Take a walk on the mild side: is a chilled out holiday possible in Ibiza?

·7-min read
 (El Silencio)
(El Silencio)

At El Silencio people don’t dance, they sway stylishly. All through the late Sunday afternoon, people have been wafting into the new beach club at Cala Moli. They have come to eat the insta-famous cooked avocado created by French super-chef Jean Imbert or to lounge on the Japanese-style furniture by a pool that looks like it’s escaped from a Hockney painting. There is a lot of Gucci and a lot of cheekbones. Oh look there’s that famous French male model; appropriate enough given this is the sister venue to the Parisian club, Silencio.

As day gives way to night, and the DJ begins, people slowly rise from their chairs and the swaying begins. Arnaud Frisch, the owner of the place, is making his rounds of the tables. Everyone seems to know him. Everyone seems to know each other. A mwah, mwah here; a kiss, kiss there. It is like being at your cool Parisian friend’s house party, though with sand on the floor and an enormous trippy sculpture by Miranda Makaroff taking up the entire entrance hall. Even the cocktails, by Diego Cabrera, are mini works of art. Smiles wreath faces; it’s relaxed and incredibly unlike the Ibiza I used to know – and that suits me perfectly these days. The calmer, the cooler, the better. After all those months of lockdown and all that excessive drinking I need a bit of a rest. The question is: can I really find that in Ibiza, the epicentre of excess?

Certainly I have never managed it before – always going home in need of another holiday to get over the one I just had. The last time I was here was maybe five years ago; the first time was about 15 years ago when I was 17. We spent a morning this time round tracing the route I had taken when I was younger and drunker, that screed of rock at the beach side of Cafe del Mar where we sat with one euro beers and wet arses and watched the sunset before going to DC10 and God-knows-what after party. Or that shop in Sant Antoni where a friend had inadvertently passed off a fake euro note. The shopkeeper spotted it and with startling bonhomie, returned it with the suggestion: “to spend it in a club!”

El Silencio (Daniel Balda)
El Silencio (Daniel Balda)

We spend a couple of hours at the marina in Sant Antoni, resisting the urge to join everyone around us in their afternoon pint. That was quite difficult: it is hard to reminisce when you haven’t got a drink in your hand. So we walk up the hill, past that guy whose boat we used to drink on who would take you on the sea at great expense and then spends hours unfurling his yarns as he smoked his inexhaustible supply of weed. And we eventually arrive at a tapas restaurant called Es Clot. Five middle-aged Spanish men rush in at 2.30pm for their daily lunch and are given wine and tapas; the proprietor knowing what they want before they even open their mouths. This is a good sign. The fat plate of boquerones – anchovies - and olives in a light vinegar was indeed a knockout. The squid is even better. I am glad to find a diamond in the rough of Sant Antoni, which is not always easy on this part of the island.

Next we head to Sir Joan, our hotel. It is in Ibiza town, with a lobby that’s all suede sofas and glass. We order some orange juice and sit by the green-tiled swimming pool which cuts at an angle through its outdoor area. Everyone is smiley and cool. The room we are staying in has two terraces so in a moment of bravado, my partner and I take a terrace each and attempt to do our “leg day” exercises. I stand on one leg groping for the bench like a drunk flamingo, swaying in the breeze, making an attempt at doing a Bulgarian split squat. This was, I fear, a touch ambitious given the 35-degree heat. The staff give you a WhatsApp number to make all your requests to – I consider asking for an ice bath.

We revive ourselves with a dusk walk around the cobbled streets of the old town, the medieval mansions of the 16th century Dalt Vila I had never seen before. The quaint labyrinthine streets are a Unesco World Heritage Site. I feel very grown up.

The next morning we get up early to go for a morning run. We experience the smug pleasure of going out as loads of people are just getting home after the night before. Though the clubs are closed, there are a lot of villa parties going on. We spend the morning sitting in the water of Cala Alto de Porta, a rocky beach hidden from view by the lip of a cliff. It is beyond beautiful and conveniently close to our next hotel, the brand new OKU.

Sir Joan (Steve Herud)
Sir Joan (Steve Herud)

OKU is an extraordinary confection, two enormous wood clad buildings sit like racing yachts at berth on either side of a private road. There is an Olympic-length pool; a restaurant serving impeccable Japanese food; a spa and enormous gym and even an art gallery. It has everything that the upper-end visitor wants from Ibiza now: a battalion of staff, chic furnishings and a choice as to whether you want a lazy holiday or you want to go hard. This is the new frontier of luxury here. Even the pools run at two speeds: one for adults with Balearic music playing, one for families which is quiet and low-key. There is a lot of Balenciaga on show and a gleaming red Ferrari parked out front.

OKU does offer a wellness programme with yoga classes and the use of a meditation temple but I resist the urge, and instead go for lunch at a fish restaurant. El Bigotes is an unpretentious open-air restaurant where there is no choice, just an enormous pot of bullit de peix (fish with potatoes and saffron) and rice cooked in the fish broth.

After that, we head back to Silencio for sunset. As we drove there, we passed a group of lads, dazed, confused and probably sleep-deprived. It was like meeting a ghost of myself. It occurred to me that you go to Ibiza and you live in your own little bubble. Whether that is all your friends and late nights or it’s the deep comfort of a double sun lounger at a Parisian beach club. Ibiza is a make-believe place where you can manage excess as much as relaxation. One thing is true though, it sure is difficult to be good in a place made to be bad in.

OKU (OKU)
OKU (OKU)

For Party Monsters

Where to stay: the enormous 415-room USHUAÏA hotel is a monument to excess. Pool parties are legendary. Just don’t expect to get too much sleep.

Where to eat: eating is cheating but if you do decide you want a bite: head to the new Nobu Hotel for its signature sushi and sashimi.

Where to drink: nestled on a pebble beach on Cala Jondal bay, Blue Malin is the epitome of the VIP Ibizan excess. It pumps out music and cocktails, day and night. And even has a water taxi to ferry you back to your boat, should you be lucky enough to have one.

Where to dance: although the clubs aren’t officially open, there are certainly still parties to be found. Flash at the legendary Pikes hotel is a weekly event which runs from the afternoon through to the early hours and draws hedonists like moths to a flame.

For the Laidback Crew

Where to stay: if you are looking for cutting edge design and a laid-back sophisticated atmosphere, head to the brand new OKU Hotel near Cala Gracio.

Where to eat: El Bigotes is an Ibizan institution. There is no menu, you just book your table on the waterside terrace sit down and get a steaming bowl of the freshest fish you can imagine. Although unpretentious, it is a celeb magnet.

Where to drink: head to the terrace at Los Enamorados in Portinatx for sundowners at this eccentric hotel bar, created by basketball player Pierre Traversier and magazine editor Rozemarijn de Witte.

Where to dance: sway to the sunset at El Silencio, the new beach club on the west of the island by the same guys behind the Parisian nightclub of the same name.

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