24 hours on Ibiza’s west coast
Think the White Isle is non-stop beats and sunrise sleeps? For travellers equally in search of serenity, Hannah Ralph has sought out the best spots to unwind on the sunset strip, from wine tasting in olive groves to sundowners overlooking tranquil, turquoise waters
It all started on flight BA8620 from Gatwick, when, as feared, some brave passenger behind me chanced a quick and impressively atonal: “OH, WE’RE GOING TO IBIZA!” Not that I’d assumed this assignment would be easy. My parents, who had honeymooned on the island in the mid 1980s and could recall in perfect detail the sticky floors of its most infamous nightclubs, sent a foreboding ‘good luck’ to the family WhatsApp chat. But I was determined to find the third dimension to Ibiza’s most two-dimensional party animal. I was going to find the serene side of San Antonio.
The good news is that it is possible – with some careful planning. You soon discover that where there are crazy clubbers with glowstick warpaint, there are also dazzling sunsets and rocky shores, empty, save for quiet, well-dressed fishermen. For every fluorescent kebab shop, there’s a beachside restaurant that serves freshly caught fish under the lush canopy of orange trees. For every thumping bassline, there’s birdsong and the bristle of sails.
Conditions are as follows: you must hire a car, know where to drive it (we’ll help with this), and lean in, just a little. After all, bending to San Antonio’s schtick makes the stillness all the sweeter when you find it.
Ready to discover the best of both worlds on Ibiza’s west coast? Here’s your itinerary to finding a whole lot of peace – and just a bit of a party – in San Antonio…
The essential ingredients of your San Antonio hotel, in order of importance, are calming rooms that soothe in cloud-like tones, a rooftop infinity pool that looks out directly on to the west coast’s world-famous sunsets and a breakfast buffet mega enough to soak up all the remaining tequila in your system. It’s check, check and check at coast hugging INNSiDE Ibiza by Meliá, which is where you’ll sit down on the balcony for a multi-course brekkie and some hair of the dog – a homemade Bloody Mary station means you can make one to your exact specifications.
The coves and inlets that separate land and sea around San Antonio’s horseshoe-shaped bay are often found at the bottom of relentlessly twisty tracks, where phone signal is shy and parking unpredictable. That’s why you’ll want to arrive early, by car, with snacks (swipe a pastry from the breakfast buffet, go on) before many of your more hungover contemporaries have managed to get out of bed. Pull into Cala Salada for 10am and you’ll bask in its turquoise-green waters with only early morning hikers and patient fishermen for company. Don’t leave it till midday, where laying down a towel can be compared to a military operation. Take a swim here before climbing down the rocks to Cala Saladeta – more of the same, just slightly further along the bay – where you can bask supine in the glorious rays.
A short drive from this beachy duo is Cala Gracioneta, one of the island’s most-tagged restaurants on Instagram. This tells us two things: first, it’s extremely easy on the eye, and, second, you’ll need to book a table to avoid being turned away. Luckily there are plenty, so you should be fine if you reserve far enough in advance. Once seated (directly, if you’re lucky, overlooking its micro beach, a Slim Aarons portrait of glamour-puss patrons tanning beneath frilly parasols), line up the cocktails and a spread of lightly fried calamari, chunky Padrón peppers, slender strips of steak tartare and, the star dish, cured salmon dotted with a sweet mango sauce.
When it comes to whiling away hours in the late afternoon sun, San Antonio presents you with two extremely viable options. Our favourite is a ten-minute drive inland from Cala Gracioneta: Bodega Can Rich – the largest winery on the island. Under the shade of wiry olive trees and lush bougainvillea, picnic tables with rolling vineyard views provide the location for wine tasting and cheese board picking. Option number two? An almost three-hour, all-inclusive speedboat tour with Ticket Market Ibiza (morning, afternoon and evening trips are scheduled daily), including scenic stops, stand-up paddleboarding or snorkelling.
Get ready for dinner back at the hotel, but not without a quick pit-stop at its tastiest neighbour, Dodo Gelato, for the most delicious double scoop of ice cream that the island has to offer (probably). Once you’re back through INNSiDE Ibiza by Meliá’s colourful doors, it’s up to the ninth-floor rooftop to watch the sun sink towards the horizon with a cold glass of something in hand. Spruced up for the 2023 season as part of a wider hotel refurb, it flaunts an infinity pool, spacious Bali beds, a bar serving drinks and snacks and a wellness roster that includes yoga and spin classes. Local DJs take the decks here on the second, third and fourth Fridays of every month and, on the first weekend of the month, it turns into the island’s only rooftop market, with local boho brands selling their wares.
If San Antonio is famous for one thing, it’s sunsets – but even the sunset strip has its hero spots. Hostal La Torre is one of them, putting you within lunging distance of the setting sun, with nothing separating the wooden terrace from the waves but a slim stretch of rocky bluff, trickling down to the water. It’s a clawed after location, so, like Cala Gracioneta, book one of those prized tables in advance. There’s a minimum €100 spend in the height of the summer season, but you could (all too) easily spend that on wine. What you should spend it on, though, is the gooiest Jamón ibérico croquettes, grilled sea bass (€40) and a dulce de leche volcano lava cake served with vanilla ice cream (€15). The view? Priceless.
Café Mambo, Ibiza Rocks, Es Paradis – there is no shortage of nightclubs lining San Antonio’s notorious strip. And so, armed with a strict set of criteria (how consistent are the bangers? How sticky are the floors? How attractive is the crowd?), we set out to find the most acceptable among them, and, in an unexpected twist of fate, ended up finding something, actually, very good. Part of a historic hotel (the 500-year-old building welcomed the who’s who of 80s pop culture, and has just undergone a delightful refurb) in the San Antonio hills, Pikes calls its dancefloor Ibiza’s most intimate, and it certainly had enough disco charms to tempt Freddie Mercury here for his birthday parties. Get yourself on Pikes’ guestlist via its website – parties run most nights till 4am.
All that dancing left you feeling a bit peckish? Then it’s time to hit up the late-night Sant Antonian institution, the one-and-only Rita’s Cantina. With a prized spot down on the marina (a lap of which makes for a pleasant walk, come morning), this Cuban-style café has been serving its famous Club sandwich since 1995, although nowadays it’s just as famous for its decadent crêpes. It’s cheap as chips and closes at 1am, so you can sit down for a midnight snack across from the fantastic painting of a cigar-puffing matriarch, who appears to be only lightly judging the sorry states of Rita’s clientele.
Take off to
British Airways fly from London to Ibiza in around two hours and 20 minutes, with several direct flights departing daily from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City. To find out more, visit ba.com/ibiza
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