It’s pretty normal to assume Ibiza is just a party island. But if you look past the superclubs and DJ line-ups, there’s another much more subdued side to the popular European destination. Sigourney recently took the family there and found a relaxed and eclectic enclave – one that’s actually really kid-friendly. Here are seven things to do in Ibiza that don’t involve wristbands and 10€ bottles of water.
1. Book a villa or apartment
When you’re traveling with kids, hotels can be hard. I was still sterilizing bottles for Lulu and making purees so we needed a full service kitchen. We also prefer for Max to have a separate room to sleep in (or he'll be up all night and so will we!). Luckily for us, my girlfriend Kristie – who moved to Ibiza ten years ago and is the editor of the amazing online island guide White Ibiza – offered to host us for a week. If you’re not lucky enough to have a bestie in town, Airbnb have some great apartments that allow you to soak up the relaxed Spanish lifestyle and are much more reasonable than hotels during the high season. If you’re going with a group of friends, a private Ibiza villa is a great option but be aware the island is pretty spread out so you’ll most likely need a car. If you have kids you can hire car seats, high chairs and portacots from Kids In Ibiza, who also provide an excellent nanny service.
Kristie’s apartment is in Ibiza’s UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site Dalt Vila, a stunning sandstone fortress, often referred to as the Old Town. The pretty cobbled pathways are punctuated with vibrant flashes of bougainvillea and curious cats. At night the squares are filled with Ibiza restaurants buzzing well in the sultry evenings – and the Spanish eat late. It’s normal to go for dinner at 11pm and not start your main meal until 1am. There are often still families out at that time, and as we found, if kids are zonked, the restaurants happily put a few chairs together for them to nap on. And thanks to Kristie’s website and her insider local knowledge, we had a massive head start on what to do and where to go.
2. Take a boat to Talamanca beach
If you’re staying in the old town like we did, most Ibiza beaches on the island are a car or cab ride away, however Talamanca is a short boat ride from Ibiza’s main port, La Marina. Once you disembark from the little motorised wooden boat ( 3€ return fare and kids under four travel free), it’s just a short walk to the beach – the lovely Spanish boat captains speak English and will happily give you the easy-to-follow directions.
There are a stack of Ibiza beach bars and restaurants and you can hire a day bed bed for 10€ for the entire day, then kick back drinking rosé and eating grilled squid and croquettes. We made a bed for Lulu under an umbrella on a sun lounger and Max made friends with some local Spanish kids and they played happily in the sand all day. The water is shallow for several meters and there are barely ever waves, so it's perfect for toddlers to splash about in without fear of being taken out by a swell.
3. Watch the iconic Ibiza sunset from Sunset Ashram
Although Café del Mar and Café Mambo are famous for their prime sun-gazing positions – they do tend to be overpacked and full of boozed tourists, not to mention dance music blaring over the promenade. Sunset Ashram is located on Cala Conta beach on the island’s west side, just around the corner from its more famous competitors, and is an alternative hippie hangout which feels very European – in fact we barely heard an English conversation, aside from our own! We ate an early dinner by 8pm then headed down to the beach with mojitos in oversized plastic cups. Lulu slept in her baby capsule and Max made sandcastles with the local kids – we realized with little ones, the language barrier doesn’t ever seem to be a problem.
4. Visit Formentera – Ibiza’s sister island
Formentera is an idyllic tiny island off the coast of Ibiza that is often described as Ibiza’s bohemian little sister. Although we ran out of time to visit on this trip, I remember it being insanely beautiful when we visited in previous years. Think Caribbean like crystal azure waters and sherbet sand. You can take a ferry directly across with your hire car and drive around for the day or there are boat transfers from the main port in Ibiza town. The best restaurants here are undoubtedly Juan y Andrea (though it’s certainly not cheap!) and Beso Beach – the island’s only hipster hotspot, where lazy lunches turn into dancing on tabletops as the sun goes down. Kristie recommends we stay overnight there on our next visit – she says the sunsets are equally as incredible as Ibiza, and the more inland you travel, the more unspoiled gems you discover.
5. Go for a spa day at Agroturismo Atzaró
Agroturismo Atzaró is a hotel and spa set among an orange groves and olive trees, banana palms and cacti. Since the spa area is dubbed a ‘quiet zone’, we decided to have a relaxing day and hired Suzanne, a nanny from Kids in Ibiza who was just lovely, to take care of Max and Lulu. It’s a popular pastime for island visitors to Ibiza check into the Ibiza day spa and swan around the various pools and steam rooms. There two pools lined with chic daybeds with gauzy curtains that billow in the breeze, and the spa has a seriously impressive treatment menu. Since I was doing a shoot for Beauticate on the day with renowned Ibiza photographer Ana Lui, we skipped the spa treatments, but once we wrapped, we enjoyed a delicious spa cuisine lunch in the restaurant followed by a glass of champagne on our daybed by the pool before heading home.
6. Hire a day bed at a beach restaurant
My favourite thing about European beaches is drinking and dining on a sun loungers and daybeds – it’s so different to how we ‘do the beach’ at home. Two of the most stylish Ibiza beach restaurants are owned by the same group – BEACHOUSE Ibiza and El Chiringuito, which basically translates to ‘beach shack’ in Spanish but is anything but – this chic hotspot was inspired by Club 55 in St. Tropez. As we discovered, in high season, you need to book your daybed weeks in advance (for around 80€ for the day) but sun loungers are easier to come by and much cheaper. They even have a kids’ club supervised by the experts from Kids in Ibiza so you can drop the children off for face painting, bracelet making and to find even more new friends.
7. Have a meal at Cala Bonita
Aussie Chef Karen Martini (who we profiled here) recently set up the chic Cala Bonita restaurant on a quiet little beach just outside of Ibiza town called S’Estanyol. It’s perfect for kids as the small bay is rimmed by cliffs and a pine forest, and the restaurant and sun loungers enjoy a view of the whole beach, so you can see the littlies from almost every vantage point. We headed there for afternoon drinks in the sun. Once again, the staff were so accommodating with the kids. Max fell asleep in the car and when we arrived the beach attendant went out of his way to find us a little bench and cover it in cushions to make a bed for Max to sleep on next to us at the table.
There are so many more things to do in Ibiza, but we just ran out of time. I really wasn’t ready to leave! Ibiza has a chilled out bohemian vibe that reminds me a little of Byron Bay – it has that unique hippy vibe. Creatives flock to its sandy shores to live a life doused in Spanish sunshine yet with all the cosmopolitan influences that come from being a playground for tourists and hub for expats.
If you’re thinking of a visit, check out White Ibiza for more recommendations, and if you have a family, Kids In Ibiza can recommend all the best places to take your children. Doing it with the family only opened up a much more cruisey, but no less exciting side of the island for me and I’m already plotting our return.
Story by Sigourney Cantelo