Ibiza was on my “to do” list for 10 years. I made the long-awaited journey to this island of beats and debauchery last month. While I no longer chase the party, I still love venturing out and dancing for hours—although most of the time I feel too old, even at 31, for the scene. But techno, the dance floor, the dancing until you’re sweaty, the feeling of the bass in your chest—I will never not find all this unappealing. I grew up on this music and in this scene. It’s in me.
Finally making it to Ibiza, then, was an awesome experience. The island isn’t all about partying, although you certainly can make it so. But if you ditch the towns (Ibiza Town, San Antonio, etc.), you’ll find remote beaches on the Mediterranean and quieter places worth exploring. So, you can escape people if you want to—it just takes a bit of effort (and extra cash) to get on a bus, rent a scooter or car, or hail a taxi. (Though this may be hard for those that are hungover or broke because they spent too much money on god-knows-what the night before…)
We made San Antonio (Sant Antoni) our base and stayed at the small, friendly Hostal Valencia; I highly recommend this hotel, especially if you’re on a budget. In late-August (high season), I paid about 50 euro for a room with two beds, and added a third bed for 90. The rooms are comfortable and have A/C, and there’s a pool, too. Breakfast is delicious—you have a choice between several dishes, but I always chose #3 with bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast with butter. Hostal Valencia’s garden patio, surrounded by lush greenery, is an intimate, charming spot to start the day. I loved this little hotel and would stay here again in a heartbeat.
Its location is 10-15 minutes from the bus station, the center of town, as well as the waterfront. I prefer to call the shores of San Antonio the “waterfront” rather than the “beach”—San Antonio is not the town to stay in if you hope to roll out of bed and drag yourself to the beach a few steps away. You technically can do this, as there are rentals and hotels near the water, but there’s no quintessential Balearic beach here. For paradise, hop on a bus for a couple euro and head elsewhere to sunbathe and swim.
But San Antonio isn’t totally useless, as it’s the home of lively open-air bars on its “sunset strip”: the famous Cafe del Mar, where partygoers gather to watch the sunset (and prepare for the long night ahead), and Cafe Mambo, the lounge next door. I don’t know how many Cafe del Mar CDs I’ve bought since high school, but those mixes introduced me to the best chill-out and downtempo tracks over the past 15 years.
These bars don’t get going until late afternoon, just before the sun sets—so if you’re not in the mood for anything crazy, lounge here earlier in the day, post-lunch. It’s laid back and a good bet. But make sure you also stroll the strip shortly after the sun disappears. Here’s what the scene looks like in San Antonio as you meander through the crowd, when evening transforms to night:
One night, we went to the weekly Café Olé at Space in Playa d’en Bossa. We got in for free—thank god for the guest list, as the cover for these mega-clubs range from 30-65 euro. Boy George was spinning that night—not very exciting—but the club’s dry-ice blasts on the dance floor were amusing. Listen at the end—yep, that’s my scream:
The music in that clip is absolutely terrible, and I wasn’t blown away at all by the music that night, which was disappointing. At the same time, I didn’t plan a “club itinerary” either, as I’m not a huge fan of celebrity DJs or massive clubs like Space. The club culture in Ibiza isn’t anything I haven’t seen before—the global dance scene is quite uniform; from Ibiza to Thailand, to Montreal and London, and to Paris and anywhere in the United States. Club kids and ravers—and the vibe they create in different corners of the world—are ultimately very similar. Ibiza’s club scene was expected: Upscale. Mainstream. No surprises. I think I spent too many nights in underground warehouses in college, so nothing ever feels edgy to me…
But as a whole, Ibiza is a destination for all sorts of people—you’re surrounded by a fair amount of reckless youth ready to get wasted, but also couples on romantic vacations and families with young children. If I visited when I was 21, the trip would have been different. But I’m not 21, yet the island still offered what I was looking for: gorgeous beaches, outdoor bars and restaurants where I could sip mojitos all afternoon and listen to atmospheric D&B or lounge-y house, and a nightlife scene where people from all over the world congregate because of their collective love for music.
For more photos, visit Flickr: Ibiza.