Before or after the hedonists and holidaymakers descend, out-of-season Ibiza makes the perfect destination to reconnect with your family – and with nature, says Abi Campbell
I feel a little guilty about spilling the beans on off-season Ibiza. Friends who live there had shared their island secret, showing me that Ibiza is at its most resplendently authentic between October and May, before and after the opening and closing parties, when the last gin palace leaves the harbour and the tourist invasion retreats.
Now I’ve experienced this phenomenon too, I understand why locals might want to keep it to themselves. I’ve been visiting Ibiza in the summer for 24 years when, aside from securing a place on various club guestlists, little forethought was ever required. But it quickly became apparent that on a winter family jaunt it’s not a case of where’s hot to trot, but rather what’s open, making inside local knowledge vital.
For nearly two decades, the company name Deliciously Sorted was omnipresent in the well-heeled circles I’d moved in – the owner, Serena Cook, revered as a legendary Ibiza fixer for the likes of Paris Hilton, Mick Jagger and whole galaxies of stars who have her on speed dial when they go Balearic.
Serena’s concierge business grew exponentially with the rise of the island’s popularity, its intrinsic value being its little black book – knowing the hippest people, places and underground happenings. In just two days, they had effortlessly organised every minute detail of our trip, from car hire, hotel, restaurant reservations and booking of activities. If this all sounds scarily out of your league, don’t be put off, they whip up itineraries for every budget.
When it comes to finding family accommodation in winter, their personal service is invaluable. Many hotels have moved towards ‘no kids’ policies and the off-season exodus is so great that most close, meaning pickings are slim, but Deliciously Sorted has relationships with small local hotels and access to exclusive family villas that you won’t find online. I told them our remit was to escape the big black hole from Christmas to the New Year and distance ourselves from consumerism, so their suggestion of Can Lluc was right on the money.
Nestled in the centre of the island and approached via dusty caminos, this is agrotourism at its most beautiful. Originally a farm of crops and livestock, it’s now a chic boutique hotel that’s successfully retained all its former charm. There’s a playground and mapped-out walking trail around the landscaped property where children can run and climb freely in orchards of ancient carob, olive and fig trees. It’s delightful. Twenty minutes north-east is the immaculate coastal town of Santa Eulalia. There’s been healthy investment here, and that’s evident as you walk down the palm-lined promenades.
It’s a mecca for families with its pretty smoke-free beach and pedestrianised seafront. Bursting with shops and cafés, it’s a cultural hotspot due to its regular street festivals, craft stalls and year-round musical performances. We fell in love with Project Social by the Marina. This cool little joint has upcycled decor and serves the best burgers. A few minutes from town and more upscale is La Veranda in Hotel Atzaro. This cosy eatery uses local produce from its kitchen garden to create a delicious seasonal menu. What’s more, it’s built in an orange grove and coffee-table-book pretty.
Not far from here, Las Dalias Hippy Market in San Carlos is the iconic shopping destination you’ll struggle to get anywhere near in high season, but we parked effortlessly and browsed the stalls without being elbowed once. It’s bursting with vintage clothes and bohemian handicrafts, such as the steampunk stand selling masks made of obscure junk and crafted leather accessories straight out of a Mad Max movie. The winter weather in Ibiza is my kind of perfect. Blue skies, 19C, and a constant breeze.
Mountains are green and there’s a feeling of abundance, unlike summer when the ground is scorched and the air arid. It’s like being in Northern California without leaving the EU. Such a climate is conducive to getting close to nature, and there’s ample opportunity to do so with guided walks, rock-climbing and cycling. The sea may be too cold for all but the brave, but the beaches are spectacular and eerily deserted.
We spent one afternoon driving the contours of coastline hunting for hidden coves and barely saw another soul. Horse-riding is popular, and there’s a school at Can Curreu, a small hotel tucked away just outside San Carlos. This is a one-woman-and-four-horse show, originally set up to offer guests a chance to ride. The horses are magnificent and lovingly cared for, and you really feel the personal touch. A private family ride through the countryside and deserted lanes is wonderfully peaceful.
Another hidden island gem is the eco-farm Can Muson with an alfresco supermarket where the environmentally conscious can buy organic fruit, veg and super -sized Spanish tomatoes. Long wooden tables and hammock chairs are available for chilling with coffee and cake while you watch your children hammer almonds out of shells with small wooden mallets. Best of all, there’s a farm tour where, for a few euros, the kids will get a bucket of lettuce to feed rabbits, goats and pigs along the way.
There’s also a school where children can spend a day learning about sustainable agriculture, so they can grow their own produce back home. When Ibiza is saturated with hedonists and billionaires, it can be a challenge to connect with the spiritual side of the island, but with space to breathe you can’t help but feel its magic It’s an often-quoted fact, but Ibiza is said to be the third-most-magnetic place on Earth, and somewhere that enhances creative healing energy.
Whether you believe this or not, something drew the hippies here 40 years ago and they’re still coming in droves, for wellness and yoga retreats, mediation and new-age therapies. Larah Davis runs Ibiza Retreats and is the go-to guru for all things cosmic. As a mother of two she recognise the benefits of yoga for children, so we took one of her family yoga sessions at her lovingly restored finca, the healing space for her retreats. I’d warned her that holding my children’s attention would be a challenge but she remained unfazed.
We sat in a circle and she combined gentle postures with breathing, encouraging us to connect as a family by expressing our hopes for each other while her assistant adjusted our postures and performed reiki. We held hands, chanted and sent love into the universe – all, to my surprise, without any giggling or eye-rolling from any of my children or partner, a miracle in itself. It was perfect and beautiful. Drumming on beaches is a bit of a ‘thing’ in Ibiza, so Larah also arranged for us to serenade one of the island’s legendary sunsets with our own experiential sound bath.
We were assigned a rhythmic guide, Lee, who was one of those patient, kind, open-hearted types. He bought his drums and a giant crystal, and explained how rhythm was the essence of life. He taught us hypnotic beat techniques to help with concentration and after some practice we started to sound cohesive, which was a buzz. Original experiences are hard to find, and this one felt especially good for the soul. On New Year’s Day, we gathered on Las Salinas beach to watch more than 1,000 locals charge into the bracing sea at midday. Some were naked, some were old, some young, some svelte and some not, but one thing they had in common is that they were liberated.
It struck me that when I started visiting Ibiza in my twenties I’d been a free spirit too, but somewhere along the way I’d become buried in responsibility and a lot of cynicism. It could have been the yoga, the sunsets, or the invisible magnetic forces pulling me back to a more authentic place. Maybe it was just the transformational magic of winter in Ibiza my friends had mentioned. Whatever, I was leaving changed, re-energised and a little more grateful for everything I had, ready to face the new year with my beautiful family. But don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.
British Airways flies to Ibiza from Gatwick, Heathrow and City, from £45 each way.
Where to stay
Can Lluc Boutique Country Hotel and Villas has family rooms (sleeping four) from £430 per night; they also have a selection of villas.
Family hotels and villas can be booked via Deliciously Sorted
Where to eat
Project Social; La Veranda, Hotel Atzaro
What to do
Deliciously Sorted: Prices for this concierge service are around £90 for every three things organised.
Family Yoga (up to six people): £160, including a teacher and an assistant.
Drumming Circle: £130 for two hours
Can Muson eco-farm and café £5pp for a guided tour and animal food
Can Curreu horse-riding from £30pp per hour