Thursday, 13 August 2015

How (not) to do Ibiza

A summer playground for the global jet-set. A boho paradise of sandy beaches and yoga retreats. A raucous party destination beloved of inebriated Europeans. Whichever tagline you go with, Ibiza certainly has more alternative personalities than your average holiday hotspot.

Growing up in the 90s and noughties, I was used to seeing San Antonio antics hit the headlines every year when summer rolled round. I saw the headlines change as Ibiza welcomed more of the celebrity crowd and became a boutique, luxury destination. For some reason, the White Isle had always intrigued me with its chameleon character. So I decided, for means of deadline setting rather than a genuine sell-by date concern, that I had to 'do' Ibiza before a certain significant birthday.

As someone who travels fairly err, frequently, the prospect of a holiday can lose the shine it should have. Not so with Ibiza. Flights for the August trip were booked in February, accommodation in March, club tickets in a fit of excitement in June. By the time the departure date rolled around, I'd read reams of Ibiza info – where to wine and dine, the best beaches, what to wear, the lowdown on the club scene. My suitcase was packed with more fringed items, flat sandals, bikinis and beach cover ups than were strictly necessary for a one-week break. I was ready.

Or so I thought.

All the Ibiza advice in the world couldn't account for the fact that when it comes to a party holiday, I was an extreme novice. From cereal bars in my handbag to overestimating what to wear to a beach party, I made all the Ibiza mistakes so you don't have to.

This actually happened. Don't make the same mistake.

The Don'ts

DON'T book all your club tickets in advance. My friend and I got a little over-excited and paid for four nights' entertainment before we arrived, based on which acts we liked rather than other factors like timing and venue. As a result, we went to Ibiza Rocks twice and missed out on iconic Pacha and Space, and did most of our partying in the afternoon/evening rather than all night in classic Spanish style. By all means, have a look online before you jet off (we managed to save €5 on Ellie Goulding tickets by booking in advance), but don't plan everything before you leave. Instead, listen to travellers' tips on the ground – you're likely to bump into a few island veterans who can advise you on where to go. And you're on holiday, be spontaneous.

DON'T dismiss package holidays. We booked our flights and an apartment separately, which gave us more independence, the ability to self-cater and a great choice of location. We ended up in Figueretas, a more Spanish area which is home to one of the closest beaches to Ibiza Town. We didn't want to be in the thick of the party action, so this suited us perfectly, but I'm not sure how much we saved in the long run. Apartment rental prices soar in summer, so it might be worth checking out package deals to see if you can save a little on travel costs.

DON'T arrive at clubs when the doors open. We attended a few events at Ibiza Rocks and Ushuaia with an early-evening kick off and, wanting to get value for money, turned up to the first one at the time specified on the ticket. This was a rookie mistake which gave us no alternative but to people watch until the warm-up DJ arrived. Yes, we arrived before the warm-up DJ.

So early, there isn't even a queue

DON'T go to Amnesia. Unless you like crowds so dense it takes you half an hour to elbow through them to get to the loo, music you have to be out of your head to enjoy, people smoking indoors and  suspecting the capacity rules have been totally ignored. It felt like an accident waiting to happen, so we left before it did. Es Paradis was a much nicer 'super club' experience: supposedly the most beautiful disco on the island, it's well decorated, numbers are controlled and the music was much better (ie had lyrics). It's not all about the super clubs either: I wish we'd tried some of the beachside chiringuitos with afternoon DJ sessions for something more chilled. I think this was what I was hoping for when we ventured to Bora Bora in Playa d'en Bossa: roll in off the beach, into the bar and have a bit of a boogie. What we found was roaring drunk revellers in full-on rave mode wearing scanty swimwear you definitely wouldn't want to attempt a front crawl in. Not really our scene, to put it mildly.

DON'T feel like you've got to go out clubbing every night. Two of the nights I enjoyed the most were the ones when we went for a long, leisurely dinner and enjoyed a wander round Ibiza Town followed by a couple of cocktails. For delicious French food by the water's edge, try Soleado on the Figueretas beach front, and for something more traditional in town, La Brasa has great Mediterranean cooking and a gorgeous garden.

The garden at La Brasa restaurant in Ibiza Town

DON'T go to Ibiza in high season if you aren't interested in clubbing. We were restricted by school holidays so visited in August, but clubs stay open into autumn, so for slightly better value visit in September. If you aren't interested in the party scene, skip summer and head to Ibiza any other time of year – the weather is decent all year round, and with a beautiful landscape, photogenic villages and great food, it's a top destination in any season.

Now, to prove I'm not a complete dimwit, here's what we got right in Ibiza.

The Do's

DO tuck into a menú del dia at lunchtime, especially if you're hitting an afternoon session. Eating on Ibiza can be pretty expensive, so take advantage of the best value dining of the day with a 3-course set meal offered in many restaurants around the island. Our favourite was Fusion in Figueretas, which had a decently-priced menu that changed weekly. I found mealtimes a bit of an issue when it came to evening events so, cool kid that I am, I took a cereal bar with me in my handbag. Hey, nobody likes to be around me when I'm hungry – just ask my family.

Sunset at Cafe del Mar isn't too shabby

DO enjoy sunset at Café del Mar. Yes, it's a cliche, but it's worth it. We enjoyed a relaxed glass of cava as the sun went down across San Antonio bay. It may not necessarily be the best sunset in the world as is claimed, but with lounge beats playing in the background, the sun on your face and a friend by your side, it ain't half bad.

DO stock your own bar. As Ibiza's pricey, we enjoyed an aperitif on the terrace of our apartment before heading out at night. There are also numerous bars with evening drinks offers around the port in Ibiza Town, but drinks in the clubs are even pricier than in mainland Spain.

DO leave the heels at home. My pre-trip reading informed me that flat sandals were ideal for a long day/night's dancing in Ibiza, and the advice was correct. Style on the White Isle tends to be boho and beachy rather than the bodycon and stilettos you'd see in Bolton on a Friday night. Much more comfortable, and dare I say classy.*

Ses Illetes beach on Formentera

DO try out different beaches around the island. The bonus of going out early was that we rose early to hit the beach. Figueretas beach was on our doorstep, but we also ventured to much bigger Las Salinas, famed for its golden sand, pine-tree backdrop and beach bars, and across the water to Formentera. This smaller island is well worth a visit: its azure waters and white sands give Formentera a Caribbean feel. Boats depart regularly from beaches around the island, taking around half an hour. Once on Formentera, you can reach the different beaches by bus or bike. If you have time, it's worth heading a little further away from the port of La Savina – we headed to Playa de Ses Illetes along with what seemed like half of Italy. You can find more beach information here.

DO use public transport to get around. If you are visiting Ibiza primarily to sunbathe and party, there's no need to hire a car. The bus network connects the airport with the major resorts and Ibiza Town, and you can also reach beaches like Las Salinas from Ibiza Town bus station. Regular buses link San Antonio and Ibiza Town, and at night the Discobus (yes, really) runs this route, stopping at Amnesia and Privilege on the way. The Discobus has other lines connecting both San Antonio and Ibiza Town with Playa d'en Bossa, where Space is located. 

Of course, there's no right or wrong way to 'do' Ibiza: people visit the island for many different reasons. Despite our first-timer howlers (or maybe because of them), we had an incredible week of sunbathing, eating and drinking, plus some memorable partying – cereal bars and all.  

*I am allowed to say this. I used to go out in Bolton on Friday nights many moons ago. I didn't wear bodycon though,

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