MINIMUM spend lunches at €250-a-head, €700-a-week hire cars, Michael Gove on the dancefloor. Yikes! Is it any wonder Ibiza’s been a little quieter this summer.
Ask any regular visitors or business owners and they’ll tell you the same thing; the White Island is anything but empty, but there’s definitely less visitors than last year.
Meanwhile, getting a restaurant booking is still advisable weeks before you arrive, while the service has noticeably gone south, thanks to anyone on a waiter’s salary struggling to afford a rental.
Could it be that the hippest island in the Med has finally boiled over? Priced itself out of the market?
Ibiza has certainly become a money trap for anyone not keeping their wits about them and doing their homework well in advance.
Take the words of stalwart DJ Carl Cox, one of the original spinmasters who made the island famous back in the late 80s and the Summer of Love.
Back doing a weekly slot after some time away, he recently insisted: “The island is a bit weird now…Anything commercial is considered successful… Everything is more expensive and there are a lot of private jets and yachts around. There is still cool stuff going on but you have to know where to find it.DJ ”
I’ll second that. You definitely need to know where to go and, despite a good deal of research this year, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.
A lot of the problem is location, as half the best restaurants sit on coves where you take up to half an hour to get there and 10 minutes to park. And as most of them have no competition nearby they have a monopoly, which can often end up with abusive pricing.
One classic case is Cala Bonita, a hip chiringuito on a dreamy isolated cove miles from anywhere. We’d walked there two years ago and eaten a stunning, good value lunch and enjoyed the day on the beach.
But this year, we got stung for €30 a sunbed and walked out of a very average lunch with a €75-a-head hole in our pockets.
The good news is the island still does have some excellent value places to eat, not to mention plenty of things to see and do.
The very fact the island still has a large tribe of new age travellers and hippies around (many more than say, Tenerife, or nearby Mallorca) bodes well, plus there are far more Fiat Pandas than Range Rovers.
And, without a doubt, the island has some of the best hikes and cycling routes in Spain. It’s really worth making a point of hiring a bike, or heading off on one of the many walking trails.
What you need to know though is that the north of the island is far wilder, more authentic and generally better value than in the south.
The north from Cap Nuno to Cala San Vicente is full of wooded headlands with hidden coves worth walking to with a picnic. That’s over 20 kilometres of wonderful unspoilt coastline to explore and the inland towns and villages nearby have both good places to stay and often cheaper places to stay.
Take Sant Joan, aside from the cool Giri Cafe that recently opened with its secret garden, you can stay for around 75 euros a night at the nearby Hotel Ses Arcades.
One of the best hikes is the amazing nearby 8km circular walk which takes in Playa es Portitxol, a beautiful circular cove, dotted with a handful of wooden boat houses. The walk starts at the Urbanizacion Isla Blanca and, my advice, is to take the inland route downhill first, skirting around an incredibly unspoilt pine forest.
Dozens of other walks and cycling trails are listed on the websites www.Alltrails.com or www.komoot.com.
Pedal-wise, there are over 20 official routes scattered across the island, split into four levels of difficulty and totalling over 700kms.
I headed on the one that skirted out of Sant Joan towards Benirras, which then looped around to the south. It was largely flat and almost all on dirt tracks or incredibly quiet roads. And this was in early September.
Other things you might look out for are the unusual sculpture, Time and Space, installed in Cala Llentia thanks to Cirque du Soleil boss Guy Laliberte, who has a home nearby. You could also track down the Ojo de Ibiza vineyard owned by former Yello genius Dieter Meier.
And then there’s the Las Dalias hippy market in Sant Carles, which has been doing a roaring trade since 1985 with its funky handmade jewellery, linen beachwear and rustic leatherwork. Make sure to stop at nearby Anita’s for lunch or breakfast. The original hippy hangout from the 1970s.
DON’T BE INFLUENCED BY THE INFLUENCERS
It might seem Ibiza has been cancelled under the weight of influential Influencers? Fizzled out after a decade of celebrity love-ins?
It’s certainly likely that the continual photos of footballers on yachts and hard-to-remember models letting their hair down (the Delevignes, etc) is just becoming a bit too tedious.
All those Insta feeds and Tik Toks rammed with pouting princesses and preening pricks has certainly put me off over recent years. But ignore them. You don’t need to get a yacht, head to Formentera, and you don’t need to hang out on Playa d’en Bossa or San Antonio.
WHERE TO EAT
Take my advice and carefully look at the photos on Google or TripAdvisor, which I normally hate, and you’ll hopefully see a photo of the menu, or some recent bills, and you’ll be able to cut your cloth.
