Ibiza Unplugged: the ultimate off-season island guide
Ibiza Unplugged: the ultimate off-season island guide
If you know, it’s no secret that I love Ibiza.
If you know me, it’s no secret that I love Ibiza. As soon as I land on the island, I feel an instant rush of calm and excitement in equal measures. I lose all track of time, ignore my phone at all costs (unless, of course, it’s to take a snap or two) and fully embrace the bohemian way of life for a week or two.
My favourite time to visit is in the quieter autumn, winter and early spring months. The air is crisp but the sun is still warm. And it’s during these times that the real Ibiza emerges and a different sort of hedonism can be explored.
And if like me, it looks like you’ll be working from home for the foreseeable and you fancy a change of scene – most preferably in sunnier climes – I’ve pulled together a list below of my favourite things to do and spots to visit; that are best experienced away from the madding summer crowds.
Sensational Sunsets And while no day is likely ever the same on an island where anything is possible, sunsets are a guaranteed spectacle to behold and their high-season is in the low-season when the celestial light shows take on richer colours of pink, yellow, orange and deep reds.
Such is the fortuitous setting of Hostal La Torre – another Ibiza restaurant-cum-hotel (more on that below) – it makes my list twice. It’s perfectly positioned to see the sunset – centred directly in line with the sun. But you don’t have to pay to drink or dine at La Torre to catch the last rays of the day. Next door, there is a lookout point with a few benches and picnic tables for the general public, so be sure to pack wine, nibbles and maybe a blanket, if you might prefer to edge closer and sit on the rocky cliff edges.
Another favourite sunset spot, and roughly about 40 minutes north from La Torre is Benirass. On Sunday’s the beach comes alive with drummers and musicians performing an eclectic sunset ritual. Part of Ibiza’s charm, the event is marked by the attendance of people from all walks of life gathering to enjoy the show.
Es Vedra, off Cala D’hort beach (also included in my list of best beaches) sits on the south coast of Ibiza and while geologists disagree, it has been said to be the third most magnetic point in the world. Legend also has it, that it has healing powers and that it’s the ancient site of the lost city of Atlantis. What is unquestionable is its beauty at sunset. One of my favourite places to go to is the deserted pirate lookout tower, Torre de Savinar or there is also a great lookout point which is often used by locals to meditate or practice yoga at sunset. Friend and local yoga instructor, Pixie Rath, is renowned for taking some of her yoga classes at the lookout point, a few snaps from her Insta below.
S’Estanyol In the south of Es Cubells, this unspoiled beach was built around a wooden jetty. It’s a bit of a hike to get to once you’ve parked but it’s totally worth it. Just be sure to pack a pair of trainers for the journey down.
Cala D’Hort, Sant Josep Although a busy spot in the summer due to its fortuitous setting overlooking the magnificent Es Vedra and neighbouring buzzing Cala D’Hort restaurant, this is one of my favourite places to visit and while away the day reading a book and swimming.
Cala Xuclar The north east of the island offers some of the most beautiful and lesser-known beaches – there are plenty to be found and explored which is why renting a car is essential. Cala Xuclar is a tiny horseshoe-shaped bay surrounded by old fishing huts and crystal clear water. It is never overcrowded and we often have it to ourselves if we go early enough.
Cala Mastella Still relatively untouched and unspoiled, this beach has retained its special bohemian-like status. This is another gem in the north east of the island and I would advise getting there early (and bring beach shoes as the sea bed is very stony).
A few of my favourite lesser-known beaches Cala Mastella, S’Estanyol and Cala D’Hort
Activities The island has been long-loved by sporting enthusiasts as the terrain is a challenging mix of rocky flat and hilly trails offering some of the best cycling and hiking trails in Spain. In the summer, most would struggle as temperatures soar but in the off-season, the cooler weather offers much-needed respite to help tackle the steep climbs.
If walking is more your thing, Walking Ibiza offers guided and private walks for travellers looking to explore the beautiful island in detail. Runners can join running groups – there are a few on Instagram and Facebook – that are open to anyone. Running Ibiza, for example, offers Ibiza Town running tours, trail runs and (very helpfully) offers training for beginners as part of their Couch to 5K experience, so no need to feel intimidated if you’re a running novice like myself. Active Ibiza is another favourite of mine. They collaborate with an array of fitness instructors who provide guided programs and equipment.
SUP (Stand-Up Paddle) boarding is a must. The waters are calm and easily manageable for all levels of experience. It’s also a great way to explore the different coves and a lot of people have attempted the island in its entirety (a friend of mine included) stopping off at different places to camp for the night. There are plenty of rental places on the island, so best to find one that is near to where you’re staying.
While I’m there, I often try and book a few sessions at my favourite reformer pilates spot on the island, Energii Ibiza in Ibiza Town, which hails from Denmark. It truly is the “ultimate workout” but the helpful and friendly instructors make it a not-so daunting experience for beginners (like me). Classes start from approximately £17 per person.
Under-the-radar restaurants A lot of great restaurants stay open on the island throughout the year. And while it’s not hard to stumble upon great places to dine, drink and dance, below is a list of my firm favourites and definitely worth exploring next time you’re in town.
