Ibiza's other beat
Forget clubs – this Balearic Island has its own natural rhythm with plenty for culture vultures to explore
Published 14/07/2013 | 05:00
Get off the beaten track
Far away from the foam parties and fruity cocktails, Ibiza has a beat-free zone which, once experienced, can transform the traveller's perception of this sun-baked Balearic island forever.
Of its 60-plus beaches, there are many low-key gems, such as Benirras – much loved by yoga practitioners who come for retreats in the surrounding hills.
I donned my walking boots and trekked through the Natural Park of Ses Salines to the island's coast. Here, Posidonia Oceanica, a protected sea grass, rests its glinting leaves on the limestone rocks.
The charming old town of Dalt Vila is a perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. For those interested in the past stories of the island, there are several museums that celebrate Ibiza's Phoenician, Roman and Arabic history, none more thoroughly than the recently refurbished Puig des Molins Necropolis.
Although Ibiza is known as The White Island, because of the salt which led the island to prosperity, it's the sunlit oranges and lemons of the teeming citrus orchards that I remember, the rich ochres of the sunburnt soil and the greens of the olive and pine trees, abundant in the hilly north.
The north of the island is less populated than the south, where the main cities of Sant Antoni de Portmany and Ibiza Town cater for the summer throngs.
In the quaint village of Sant Lorenzo, you'll find La Paloma Restaurant (palomaibiza.com). Tanned and razor-sharp waiters serve unfussy organic Mediterranean cuisine. Its underpinning trademark is owner Prasuna Coppini, whose friendliness and palpable love for what she does are clear to see. Italian-born Prasuna came to the Island 11 years ago to babysit for her daughter and never left. Her Romanian chef Juanito initially worked here as a dishwasher, but now shares the cooking with the owner.
Restaurant Es Rebost de Can Prats (esrebostdecanprats.com) in Sant Antoni de Portmany on the southwest coast is a typical family-owned spot. The service is friendly and the fish dishes, made by the restaurant's Galician chef, are simple and flavoursome. The house wines come from the local Can Rich winery.
Treat yourself to flao for dessert – a traditional Ibizan cake made with soft cheese and fresh mint, home-baked in a wood-fired oven.
Another great spot is Yemanja, on the rocky shores of the bay of Cala Jondal on the south coast of the island, where paella and fresh fruit Sangria De Cava are local favourites.
There's no shortage of great hiking in Ibiza, but when I return it will be for the kayaking. There is something about floating, weightless, on still water that makes you never want to succumb to the gravity of dry land again.
To really experience the stillness and clarity of these Mediterranean waters, take a guided trip beneath the island's limestone cliffs into the hidden coves. Ibiza Mundo Activo (Ibizamundoactive@blogspot.com) organises trekking, paddle surfing, rock climbing and scuba diving.
If you fancy learning about the local cuisine, husband and wife team Joan Ferrer and Marga Orell run regular cookery courses at their restaurant, s'Ametller in the heart of Ibiza town (restaurantsametller.com). It's just a two-minute walk, down café-strewn streets, from the marina.
I had a fun morning making an old-style fisherman's stew with rock fish and John Dory which was traditionally made at sea. I lunched on my morning's work while marvelling at the teamwork of the couple, who turn the madness of lunchtime rush hour into a perfectly choreographed set-piece.
The Invisa Figueral Hotel in Cala Blanca, San Carlos (invisahoteles.com), is a well-designed hotel in the north of the island with a clean beach and friendly staff. This is a family resort teeming with contented kids and an adult-only pool.
From the harbour at Cala Blanca beach, you can take a trip to the other Balearic islands, such as Formentera, Mallorca and Menorca.
Es Figueral, Invisa's sister-resort at Cala Verde, is designed for couples looking for a more romantic setting and fewer kids, while Can Curreu (cancurreu.com), near the coast in San Carlo, is a farmhouse retreat and spa which is part of the growing Agroturismo industry on the island of Ibiza.
The horses you see galloping around the paddocks as you walk up the laneway through the farm can be ridden by guests for free, or you can sail on their yacht, moored five kilometres away.
Can Curreau is a working citrus farm which has evolved into a discreet and luxurious bolt hole for honeymooners and those who are not looking to do Ibiza on the cheap. Lunch at the restaurant, which is open to non-residents, was a faultless extravaganza of locally sourced ingredients.
Rooms at Can Curreau cost around €220 per room in low season.
When to go
September and October are the best months, if you want to avoid the high-season crowds. During this period, prices drop, the locals are more relaxed and chatty, and, with daily highs of 24-27°C, it's still warm enough to swim and laze by the pool.
Ibiza: Need to Know
Aer Lingus (0818 365 000; aerlingus.com) flies to Ibiza three times per week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
David Donohue travelled with Turespana (Ibiza.travel/en).