In the meantime, here is a cutout and keep list of five of the best good value places to eat on the island and four great places to stay, two budget options and two excellent value five star splurges.
It doesn’t have a sign, hardly has a website and there is almost nothing to read about it online.
And while it has the feel of a pop up and lacks any fanfare the young team at Nudo will be here to stay (if they fancy it).
Don’t be put off by the location beside the outsized Invisa holiday club at Playa Figueral, this is easily one of the current dining secrets in Ibiza.
The creativity at play is impressive, while the freshness is second to none.
Real market-style cooking the team, including Edo, Jessy, Jose and Francesca all did their time at Copenhagen’s famous Noma restaurant (once voted the World’s Best), while Jose helped open sister restaurant Inua in Japan and worked for the group in Tulum, in Mexico.
“We are two Italians, a Catalán and a Guatamalan and we love to cook,” he told the Olive Press. “I was all set to wow Kyoto with the new Noma but Covid ended that. Now we are giving Ibiza a good go.”
That was clear when out came his Scallop carpaccio, with lemon zest, wild rose oil and local horseradish – eaten by hand!
While his amberjack ‘tiradito’, with tomatillo, a Mexican spicy tomato grown for the team on the island, was an education, as was his superfresh ‘rocket koshu’.
The smoked eggplant ‘bikini’ with scamorza and miso was a dreamy sandwich worthy of the Ritz, while a fried fish taco in iceberg lettuce with a Tarragon mayonnaise made my wife admit that ‘sometimes’ she does like fish!
Simple wooden tables and a mix and match of chairs in all shapes and sizes make up the scene, while 95% of the lemmings below have not the slightest clue what they’re missing.
So good was the barbecue peaches with rosemary pudding served with yoghourt ice cream, we quickly ordered the only other pudding left, a stunning chocolate torte with figs and fig jelly.
You look across to the amazing Tagamago island where the likes of Ronaldo and Messi stay for their holidays. I bet they’ve never heard of it either.
This is one super hot Italian worth tracking down in Santa Gertrudis in the heart of the island.
The sister of a celebrated New York joint, the originality of the food is only matched by the quality of its ingredients, much of it gluten-free.
A favourite with families with its numerous fresh focaccias, the sharing platter is a real winner with four or five choices, including bacon, ricotta and figs or sweet pumpkin and Gorgonzola.
The menu changes daily but often includes the burrata, which came with toasted crushed hazelnuts with fresh green pesto and diced strawberries… It was creamy and light in equal measures.
The artisan-dried Paccheri pasta came with toasted vegetables and thick lamb ragu, while the vegetable side dishes, including crispy Italian broccoli with pepperoncini and beans with shaved almonds and garlic, never tasted so good.
My advice; do not pass on the vanilla panna cotta with wild strawberries, honey and pollen to finish. This is one of the best I’ve eaten.
CASA KICA – restaurant and store
Another new spot with a great shady garden between San Carlos and Santa Eulalia – Casa Kika should do well.
While it initially feels like you are sitting in a furniture shop (because you actually are with everything for sale), the menu focuses on good quality local produce.
The tables are all laid out with African cushions and fans hanging from the giant willow tree.
The lunch menu is simple, focusing on light, cooling bites, so expect plenty of salads, such as the green papaya salad, which comes with prawns.
Then there is the ‘rainbow’ of tomatoes with tuna belly, ‘padron’ green peppers, a free range beef carpaccio with black truffle and a smoked wild salmon poke, with avocado, cucumber, soy beans and spring onions.
Lamb tacos were great for the kids, with onion confit, red cabbage and Japanese spring onions.
There are always specials of the day, including a good value ‘frita de Calamar’ which looked like a dog’s dinner but tasted great and was gentle on the pocket at 8 euros.
CALA XARRACA and CALA XUCLAR
These two local beach spots in the north of the island, near Sant Joan, are among the best for good value, no nonsense dining.
The former has been very unfairly slammed on Google, but has really turned things around and you get to sit right on one of the nicest beaches, perfect for rock jumping and snorkling.
The menu is simple, but the fish is fresh and the hamburgers will keep the kids happy. You can’t book, but our waiter Nacho ensured we didn’t wait long and came and found us when a table came up.
For better quality food and somewhere you will definitely need to book, chiringuito Cala Xuclar is a surefire winner.
It doesn’t have a website and you can only pay by cash, so be aware, but the creativity and quality of the food makes up for it.
WHERE TO STAY
For those on a budget my advice is to head towards the north of the island where you can find well over a dozen hostels, agroturismos and bed and breakfasts that won’t cost more than 100 euros a night.
