For years Ibiza has been synonymous with raving and misbehaving, but, as he turns 30, Ben Rhodes is more than happy to swap Es for Zs and discover the laid back side of the White Isle on a romantic break for two. (Photos Olivia Saunders).Glow stick? Party whistle? Hot pants? The Venga Boys’ greatest hits? These are just some of the items you can cross off your packing list if you choose, as I did, to visit Ibiza in the off-season and enjoy the romantic, quieter side of the magical island. Whilst there is always room to escape the epicenter of the madness in Ibiza, even in peak season, if you really get away from the ravers, screaming families and stag dos a visit outside the months of June to September will present an altogether more relaxing aspect of one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful isles. One of lapping waters, lazy Spanish lunches in palm-fronded beach huts and tranquil sunsets enjoyed on isolated beaches, far from the scrubby, over-populated rock faces next to Café del Mar. Ibiza can be considered broadly in terms of its compass points. The island has two distinct, quieter areas in the North (remote, rugged charm) and South (more beaches and bars but still mostly rural), and then two major towns, the first, in the East, being Eivissa (the cosmopolitan, bustling capital), and then, in the West, Sant Antonio (either a clubber’s paradise or a sweaty, skanky Skegness, depending on your sobriety and choice of venue).
The South is where we stayed and is characterized by a perfect mélange of long, sandy beaches and hidden away coves to be discovered at the end of winding country roads, surrounded by pine trees and lemon groves. With public transport to Ibiza’s quieter areas pretty much non-existent, it’s an absolute must to hire a car if you want to explore the island. Alternatively, like the hippy and dog we gave a lift to one day, you could try your luck hitch-hiking. (I only hope that if you do take advantage of a free ride, you’ll exercise better bladder control than they did).Our apartment was hidden away on the beach of Cala Carbo – a romantic tower overlooking the sea, with a tennis court and swimming pool in the family-run hotel next door, and a perfect place for young couples to enjoy the slow life. Nearby, there is a cliff-top to yourself where the sun sets over the eerie Es Vedra rock, which looks uncannily like the ‘Lost’ island. A sangria picnic here at dusk will certainly score plenty of brownie points with your loved one.
In terms of beaches you will be spoilt for choice on the South of the island, with variety and quality enough to warm the cockles of even the fussiest of aficionados. Most of them are smallish coves and nearly every one of them has a beach bar (known locally as chiringuitos) where you can sample the catch of the day, invariably served with bread (that ranges from freshly-baked to hardly edible) and lashings of aioli (garlic mayonnaise).Top of the beaches is Cala Tarida, with crystal clear waters and grilled sardines to enjoy before returning for a sandy siesta. For a more unique Ibiza chill-out experience try Cala Jondal. While the beach itself is more akin to Brighton’s pebbles, the Yemanja restaurant serves up some of the finest seafood and salads in Ibiza, served with Champagne cocktails to the melodic tunes of chilled house. And whilst in peak season you’d usually have to fork out mega-euros for the beach-beds, during the off-season you can enjoy the luxury playboy ambience for free.
Other noteworthy beaches are Las Salinas, where the rich and famous strut their tanned torsos, and Cala Vedalla, a small cove with diving and boating nestled within a picture-perfect Ibizan village. One to avoid if you are looking for Balearic bliss is Playa del Bossa. Although Del Bossa is the most famous beach on the island, and decent enough in its own right, it is too busy in the high-season for some ‘me-and-you’ time, and the deserted shabby bars in the off season make it feel like an apocalyptic Mad Max scenario, minus Tina Turner and a small hairy wolf-boy.Depending on what you want from a romantic retreat, night-time for couples in Ibiza is a bit hit and miss. Doubtless, you can make your own entertainment in your apartment (who doesn’t enjoy Scrabble and Doritos?). Otherwise, the chiringuitos that you frequented in the day can be just as enjoyable with a candle over-looking the moonlit Mediterranean. If you were looking for a bit more nightlife action, Eivissa town is an altogether classier affair to Sant Antonio. White-washed walls sprawl beneath a medieval castle and cathedral, and the multitude of bars and restaurants cater more to Spanish tourists or gay travellers than drunk Brits. There are smaller towns to visit too, including Sant Josep inland, but when you come to a place like Ibiza, surely the enjoyment comes from being able to smell the sea air?
A word of warning, before you book yourself a flight, Ibiza is not one for the tight-fisted Don Juan. With meals ranging from 60 – 120 euros for two, drinks and club entrance fees occasionally eye-popping and taxis meters whirring upwards as they whizz up and down the winding roads, you will need a fair bit of dinero to enjoy the best the island has to offer. However, your money will be well spent, though you could soon be forking out again for ring-finger accessories if the holiday goes exceptionally well…
There are a host of cheap flights to Ibiza from the UK with operators including Easyjet, Ryanair and Jet2. German Wings, Air Berlin, Transavia and Smart Wings fly from other destinations in Europe. From mainland Spain you’re best trying Vueling. You can also catch a boat from Barcelona, although tickets are often more expensive than flying so don’t expect a cut price journey. (Ben flew return with Ryanair from London Stansted from around 80 GBP per person. He hired a car from Do You Spain).