It might have a reputation for clubbing, but Lucy Oates finds Ibiza can be the perfect family destination.
The Balearic island of Ibiza has earned a reputation as a party hotspot thanks to its world-famous nightclubs, but, if you steer clear of the larger resorts, it’s also the perfect destination for a relaxing family-friendly break.
My husband and 18-month old daughter headed fro S’Argamassa, located on the east coast between the cosmopolitan town of Santa Eulalia and the resort village of Es Canar. Lured in part by a flight time of less than three hours from the UK, we stayed in one of a handful of villas set in lush gardens.
Typically Ibizan in style, our villa had its own private pool, four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious open-plan living area. The site was quiet, with just a small snack bar and a children’s play area; the staff were friendly and helpful; and the villas well maintained.
The beaches of S’Argamassa, Cala Pada and Cala Martina were all less than a five-minute walk away. We especially liked Cala Pada and Cala Martina, both of which are sweeping bays with golden sands and crystal-clear waters.
Gloriously underdeveloped, they each have just three or four little beachside café bars, where you can enjoy an authentic tapas lunch or kick back with a cocktail as the sun goes down. We gorged ourselves on local delicacies, such as olives and bread served with aioli, calamari, garlic prawns, and, of course, Spain’s famous Iberico ham and Manchego cheese.
However, we did find dining by the beach pricey and on a couple of occasions we paid upwards of £50 for just three or four tapas dishes and a couple of drinks each. I suspect you’re really forking out for the great views and lack of competition as prices in the larger towns were a little cheaper.
A scenic coastal path bordered by pine trees links the beaches in this area. From S’Argamassa, it’s possible to walk to Es Canar in one direction and Santa Eulalia in the other. One afternoon we completed the three kilometre walk to Santa Eulalia. Although the path is uneven and narrow in places due to coastal erosion, the stunning scenery compelled us to continue. Around each rocky headland we found another little cove just waiting to be explored, and were richly rewarded when we stumbled upon the beautiful and tranquil beach of Playa Niu Blau. We spent a pleasant hour or two there soaking up the sun, building sandcastles and paddling in the gentle, shallow waters, before continuing to Santa Eulalia.
The island’s third largest resort, Santa Eulalia boasts an attractive marina crammed with eye-wateringly expensive yachts; a long promenade lined with a great choice of bars and eateries; and a swathe of golden sand, which, surprisingly, is mainly man-made.
We sat outside a restaurant overlooking the sea and shared a fantastic seafood paella crammed with mussels, clams, squid and langoustines. We noticed that most places offer a good choice of children’s meals. We especially liked the pretty little garden at The Owl and the Pussycat, one of the few café bars on the promenade located in a traditional, low-rise, building with oodles of rustic charm. The menu was simple – mainly toasted sandwiches and homemade cakes – but it was the perfect place to enjoy a quick lunchtime snack away from the hustle and bustle of the promenade.
Walking towards Es Canar along the coastal path, you pass a settlement that’s home to the village’s famous hippy community.
We stumbled upon the area early one evening and were greeted by the sight of a group of residents working their way through some seriously impressive yoga moves on a rocky outcrop by the sea. Es Canar is well known for its hippy market, which takes place every Wednesday and draws visitors from all over the island. It’s a colourful melee of stalls selling jewellery, art and handcrafted items from around the world, and performances by musicians, artists and entertainers. You can get a henna tattoo or a massage if you wish, or buy local delicacies from the food stands. It’s a wonderful spectacle that will be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
I snapped up some very reasonably-priced turquoise and silver jewellery; a cute, appliquéd winter hat for my daughter; and beaded bags and purses to give as gifts. It’s a shopper’s paradise and you won’t be able to leave empty-handed.
Another enjoyable family-friendly activity was a morning spent on the Ibiza Express, a little land train that picked us up from a stop on the road just outside the entrance to the villas and took us on a three-and-a-half hour journey up the island’s east coast. My daughter was thrilled by the ‘choo-choo’ noise the train made and the fact that, everywhere we went, people waved at us.
My husband and I enjoyed a glimpse of everyday Ibizan life away from the tourist resorts. The train’s route follows pretty country lanes flanked by farmland and pine forests. We stopped off at Cala Llonga, a horseshoe-shaped bay from which we spotted a tornado forming way out at sea; Es Figueral, an attractive beach bordered by craggy cliffs and surrounded by the fig plantations from which it takes its name; the tiny fishing cove of Puo Del Lleo; and, perhaps most stunning of all, Cala Boix, which is billed as the only beach on the island with black sand.
In reality, the sand is more grey than black, but it’s peaceful and unspoilt, with just a little shack selling drinks and snacks alongside the steep slope leading down from the cliffs. We agreed that we could happily spend a day there on our next visit.
• Lucy Oates travelled to Ibiza with Jet2 and flew from Manchester Airport, www.jet2.com
Accommodation was at Villas S’Argamassa, which was booked through James Villa Holiday: www.jamesvillas.co.uk
The entire trip was arranged through the Travel Centre at the Kinderland soft play facility in Hull, which specialises in family-friendly holidays. www.kinderlandhull.com