matched by man-made attractions: in the last half decade the small archipelago has born fruit from the global culinary movement. Exceptional chefs now call it home; boutique hotels built for a more sophisticated crowd cater to the more discriminating adventurer. Sure, some are happy never to leave the velvet ropes and thumping bass of Hï or Ushuaïa, but this guide is for those—like the hippies and Tanit worshippers of decades past—seeking more.
Casa Maca Hotel
Located in the hills of Can Palau, 10-bedroom Casa Maca is just a stone’s throw from the heart of Ibiza Town, yet the old farm feels like a different dimension than the bustling Dalt Vila (Old Town) below. A peaceful pool looks out to the ancient fortress walls and shimmering Mediterranean Sea in the distance. An orchard of twisted olive and fig trees surrounds the repurposed farmhouse, lovingly restored to honor its 300-year heritage. Nearby whitewashed villas sit in a field of lavender. This summer, the hotel opened a new restaurant catering to the evening and event crowd, but you’ll also find delicious regenerative options in their cozy breakfast nook under the main building (the acai bowl sprinkled with bittersweet lingonberries being a favorite). Casa Maca makes for a tranquil oasis peaceful enough to rejuvenate, but one that doesn’t require a 40 minute drive out of town to find.
Built over a vast underground cavern, Cova Santa (Holy Cave) was once all spectacle with little substance—its hillside location overlooking a sloping valley into Ibiza Town being the restaurant’s only unforgettable ingredient. Until this summer, that is, when the owners brought in chef Ever Cubilla (and Grup Iglesias, one of Spain’s most prestigious restaurant families) to overhaul the menu to match the grandeur of the locale. A 12-dish omakase menu offers delicacies like French oysters topped with roe, exquisitely prepared beef and tuna tartar and sushi plated on a tray made of calcified swordfish skin. Leave some valuable stomach real estate for the objet d’art-like desserts.
Sundays, when Cova Santa’s WooMooN party overtakes the small hill, are especially otherworldly. An open-air bazaar unfolds with all manner of spiritual trinkets, homewares, performance art and hippies both glamorous and decidedly not. After dinner make sure to take a 10-minute walk in the stunning stalactite-crowned cave below—adding a fairytale haze to the entire experience.
The Fish Shack
El Chiringuito Sa Punta—referred to by nearly everyone on the island as the Fish Shack—is one of the last remaining vestiges of an older, more primitive Ibiza. A chiringuito is any small restaurant on the beach, so its anonymity only lends charm to this small seafood joint furnished with picnic tables and umbrellas. Take a seat on a plastic chair at the edge of Talamanca Beach, pop open a beer, and watch the boats sail into the bay. There’s no menu (availability depends on what is caught fresh) but the signature dish of a large pile of unshelled seasoned local prawns sells out almost daily. You won’t be too concerned if you miss out though, as nearly everything on the menu is so fresh you’ll feel like you just pulled it from a net yourself.
Sunset Ashram / Cala Conta
Cala Conta (aka Platges de Comte) needs no introduction for Ibiza regulars, being one of the finest beaches. Technically, it’s two sandy beaches, split in half by a palapa-like refuge called Sunset Ashram. Any trip to Ibiza is incomplete without an afternoon spent here under the shaded roof, looking out over turquoise water, begging the breeze to return. Order up a pitcher of red sangria and ceviche, and watch the water calmly lap ashore from the panoramic vista. Centrally located (20 minutes from San Antonio and 30 from Playa d’en Bossa), Cala Conta and the aptly named Sunset Ashram are essential pit stops.
Hostal La Torre
While Sunset Ashram might be a well-known place to watch the sunset, Hostal La Torre is probably the most epicurean. Elevated hundreds of feet high on a steep hillside in Cap Negret, the Hostel at La Torre offers expansive, unobstructed views of the Iberian Sea and Conejera Island as it swallows the sun whole, and paints the sky in a hue of orange. But La Torre doesn’t just rest on its otherworldly locale—chef Juan Manuel Sabatino Arias crafts an ever-changing Mediterranean menu of tapas and cocktails. Trained in his family’s restaurants in Buenos Aires, the Argentinian later sharpened his skills in foodie capitals like New York and Barcelona, and has now brought his talents to Ibiza. We were most moved by his plate of freshly caught sardines, plump and drizzled with balsamic reduction in an avocado puree.
Dubbed a “hostel,” it should be noted La Torre is more like a small 17-room luxury hotel—booking one being the only way to absolutely guarantee a spot on the terrace. Otherwise make sure to make reservations early, as it gets packed for the daily sunset performance.
While there are infinite nightclubs in Ibiza, there’s only one Pike’s. In 1978 this 15th-century stone mansion was purchased by the notorious Brit/bon vivant Tony Pike and converted into a hotel which quickly (d)evolved into a great temples of iniquity. (Freddie Mercury hosted a now-mythical 41st birthday party/orgy here that spilled from the hotel into the pool, numerous villas and even pink tennis courts.) Nowadays you will still see some of the world’s best DJs—many who handpick Pike’s as their only Ibiza venue to play (including DJ Harvey, whose summertime Monday night residency Mercury Rising is wildly popular). The theme changes nightly—from house to disco to rock nights—but it is nearly always a cozy alternative to the mega-clubs. (That said, a night at one of them is worth the spectacle.)
A labyrinth of tiled terraces, rose gardens, dark rooms and hidden bars, Pike’s is worth several visits. They’re also hosting their first-ever annual Literary Festival this month (11-12 September) with Irvine Welsh and John Niven participating.
A small beach tucked into a cove just two miles from downtown San Antonio, Cala Gracioneta is much smaller than Cala Conta and not as well-known, so you can almost always find a space to lay out for the day. If you don’t like getting sand in your swimsuit, make a reservation at the eponymous restaurant built like a theater around the beach. With a dozen rosés, whites and cavas each to select from, Cala Gracioneta is an ideal spot to melt into your chair.
Chef Martin Vazquez oversees the only wood-fired grill in the San Antonio region; nearly everything they make comes charred, wafting in smoke. Their slow-cooked Iberian pork ribs are plated with chimichurri and homemade chips. There’s also wild seabass served with charcoal-grilled sweet potato and ginger butter, lamb racks seemingly forged of smoke and an Ibicencan salad made with burrata and local tomatoes ripened on the vine. We recommend the wood-grilled torro steak (sold by the gram) which is delicious, but beware as it’s not cheap.
Los Otros Veggie Café & Bar
There are many vegetarian options on Ibiza, but Los Otros is especially impressive. The small café’s location in Sant Joan makes it the perfect lunch spot for any visit to the northeast side of the island. Or stop by on your way back into town, doesn’t matter, just don’t miss out on a meal that will recharge your soul. The Green Gazpacho (with zucchini, avocado, green peppers and cucumber), beetroot pink burger, and roasted veggie tacos are all excellent, but the Green Goddess Bowl will add years to your life. There’s also a full bar offering handmade Bloody Marys which make for the perfect digestif for the ride home—for passengers.
Images courtesy of respective venues