I went to Ibiza for the first time when I was 16. It was the perfect holiday for a transitional age: a shapeshifting island that morphs its colours, sounds, and sights in a myriad of ways. In the daytime we stumbled down steep rocks to secluded beaches and spent hours crashing into white-foamed waves in a giant rubber ring. At night, my friends and I snuck out of the villa we were staying at with our parents to smoke surreptitious cigarettes, drink Vodka Fanta Limon and dance on giant speakers at Manumission. Ibiza is one of the few places I’ve been to in the world (New York is another) where there’s a natural energy so strong that it engulfs you like a wave. There’s no point resisting and so you just surrender to it in a way that is disorientating and intoxicating. It always leaves you wanting more.
This summer, after almost eight years of intermittently craving Ibiza, I got my second hit. This time we stayed in a Hostal, and yes that does translate as ‘hostel’ - a word that usually evokes images of homicidal dormmates and cockroach-infested bathrooms. But the Hostal Talamanca turned out to be a chic, family-run hotel with a cushion-strewn outside lounge area where soothing Balearic chillout music pulsed gently all day long (a genre of music that makes sense in Ibiza and nowhere else). The rosé was cold and cheap. Breakfast was served right by the sea. Our room was simple but sun-filled, with a balcony that looked out over the curving bay.
One floor down was the two second stumble onto the white sands of Talamanca Beach. The beach was always busy, but its sands were dotted with local families and athletic Teutonic tourists, rather than groups of lobster-pink lads coming down off cheap E in the midday sun. Our hotel and the neighbouring chiringuito proved to be a local meeting point, with large crowds of young Ibizans gathering on the sand most nights to drink sugary bowls of sangria, snack on habas fritas and smoke endless Marlboro Reds.
On the first night we decided to go all out with dinner at Sa Punta at the furthest end of Talamanca bay. Like so many things in Ibiza, Sa Punta is owned by Pacha, a superbrand whose ubiquitous cherry logo can make the island feel like one giant slot machine. But the restaurant itself is glamorous and white-washed and full of rich old French men and their impeccably dressed wives. Ibiza is wincingly expensive, and at somewhere like Sa Punta you may as well just hand over your credit card and roll with it. We blew the budget on lobster Niçoise, white wine and steak, before restoring the balance at Bar Alegria: the packed out beach bar next to our Hostal, where an imposing head bartender doled out mojitos and caipirinhas to an increasingly raucous crowd.
There was another, equally expensive meal at La Oliva (amazing aioli, lots of beautiful people not eating it) which is set on the cobbled streets of the beautiful Dalt Villa, as well as tapas at the Talamanca outpost of hip Ibiza Town restaurant La Bodega. But the best meal of the trip – in fact, one of the best meals of my life - was at a fish shack so low-key that it doesn’t even have an official name or address. Located at the end of the bay just beyond Sa Punta, the shack is nothing more than a gathering of tables on the rocks. There’s no website, no opening hours, no menu. You just turn up, choose from a list of fish and shellfish reeled off by a waiter, then kick back in near bliss as you sip ice cold Estrellas and eat crispy-skinned grilled seabass.
But of course no-one – not even me – goes to Ibiza just to eat. The clubs are a spectacle. Our first night was spent Ushuaia, where Disclosure and Jessie Ware played to an outdoor crowd of thousands of happy clubbers while candy-coloured confetti rained down from the sky. Later, we went onto Pacha where a perfectly toned girl writhed in a giant martini glass, wrapped in red ribbon and nothing else. And then there was Space – a vast cavern of a club where we danced under a huge inflated smiley face suspended from the ceiling. Like everything on the island, clubbing in Ibiza is a surreal experience that leaves you feeling like you’ve fallen headfirst into a kaleidoscope.
And Ibiza is a chameleon-like place, that shifts its colours to attune to the eyes of the beholder. There are white sands and velvety blue waters for families; neon lights and fluorescent glow sticks for euphoric clubbers; stark black palm trees silhouetted against pastel sunsets for lovers and Instagrammers. Ibiza will take you up to the apex of ostentatious luxury – €400 bottles of vodka, all-white fusion restaurants serving pasta at €29 a plate – and back down to the simplest pleasures in the world: a ramshackle fish shack on the flat rocks of a cliff, where you’ll eat the freshest squid of your life before jumping into the dense navy sea below. It’s liberating, absurd, glamorous, and above all, completely addictive.