Laid-back luxury on Ibiza's west coast
Shaking off its reputation for brash hedonism, the west coast is evolving to offer grown up, luxury experience
On a beautiful sweep of coastline just north of San Antonio, Oku Ibiza is the island’s most-stylish new hotel, all warm wood, ecru concrete and relaxed beats around the vast zero-edge swimming pool.
Its Japanese name translates as ‘inner space’ and its guests are just as likely to get up for an early morning yoga class and fresh juice at the chiringuito beach bar as they are to sip cocktails listening to the resident DJ.
This is the new Ibiza, at once hedonistic and wholesome, where beach parties and buzzing nightlife are just part of the package. In fact, when I visit, there are still no clubs open in Ibiza, the island is quiet and yet the hotel is almost full, with Europe’s fashionable set draped on expansive Bali beds and enjoying the Japanese-Peruvian fusion food at Oku Restaurant.
The vibe is one of laid-back luxury, with an oh-so-chic wood and taupe colour scheme throughout and striking monochrome works of art by Dutch artist Steve Tepas. Guests who fall in love with a piece can buy it for around the £10,000 mark.
Set on both sides of a narrow lane, the hotel, with its 189 rooms and suites as well as an on-site villa, instinctively creates two atmospheres. The expansive foyer, with its polished concrete, elegantly fringed lamps and art-filled walls, sits alongside To Kima, where guests can enjoy breakfast and Mediterranean cuisine throughout the day. Here is also where the zero-edge pool welcomes families, surrounded by vast daybeds and oversized beanbags, and five swim-up suites offer the privacy of your own exclusive pool area.
Across the road, the 50-metre main pool – the largest on the island – forms the centrepiece of the second part of the hotel, where a palm-roofed kiosk serves fresh juices and the mahogany bar reveals a dazzling collection of spirits.
In the mornings, alfresco yoga takes place by the pool and energetic types get their laps in before breakfast. But by mid-morning the DJ is spinning discs and the whole area has taken on a more relaxed vibe with kaftan-clad guests padding between the pool and their Bali beds.
Overlooking it all is elegant Oku Restaurant, headed up by chef Mark Vaessen, who creates a citric fusion of South American flavours and Japanese cuisine, having been coaxed to the island from Amsterdam’s Sushisamba.
I try the tasting menu, paired with sparkling sakes that taste more like delicate champagne than traditional rice wine. Dishes include oysters spiked with wasabi, melt-in-the-mouth wagyu dumplings and black cod in honey miso, as well as a selection of sushi chasers. The hotel – and Vaessen – have Michelin-star ambitions and judging by the fleet of taxis arriving to deposit diners at the hotel, word has spread across the island.
West coast charm
The San Antonio coast may seem an unlikely spot for a new luxury hotel opening, but this former fishing village, which became better known for its wild nights and excesses in the 80s and 90s, has quietly been undergoing a transformation in recent years.
Oku Ibiza is set near Cala Gracio, a bay just north of San Antonio where an exclusive enclave is emerging. Next door to Oku, Palladium Group – owners of the ultra-stylish Bless Hotel near Santa Eulalia and party hotspot Ushuaia – is busy building another five-star hotel, and just to the north is Hostal La Torre, a charming boutique hotel with expansive views out to sea and along the jagged coastline. A short stroll towards the beach reveals luxury apartments in construction promising sunset views across the bay.
Nearby, Cala Gracioneta is a small cove of golden sand and crystalline waters, where an upmarket chiringuito of the same name is set on the rocks among the pines. This beach restaurant, all honeyed wood, rattan lampshades and fairy lights strung among the trees, is an understated celebrity favourite, where the great and the good come to live the boho Ibiza dream.
Further north, and still within walking distance, lies another culinary delight in Michelin-starred Es Tragón, set in an elegant, whitewashed farmhouse with sky-blue trim and sea views. Here, chef Álvaro Sanz Clavijo celebrates the island’s local ingredients, creating dishes influenced by cultures and civilisations that have passed though Spain.
And nearby, Sa Capella welcomes diners to enjoy a meal within the ruins of a 16th-century chapel, where classic Ibizan dishes are served in the ambient surroundings of the lush garden and softly lit nave. In the pine-clad hills set back from the coast you’ll find Pike’s. The legendary hotel has hosted rock royalty over the years, from Grace Jones to Bon Jovi. Wham’s 1983 hit Club Tropicana was filmed there and Freddie Mercury hosted his 41st birthday bash at the hotel, said to be one of the island’s most lavish parties. Under new management, it’s lost none of its original, quirky charm and is still considered one of the best spots on the island for carefree fun for those in the know.
Back to boho
Ibiza may have had a tough couple of years with the ongoing Covid restrictions, but locals and those tourists lucky enough to visit have been able to enjoy a more relaxed vibe. Without the clubs, Ibiza’s hedonism has been put on pause and its wholesome side has been revealed. The busiest spots have been those combining luxury with that bohemian vibe that invites guests to escape from their everyday.
To the north of the island, Six Senses Ibiza opened its zen retreat this summer, offering eco-friendly design, a vast spa and food sourced from its own organic farm, headed up by celebrity chef Eyal Shani.
At Nobu Ibiza Bay, just north of Ibiza Town, chef Dani Garcia has opened BiBo, a colourful cosmopolitan eatery that celebrates his most famous dishes as well as serving fresh Mexican flavours by the pool.
Back at Cala Gracioneta Chiringuito, owner Javier Anadon is optimistic. He says Covid has given Ibiza the chance to reset and go back to its roots. Visitors have discovered the beautiful scenery and spectacular cuisine.
With openings like Oku and Six Senses, the island’s transformation to wholesome hedonism is complete. Ibiza is going back to boho, but with a luxury touch.
Book it: Elegant Resorts offers five nights with breakfast in a Superior Room at Oku Ibiza from £985 per person including economy flights, private transfers and UK lounge passes, departing May 9, 2022.
Free and easy Formentera
By day the coastline of the smallest Balearic island is flecked with yachts and motorboats that have made the half-hour journey from Ibiza to enjoy beaches of Caribbean-white sand and waters that shimmer iridescent blue. But this most laid-back of the Balearics is worth a longer stay. Here, sleepy villages seem frozen in time, hiking and cycling trails lace the countryside and exquisite beaches invite you to do little else but paddle in the shallows. There is an eco-conscious ethos across the island, with development kept under tight control and a dining scene that uses fresh, local ingredients. Formentera has even released a slow food map highlighting where visitors can find everything from local wines to olive oils, organic fruit to traditional dried fish, known as peix sec. A boutique design hotel has just opened on Platja Migjom, recreating that free-spirited vibe that first put Formentera on the map in the 60s and 70s. At Casa Pacha Formentera (pictured), creamy polished concrete, balconies of sunbleached wood and natural-hued linens are set against the gleaming blue waters. With just 14 suites and a relaxed restaurant and beach bar, the focus is very much on switching off and getting back to nature. Formentera promises just the right balance of bohemian style and barefoot luxury, all wrapped up in one bijou island.