The Quieter Side of Ibiza

The Spanish do it. The French, the Brits, and the Italians are all doing it. But Americans? We haven’t yet joined the ranks of Ibiza lovers.

Last month, I gave in to a nagging feeling that I was missing something and packed up my family for a week of sun and sea on Spain’s “white island.” What I discovered was a slice of heaven that I can see us returning to summer after summer.

I’ve visited nearby Mallorca, twice, falling in love with its Tuscan-esque blend of ancient hilltop villages, sprawling vineyards, and Mediterranean views. But I had always written off Ibiza, the land of all-night raves, as something that wasn’t for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Sure, there’s a club scene, and if dancing until dawn is your vacation goal, you can do it here with some of the world’s best DJs. But that accounts for only a small percentage of Ibiza’s appeal — and visitors — while the rest of this gorgeous island offers the polar opposite.

Dalt Vila, Ibiza's Old Town city center  (Photograph by Uwe Kempa, Flickr)

Dalt Vila, Ibiza’s Old Town city center (Photograph by Uwe Kempa, Flickr)

Imagine that St. Barth’s and Tulum had a love child, a beautiful, free-spirited daughter with a gentle, hippie soul and a taste for the good life, and you’d be getting close to the true Ibiza.

Homing in on Your Home Base

Enjoying Ibiza doesn’t take much planning. With a rental car and a home base, you can hit a different pristine beach each day, feasting in tiny chiringuitos along the way. It’s hard to do Ibiza wrong, so long as you avoid the busier, more developed hubs of Ibiza Town and San Antonio (assuming you’re out for a quieter trip), you’ll be good to go.

But finding the right accommodations is key. Though there are charming hotels on the island, the best way to stay is definitely a house rental, and the company to use is Deliciously Sorted Ibiza. Owned by in-the-know Brit Serena Cook, the company reps a range of houses from the affordable family home we rented to drop-dead estates that draw celebrity clientele.

Their concierge service stocked our kitchen, booked our restaurants, got us a discount on a rental car (handing us the keys in the airport — no waiting in line), and arranged the world’s best babysitter. I’ve traveled a lot with my children, and this might have been the easiest arrival in our history. All for less than we would have spent on a hotel.

Eating ‘Til You Drop

Armed with a list of recommendations from a friend and Ibiza regular, I planned our days around food and fun. Our favorite lunch spots were Es Torrent, where we lit into the best John Dory I’ve ever tasted, and Fish Shack, a no-address, no-telephone place with plastic tables and chairs on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea. Grilled prawns and cold beers have never tasted better.

In the evenings, we usually cooked at home while the kids enjoyed their regular evening skinny dip (another advantage to booking a house instead of a hotel), but there were a few restaurants that tempted even lazy me beyond our garden.

No one should miss Balafia, set in a pretty grove of lemon trees. There’s no menu, just the freshest tomato salad and most savory grilled meats you could want. Another day we hit Cigale, owned by a charming Italian couple. Not only was the food delicious, but there was a small playground for children to enjoy while parents sipped wine and relaxed. On Ibiza, as in most of Spain, kids are not only tolerated but welcomed everywhere.

Experiencing the Beach Life

Rentable chaise lounges make beach-going even more relaxing. (Photograph by Henley Vazquez)

Rentable chaises (shown here at Experimental Beach club) make beach-going a snap. (Photograph by Henley Vazquez)

Unlike Mallorca, where many beaches are difficult to reach if you don’t have access to a boat, Ibiza offers an endless selection of sandy escapes where you can while away the day. Most also have chaise lounges available to rent for the day — a real boon to parents who don’t want to cart beach umbrellas everywhere they go.

Cala Carbo and Cala Xuclar were two of our favorite beaches, both with delicious, informal beach restaurants and wonderful swimming. (Tip: many of these smaller calas are rocky, so bring water shoes.)

For sandy, Caribbean-style beaches, head to Salinas or jump the ferry to Formentera island, Ibiza’s chill little sister. At both, the calm, shallow water is ideal for even the smallest tots, and although the beaches are busy, the kids loved the vendors who walked the beach chopping up fresh pineapple and coconut.

Learning Lessons on the Go

Next time I visit Ibiza, I’ll skip the famous Hippie Market. It was crowded, touristy, and uninspiring.

Instead, I’ll also be sure to explore Dalt Vila, the Ibiza Old Town, with its historic castle and cathedral.

