When Pacha, Ibiza’s superclub famed for its decadent dance parties, held its opening night for the new season last month, thousands of ravers lined up to pay their respects to the latest superstar DJ and did party until dawn.
But as someone who’s been to Ibiza a dozen times, I’ve witnessed how shifting sands are transforming this Balearic island – and the biggest change is in San Antonio, the bay town to the northwest .
For decades, his notorious West End strip has been the epicenter of 18-30 Club tours, rowdy Brits Abroad behavior and raunchy bachelor parties. Families and anyone who wanted some semblance of peace were advised to stay away from San An.
Today is a different story. The Strip is still home to a few cheesy bars, and the Linekers bar is a Three Lions institution. But a 3 a.m. curfew has curbed alcohol tourism and smoking has been banned at many of the more popular beaches.
Now vacationers flock to this natural cove’s stunning scenery, high-end wellness offerings, and activities that don’t involve a jar of booze. Whisper it, but San Antonio has become a draw.
Bohemian splendor: While on a trip to San Antonio, Sian Boyle checks into OKU where ‘beautiful people just laze around its adults-only pool’ (pictured)
One of the new places to visit is OKU, a chic hillside hideaway on the outskirts of San An, whose holistic wellness program includes gong baths, reiki sessions and crystal treatments.
The beautiful people here are content to laze around its adults-only pool – one of the largest in Ibiza – and like them, I’m happy to skip the madness of the clubbing scene and soak up the bohemian splendor here.
At the OKU restaurant, we are treated to Japanese fusion cuisine of oysters with wasabi, chicken tsukune and black cod with miso. Obviously, this is not a vacation at Club 18-30.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in San Antonio, and Toby Clarke, a Briton who’s been running tours here since 2010, says he’s seen a huge surge in demand over the past two years. “There’s so much more to the island than partying,” he says, explaining how the pandemic has changed the way travelers want to explore.
Tour guide Toby Clarke tells Sian tourists have been ‘blown away’ by the beauty of Ibiza’s beaches such as Cala Saladeta (above)
Sian (not pictured) says OKU’s holistic wellness program includes gong baths, reiki sessions and crystal healings
Even stag backs want a piece of the new action. “We took a walk last week for 13 guys who were staying right in downtown San Antonio,” Toby says. “They were all hungover, but we took them for a walk in Punta Galera [nature reserve] on the coastline.
“In 15 minutes you are in a completely different area; there are caves, cliffs and clear water. They saw the beaches of Cala Saladeta and Platja de Sa Galera, and were blown away by all the beauty so close to their hotel.
Toby’s Ibiza Outdoors offers e-bike tours, not only on trails starting in San Antonio through the mountains of the west coast, but also along the rugged and remote north of Ibiza.
I’m skeptical about managing a mountain bike trail, but motorized bikes only require the most basic level of fitness to traverse terrain that would otherwise require Herculean endurance.
Sian is mountain biking on a trail that leads her to the beach and cove of Benirras, pictured
For 20 km, my group of 40, 50 and 60 year olds cycle serenely from San Juan, a small village in the center of the island, before stopping on the north coast to admire the view.
We loop back to the beach and the cove of Benirras, but not before stopping to look for food and taste the sweet loquat fruit above.
The ride is accompanied by birdsong and whistling on the chalky dirt roads, through prickly gusts of pine and rosemary from the fields beyond, it’s hard to believe I’m in one of the world’s capitals Of the party.
Back in San Antonio, the laid-back southernmost part of the bay is home to many of the classiest family hotels.
At the glamorous four-star INNSiDE, I’m told 90% of the guests are British families who come not for the techno and vodka shots, but for the waterskiing and sailing trips.
Ninety per cent of INNSiDE guests (pictured) are British families, Sian learns
The hotel’s panoramic rooftop, infinity pool and Balinese beds are the best place for sunset cocktails without going to town, but for anyone who wants to cross the bay to the furthest end. Busy, a water taxi runs regularly from the secluded golden beach of Cala Pinet to the hotel’s back door.
No trip to Ibiza is complete without a pilgrimage to Café Mambo, the Balearic bar where people from all over the island gather on the rocky beach at dusk to watch the sun go down.
We end our break with cocktails and skies blazing pink and orange, knowing that no matter how much it changes, San Antonio will still claim the best sunsets in Ibiza.
Rooms at OKU Ibiza start from €350 (approx £311) per night, based on two people sharing a superior room on a B&B basis, okuhotels.com. Double B&B at INNSiDE Ibiza from £113 per night (melia.com). EasyJet fly direct to Ibiza return from London Luton Airport from £57 pp, easyjet.com.