Ibiza’s After Party: San Antonio used to be the hub of the stag night, but wellness ravers are taking over
When Pacha, Ibiza’s superclub known for its decadent dance parties, held its opening night for the new season last month, thousands of ravers lined up to pay homage to the latest superstar DJ and partied until dawn.
But as someone who’s been to Ibiza a dozen times already, I’m witnessing how shifting sands are transforming this Balearic island – and the biggest change is in San Antonio, the bay town to the northwest.
For decades, the infamous West End strip has been the epicenter of Club 18-30 tours, raw British Abroad behavior and raunchy bachelorette parties. Families and anyone wanting a semblance of peace were advised to steer clear of San An.
Today it’s a different story. The strip is still home to some tacky bars, and the Linekers bar is a Three Lions institution. But a 3 a.m. curfew has curbed booze tourism, and smoking is banned on many of the most popular beaches.
Now vacationers flock to this natural cove’s stunning scenery, luxurious wellness offerings, and activities that don’t involve a fishbowl of alcohol. Whisper it, but San Antonio has become ambitious.
Bohemian splendor: During a trip to San Antonio, Sian Boyle checks into OKU, where “the beautiful people are content to laze around the adult pool” (pictured)
One of the new places to be is OKU, a swanky hillside retreat on the outskirts of San An, whose holistic wellness program includes gong baths, Reiki sessions and crystal healings.
Here, the beautiful people are content to laze around the adults-only pool – one of the largest in Ibiza – and, like them, I’m happy to skip the madness of the club scene and opt for bohemian splendor instead to sniff.
At OKU’s restaurant, we are treated to Japanese fusion gastronomy of wasabi oysters, chicken tsukune and miso black cod. Clearly this is not a Club 18-30 holiday.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in San Antonio and Toby Clarke, a Brit who has been running tours here since 2010, says demand has skyrocketed in recent years. “There’s so much more to the island than partying,” he says, explaining how the pandemic has changed the way travelers want to explore.
Tour guide Toby Clarke tells Sian that tourists are ‘blown away’ by the beauty of Ibiza’s beaches, such as Cala Saladeta (above)
Sian (not pictured) says OKU’s holistic wellness program includes gong baths, Reiki sessions and crystal healings
Even the bachelors want a piece of the new action. “We did a walk last week for 13 guys who were staying right in downtown San Antonio,” says Toby. ‘They were all hungover, but we took them for a walk to Punta Galera [nature reserve] on the coastline.
‘Within fifteen minutes you are in a completely different zone; there are caves, cliffs and clear water. They saw the beaches of Cala Saladeta and Platja de Sa Galera and were blown away by all this beauty so close to their hotel.’
Toby’s Ibiza Outdoors offers e-bike tours not only on trails that depart from San Antonio through the mountains of the west coast, but also along the rugged and remote north of Ibiza.
I’m skeptical about managing a mountain bike trail, but the motorized bikes require only the most basic level of fitness to traverse terrain that would otherwise require tremendous endurance.
Sian goes mountain biking on a track that takes her to the beach and bay of Benirras, pictured
Over 12 miles, my group of seniors in their 40s, 50s, and 60s cycle leisurely from San Juan, a small village in the center of the island, before pausing on the north shore to enjoy the view.
We make a loop back to the beach and bay of Benirras, but not before stopping to forage and taste the sweet overhanging loquat fruit.
The drive is accompanied by birdsong and whooshing over the chalky dirt roads, by sharp gusts of pine and rosemary from the fields beyond, it’s hard to believe I’m in one of the party capitals of the world.
Back in San Antonio, the laid-back far south of the bay is home to many of the smartest family hotels.
At the glamorous four-star INNSiDE, I’m told that 90 percent of the guests are British families who come not for the pumping techno and vodka shots, but for the waterskiing and sailboat excursions.
Ninety percent of INNSiDE’s guests (pictured) are British families, Sian learns
The hotel’s panoramic rooftop, infinity pool and Bali beds provide the best spot for sunset cocktails without having to venture into town, but for anyone wanting to cross the bay to the livelier end, a water taxi runs regularly from the secluded golden beach of Cala Pinet at the back door of the hotel.
No Ibiza trip is complete without a pilgrimage to Cafe Mambo, the Balearic beats bar where people from all corners of the island gather on the rocky beach at dusk to watch the sun go down.
We round off our break with cocktails and a radiant sky of pink and orange, safe in the knowledge that no matter how much it changes, San Antonio will always lay claim to the best sunsets in Ibiza.
Rooms at OKU Ibiza start from €350 (approximately £311) per night, based on two people sharing a superior room on a B&B basis, okuhotels.com. Doubles B&B at INNSiDE Ibiza start from £113 per night (melia. com). EasyJet offer direct flights to Ibiza, round trip, departing from London Luton Airport, from £57pp, easyjet.com.