The White Island, so called by early sailors after the dawn mist that rolls over the sea, has long been a sanctuary for freedom-seekers and non-conformists. The Carthaginians got the party started in 654BC, naming the island Ibossim, after Bes, the Egyptian god of dance and music.
Fast forward to the 1960s and Ibiza became Europe’s hippy-chic equivalent to San Francisco, but it was with the explosion of dance music at the end of the 1980s that the festivities really took off. Ibiza claimed the title as the clubbing capital of the world: if you came here on holiday you probably wouldn’t need sun cream, or be getting much to eat.
But things have changed. The frenetic super clubs are still here, at the centre of the action, but so too are grownup alternatives: Michelin-starred chefs, the fantastical cabarets, the laidback beach clubs and the superyacht services that deliver caviar to your boat.
The shops that cluster around the marina still peddle Ibiza’s trademark tie-dye silks, but alongside are brands usually found on Chelsea’s Sloane Street. Naomi Campbell, James Blunt and the Ibiza party set are still coming but there have been other, more surprising sightings. Riccardo Tisci, creative director of Givenchy, held his 40th birthday party here and it had a sophistication and glamour rarely seen off the red carpet. “It was very Flamenco, very beautiful and the most uber guest list I’ve ever seen,” says Serena Cook, the founder of Deliciously Sorted, the VIP Ibiza concierge service, who organised the party. Among the guests to grace the 200-horse stud farm hired for the party were Justin Bieber, Jared Leto, Pedro Almodovar, Madonna, and Kim and Kanye. They’ll likely all be back for the opening night of Andre Balazs’ new hotel. The founder of the Chiltern Firehouse, in Marylebone, central London, is opening his new venture in the north of the island next summer.
His clientele has certainly started to arrive. Cook is seeing the kind of visitors who, in the past, might have headed to the South of France or Porto Cervo joining Ibiza’s fashion jet set. “St Tropez is charming but it can be snooty,” she says. “In Ibiza a billionaire can be dancing next to a student from Barcelona who is covered in piercings – but then he can also go for a delicious lunch with a bottle of Ruinart. You can dip in and out. It’s that choice that’s appealing. If you want to go to a super club you can; if you want to go to a glamorous villa party you can; if you want a delicious Mediterranean lunch by boat you can.” You just need to be organised about moorings, with the overspill from the Ibiza Town marinas, Botafoch and Puerto Deportivo, turning a once quiet natural harbour at Porroig Beach into a superyacht car park in August.
The livelier party action is in the south of the island, while the north is more rustic – but both sides have grown-up haunts to rival the Cote d’Azur (without the gridlock). Up north, on David Cameron’s favourite beach, Cala Benirras, local hippies play drums at sundown and you can still bump into the odd nudist on the beautiful Aguas Blancas. But there’s culinary wizardry here, too, at Ibiza’s best Italian, the friendly, family-run Macao Cafe in Santa Gertrudis. Down south, the stylish daytime party at the beach club El Chiringuito, on Playa Es Cavallet, is fuelled by risotto de langostinos and melt-in-the-mouth sharing plates of Italian burrata. Scoot along the coast to sister restaurant Beachouse, at Playa d’en Bossa, for a live set from a superstar DJ – Sunday is generally the best party day.
Seven years after it launched, Cala Jondal’s Blue Marlin – also down south – still draws a glamorous crowd. Cook credits this institution with launching Ibiza’s daytime party scene. “Suddenly Ibiza had its own version of Nikki Beach,” she says. Come for the mellow house music and beautiful-people watching.
Torrent, in Ibiza Town, offers a lowerkey beach lunch, with “delicious food and not a Balearic beat in earshot”. Lovely lunches are all very well but at least one big night is essential, even if you’d never normally set foot in a nightclub back home. Fortunately, the emergence of VIP clubbing, with roped-off VIP tables taking up as much, or more, of the club as the dance floor, means you can now experience any of the big clubs without having to get involved in a sweaty scrum.
For those who like their beauty sleep, meanwhile, the advent of all-day clubbing at Ushuaia Beach Club, which opened in 2011, is a godsend. The daytime parties here, with the action centred around a huge pool, are the closest thing Ibiza has to a Miami pool party. The open-air licence ends at midnight, which means you can catch the headline DJ at 10pm, instead of the standard 4am, and still be in bed by 1.
The latest development in Ibiza’s nightlife is the vibrant cabaret dining scene, with Lio still the island’s hottest ticket. Positioned right on the marina in Ibiza Town, it serves excellent food against a backdrop of high camp acrobatics and burlesque.
The most extravagant cabaret is at Heart, with world-renowned chefs Ferran Adria (of El Bulli) and his brother Albert, in a collaboration with Cirque Du Soleil. It’s a sensory experience billed as “an adult amusement park” within the Ibiza Gran Hotel in Marina Botafoch.
Then there’s Sublimotion at the Hard Rock Hotel, from two-starred chef Paco Roncero, an El Bulli protege, for a theatre of light shows, magic tricks and test-tube foodgasms, with 20 courses, at a 12-seat dining table, which caused quite a stir last year, mostly on account of its eyewatering price tag: €18,000 per sitting, €1,500 (£1,198) per head. But the best – and wildest – parties take place in Ibiza’s private villas. If you know someone who knows someone, you could find yourself at a pool party on the golden mile of Es Cubells, a tiny clifftop village. This is the site of Ibiza’s most lavish villas – and most glamorous villa parties. The Tisci bash was watertight but that’s unusual in Ibiza, where the relaxed attitude often extends to the guest list. The magic is in the mix, as they say.
To ensure you really are at the hottest ticket of the summer, you could always throw your own party. Titanium is the place you’ll want to rent. Owned and designed by nightlife impresario Cathy Guetta, it just oozes party glamour. At €200,000 a week it’s the most expensive house on the island, but what’s a few euros between friends?
If you’ve overdone the partying, the fitness specialists 38 Degrees North will organise a juice cleanse and send a crack team of fitness experts out to your yacht. Or guests can take a few days out for a total reboot at one of their fitness retreats at Aguas de Ibiza design hotel in Santa Eulalia, with its fantastic spa and rooftop pool. Alternatively, enlist one of their yoga instructors and take the yacht to a peaceful cove, away from the jumping beach parties. Captain Christian Lopez, of Ascari, Y.Co’s 36.5 metre charter yacht, suggests heading out to the west of the island. “Cala d’Albarca is a wonderful deep bay with a sheer cliff face on one side, with rock jumps and caves. The water here is crystal clear, with beautiful little coves and complete tranquillity.” Stop for lunch at Utopia in a tiny cove, Caló des Multons, near San Miguel, for great views and rustic fresh fish and meat cooked in front of you. “The eco toilets give everybody something to talk about.”
For real seclusion, Cala Xuclar, just a few miles east, is ideal for an overnight stop. “It’s a perfectly peaceful spot, with no traffic, even in peak season,” says captain Lopez. No traffic, no heaving beach bars, no thumping beats; the only entertainment here is watching the glowing red orb sink into the sea.
Remember, there’s no shame in taking a night off. This is Ibiza after all, where anything goes.