In the past couple of weeks I was lucky enough to return to Europe for the first time since I studied abroad there in 2007. Although I was going somewhere I’d never been before, it felt like a homecoming of sorts – it certainly reaffirmed my notion that the European continent is a lot more interesting and fun than the North American. The US has a lot going for it, but I’d rather spend time in Europe than anywhere else.
This time around I went to Spain – Ibiza and Granada specifically. As I have much to say about both, I’ve decided to split them up into separate reviews. Without further adieu, let’s talk Ibiza.
Wikipedia has this to say about Ibiza, and Sant Antoni de Portmany (the city I stayed in) in particular, “Sant Antoni de Portmany is a town on the western coast of Ibiza. It is the second-largest town and municipality in Ibiza; an island described by Time Out magazine as “arguably the clubbing capital of the universe.” Many people aren’t even aware that Ibiza exists, but those that do tend to be familiar with this reputation. Trust me, the clubs are there and they’re amazing – but there’s definitely more to this island than just the nightlife.
When I first deplaned in Ibiza, I had been on an airplane for a long time. And as a bus took us the 20 minutes or so from the airport to Sant Antoni de Portmany, where we’d be staying, I briefly worried that I’d made a mistake. At first glance the streets looked like a dirtier Miami, with little except billboards advertising the major clubs’ closing parties to look at. It didn’t seem terrible (the weather was 80 degrees and sunny), but it didn’t seem to be the remarkable Mediterranean island I had envisioned. Luckily enough, I’d find that part of Ibiza in the next few days.
Where to stay
I stayed at Marina Playa, a small white-stone hotel overlooking Sant Antoni bay. By European hotel standards, the rooms
were huge and very clean. We had a pretty awesome balcony and a fridge, and really needed little else. This place isn’t a 5-star hotel, but it was absolutely perfect in terms of location, comfort, and the overall experience. The hotel is run by and English family who could not have been more accommodating throughout our stay. If you ever head this way, I’d recommend this hotel without hesitation.
Where to eat
There are tons of good places to eat in Sant Antoni, but by far the most popular is “the sunset strip.” This strip of restaurants sits right on the sea, with the sun setting each night directly between two islands a few miles out. Hundreds of people gather each night at these restaurants, or simply on the rocks with a bottle of wine, to watch the sunset and listen to the DJs that play background music throughout the day and night. Nearly every restaurant has a DJ in Ibiza, and they’re almost all great. You might picture thumping techno music as something of an ambiance killer, but it’s not like that. You can certainly find that scene at night if you so choose, but the DJs that play on the sunset strip play more wistful, relaxing remixes that actually fit wonderfully with the scenery.
If you head to Sant Antoni, the sunset strip is an absolute must do. This is definitely a place where I got my zen on – it’s really tough the be anything but relaxed when you’re there. Any of the restaurants will do nicely, but I had one of the best meals of my life at The Mint Lounge by Cafe Mambo. Drinks, appetizers, entrees, and an espresso cost something like 60 euros, which is absurdly cheap. Sticking with european tipping guidelines of 5%-10%, I left something along the lines of a 11% tip for our waitress. You would have thought I just successfully delivered her first-born child, as she soon emerged with two glasses of champagne on the house. Followed by two tequila shots on the house. As we soon found out, people in Ibiza are just dying to give you free stuff, especially if you tip even reasonable well.
The clubs are the reason that most people go to Ibiza, and they are
absolutely world-class. The week we were there, the first week in October, is actually the perfect time to go. August and September are “in season” and the island is generally packed with tourists, mostly Brits. I can’t tell you how many Spanish people said, “Ew, Ibiza. Too many drunk British people.” Sant Antoni is in fact filled with (largely drunk) Brits, but to me that wasn’t so bad. I love British people, and they only get wittier when intoxicated in my experience. But by going to Sant Antoni after the main tourist season ended, we had a much less crowded city all to ourselves – as well as nearly every clubs’ annual closing party.
I went to the closing party at Privilege, well-known as the largest club in the world. At capacity, this place holds 12,000 people. Yes, it was wildly overpriced, but it was worth every penny. The closing party started at 11:45pm, and didn’t end until 4:00pm the next day. Most of the best DJs and performances don’t happen until sunrise. We’re talking absurd performances throughout the night, smoke machines, fire everywhere, and all the while having unicyclists peddle on tight-ropes over your head. It’s silly as could be, and there are rooms with all sorts of techno, trance, and house music (yes, they are all considered to be very different in Ibiza).
If you’re looking for a club in Ibiza, you probably can’t go wrong with any of the island’s super clubs. I’d check out Privelege, Space, Pacha, Eden, El Paradis, or Amnesia.
Other stuff to do
Aside from checking out the beaches (yes they are largely topless, which caters nicely to my juvenile American mind) and the
amazing Mediterranean water (salty enough that you naturally float), I’d absolutely recommend taking a boat tour to Es Vedra Island. I took a 3-hour cruise on a boat called the Captain Nemo that was absolutely fantastic. The cruise costs only 23 euros, and comes complete with a champagne toast, amazing music, and a stop to swim at one of the most spectacular beaches on the island. The journey shows you much of the coast of Ibiza, which is largely unspoiled and very remote aside from the cities of Ibiza Town and Sant Antoni. Once you get to some of the more remote parts of the islands, you understand why Ibiza is so popular with many celebrities. It gives them a beautiful place to get away where they absolutely won’t be bothered, yet there’s amazing food and nightlife readily accessible.
The highlight of the cruise is when you arrive at Es Vedra island, a small island of cliffs that is simply awesome to look at. It’s completely uninhabited, and supposedly has a magnetic pull much like the island in lost that has caused all sorts of weird things to happen there. As we returned back to Sant Antoni after leaving Es Vedra, we passed a fully naked man who waved to us as he steered his sailboat by with one hand and sipped a beer with the other – his also fully naked girlfriend sun tanning on the bow in front of him. That pretty much sums up Ibiza for you – unregulated, beautiful, and fun.
All in all, Ibiza should not be discounted solely as a party island full of drunken Brits – that stereotype is true, but it’s a very one-dimensional perspective on a place with so much more to offer. Whether you’re looking for a super lively vacation or one that’s beautifully desolate, you can find it in Ibiza.