There's a lot more to Ibiza than bubble-soaked parties (though there's plenty of that, too). Like enchanted forests and beachy coves. Yes, you can dance the night away, but you can also do lots of spiritual work. Ying-yang, as they say in Spanish.
IBIZA, Spain – I came to the Spanish party island reluctantly almost twelve years ago. I expected to find nothing more than prejudice, shitty drugs, and Eurotrash.
I touched ground; I fell in love.
What I love is the energy, the vibe. It's not something I can define or analyze. It just is. An island that welcomes hippies, jet set, local farmers, German tourists — a small microcosmos where everyone lives and lets live. Ibiza is known for decadence, but it also has a beautiful countryside, agroturismos, and a lot of retreats and spiritual stuff. A hidden heartbeat. Especially in the north.
And there's water, of course. Sandy beaches, small coves, cliffs, and everything in between. There are a hundred small beaches in every direction from wherever I'm standing. I choose my beach depending on the time of the day and how I feel. Maybe I'll hit the wild nude beach in the northeast or the sexy and hot party beach in the south where beautiful bodies unashamedly show off their lust.
Abundance. On a street late at night, I see a girl in a white nurse's dress with a red cross and an unusual feature, a hole in the back that shows off her cute butt. This is mild compared to what you can find here. Sex is in the air as the extreme night creatures gather, but I can go a long time without noticing.
Ibiza has become much tidier in the past five years. Beaches now have sun loungers and parking lots; there's no longer as much roaming free in the wilderness. The hippy market is now a perfectly shabby chic restaurant that sells trinkets that are too expensive for what they are. As for my beloved , the sunset beach where we always had drum night on Sundays, well, for the past few summers we couldn't even find a parking spot less than a kilometer away. Not to mention the traffic police coordinating the tourists. So much for a magical feeling. But then September comes, and it is definitely better again. I love coming here in the off season.
HOW TO RECHARGE
Forget what you think you know about the singularity of Ibiza's party reputation. There's actually nothing homogenous about this little island. The farmers, Catholic and mellow, treated the 1960s hippies who arrived escaping war and other horrors with generosity. The rich land provided for all, and it still does. People live long and live well. When my friend Anette moved here, her health improved miraculously. Healers and yogis thrive on Ibiza. When I ask another local friend, Joan, what it is that makes the fertile red soil and the magnetic fields so special, he said, well, they just are. No fuss about it.
Which may be why in addition to revelers, Ibiza attracts passionate and commited world-class teachers and therapists who come to perform their high-impact treatments, workshops, and experiences. One such healer is reiki practitioner Faye Reason, who says, "Ibiza is a very spiritual island, which makes it easy to do soul work here. People expect it and come here looking for it. The islanders believe that nature is a big healer. And because Ibiza is a natural paradise, it heals you almost as soon as you get off the plane."
Founder Larah Davis and partner Susie Howell offers a full portfolio of customized packages from light yoga and coaching and wellness sessions to deep and transformational experiences. In typical Ibiza style, they refer clients to other healers whose offerings complement their own. Absolutely lovely people and places.
Tucked away from the rest of the world on the top of a mountain, this is an impressive collection of yurts, tipi, domes, and more. (Go see for yourself!) Long time Ibiza local Ilona Pantel Ayal runs a healing center focusing on detox and fasting workshops. Truly spiritual.
A proper yogi with a broad and deep understanding of body, mind, and spirit, James pays close attention to the breath and breathing, sharing his clear and gentle energy and his considerable yoga knowledge. He believes "yoga creates independence, not dependency, even if in the end we are all inter-dependant."Classes and retreats are offered individually and in small groups in the lovely, sleepy village of Sant Joan.
WHAT TO DO
Relaxing is the main event around here. I stay up north with an international creative crowd, and we all just chill. A typical day consists of long swims in the late morning, discussing ideas in shadows, long lunches, outdoor siestas, and dressing up for the evening, though we might not ever leave the house. If we do feel like going to a bar or dancing, there is no shortage of options. Classy cocktails and the best DJs in the world seem a world apart from our haven in the olive grove, but are in fact only a 20-minute drive away.
Maybe that is the solution to the riddle. We big city people can chill out here because we know that we can choose not to.
The stimulating conversations, the surprising encounters. The hiking in enchanted forests that smell of rosemary, thyme, and pine. The boat rides to secret coves. I'm always glowing when I leave Ibiza.
WHERE TO STAY
Stay in the north and choose something personal.
An agroturismo (a reformatted former farm) with eight rooms owned by my friend Joan Planells. It is a paradise of calm, an orchard of lemon, orange, avocado, melons, plums, tomatoes. Figs and almonds. Vegetables and flowers. Pool and garden. I sleep like a baby here.
A new boutique hotel in the village of Sant Miquel, by the church with only five rooms. Just beautiful.
A small, five-suite secret in the village of Sant Joan. Soft modernism and luxury spa. Regularly tops "world's best boutique hotels" lists.
WHERE TO EAT
There are fancy spots and family-style, home-cooking places. There are fish restaurants by the sea, and there's an ongoing discussion about who makes the best paella. It's traditional to only have coffee in the morning and eat a long, lazy, late lunch, followed by siesta and, later on, dinner and drinks (or just drinks).
Ctra. Sant Joan-Eivissa Km 17,5; +34-971-333-165
Once upon a time, I met a man that I later fell in love with here. Or maybe it was love at first sight that morning. Yes, I found love in a small supermarket that sells fresh meat, local salt, and has a great selection of Champagne. (So typically Ibiza.) Located north, not too far from Sant Joan, Can Carune is a meeting place where I get my morning coffee and lunch. It's run by a loud, local family cooking hearty food.
Organic and soulful Mediterranean food in the village of San Lorenzo in the middle of the island.
It really is a little hidden. And so full of love. A garden like nowhere else. A great time, with home-cooked food and beautiful cocktails. Come when you want happiness for lunch, afternoon, and dinner.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Fly: (now owned by British Airways) is a low-cost airline that flies many times per day from Barcelona. You can also fly via Palma de Mallorca.
Rent a car at the airport. The small but good roads will take you wherever you need to go. I usually say that it never takes more than 20 minutes to get wherever you need to go in Ibiza, and it's almost true. Road signs and names of villages can be slightly confusing since they are sometimes written in the local Catalan and sometimes in conventional Spanish.
WHEN TO GO
Summer lasts from May-October, though June-September are the warmest, with very little rain. November-April is much quieter, but even at its coldest, winters are not brutal. September is the best time to visit. That's when the big crowds are gone and the selected ones emerge to enjoy what only can be enjoyed here in at this time of year: soft vibes and closing parties.
Drugs of all kinds are not legal in Ibiza. Other than that, anything goes.