Secret Ibiza

Escape the crowds to discover tiny coves, open-air art and local wine on the White Isle


Tucked away at the end of a narrow dusty road, hidden by the pine trees that swathe the hills and coastline of the north, is one of Ibiza’s tiniest and most idyllic calas or coves.

The aquamarine water is as clear as glass and laps a glossy seaweed-strewn beach, where those in the know have gathered to idle away a day picnicking and swimming in underwater meadows. Containing nine species of Mediterranean seagrass, including the native Posidonia oceanica, they’re Unesco protected for this biodiversity.

“It’s perfect,” I sigh. “Oh, there’s others like this,” Martin, my guide from Discover Ibiza, tells me. “I’ve lived here for years and still I’m discovering more.”

Under the trees sits a small chiringuito — these basic bars are known for selling unfussy meals, but the simple menu seems in keeping with the pleasure found here.

The smell of sardines, cooked on its grill, wafts over Cala Mastella, while the chalkboard menu advertises lenguado, or sole as well.

Without a guide, it would be so easy to miss a places such as this — hidden at the end of an unmarked twisting road or at the bottom of a rocky footpath that I may not have been confidant enough to attempt alone.

A few kilometres out of the mellow village of Sant Joan de Labritja, where we stop briefly to ogle the lovely, 18th-century white-washed church, we swing right and park on a rocky headland. “Follow me,” Martin tells me, disappearing down a rough path bordered by bushy scrubland.

On our descent, as our legs brush the plants, scents of wild lavender and rosemary fill the air. Our destination is the shingle beach of Cala es Canaret; rarely mentioned in guidebooks or featured on maps of the island.

As we drop down the cliff-side an unexpected rooftop comes into view, belonging to a surprisingly opulent villa.

“Something of a controversy,” Martin tells me. “The owner built across a public footpath in the hope of keeping visitors away from the beach.”

His plan was dashed by local authorities and now he must put up with day-trippers walking through his manicured gardens as this slice of paradise remains open to all.

And what a scenic spot it is — a rocky sheltered inlet below soaring cliffs. The tide is in, and the beach reduced to a sliver of small pebbles, so we slide into the water on our bottoms over slippery rocks from the jetty.

Each cala we visit has a distinctive feature; horse-shoe shaped Pou des Lleo is ringed with red cliffs, the remote stony cove of Port de ses Caletes for complete solitude, and perhaps my favourite of all, Cala d’en Serra with its dazzling emerald-green waters, flanked by fishermen’s shacks — such handy stores for smugglers over the years, I’m told.

What I don’t expect to find is an open-air art gallery created by graffiti artists in the husk of an abandoned hotel. It was designed by acclaimed Catalan architect Josep lluis Sert, who was exiled to the US after falling out with Franco’s fascist government, so the place was left unfinished.

Graffiti artists have transformed the place — although be sure to watch for potholes and the like. No health and safety checks have been carried out. Street artist Bubblegum’s arresting blue face is not to be missed; viewed at a right angle, it merges to the sea below.

7 Pines Resort is my base, located on a cliff top on the west coast between Cala Conta and Cala Codolar, with an uninterrupted view across the sea and cliffs to the mighty islet of Es Vedra, a turtle-shaped rock that’s believed to have magic powers, including the ability to make wishes come true on the night of a full moon.

The place feels pleasingly remote (even though it’s only four miles from the busy resort of San Antonio), and the nearest beach, Cala Codolar, is a leisurely 10-minute stroll along a sleepy coastal road.

Here I swim in tranquil warm water, and drink white sangria (more refreshing than the more traditional red) at the charming beach-shack of another chiringuito, while listening to tall tales from the captain of a catamaran, who has rowed ashore for his supper.

Stories of killer whales attacking his craft and dolphins coming to the rescue wash over me, so fitting for the scene.

Covering an area of just 220 square miles, nowhere on the island is more than an hour away. The organic hilltop winery of Ojo de Ibiza is hidden away in the least populated and most rural of northern landscapes, where winding roads cut through roll upon roll of aleppo pine forested hills and there’s hardly a casa in sight.

You’ll find no tour groups here (the buses would never make it), visits are arranged directly with the vineyard.

We walk through the vines, along ancient stone terraces in what feels like land that time has forgot. The harvest has just taken place, but in places I can see a few bunches of forgotten plump purple fruit, which I’m invited to try.

Bursting with flavour and sweeter than I’d expected, the grapes are irrigated naturally by sea-winds. The vineyard is owned by 80s electro-pop pioneer, turner vintner, Dieter Meier, whose motto ‘out of nothing, everything’, says much about the wine-producing journey.

There are three to sample, which we do sitting at a rustic farmhouse table on a plateau with glistening sea, and vast pine-topped mountain views.

From here, it’s so easy to see why the Greeks named Ibiza (and sister island, Formentera) Islas Pitiusas, meaning islands covered in pines.

The Ibiza-grown Ojo de Ibiza is our starting point, followed by two more — a Puro Rose and Puro Malbec — from Meier’s winery in Argentina, accompanied by platters of sweet local manchego sheep’s milk cheese, local olives, and crusty fresh bread. A small tractor trundles nearby; a storm petrel flies overhead; a bee buzzes past, but other than that the scene is as still as an oil painting.

On another day, I hike along the cliff path from the resort of Portinatx, where scenes of paradise from the 1958 film South Pacific were shot, through pockets of pine forest to the striking black and white spiral-striped Punta Moscarter lighthouse.

Built in 1977, t his became the unlikely scene for occasional illegal raves in the 90s, but these days tranquillity reigns and on a clear day you can see as far as Mallorca, 71 miles away.

Driving back to the west coast, I call in to an Ibizan institution — Ca n’Anneta (or Bar Anita as it’s more commonly known) — in the lovely town of Sant Carles de Peralta, surrounded by fig and almond groves.

Attracting bohemian types since the 60s, Bar Anita was one of the first hippy hangouts on the island (the art on the walls was given to clear outstanding bar tabs) and it remains as it was back then — a traditional bar with a pretty garden.

At the table next to me sits an elderly local man drinking a traditional liquor, hierbas ibicencas, who wishes me a polite “Buenas dias”. As he looks fit as a flea, I decide to order the same.

With an aniseed liqueur base, Anita’s recipe includes rosemary, orange, fennel, and lavender — all foraged from the island — and is delicious.

Back at 7 Pines, the daily sunset ritual at the resort’s bird’s eye view bar, Cone Club, is about to begin.

The DJ is poised and there’s a hum of anticipation as guests settle to enjoy the 270-degree vistas of the ocean and Es Vedra as the sky turns from tangerine to a milky apricot and the last remnants of day sink into the Mediterranean.

As if this wasn’t atmospheric enough, an immense gong is sounded to mark the end of day.

Tomorrow there’ll be another secret cove to discover, a rural idyl to explore; but as the Spanish say, “Manana, manana”. Let tomorrow look after itself. For now, I’m caught in the violet light of dusk, suspended between day and night, and it’s a happy place to be.


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