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In the final installment of our “By the Sea” summer destination series, TPG Contributor Drew Limsky takes us to the third-largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, the drop-dead gorgeous Ibiza.
It’s hard to imagine a destination as synonymous with the summer global party scene as Ibiza, but beyond the thump-thump-thump and the light shows, you’ll find stunning white-sand beaches, the turquoise water of the Mediterranean Sea, delicious tapas (this is Spain, after all) and a quiet corner or two. Even if you plan to steer clear of the crowds of sexy revelers, be sure to pack lots of white clothing — it’s the signature shade of Ibiza fashion.
95 percent of all visitors to Ibiza (and its lovely sister island, Formentera) arrive and depart via Ibiza Airport (IBZ). Oneworld frequent flyers are in luck here, as British Airways offers service via London-Heathrow (LHR), London-Gatwick (LGW) and Edinburgh (EDI), and Air Berlin and Iberia provide flights from Germany and the Mediterranean, respectively. Low-cost carriers Vueling, EasyJet and Ryanair provide dozens of seasonal intra-European routes, as well.
American AAdvantage: One-way from 20,000 miles (economy), 50,000 miles (business) and 62,500 miles (first) on Air Berlin, British Airways and Iberia.
Delta SkyMiles: Round-trip from 60,000 miles (economy) and 125,000 miles (business) on Alitalia.
United MileagePlus: One-way from 30,000 miles (economy), 57,500 miles (business) and 70,000 miles (first) on United with intra-Europe flights on Austrian, Germanwings, Lufthansa or Swiss (operated by Edelweiss). One-way from 70,000 (business) and 110,000 (first) when flying Austrian, Lufthansa or Swiss across the Atlantic.
Ferries from Sant Antoni run from Barcelona, Valencia, Majorca and Denia to Ibiza.
Where to Stay
By booking through the online booking portal for Visa Signature Hotels, Visa Signature cardholders (e.g., Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Hyatt Credit Card, the Marriott Rewards Premier, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines card and Capital One Venture, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve) can earn perks at two upscale properties on Ibiza.
First is the 42-room Hotel Ocean Drive, with nightly rates from $374. It offers member benefits such as a $25 food and beverage credit, VIP guest status, automatic room upgrade and 3pm checkout, when available. (Wi-Fi is free to all guests.) With architecture inspired by Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive, this boutique hotel offers views of the Mediterranean, castles and the old town of Ibiza (ferry service to old town is available nearby). The sands of Talamanca Beach are a short walk away.
The even more luxurious option is the five-star Hotel Aguas de Ibiza, with nightly rates from $453 and 112 stylish rooms in soft, beachy colors (top pick: the Cloud Nine Suite for its outdoor soaking tub). If you can tear yourself away from the gorgeous rooftop pool, drift over to the thalasso pools at the state-of-the-art spa. The Vi Cool restaurant specializes in tapas, such as deep-fried prawns with curry and mint, and a local-heavy wine list. Visa Signature benefits include a $25 food and beverage credit, VIP guest status and (when available) automatic room upgrade and 3pm checkout.
A large array of terrific Ibiza properties (including the above-mentioned Hotel Aguas) are listed on the American Express Travel online portal, which allows holders of any American Express card (e.g., Platinum, Business Gold and EveryDay Preferred) to exchange Membership Rewards or earn bonus points when booking. Toward the high end is the swanky Ushuaïa Beach Hotel, which has nightly rates from $693 and draws the party crowd; if its popular nightclub weren’t an indication, the room category names (The Anything Can Happen Suite; The Fashion Victim Suite) should be.
Less expensive Amex Travel hotel options include the Sol Beach House Ibiza (a Meliã Rewards property that starts at $314 a night) and the stylish Olé Galeón Ibiza (starting at $182 a night), which features a sundeck overlooking the Mediterranean.
What to Do
The iconic Amnesia nightclub, which dates back 45 years, commands an international cult of party devotees. It’s a full-on sensory experience, from its 16 bars to its go-go dancers to its “light jockeys.” The Eden Ibiza, which has hosted the likes of Lady Gaga, also requires a pilgrimage for its renowned electronic music scene.
The dining scene in Ibiza varies from casual beach bars to see-and-be-seen restaurants. In Ibiza town, Rabbit Hole is beloved for its organic, gluten-free fare such as the falafel burger and bruschetta, while the intimate Peter Pan is tops for seafood. Amante is off the beaten path, but it wins rave reviews for its octopus and stunning views.
Topless bathing and nudity are quite common on Ibiza’s beaches. For remarkable scenic beauty, Aigua Blanques and Cala Xarraca lead the pack for their reddish rock formations and turquoise waters. Near town but separated from it by a pine forest, Playa des Cavallet is popular with nudists and the gay community. For sun and luminous waters, Cala Jondal is a good bet. Located in a preserve, it’s relatively quiet and offers a good break from all the partying. For more Ibiza beach suggestions (like Cala d’Hort, pictured above), be sure to see 5 European Beaches Perfect for a Summer Getaway.
Even more peace, quiet and beauty can be found just a short ferry ride away on gorgeous Formentera island (one of our Top 7 Emerging European Travel Spots in 2014), which is well worth a day trip — or more. The calm waters of Trucadors Beach make it a top pick.
Credit cards such as the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Rewards don’t charge foreign transaction fees, making them ideal to use on overseas vacations. To see more cards without these fees, check out Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.