We hope our last blog didn’t dissuade you from considering a visit to this terrific little Spanish island. It’s filled with wonderful, friendly people and offers plenty of sun, wine, and tapas. That alone encourages around 2 million visitors per year, but there’s also scuba diving, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, beautiful vistas, and even an annual fashion show. And of course there’s the world-famous all-night disco scene which heats up during the summer.
In today’s blog, the last in our 3-part primer series, we organize and describe the island by the towns which lie at the corners of a diamond. You can easily, as we’ve done, visit all four towns in a single day, but know that there’s a lot more beautiful scenery outside of that diamond, such as all these beaches. We recommend that you pick a city to serve as your homebase according to your tastes, and then venture out on your rental scooter (you’ll find up to half a dozen rental shops on every town block) to explore all the nooks and crannies and cliffs and churches and cafes where no English is spoken that you can find.
At the base of our diamond is Ibiza’s namesake and largest town (a proper “city”), Ibiza Town. It’s where we’ve spent our month here, and it’s where you’ll arrive if you fly to Ibiza, since the island’s only airport (surprisingly modern, large, and busy) is just southwest of the town.
Ibiza Town is neatly separated into two sections by a cliff upon which you’ll find the medieval city (called the “Dalt Vila”) with its walled fortress and the island’s cathedral. To the north of the medieval city you’ll find the harbor, bustling with commercial boat traffic and yacht harbors, surrounded by modern apartment buildings and plenty of lodging, shopping, and eating options. To the south you’ll find a crescent playa (beach) surrounded by grittier, but more interesting and more “Spanish”, apartments and hotels, many perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the water, at least the closer you get to the Dalt Vila. It’s in this second area that we spent the month of May, our days alternating between lazing on the beach and exploring other parts of the town or the island.
Most of those famous disco clubs are found in and around Ibiza Town, and include Pacha, Amnesia, Space, Ants (Music is the Antswer!), DC-10, and others. If a combination beach and club visit is the primary objective of your visit, a stay in Ibiza Town is your best bet, but there’s plenty of other things to do in Ibiza Town, including shopping and dining (among our favorites), exploring the nearby Dalt Vila, day boat excursions to Formentera, and the archaeology museum “Puig des Molins” (blog forthcoming).
|Santa Eularia, Ibiza|
Just 20 minutes northeast of Ibiza Town is the town of Santa Eularia. Santa Eularia (pronounced as “Eulalia” in Ibizan Catalan: pronounce it this way to impress the locals) is a sleepy little coastal town cradled by hillsides with commanding views. There’s a compact beach and harbor area with a nice walk along the playa offering tapas and sangria to your heart’s content.
Perched on a hill overlooking Santa Eularia you’ll find a fine little museum on life on Ibiza called the Museo Etnologico de Santa Eularia del Río. It’s an easy 1-hour visit with displays on wine making and olive oil pressing in Ibiza, a wonderful room full of Ibizan traditional costumes, and it’s stored in a building called “can Ros”, a family home for the Ros family (one of the reasons we visited).
While the Museo Etnologico is worth a visit on its own, equally worth the visit is seeing the neighboring church, Santa Eularia’s Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Jesus (Our Lady of Jesus) and the sweeping views of Santa Eularia and the Mediterranean Sea. The museum, the church, and the views are well worth the hike up the hill.
If you’re looking for a more quiet visit to Ibiza, a more “local” experience from which you can venture out to the island’s more remote eastern end, a stay in Santa Eularia should appeal to you. And when you stay, consider a stay with my long lost cousins at Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Jesus
|San Miguel’s Tiny Beach|
At the top end of our diamond is San Miguel, actually a pair of towns separated by about two miles. San Miguel is the inland town and Port de Sant Miguel is the tiny little “port” town. By Ibiza Town and Santa Eularia standards, San Miguel’s “port” is only big enough for small fishing boats and dinghy’s. “Sleepy” doesn’t begin to describe San Miguel, so if you’re looking for an out-of-the-way spot on Ibiza about as far from the thumping nightclubs on the southern side of the island, this is it.
There are no museums in San Miguel, no TripAdvisor sites, only wondrous quiet and a splendid little beach along a naturally-formed U-shaped inlet, protected by cliffs to the east and west. It’s this rugged terrain that warrants us mentioning this spot: just to the west along the coast we found some of the most spectacular cliffside views we’ve ever seen. If you’re after quiet and natural beauty when you visit Ibiza, consider–like we are–staying in San Miguel.
|Cliffs To The West of San Miguel|
|The Yacht Harbor at Sant Antoni|
The western corner of our diamond is the “bustling” (relative term, of course) port city of Sant Antoni de Portmany. While it’s smaller than Ibiza Town, Sant Antoni is big and modern, especially compared with Santa Eularia and San Miguel. The busyness comes mainly from the harbor, and most of that traffic is in the yacht harbor. There are commercial ferries coming and going to the Spanish mainland as well as boats that will take you around to Ibiza Town, but it’s the huge yacht harbor and its western position on the island that gives the town its character.
Sant Antoni’s main shopping and dining walk lies along and facing that yacht harbor. The day we visited, they were setting up a stage in the square for a free concert the next day (Spanish Hip-Hop, if you were wondering). Everything is clean and modern, as if the town was only built in the last couple of decades, yet it’s as old as any site on the island, dating back 2,000 years. Sant Antoni is short on beaches, but a couple of those “hidden” beaches are close by. What Sant Antoni does have, in addition to all those lovely yachts, is one of the most well-known clubs on the island, Es Paradis.
An interesting sidebar: some locals claim that Christopher Columbus was born near Sant Antoni. Still other locals claim that Hannibal (of war elephant fame) was born on the western end of Ibiza.
If you’re looking for a city to visit in Ibiza as an alternative to Ibiza Town, perhaps a city where you can pull your yacht into, one with spectacular sunsets and a single, though very famous, nightclub to dance the night away, Sant Antoni might be the place to consider.
A Few Final Notes on Ibiza’s Beaches
Last year we (Lori, actually) came up with a “beach report card”, so if you’re wondering how Ibiza stacks up in this department, first realize that the rocky geography of Ibiza means the island isn’t surrounded by sandy beaches. Patches of sand are, in fact, a little hard to come by. You’ll find them in 3 of the 4 towns we discuss above, usually near the town’s center. There are also those “hidden” beaches for when you rent a car or scooter. Ibiza’s beaches are made of tan sand that can get rather hot to bare feet in the bright Mediterranean sun. The water is a beautiful emerald green, crystal clear, and surprisingly calm: only on a couple of bad weather days have we seen even a mild surf. In May, the water’s pretty cold for these Gulf of Mexico natives.
Regarding crowds and amenities, we’ve been here at the end of off season, so it’s hard to gage what the high season crowds might be, but there are more people vying for spots on the weekends than on weekdays, and we imagine from June to August the beaches can get packed. As our stay has progressed, more and more people have been showing up, and more and more cafe’s and bars have been opening up. There are chair and umbrella vendors on all city beaches (no chance on those hidden beaches), and they’ll run you about €18 for 2 chairs and an umbrella (€6 each – a bit more expensive than you’ll find on the Spanish mainland). There are also those vendors walking around selling massages, sunglasses, hats, and fruit, but here they’re a bit more laid back and less annoying than on the Spanish mainland. And yes, the beaches are thoroughly “European”: though here you’ll find a younger crowd with lots more tattoos and thongs and piercings. That’s all we’re gonna say ’bout that.
Overall, we give Ibiza’s beaches an A-. If the water was a bit warmer and the geography allowed for more beach area, we’d wholeheartedly give an A+.