There is nothing standard about The Standard hotel in Ibiza Town.
You can tell this place is different from the upside down nameplate on the front door to the offering of a local hierbas de Ibiza spirit at reception, which at 23% almost guarantees a smile.
The colours and warmth of this American chain are immediately obvious (and it’s not just the welcome snifter), while the stylishly-attired staff make up the palate.
Much of the reception area and atmospheric Jara restaurant next door has highly sensual artwork from Colombian artist Nicolás Villamizar, who lives in Madrid.
His erotic style gently segues into the quirky things for sale behind the reception desk, which are best to leave to the imagination.
Jara is easily one of the most seductive, adventurous dining rooms on the island. Sophisticated and intimate, it counts on 50s retro chairs and sideboards paired with 70s-style banquetes.
The vanguard lighting and stunning African panelled screen guide the eye up to the raised round pit in harmony while two circular recessed lightwells break up the ceiling.
A clever use of tropical plants breaks up the sections while a cocktail bar and handsome mixologist in a Panama hat makes up the scene.
Outside are a dozen tables for those aching for more classic people-watching (and Ibiza town gets no better on that front).
We are here on a Monday and it’s African music night and with other live music events on Sundays and Thursdays this shows a team not just in touch with the Ibiza vibe, but somewhere trying to engage with its local envions.
It is clear through dinner that many local people not staying in the hotel come in for a drink to enjoy the music. Being inclusive like this has got to work for them in the long run.
Food-wisde the menu was a fairly standard trawl through the Spanish national scene.
I particularly loved the scallops from Galicia (zamborinas) served with dollops of butter, pesto and watercress, while the crispy duck rolls were delicious with a cherry mustard sauce.
We didn’t eat much as we also wanted to check out the much-talked about rooftop terrace UP and also try the food there.
But dining aside, this is one place anyone visiting Ibiza town MUST visit this Autumn.
Wow, wow, wow. The rooftop pool is incredible and this wonderfully designed space with its cleverly planted mix of gaura, citrus trees and Australian bottle brush, will be a reference for years to come I’m sure.
The cream glazed ceramic pots, unfussy rattan chairs and calico-fringed parasols with their ambient solar lights create the relaxed mood.
While light, the menu was creative enough with a great super fresh guacamole with wholemeal nachos, while a toasted taco, with spicy prawn and red cabbage and spring onion, at just 6 euros was a steal.
We watched the sun set and then the moon rise over Ibiza town’s haunting skyline as jets and airlines swooped down to the nearby airport.
There is little more to add, except to stress that the rooms certainly did not let us down. While anything but grand our Supreme King bedroom had a hip chaise longue with bright cushions, excellent products and a superb bed.
There are various suites and a separate Casa Privada just up the road, where apparently many celebrities have stayed this summer.
The supercool five-star OD Hotel in Talamanca (www.od-hotels.com) has got even better over the last year.
Aside from adding a fully-equipped gym, the hotel, which is easy walking distance to Ibiza Town, has an amazing top floor chill out bar and restaurant with some of the best views on the island.
The rooms are incredibly well appointed, hyper modern and the grounds full of cascading swimming pools.
It’s stylishly built and the place where all the DJs and those-in-the-know stay.
BUDGET BRILLIANT – Aguas Blancas & Ses Arcades
Two excellent good value options are Hotel Ses Arcades, just outside Sant Joan and Apartamentos Aguas Blancas, in Sant Carles.
Ses Arcades has a great restaurant downstairs and while it sits by the main road you walk out into lovely countryside behind it and the rooms are quiet with air conditioning, a huge bonus in the stickiness of the summer.
Set up to service the famous hippies who landed in Ibiza in the 1960s, today it has gone through a total reform.
In contrast, Aguas Blancas, sits on its own on an amazing promontory, surrounded by pine trees, overlooking a bay south of Cala San Vicente and out towards Tagomago island.
This collection of low rise buildings counts on a dozen apartments, most with two bedrooms and all with their own private balconies with sea views.
They are excellent value and are well appointed with all the mod cons one might hope for, plus you are just a five minute walk to the beach and the laid back, hip Aguas Blancas Chiringuito, which counts on one of the loveliest evening Mojitos on the island.
Getting to Ibiza from mainland Spain is great value in the autumn! You can fly direct from Malaga, Barcelona, Madrid and Alicante airports from as little as €55 before booking in a bag using either Ryanair or Vueling.
But bear in mind, hire cars can be costly so a far better way to get there is via the fast ferry from Denia, or the slower one from Valencia, which only takes two hours and costs from a similar price with a car.