Fly to Ibiza - then keep on going...
If Ibiza is lounge bars, upfront DJs and cutting-edge clubbing, then her little sister Formentera is more bare bodies, beaches and bicycles. With just one resort proper, Ibiza’s neighbouring isle is not just comparatively sleepy, but virtually in perpetual low-season hibernation. And there is next to nothing to spend your money on either. Perfect, then, for baking in the sun, in peace, during the credit crunch.
But don’t think you’ll be selling yourself short. The beaches have the look of the Caribbean about them. White sand met by postcard blue waters. Although considerably fresher than the temperature you’ll slip into in the West Indies, admittedly. The dress code isn’t as modest as in the Caribbean either. You’ll find many people like to tan here without a stitch on, while others wear a full bathing suit. Either way, anything goes.
Pedal power is the best way to see the many beaches. Hire a bike and follow the Green Routes - cycle-friendly country lanes and stretches of road – across this largely flat isle. You’ll get fit and bronzed to boot as you seek out your very own secluded spot - and we found the local drivers both considerate and courteous as we made our way around.
On Formentera I have two favourite hotels and am always torn between which to choose. The three-star Hotel Cala Saona, on the beach of the same name, is a bit of a throwback to the Sixties. That’s half its charm. Aside from the décor, the waiters bustle about you at breakfast and dinner, keeping you in check and pouring your coffee or wine with flare. Resplendent in waistcoats and bow ties that have seen better days, they win you over by demonstrating that, to them, waiting is still very much a profession. The hotel’s other big selling point is its beach. It does not share it with any neighbours. Cala Saona is an elongated cove with around 100 metres of thick sand - that engulfs your feet like good carpet – leading to the sea. Facing due west you also have a front row pew at sunset. Could life be better?
Maybe. Choice two is the four-star Insotel Club Formentera Playa. You can go all-inclusive for part or all of your stay. The food’s great, the rooms bright and practical. And the staff and entertainment team make life a cinch if you’ve got kids. The hotel is set on Playa Migjorn, another great beach. This one stretches narrowly for miles. Sand dunes strewn with wispy grasses create the effect of a hairy spine where it backs on to arable farm land. Stroll its length along boardwalks that protect the dunes from too many feet and you’ll stumble across hippy-esque bars and cafes for beach bums. Shakily made of tent poles, tarp and bamboo shades, with floors of sand and mix-and-match chairs, their appeal is the location, location, location.
I love Lucky. Pasta like mama used to make for the price of a couple of jars of Dolmio. But when it comes to my favourite restaurant on the island there is only one choice. Can Forn in San Ferran village - exceptional Spanish fare, from tapas to the griddled catch of the day.
San Ferran is just down the road from the hub of the island’s nightlife and its only resort, Es Pujols. Just a handful of apartment buildings line its diminutive prom. Beside them a couple of dozen bars and restaurants and a clutch of shops. It can only be termed tame in comparison to its island neighbour’s San Antonio or Ibiza Town.
While Formentera isn’t quite a fly and flop escape like its sister Ibiza – with no airport of its own, you have to hop on a ferry for half an hour from the party isle - sometimes it’s worth going those extra miles. Back on the plane after your week away, when you meet up with the Ibiza bunch again, it’s easy to see who spent every ounce of their energy on the dance floor and who really had a holiday.