For the jet setters of the world, Ibiza needs no introduction – in the last decade or so, it has acquired the status of a magnet for the beautiful people and summers there are a gargantuan feast of extravagant all night parties.
There is of course another Ibiza… that of the private fincas, villas and estates and their club-like lifestyle, and a certain sense of belonging to an exclusive set into which only the truly wealthy can buy.
The motley community of often displaced, sometimes long-settled, but always eccentric and colourful “artistes” adds to the unique blend that draws in even the most jaded of summer revellers and travel addicts.
The 35 by 15 km island off the Catalan coast of Spain is often referred to as The White Island because of the very bright sunlight.
Year-long residents claim they discover something new about it continually and often speak of the spectacular sunset, the Es Vedra cliff rising unexpectedly from the sea at dawn, and of the “autra Ibiza” – the villages and farming estates that make the interior of the island, the mixed cultural heritage that defines most of Spain (Phoenician, Moorish, Catalan), the strong sense of identity and intangible island atmosphere that all come into play when trying to define the Ibicenco spirit.
As is the case with all exclusive destinations, Ibiza is hard to get to, but if you have to rely on a commercial flight, you wouldn’t be reading this book.
The island has the largest relative to size private jet airport in Europe.
The Beyond Black team flew to Ibiza on the last week of August – the week when partying acquires feverish proportions.
Aguas de Ibiza
We chose to stay at the newly opened Aguas de Ibiza, a self-sustainable eco-resort and the newest 5* establishment on the island, situated in the North-East part of the island, in Santa Eulalia.
From the outside, the hotel looks like many an opulent modern hotel and the main distinguishing feature is the natural stone façade, a nod both to the famed Escodolar pebble beach and to the surveillance towers built on the island by the Phoenicians first and pirates next.
That and the vague resemblance to a state of the art cruise ship, an impression reinforced by the space station like lobby, with its super comfortable modernistic sofas, semi-transparent partitions of the reception desk, natural light flooding through huge glass walls and pale stone surfaces everywhere.
Super-intelligence and feng shui
The vision of Alberto Torres Senior, a born and bred Ibicenco and veteran hotelier, and managed by Alberto Torres Junior, the hotel is an amazing blend of traditional and futuristic that doesn’t lend itself to description easily.
It has to be experienced…
The open plan suites have intelligent lighting that “knows” when you are there or not and even if you need to use the bathroom without disturbing your partner (a soft blue light guides you to the loo in the middle of the night).
Each suite “spills out” to a balcony that is so much of a natural extension that it has its own al fresco bathtub, to compliment the one indoors.
The photovoltaic crystals that are the main component of the balcony tiles in each suite generate solar power and save 35% energy – as do the argomatic lights throughout the hotel.
If you need to wake up before midday to catch breakfast by the pool, your curtains would be drawn open using “the natural sunlight alarm” – via an intelligent switch from the reception.
If are feeling self-indulgent, you would book the Cloud 9 suites on the top floor – described as “a hotel within the hotel” by Alberto Junior. The top floor wasn’t quite finished when we visited, but the views from there were spectacular.
Clever use of exceptional materials produce visual effects of light flooding in and the blend of traditional and high tech is omnipresent.
However much you love the sea, you might just be tempted to stay by the pool because of its underwater music system, shaded poolside areas, upholstered single daybeds and unobtrusive service.
Which leads me to the culinary experience that Aguas de Ibiza is…
You would be forgiven for thinking that the restaurant and Alabastro Bar are a mere extension of the poolside area: the glass walls and stone coloured tables and chairs create that optical illusion.
When you first come down for breakfast, do take a moment to admire the quirky resin panel with strands of Posseidonia, the largest and oldest living sea plant in the world, and the Villanueva paintings specially created by the artist for the hotel.
Because your main focus of attention thereafter will be the breakfast buffet table.
The Beyond Black team is widely travelled and its palate tends towards the jaded.
We did, however, pronounce the Aguas de Ibiza breakfast the best we’ve ever had.
Even such stalwarts of the traditional breakfast buffet, bacon and sausages, had a special quality to them. Reader, they were perfectly delicious, yet healthily lean and crisp.
As with all else in the hotel, the traditional rubbed shoulders with the innovative and each morning, we were presented with sampler size fruit compote blends, mini fruit salads, and a full complement of cold meats, sushi and bakery; infused olive oils, sparkling Brut; chocolate fountain and, of course, any cooked dish to order.
Breakfast is a relaxed affair that spills over to brunch as the tables are only cleared when all breakfasters have finished.
Santi Petri, a Marbella chef was specially trained in Ibicenca cuisine and is staging a revival of traditional dishes.
The hotel restaurant has its own unique feature: a 10 table Ibicenca cuisine lab, with a 500 wine list.
The hotel will be holding regular private events to introduce islanders and visitors to island gastronomy (and in particular low heat cooking) and culture.
We were invited to the first of these events on our last evening on the island.
True to style, the chef produced taster style delicacies such as algae soup in cute vials, white fish in mint sauce, mini potatoes filled with meat mousseline, cherry tomatoes with parmesan dressing, marinated squid… all washed down with copious amounts of Mojitos, Pina Coladas and Champagne. The guests were just getting in party mode as we left, regretfully, at 11pm.
Airline Rooftop Lounge
Another original idea is the rooftop lounge designed as a 60’s aeroplane, complete with economy, business and first class areas, a pool and a fully lit runway to the DJ booth.
Staff will wear stewardess uniforms and revellers will be able to take their cocktails on floating inflatable beds in the pool.
The views, needless to say, are spectacular and, in keeping with Ibiza summer lifestyle, you could watch the spectacular dawn from there.
A few words about the spa which was on the cusp of opening while we were there.
We missed the poolside masseuses by a few days, but they will be offering their services to guests relaxing or sunbathing.
The only spa on the island boasting a doctor, it will specialise in Chinese wellness techniques and remedies.
Products have been sourced out from North America and locally and full use will be made of the island resources, in particular the famed Ibizan almonds.
A truly unique lifestyle resort, effortlessly blending the best of tradition and high tech, with a special emphasis on healthy indulgence. This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Aguas de Ibiza is a spectacular exception to the rule.