La Finca Can Sul Dat A former farmhouse hidden well off-the-beaten track on the road to Es Canar, it’s one of my favourite places to visit on the island and was introduced to me by a close friend who lives locally. The Swiss owner, Peter – possibly Ibiza’s answer to Hugh Hefner – is one-of-a-kind and always equipped with colourful stories to regale his guests with. He has often joined us for a drink or a shot of his famous home-made rocket fuel limoncello. The decor throughout is boho chic and his bedroom is actually in the middle of the restaurant complete with red velvet rope and curtains. The spot is equally famous for its live music and it’s not unknown for the evenings to carry on well into the wee hours of the next morning. The food menu is small but tasty. I highly recommend the entrecote for two to share.
Shamarkanda Nestled in a beautiful olive grove near San Juan, in the north of the island, this magical spot – named after a city in Central Asia – offers a blend of cultures and flavours in its dishes. This year was my first time going at the recommendation of a friend and we opted to dine outside under the stars which had a magical Secret Garden Party feel, complete with glowing lanterns and draped light bulbs surrounded by trees. We tried their incredible bao buns, bursting with flavour (and it’s definitely worth ordering one of each). We also ordered the California rolls topped with salmon which was flambéed at the table, adding a touch of drama to the experience. The cocktail and wine list is also extensive and offers a nice mix of international and local flavours.
New favourite: Shamarkanda, San Juan
Hostal La Torre Although no longer much of a hidden gem, there is no way I could write about Ibiza and not include Hostal La Torre. The latest offering from the Anadon family – owners of the infamous Cafe Mambo along with a few other outposts on the island – the restaurant-cum-boutique hotel not only serves up incredible food and spectacular views, but it also falls under the category of boutique listening joint. Be transported there NOW, listen here to Hostal La Torre Volume 1 and 2, selected by DJ’s Pete Gooding and fellow resident Mark Barrott.
It’s open all year and it is a must when on the island. It’s also extremely affordable to stay on site, with room nights starting from £40 per night in low-season.
Insider’s Tip: Other venues offering a heavy dose of eclectic Ibiza spirit includes Petit Pereyra on Talamanca Beach, Nightmares on Wax’s Wax Da Jam and Acid Sundays, both held at the old hippy market Las Dalias (more on that below).
Can Berri Vell Exuding total charm and authenticity, this small and intimate outdoor-indoor restaurant is one of the most romantic restaurants in Ibiza in the heart of the town Sant Agusti des Vedra. Overlooking a typically Ibizan architecture church, it sits atop a small mountain, seamlessly blending into the rolling hills. The food is traditional Spanish grub with a modern-European twist.
Babylon Beach Although it’s certainly grown in popularity since the first time I went, Babylon Beach is a great place to grab brunch and layout in the sun on the deck chairs provided. It’s still relatively low-key, especially during low-season; and don’t forget to try their insanely good pancakes!
Gare du Nord I was blown away by this unexpected hole in the wall in San Juan, North Ibiza. The small entrance featuring an outdoor seating area and long bar leading into a sprawling yet intimate leafy courtyard. The food is a mix of classic European dishes using locally sourced produce. The wine list is elegant and yet adventurous. It’s also here that I discovered one of my new favourite wines, Black Nose, which is made in Ibiza. Gard du Nord also offers quirky yet modern rooms with prices starting from £50 per night in the low-season.
Culture trip Artists and craftsmen have flocked to Ibiza over the centuries, so it’s only natural that the island offers the opportunity to get close to some pretty incredible art and crafts to take home.
Hippy Market Las Dalias Every Saturday locals descend upon the world-famous hippy market to uncover the latest trinkets and treasures on display by local craftsmen, artists, food artisans, to the tune of live performances by local musicians and DJs. The market began in 1954 and was the brainchild of farmer and carpenter, Joan Mari. The market is one of my absolute favorites and I go every time I am there. This year, as part of an island-wide initiative to encourage out-of-season travel to Ibiza, the market is staying open throughout winter and early spring, to help encourage trade on the island and make up for lost time and earnings, as a result of the first lockdown earlier this year.
La Nave Salinas in Las Salinas Beach Arguably one of my favourite art spaces in the world, La Nave Salinas launched last year as a space dedicated to “art in all senses”. The space is an old salt warehouse by the neighbouring salt lakes Ibiza is also known for. To date they’ve hosted several big name contemporary artists, including Kaws. The space is open and currently exhibiting works by the artist Albert Pinya, painter and cartoonist including ceramics, animation shorts, sculptures and ephemeral murals.
La Maison D’Éléphant This design concept store is hard to miss, fronted by enormous sculptures of robots, pink elephants and silver skulls making it hard to miss. Inside, visitors can explore five floors of outrageously quirky and contemporary design. Among the incredible art you are able to find and buy decorations, antiques, unique furniture, and even clothing. The founder, Bruno Reymond, is interior stylist to many infamous buildings on the island, including Ushuaia and the Pacha Hotel.
Sluiz. Although it doesn’t stock one-of-a-kind, handmade crafts and art, it does offer a huge collective of outdoor, indoor furniture, cool lighting, clothing and accessories from around the world. Founded by a Dutch couple, the sprawling warehouse-like store, also has a bar and restaurant featuring low-hanging ornate crystal chandeliers and plush armchairs. I often go and spend a few hours there indulging in all of the good food, cocktails and shopping.
Please note, all of the aforementioned businesses were still open and operating at the time of writing this article. This might have changed as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve around the world.