And who knows — maybe I’ll even hit one of those clubs. Now that I’ve got a good babysitter to call and a great beach to serve as a next-day recovery zone, it might be time to give it a shot.

New York-based travel writer Henley Vazquez has lived on three continents, but she’s happiest when she’s hitting the road with her husband and two kids. Follow her story on Twitter @HenleyVQ

Comments

  1. Katie
    NYC
    August 1, 11:57 pm

    I need lots of help… Europe in general is expensive… we are a familia of four (5 & 13 year old girls). How long is the flight and what is an approximate for a week including car rental, housing rental, food, airfare, and extras? What is the weather like in August vs. September?
    What activities do you suggest along the towns you mentioned. What is the rate exchange for an American dollar?
    Thanks

  2. Rita
    June 23, 11:12 am

    Dear Henley,

    I am planning to go to Ibiza exactly as you did last year and your post just comforted me in my choice.
    As you said, the point is that you find the right accommodation in the right neighbourhood. Could you please recommend some family friendly areas where you can sleep at night but close enough to good restaurants and stores.
    Many thanks for your article!

    • Henley Vazquez
      June 24, 11:32 am

      I’m so glad you found the article helpful. I’m renting for the second year through a company called Deliciously Sorted that has great family-friendly houses, and there are also lots of cute small agroturismo hotels that are great. If you want to be in a town, the Talamanca beach area has a range of accommodations, primarily more condos vs houses, and is just across the bay from Ibiza town. It can be busier but still the beach is big enough not to get overrun. My personal favorite area is in the north near Santa Gertrudis, more quiet and rural, but you’ll be driving to the beaches. It’s worth having a car either way, though – the island is great fun to explore.

  3. Marcus Nolan
    Italy
    April 23, 12:25 pm

    Thanks for your post. In your article you demystified the party’s topic of Ibiza and you show other possibilities in this island. Spain in general is more than beach and sun. Culture, quiet places, gastronomy, arts, nature, a lot of things to see and to do. I’m realised that in my second stay in Ibiza. The first time, I only saw the discos and the party beach. But in my second travel I could find others places, other things. I saw the Ibiza luxury houses and the little charming hotels with public, but in fact private calas, to enjoy the evening sun.
    A real pleasure far away of the disco ambience and foolish people.
    Thanks very much for talk about all this.

  4. sean roden
    ibiza, spain
    March 6, 2:30 am

    Thanks Henley, for writing your article, yes Ibiza is so much more than a clubbing rave island, I have been living on the island a number of years now. What makes Ibiza a great place for me is its variety, yes you can go clubbing, but you can also enjoy peace and quietness , great beaches, unspoilt nature, good food. The Island has a natural energy flow I haven´t found anywhere else in the world. When people ask me where to stay, I normally advise them to rent a villa or an apartment , this is a great site to rent an apartment http://www.ibiza-apartments.co. It would be nice to increase the American visits to the Island. Rumour has it that from next year , there will direct flights between new York and Ibiza. By the way avoid July and August, I think May,June and September are the best months to visit.
    Greetings , Sean

  5. Richard E Velez
    Houston, Texas
    August 27, 2013, 6:35 pm

    I love your writing about Ibiza because tell us that Ibiza is more than raves and parties, I will visit Ibiza because of you! Thanks so much for such a wonderful information!

  6. Richard E Velez
    Houston, Texas
    August 27, 2013, 6:32 pm

    Thanks Henley for educating us about Ibiza, yes we see Ibiza as a rave town and it is great to know that is more than nightlife and like everyplace has charm and beautiful places to stay, visit and have fun a wonderful writing about the true Ibiza from an American perspective!

  7. Anders Baadsgaard Pedersen (Andy)
    China / Ibiza
    August 23, 2013, 4:40 am

    Thanks Henley for writing so nicely about “my” Ibiza. Very often articles only focus on the nightlife.

  8. Nina
    August 22, 2013, 10:18 am

    Makes me want to go to Ibiza even more this Fall. But: How easy is it to get around those different spots w/o a car / driving license?

    • Henley Vazquez
      August 23, 2013, 2:02 pm

      A rental car certainly makes exploring the island much easier, but there is also a fleet of well-maintained public buses that you can use as well. Check out ibizabus.com for details.

  9. Joanne Joseph
    Http://anotefromabroad.com
    August 21, 2013, 4:12 pm

    Thank you for introducing me to Ibiza. One more place to add to my “wish list”!

    • Henley Vazquez
      August 22, 2013, 10:14 am

      Thanks, Joanne! I promise you’ll never want to leave.