The sun-kissed party isle of Ibiza has reopened to tourists with new rules in place that could signal an end to the Balearic island’s hedonistic holidays.
Travel to Spain is once again on the cards after the country lifted its state of emergency and opened its borders to Schengen-zone and EU countries. Visitors heading its third-largest, yet arguably most famous, Balearic island will discover that many of the partying ways of pre-pandemic holidays in Ibiza are no more.
Tourism authorities that govern the islands have introduced a slew of measures designed to ensure public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
These include restrictions on opening times for bars in busy areas, the closure of the island’s biggest nightclubs and a freeze on new licenses for party boats.
Indoor clubs with capacities of fewer than 300 can reopen, but at reduced capacity and clubbers must be seated – signalling an end to the island's quintessential thriving dance floors. For a place that's built its reputation on foam parties, unabashed hedonism and the world's best nightclubs, these are no trivial matters.
Time limits on beach visits
The Balearic government has also put an end to crowded beaches across the region with every sunbather on shorelines in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera dictated to have at least four square metres of space.
Groups of more than 25 people are also prohibited on the beach, a rule that looks set to curtail long-running soirees on the sand at places such as Blue Marlin and Nikki Beach. Local authorities on each island have also been given permission to add time limits to beach visits, if things start to get busy.
Further limitations include restrictions on opening times for bars and clubs in Ibiza's busiest spots such as San Antonio. This move signals that if not an end, it is atleast an early finish or change of pace to the merriment for which the island is famous.
Despite such comprehensive confines being mandated upon an island where clubbing is intrinsic to life, as the first tourists slowly begin to return to its sun-dipped shores, it is embracing a new sense of optimism.
"The first tourists are here now – nothing compared to a normal summer just yet, but friends living in Ibiza Town have said that finally the centre gets a little livelier in the evening," says Stivi Stivanello from Ibiza Spotlight – a long-running local guide providing information and services for the island.
“I've thought about that and I actually think it could be a chance for Ibiza Town and the port this summer,” he adds.
Social distancing after dark
The island’s super clubs may have had their wings clipped for the season, but they’re not ready to retreat quietly.
Pacha – Ibiza's longest-running and most famous club – will not open this summer for the first time in its 52-year history. Instead, the cherry-laced club in Talamanca has been organising virtual house parties where renowned DJs who would typically take to the club's hallowed decks are streaming sets via Zoom. Pete Tong, Bedouin and Erik Morillo are among the names to have hosted. Pacha is also proclaiming a huge comeback in 2021, stating: "This won't kill our vibe, because the comeback is always stronger than the setback."
A statement from Amnesia, another of the island’s top clubs that's famous for its foam parties and open-air clubbing concept, said: “We don’t know when will this all finish, but we do know one thing: the day this is all over, we'll celebrate it together."
Cafe Del Mar – one of the most coveted party sunset locations on the island –is also closed. Dating back to the 1980s, the chill-out bar celebrated 40 years of Ibizan vibes on June 20, but celebrations had to take place behind closed doors.
“Today, as Cafe del Mar turns 40, we are unfortunately not able to open and celebrate this milestone with our friends from around the world. Instead, we ask you to play your favourite Ibiza sunset anthem and have a drink, not only for us but also for Ibiza, the most magical island on the planet. It won't be long until we can all unite under the Ibizan sun yet again,” said the club’s social media page. Until then, daily sunsets are being streamed live on their Instagram page.
Tiffany Bennett, a Dubai content creator who is moving permanently to Ibiza as soon as travel restrictions allow, does not expect the new rules set by the tourism authorities to diminish any of the island’s magic.
“I honestly don’t see it making that much difference, apart from cutting off the timeframe in which bars in the restricted areas can make money,” says Bennett.
“I know these rules have come into place for certain areas in the Balearics, but for example, on the West End of Ibiza you’ll simply be able to go a few streets across to a bar which is outside the limits of the new ruling. I think it will simply persuade tourists to move on to other venues.
“The restrictions to party boats is only for the new licenses, and so everything that’s already been running will carry on.”
A summer of discovery
Ibiza —nay, the Balearics— have been quietly confident in containing the spread of the coronavirus. The eastern Spanish archipelago has recorded 2,179 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the onset of the virus. Currently, there are 141 active cases, only 12 of which are in Ibiza.
Airlines have been quick to notice the region's success in managing the virus, and seem to be banking on the islands remaining popular with travellers. Several, including KLM, Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, easyJet and Iberia, have resumed flights to Ibiza or will do so in July.
Tourists venturing to the island this summer should expect to find much of the original spirit of Ibiza intact. New health procedures are in place for all arriving passengers that include temperature scanning and medical declaration forms, but the previous two-week quarantine period has ended.
Across the island, some of the best-known hotels will stay closed for the season, but others are starting to reopen.
Ibiza Rocks is reopening this month and aims to offer a socially distanced al fresco clubbing experience. The rock & roll-themed Pikes Ibiza in the San Antonio hills is also reopening in July, with a focus on "a bucolic Ibiza past, a time when life was more laid-back and our hotel guests and island characters gathered under the stars for magical Mediterranean evenings". Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay will reopen on Friday, July 10, bringing travellers "hazy golden sunrises and long, lazy afternoons spent on daybeds by the beach".
According to Stivanello from Spotlight Ibiza, it might be a good time to grab a bargain stay as "several well-known hotels are offering discounted rates".
The other side of the island
With packed dance floors and all-night clubbing on hiatus, this year Ibiza is showcasing its softer side – one that's synonymous with idyllic beaches, incredible nature, bohemian markets, peaceful retreats and a vibrant culture.
Below the waves, Ibiza offers scuba divers crystal clear waters and unique dive sites such as the sunken fish factory or Don Pedro shipwreck. On dry land, there is history to explore at Dalt Vila – the best-preserved coastal fortress in the Mediterranean. And Ibizan gastronomy is a unique exploratory must-do. With clubbing off the cards due to the coronavirus, tourists on the White Isle this summer will be swapping Ibiza Uncovered, for Ibiza uncrowded.