Ibiza grows up: how the clubbers of yesteryear have helped transform the island into a family-friendly idyll
As its property market booms, leaving much of mainland Spain in its wake, and the island’s night spots and beach clubs dust themselves down in preparation for another hectic summer season, Ibiza is one of Europe’s hottest places to be.
But not just for the young clubbing generation, who rarely see daylight or life beyond Ibiza Town. Now the island’s party-goers of the 70s and 80s have grown up and are returning to live on the island, with kids, successful careers and big bank balances in tow. And Ibiza is proving just as alluring to them now as it ever did – just in a very different way.
The appeal of Santa G
Amanda and George Evelyn, now in their early 40s, were regulars on Ibiza’s summer club scene when they were younger. They moved to the island eight years ago when their daughter Mali was three, and bought a 17th century finca near Santa Gertrudis, surrounded by pomegranate and pear trees.
“We’d never got beyond the clubs in the south before that, so we checked out the whole island,” says Amanda, who runs a hypnotherapy school and mind, body and soul retreat called accessibiza.com, while George – also known as DJ Ease and the recording artist Nightmares on Wax – works from their home studio.
“We loved Santa Gertrudis’s beautiful vibe and its diverse people. It’s a very creative place full of people from all walks of life with a lot of stories to tell. Even in winter, there’s always something going on – art exhibitions, festivals or just people sitting, chatting, outside in the square.”
Santa G – as it’s known to residents, who include singers James Blunt and All Saints’ Melanie Blatt, and, in the nearby countryside, Jade Jagger – is the perfect example of how Ibiza is adapting to house its burgeoning new population of international families.
Many move to the tiny town or surrounding villages for its international school, Morna International College, which teaches the English curriculum and is expanding to meet high demand. As a result, the town is now awash with interior design shops and first-class kids’ sports facilities, organic food shops, boutiques and ‘yummy mummy’ hangouts such as Mussel cafe, bang opposite the playground.
Even that beacon of young, champagne-spraying hedonism, Nikki Beach, is getting in on the F word. It promises that its beach club – based not among the south coast’s clubbing haunts but in the East’s quieter Santa Eulalia – is ideal for families during the daytime, and when it opens for its second season in May, it will offer a fine dining menu.
Ibiza’s new F word
And while Ibiza’s many concierge companies will still be busy booking day beds at the Blue Marlin beach club and nights out at Pacha, their clients are more likely to be 40-somethings taking rare time out from the kids, says Serena Cook, founder of the concierge/events company deliciouslysortedibiza.com.
“Families make up 70% of our clientele and we’ll often organise tennis lessons or recommend the best child-friendly beaches. But it’s been the case for nearly 10 years – it’s just that Ibiza still has that reputation as a party island,” says Cook. “We organise wholesome outings with a glamorous angle. We work in Mallorca too and the difference between the two islands is that our Ibiza clients definitely want that extra bit of glamour.”
When Cook began doing the London-Ibiza hop 13 years ago, “you had to change planes in Madrid or Barcelona and you’d sometimes see another person making the same commute and feel like pioneers. Now I’m constantly struck by how many people are relocating here and sending their children to the international schools, or Mestral, one of the best schools in Spain. We particularly see a lot of British people in their 40s who have made their money, move here and the husband commutes back to the UK for work while the rest of the family enjoy the Ibizan lifestyle.”
One such family are Chantal and Ralph Behnke, both 40 and living in London before their three children – Cruz, 8, Bella Mae, 5, and one-year-old Kenzo, came along. Unlike those who return to Ibiza to rekindle a love affair that began in its clubs decades before, the Behnkes bought a home within days of first setting foot on the island four years ago.
“We’re both South African and enjoyed childhoods spent outdoors, so I had no frame of reference of how to keep kids entertained indoors in London. I wanted a bit of Africa, a bit of Europe, and Ibiza offers it all – though before we visited, it hadn’t appealed at all,” says Chantal, who runs the travel website mydestinationibiza.com and is a wedding planner, while Ralph travels worldwide for his business. “I always thought it was just a party island, but then kept hearing celebrities, who have all the money in the world to live anywhere, talking about Ibiza, so we thought we’d take a look,” she says.
That look lead immediately to buying a 1970s villa for €380,000 in San Carlos in the north of the island – a 20-minute drive to Morna International College, which Cruz and Bella Mae attend – and the couple have spent four years gradually extending and modernising it.
“Ralph took two years off when we first moved here, as we hardly used to see him when we lived in London, and we spent some time getting our travel business off the ground. You need to be multi-faceted to make things work here as it’s a small island with a short season, and you need patience as nothing happens fast. You can’t just pop into the local shop for milk as everyone wants to chat first for 10 minutes. But that’s why you move here,” says Chantal.
She has become part of a diverse international community – “lots of Dutch and French, even quite a few South Africans” – who are they dotted around the island. “There isn’t the same sense here that there is in the UK that one street is good and another is bad. People do amazing things with their properties, so you can have a castle next to a shack and, as a result, people aren’t so concerned about which area they live in.”
Though constantly glamorous and increasingly wealthy, Ibiza appeals because it remains unpretentious and laidback, says Anthony Lassman, founder of the London-based travel and concierge company Nota Bene. “It’s not overly manicured and has many facets – easy access from London, better weather than the South of France, and beautiful rural areas far from the crowds where people build up a great social life with likeminded families.”
Just wait until the kids of this grown-up Ibiza generation discover the island’s clubs. Then the cycle starts all over again.