Ibiza, dance music’s undisputed mecca, is the destination of hundreds of thousands every summer who make the trek to the Balearic island for a dose of some of the best nightlife our scene has to offer. Home of iconic heavyweight clubs such as Space Ibiza, Pacha, and Amnesia, the island hosts weekly residency events as well as one-off parties throughout a season that begins in May and ends in October.
Planning your Ibiza trip is part of the fun, and this time, like the previous four, it was exciting to choose the right week to visit the island based on line-ups, weather and extra-curricular activities. By extra-curricular, I mean activities that stretch beyond nightlife. My previous four visits were in July or August, which is peak season when most of the flagship weekly parties are in full throttle. August has always seemed the busiest month, although the island’s closing parties do bring out huge crowds.
This time I chose mid-September with an ideal week that boasted great temperatures in the low to mid 80s F, an Enter closing party with some of Minus’ best in attendance, and the opportunity to visit at least four clubs in the time frame of three days with ease. My travel dates were also determined by my plan to spend several days exploring the beauty of the island’s more secluded beaches and to venture out beyond a solely party-focused trip. I used websites such as Ibiza Spotlight and White Ibiza to properly prepare myself for the trip by locating specific beaches and restaurants I wanted to experience. After what was undoubtedly my favorite stay on the magical island, I put together a few tips and a comprehensive review of my experience:
CHOOSE YOUR ACCOMMODATION WISELY
Although Airbnb is the latest craze for traveling accommodations, a quick look will show you that if you are on a specific budget, renting an apartment or villa makes sense if you have a decent group of people traveling with you. Otherwise, hotels are a better way to go, offering the opportunity of a more hassle-free experience and the chance to enjoy amenities that aren’t always a given when renting an apartment such as a bar, swimming pool, or even an essential like air conditioning.
For my trip, I first stayed in a secluded luxury hotel on the north side of the island in order to explore beaches and stay out of the party scene for my first two days. Then, I moved to an all-inclusive hotel in Playa d’En Bossa within walking distance of Space, Ushuaia, and Sankeys and only a short drive from DC-10, Pacha, and Amnesia. If you find the right deal, an all-inclusive stay can be the way to go if only for the unlimited drink and snack options, as well as the occasional meal at the hotel. It usually pays itself out before lunch time every day.
EXPLORE THE ISLAND
As mentioned, Ibiza is much more than nightclubs. Rent a car if you can – it is fairly cheap (especially if you can drive a manual) and within 45 minutes max you can reach even the most secluded and far-away point of the island. With free parking and the elimination of taxi costs this is a surefire way of getting the most out of your experience without breaking the bank.
I specifically enjoyed seeing the diversity of Ibiza by exploring several beaches:
Aguas Blancas: On the north of the island, this cove offers crystal-clear waters and seclusion. We arrived in the late afternoon and shared the beach with only about 5 other people.
Cala d’en Serra: Beautiful sunset beach in Portinatx with a beach bar that served the most amazing and fresh cocktails we had the entire week. Sitting down and enjoying a refreshing mojito and the sight of our very first sunset on the trip was the perfect way to get the week started.
Cala Salada: A short drive north from San Antonio, this busier beach is divided in two distinctive sections (one with pebbles and one with sand) by cliff rock formations that provide an excellent spot for diving into the water.
Cala Comte: Another popular destination near San Antonio, this location provides amazing views of several islands off the coast and waters so clear you immediately realize you’re swimming amongst marine life the second you step foot into the water.
Cala D’Hort: Beautiful location with unparalleled beach views of Es Vedra. I highly recommend reserving a window or outside table at the nearby Es Boldado restaurant for sunset. None of our photos can ever do the intense colors and magical view any justice, and the paella and seafood were to die for.
While we are on the subject of Es Vedra, the short hike to the top of Torre des Savinar overlooking the magical spot of the island is a must-do unlike any other on the island. The 180+ degree views of the island below are breathtaking and offer one of the most relaxing and liberating experience of beauty I have ever witnessed.
Cala Bassa: One of my favorite spots of the island, this beach overlooks San Antonio bay and while very popular has one of the most beautiful restaurant setting on the island, complete with white sand and water so clear you can see your feet clearly even with water up to your chest.
Oh and while not a beach an honorable mention goes to what is now permanent must-visit gem in Ibiza: the fish shack in Talamanca. Originally only known by word of mouth, no mention of this small shack on the rocks of Talamanca could be found online a few years back. While word has gotten out since, it remains my favorite seafood spot on the island. With no set menu, the restaurant serves only the freshest catch of the day right on top of rocks a few feet from the water.
PICK THE RIGHT CLUB EXPERIENCE
Whether you like EDM or underground house and techno, Ibiza has it all. I do however always hold an open-mind for choosing line-ups that feature a mix of rare talent (i.e. why travel to Ibiza to see artists you can see in your hometown?), personal favorites and a chance to experience my favorite venues. If I must see artists I catch often, I at least try to see several in one night to make the experience worthwhile. Catching an artist I can see at any major US festival several times a year seems counter-productive and it is for this reason that I chose the line-ups that I did:
La Familia at Ushuaia
Despite several visits to the island this was to be my first to the unique setting that only Ushuaia provides for club-goers in search for open-air parties. Entry was swift but I was also subjected to a heavier pat down than at any any other club in Ibiza. As I arrived my initial reaction was that I had somehow landed at a festival stage in Playa d’en Bossa. The music was great with a line-up boasting andhim, the masterful Sasha and of course party spear-headers Joris Voorn b2b with Nic Fanciulli.
