Ibiza may not be an obvious destination for a family holiday but, as Ann-Marie McKimm discovered, there’s a lot more to this beautiful island than partying and clubbing
Ibiza may conjure up visions of neon lights, binge drinking and scantily clad party-goers dancing on tables, but clubbing is a tiny part of what Ibiza is all about. Away from the party scene, this beautiful Spanish island has much to offer families. The landscape is breathtaking, with sweeping pine-covered hills, and the climate is hot and dry, with temperatures averaging 28°C from July to September. It boasts 56 beaches with crystal-clear water and picturesque creeks, and offers adventure, history, tradition, relaxation and fun – the perfect ingredients for a family holiday.
Ibiza was popular with artists, hippies and lovers of mysticism in the 1960s and 1970s, and quickly became a favourite with the rich and famous, including 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.
It’s still a top destination for the well-heeled traveller and celebrities, but Ibiza is also an ideal family destination as there is no shortage of things to do. It’s fairly small so you don’t have to spend hours driving to see its numerous attractions – a godsend when trapped in a hot hire car with kiddies! Ibiza Old town is 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, and loved pretending that 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, from Las Salinas, a sandy, shallow beach on the very southern tip of the island, 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. My daughters particularly enjoyed shopping for bargains at Es Caná.
The Sunday gathering at Greenheart in Casita Verde in the heart of the island is worth the drive along the winding roads. It’s an ecological centre where people from all walks of life come to get a deeper understanding of how they can do things in a more sustainable manner. We spent an enjoyable afternoon there as founder Chris Dews had the whole crowd, including many young kids, transfixed during his Aloe Vera Show, which, with the help of a few guinea pigs, demonstrated the plant’s many uses.
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 and children’s yoga and Bhangra dancing sessions to reiki and personal training or spa days for the grown-ups. With 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.
Eating is a big part of our holiday experience and Ibiza has lots of family-friendly restaurants such as Can Domingo in Sant Josep, which serves the best tapas on the island. Passion Juice bar and Café serves delicious, healthy food, too, and the owner has created a menu that can cater for even the fussiest of eaters. There is 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 incredibly accommodating and competitive in terms of cost and quality.
It was with a heavy heart that we left Ibiza – we could easily have stayed for another two weeks. 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.