When people think of the best party destinations in Europe or around the world, Ibiza is often at the top of the list. With its countless techno clubs such as Pacha and Ushuaia and its row upon row of bars and lounges, visitors to the Balearic island have a dearth of spots to while away the night. But to limit Ibiza as just a spot for stag dos and girls’ weekends away would be a disservice. Ibiza boasts miles of beautiful coast, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and hotels where you don’t hear anything but the lapping waves along the Mediterranean.
The island’s history dates back to 2000 BC when the first inhabitants travelled from other parts of the Mediterranean and established roots in Sant Antoni. By the eighth century BC, the area had become a Phoneanian stronghold with locals trading goods in Sant Josep.
The Carthaginians ruled the Balearic Islands until the Romans invaded in the first century BC Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, and the Moors soon followed. Today, the yearly population grows exponentially during the summer when tourists descend on Ibiza for debauchery.
For all its charms as an island of sin, the locals are humble, kind, and inconspicuous, tending to stay out of the limelight. That doesn’t mean they’re boring. Strike up a conversation with one and they’ll tell you how wonderful the island is from September until April, when days are shorter and the mood is calmer. Families pack into local restaurants for relaxed dining, places they would normally avoid during the high season when prices are higher and the crowd is rowdier.
Having recently visited the island for the first time for a three-day festival, here are my top things to do in Ibiza.
While not a culinary powerhouse like Barcelona or San Sebastian, Ibiza does have dishes that have withstood the test of time. Paella de marisco has long enthralled locals and with the sea all around, the dish is on a lot of menus. Expect flavorful rice with a crunch mixed with local octopus and squid. Bullit de peix is another fish-based dish that is served during colder months. The hearty, spicy stew comes with potatoes on the side.
The residents of Ibiza love their desserts, from flaky flao (pastries filled with goat cheese and almonds) to greixonera (a bready treat with cream) to ensaimadas (a type of chocolate croissant). Served at breakfast or as a late-night pick-me-up, the sweet treats are something everyone who visits Ibiza has to try.
Restaurants boast mainly Spanish or Italian cuisine although you can find kebab shops and street food in the Old Town and near the port. La Oliva sits on a hill and is perfect for people watching. The popular spot boasts innovative takes on local specialities such as pasta with shaved beets and verbena flowers or burrata over vine-ripened cherry tomatoes.
La Brasa in the Old Town offers a romantic garden backdrop to traditional Spanish cuisine. Think huge pans of vegetarian paella with aubergine and courgette or steak with rustic potatoes. Guests sit under a canopy of plants and flora, while they sip glasses of local Sangria or Rioja. Shop while you wait for your food at Oliver, a clothing and furniture store connected to La Brasa For gelato in the shape of roses, head to Amorino for a sweet treat.
If you’ve had your fill of Spanish cuisine, head to Rustico, an affordable Italian eatery on Playa d’en Bossa. The open-air, casual resto features a large menu of pizza and pasta as well as main courses with a local twist. Think grilled octopus over patatas bravas. The wine list is small but features DOC Primitivo that will leave you feeling ready to take on the night ahead.
Ibiza is a party island, one where techno and house reign supreme but where music lovers of all genres can find their club of choice. Ibiza clubs run the gamut from dark, posh lounges to venues under the stars. Pacha has long been one of the top nightclubs in Ibiza. The nightclub chain, known by its large cherry statues situated around the island, is dark but has a lightness to it thanks to the always energetic crowd that heads here for techno, deep house, and guest DJs such as Roger Taylor of Duran Duran. Expect acrobats above the dance floor and light shows that go in sync with the pulsing bass. Take home a souvenir from the connected shop or just relax in one of the seats near the exit if the crowd gets too frisky.
While Pacha is an indoor extravaganza, Ushuaia is the outdoor club nonpareil on Ibiza. While the drink lines often run the length of the club, visitors are rewarded with great views of headlining acts who come here during the summer for fan-friendly shows and DJ sets. If you don’t mind the noise, stay in Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel, which has suites overlooking the club, offering a perfect, safe spot to listen to the music waft on the breeze.
As previously mentioned, Ibiza is not just about clubs and nightlife. Beaches line the coast, from the popular Old Town area to the more secluded and private Cala Llonga area. Beaches run the gamut, from popular and pebbly to secluded and sandy. Relax on the softest, golden sand or dip your toes in the clear, turquoise water at Cala Bassa, a popular beach for locals and adventure enthusiasts thanks to the rocky outcroppings surrounding the beach. Nudists flock to Aguas Blancas, a picture-perfect stretch of sand that remains unspoiled despite its popularity with naturalists. The water foams white when the waves hit but it’s shallow enough for nearly anyone to swim in. The Posidonia Oceania, a UNESCO-protected seagrass species found on the island, gives the water its distinctive colour.
If you want a more active vacation that isn’t nightlife-oriented, head to the myriad UNESCO World Heritage Sites dotting the island, which emphasise the marine and coastal biodiversity of the island. Besides the Posidonia, Ibiza is home to Phoenician and Carthaginian archaeological sites of note including Sa Caleta, a settlement dating back to 654 BC, Puig des Molins, a museum and necropolis, and the Alta Vila (Upper Town), which is a fortified structure in the Renaissance style. Inhale deeply and breathe in the history on your last day in Ibiza.
An oasis of calm for adults 30 minutes from the Old Town, the ME Ibiza, part of the Melia chain of hotels, boasts luxury aplenty. Expect pristine, compact rooms with white cotton linens, plenty of down pillows, a frosted glass shower, and a balcony overlooking the main pool or gardens. Guests are treated like royalty, with service being attentive yet not obsequious.
Lounge by the main pool and enjoy strawberry daiquiris or mai tais during the day or for a quieter refuge, head to the Thai Room Spa & Wellness pool. Splurge on a Kotu massage. The one-hour treatment at the hands of Thai therapists will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated just in time for dinner in town.
Hotel Garbi Ibiza & Spa
This boutique hotel on Playa d’en Bossa features relaxed rooms with LED-lit backdrops, offering a pop of colour in an otherwise white environment. Rooms overlook a sandy beach with full sunbeds and lapping waves. Soak in the large pool with surrounding sunbeds then wash away the sand and salt in your private rainforest shower.