The latter duo played a different set than I am accustomed to hearing from them. Gone were their characteristic tech house driven sounds, replaced by more melodic tunes that fit well with the copious amounts of confetti and CO2 blown into the crowd.
The setting, and this may be a personal opinion, was a little forced and too VIP-oriented. It seemed like I had stepped foot outside of Ibiza for the evening but was brought back to reality when a mixed drink and small Heineken bottle cost me a cool 28 Euros. Overall the experience was nice but I definitely think Ushuaia is not the right setting for such a line-up, at least for my personal taste.
Paradise at DC-10
On our first night we visited what is arguably the most underground of the bigger venues in Ibiza: DC-10. Famous for its Monday night Circo Loco parties, DC-10 remains a no-frills nightclub experience with minimal visuals and a booming Funktion One sound system that should never be experienced without ear plugs.
Over the last three years Jamie Jones’ infamous Paradise imprint has taken ahold of Wednesday nights at the airport-neighboring club with diverse line-ups that feature the best in house and techno. Although focusing on his characteristic Hot Creations sound, on the night the line-up included the likes of Guy Gerber on the terrace as well as Jimmy Edgar and Skream in the main room.
Entry was fairly swift and I was happy to see that over the last two years the outside bathrooms were upgraded from a series of porta-potties to fully functioning gender-separated bathrooms. The outside space remained unused but provided the perfect smoking section with plenty of seating space for those taking a fresh breath of air in between sets.
We arrived as Gerber began to take control of the terrace with traces of hypnotic techno amongst his signature house sound. The crowd loved it and as the room began to fill up we made our way to the main room for Jimmy Edgar. Immediately I noticed the club’s décor to be different: an intricate colorful laser system danced around the room amidst several Paradise signs hanging on the walls and from the ceiling. A very characteristic Jimmy Edgar set had me dancing for over an hour as he dropped hard-hitting tracks that I can only describe as weird in the most positive of ways.
I will not lie, I have never seen Skream perform since his switch from dubstep to house music and I was unsure of what to expect. Yet, if Jimmy Edgar’s set was full of intricate and strange sounds, Skream’s was almost otherworldly, often building to a crescendo of complicated build-ups that had the entire room in a real frenzy.
Naturally, we finished the night off with party head-honcho Jamie Jones. His every transition seemed to consist of slow build-ups followed by escalations of heavy bass and techno-infused house. It was a party alright! We called it a night around 7am knowing we still had two days ahead of us and happy with the line-up selection at Paradise on the night.
Enter Closing Party at Space Ibiza
In my honest opinion, Enter’s residency at Space is a must-do for anyone visiting the island. Regardless of the week, line-ups always feature top-notch acts in techno and house and this year featured such guest names as Sven Väth, Solomun, Chris Liebing, Maceo Plex and more. I purposely scheduled my trip for the season’s closing party that saw Richie Hawtin share the main room with Minus’ Julian Jeweil and Berghain’s resident Marcel Dettmann.
Unfortunately long lines to get in meant missing Marcel’s early set, which began just after midnight. We however got in just in time for Julian’s live performance which was phenomenal and in my opinion better than Richie’s closing set that came after. While Richie’s set was tampered by a far too many minimal drawn-out transitions, Julian before him brought the hits with powerful techno tracks that really built the room up well after Marcel.
Hito in the Sake Room was a real blast. I enjoyed the fact that she played known tracks reworked with heavy techno breaks. The crowd was eating it up and her stage presence, smiling and truly enjoying the reaction every time the bass kicked in, was a pleasure to experience.
My favorite set of the night certainly came from Italian duo Mind Against in the covered terrace. Their unmistakable dreamy techno took over the entire room from the second they came on after Matador, ending with a rapturous applause when the room closed at 6am. I am a big fan of everything Life & Death and this set reminded me of just why. Dark and almost evil, each transition was a true surprise and part of a deep journey into something I had never experienced before.
Overall, the Enter experienced was another unforgettable one. I think it truly is the one night where Space’s enormous multi-room space gets its best use, and with reason, offering several spaces of top-quality house and techno.
Music On at Amnesia Ibiza
Let me preamble by saying that Marco Carola is truly my favorite DJ and has been for several years right now. His blend of techno and funky groove is in my opinion unlike that of any other artist out there right now and the cause of the major success his Music On imprint has been experiencing at Amnesia over the last few years.
In contrast with most other underground line-ups on the island, Music On features smaller line-ups with true emphasis on quality rather than quantity. While Joseph Capriati was laying it heavy in the main room as a follow-up to a b2b set by Ryan Crosson and Shaun Reeves, Carola played an open-to-close set that highlighted his true skills as a techno tastemaker.
Known for hardly every playing a track twice, he went darker and heavier than usual and I loved it. As sunrise took over the terrace and light filtered in, Carola put on his trademark aviator shades and began taking the crowd away from darkness into a journey of funky techno and it worked, the entire dance floor lapping it up with every transition.
I say this every time but going to Ibiza without witnessing a Carola set is a true disservice to your trip. I know I am biased but there are few artists out there able to truly make you dance to unknown tracks like he does. I was lucky enough to see him in action again in what I reckon was my favorite set of his to date.
Overall, Ibiza 2015 was another magical trip worthy of its expectations and more. I know it wasn’t my first venture into the island but I can’t stress enough how important it is to venture outside of nightlife and truly experience the magic of the island in its entirety.
I recommend making the pilgrimage to everyone who truly loves dance music. There’s plenty of ways to enjoy the island and while these were just tips based on personal experience, I invite anyone with questions to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions! I will be more than happy to assist with anything I can in helping to make your Ibiza trip in 2016 an amazing one.