How would you like to take the family to the island known as the clubbing capital of the world this summer? Ann-Marie McKimm was sceptical but did she come back a convert?
When my husband said, ‘This year we need to budget , so no faraway places’ my heart sank. We booked a holiday to Ibiza. For me, Ibiza conjures up visions of neon lights, scantily clad bodies barely out of their teens and mass crowds dancing to house music. But don’t be fooled, there is so much more to this place than nocturnal partying. The landscape is breathtaking, with sweeping pine-covered hills, while the climate, thanks to its southern location and the Saharan influence, is hot and dry. You can count on an average temperature of 28°C from July through to September. The entire island, from its historical landmarks such as Dalt Vila (Old Town Ibiza) to its 56 marvellous beaches with crystal-clear water and picturesque creeks, offers adventure, history, tradition, relaxation and fun.
‘I didn’t notice that when I came to the island 10 years ago with a group of friends,’ I hear you say. Was that the holiday when you could barely remember your own name most of the time? Well this holiday was very much a family holiday for us, so no alcohol-infused evenings (well perhaps the odd tipple), dancing on the table and waking up the following morning wondering what happened the night before! I’m a responsible adult now with two children and husband in tow, so the spirit of the holiday was different – but it didn’t make it any less enjoyable.
My husband had been to Ibiza twice before, spending most of his time in Privilege, one of its many famous clubs. So he hadn’t seen much of the island! Clubbing makes up a tiny part of Ibiza and doesn’t spoil it. The real secret of this place is the people who live here. There is a diverse mix of foreign settlers, from Americans to Polish, and the Spanish who descended from the original farming families or emigrated from mainland Spain. This creates an open and welcoming vibe and a great deal of individuality, too. This isn’t new to Ibiza, as it has always been a destination for diverse cultures and civilisations since ancient times when Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Muslims and Christians all visited.
Pirates were a constant threat to the island right up until the early 19th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that it became a world destination, thanks to the arrival of artists, hippies and lovers of mysticism. During that time, Ibiza grew into a cultural and recreational phenomenon, visited by multi-millionaires, famous film stars such as Errol Flynn and Elizabeth Taylor, models and luminaries from the world of fashion such as Yves Saint Laurent – basically, everyone who was cool and stylish.
Ibiza is still a top destination for the well-heeled traveller and celebrities such as Kylie Minogue. But it’s also become an ideal family destination as there is no shortage of things to do. It’s fairly small so you can get out and about to see the diverse nature of the island without driving for hours. This is a godsend when trapped in a hot hire car with kiddies! Ibiza Old town is incredibly impressive with its beautiful cobbled streets and amazing views over the bay. My four- and five-year-olds loved taking photographs of cannons and drawbridges, not to mention pretending the pirates were about to attack the city walls and that they were the protected princesses.
Over two weeks we managed to visit half a dozen different beaches and there really is something for everyone from Las Salinas on the very southern tip, which is a great shallow, sandy, family beach, to Benirras in the north, which is a must on a Sunday evening as local drummers and dancers come along to create a great atmosphere as the sun sets over the stunning bay.
Another must-do is a visit to the Hippy Market (a legacy of the large hippy influx). The biggest markets are on Wednesday in Es Caná and on Saturday in San Carlos. Our girls particularly enjoyed shopping for bargains at Es Cana.
I would also highly recommend Greenheart in Casita Verde. Their Sunday gathering is worth the drive along the winding roads. Greenhearts is a an ecological centre in the heart of Ibiza (the only one in Spain) where people from all walks of life come to get a deeper understanding of how they can do things in a more sustainable manner. I’m sure that the great Ibiza goddess from ancient times, Tanit, is looking down with pride! Chris Dews (the founder) has dedicated his life to the centre for the past 20 years. We had a truly amazing Sunday afternoon there. Chris had the whole crowd, including many young kids, transfixed during his Aloe Vera Show – introducing us to the plant and demonstrating how it can be used with a few willing guinea pigs! Greenheart has touched the psyche and hearts of many who have had the privilege of coming in touch with it. It’s a must for any genuinely meaningful visit to the island.
For those who want a more structured (and organised) approach that allows you and your family to really get to know this side of the island then White Ibiza is a great source of information, from family-friendly restaurants to children’s yoga sessions. Having two young kids I found getting them swimming lessons a really constructive use of time and the girls loved it. Ibizaswim provides private swimming lessons with teaching based on the UK ASA National Plan so it can complement your child’s swimming lessons back home. Then there is the fabulous who will pretty much arrange everything from horse riding to Bhangra dancing for your children to Reiki and personal training for the grown ups. They will even book you a spa day. Ibiza retreats can arrange fabulous therapies on the Island, so you don’t have to.
Last, but not least – food! Eating is a big part of our holiday experience and Ibiza offers a long list of family friendly restaurants such as Can Domingo in Sant Josep. They serve the best tapas we had on the island. Passion Juice bar and Café serves amazing healthy wholesome food too. The owner has created a menu that can cater for even the fussiest of eaters. There are also a number of private catering companies that provide chefs who will cook for you at your accommodation and tailor the cuisine for any occasion. We used Wild Thymes and thought they were competitive in terms of cost and quality; they were incredibly accommodating and down to earth, too.
It was with a heavy heart that we left Ibiza and an extra two weeks stay would still not have been enough. It is very much the beginning of a love affair, I think. So the next time a friend says they’re off to Ibiza with the family, don’t raise an eyebrow. They’re obviously in on the secret of this wonderful place. But it is a secret worth sharing…