Think Ibiza and laid-back chic might not necessarily be the first thing that springs to mind.
The Balearic island has long been a mecca for those who like to party. But away from the night clubs and bars of San Antonio, where all-night clubbing is serious business, there’s a sleepier, far more relaxed side of Ibiza which has charm in abundance.
On a long-weekender, we headed for the east coast to the seaside resort of Santa Eulalia, a 30-minute taxi trip from Ibiza Airport, where the boat masts in the marina gently clink away and the coastal path winds its way along the bay, with stunning views and even more stunning sunsets.
It’s a very Spanish resort with lots of Spanish clientele. Definitely not the sort of place where you’ll find English breakfasts and pints for a Euro marked up on chalk boards outside sprawling restaurants and bars.
Instead, you’ll find classy ice cream parlours with home-made flavours including local melon, honey and apricots, tapas restaurants galore and local-run restaurants selling fish and seafood brought in each day. And Sangria, of course, in big jugs topped up with chunks of juicy fruit.
Lounge and enjoy the views
We stayed at the adults-only four-star Melia Sol Beach House Ibiza, on Santa Eulalia bay – a hotel set just above a largely undeveloped stretch of coastline, which is both relaxed and stylish. Here you can lounge in hammocks in the gardens and swim in three lovely pools, with views over the waves below.
There are rocking chairs on the shady terrace at lunchtime to lull you to sleep, cabanas to snooze on if the mood takes you, and acoustic and DJ sunset sessions each night. The rooms are beautifully done, with balconies and bath tubs strategically placed to allow you to soak up the views.
Food here is excellent with huge buffet breakfasts. In the evenings, the half-board European menu includes imaginative fish dishes and salads as well as heartier fare for those who like that. Dining is al fresco everywhere at the hotel and as the sun goes down over the bay, you couldn’t wish for a more perfect spot.
Santa Eulalia’s shopping streets very much cater for locals, so prices are reasonable and holiday essentials are easy to come by. But for more eclectic shopping, Ibiza old town is a must for free-flowing linen clothes, baskets, silver jewellery, art and crafts. To get there the Santa Eulalia ferry and its friendly crew offer daily trips from the marina. Set off down the coast and you’ll stop at picturesque sheltered bays for more passengers along the way. After a drenching from larger than anticipated waves on the outward journey on seats outside, we retreated inside for the return.
Dalt Vila, the old town of Ibiza, rises up from the marina where superyachts from around the world jostle for the best moorings.
A little bit of history
Inside the old town walls there’s a world-renowned museum of contemporary art and an archaeological museum, which tells the story of Ibiza in precious finds. But if you prefer to soak up the feel of a place by walking, each twist and turn reveals a pretty courtyard, a tucked-away eaterie or a tiny grocery shop, with fruit piled up in baskets outside.
Stop at S’Escalinata, a tiny gem with simple seating on beanbags on the stone steps that it sits beside. Its homemade focaccia menu is almost impossible to resist, as are the healthy salads and sharing plates – with all ingredients sourced locally.
Away from Ibiza old town, a visit to a hippy market offers eclectic shopping. There are several hippy markets across the island, but from Santa Eularia, the nearest is at Es Canar which runs from morning to nightfall, with colourful stall upon stall selling everything from local pottery and flowers to flowing skirts and beads.
Yes, the nightclubs and foam parties are there for the taking on this party island, but its lesser-known gems are equally there, just waiting to be enjoyed.
P.S. If you want to do Ibiza Old Town like a local, book a bike tour with the friendly chaps at Bamboo Biking who will take you to places that are off the beaten track over a leisurely two-hour ride with lots of info along the way. Prices start from £59pp, see theculturetrip.com
Ryanair flies from Edinburgh to Ibiza twice weekly in summer.
Stays at Melia Sol Beach House Ibiza in Santa Eulalia cost from £106 per room per night on a bed and breakfast rate.
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