The recession is a distant memory in the White Isle

 
Kasmira Jefford
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Two million visit Ibiza every year. Many come for the clubs, but there’s more to it than beats

IT IS a hot and sultry night on the east coast of Ibiza. Above my head a huge white crane has stretched out its long steel arm, carrying with it a circular frame resembling an oversized seventies lampshade, with flickering images projected onto its canvas.

Acrobats wearing feathery wings and sparkly white lycra unfold themselves from this strange structure, pedaling on bicycles and performing pirouettes. Fireworks spray the sky, turning the lampshade into a giant Catherine wheel.

This is the grand opening of Nikki Beach Ibiza, the newest addition to a 12-strong chain of white-themed beach clubs around the globe where wealthy traders, celebrities, and aspiring socialites come to sunbathe, crack open a €25,000 bottle of Cristal and dance to mellow house beats.

Over 1,000 people have gathered here for the launch, spilling out around the pool, the white-tented beds, and the stage where a trio of saxophone, violin and electric guitar are blasting out tunes. There are no celebrities tonight – unless you count a woman from Made In Chelsea – but Nikki Beach has hosted them all, from Paris Hilton to Jay-Z.

Nikki Beach founder, Jack Penrod, is dancing on the table in front of me (solid mahogany wood all the way from Vietnam he tells me the next day), having a great time at his own party. The septuagenarian American entrepreneur, who made his fortune owning McDonalds franchises in Florida, shows no sign of slowing down.

Since 1998, Penrod and his family have expanded the Nikki Beach Empire, from its first location in Miami, to other tourist hotspots including St Tropez, Marbella, St Barts and now finally Ibiza. And he isn’t the only one capitalising on the return of big spenders holidaying on the White Isle.

Once known for its hippy chic roots and as the psychedelic hang out of the 1970s, over the past few decades Ibiza has been colonised by upmarket hotels and clubs, while the western part of the island was taken over in the 1990s by package holidays, techno-blaring mega-clubs and binge drinking teens.

But on the trendy east coast in the beautiful Ibiza old town, a host of five star restaurants (including Cipriani and Lio, the Pacha-owned restaurant and cabaret bar) have been opening their doors. firms are regaining confidence and puting the recession behind them.

Why did it take Nikki Beach so long? “We didn’t want to rush into it,” says Penrod. “I didn’t want to do what everyone was expecting me to do either. We wanted to wait to find the perfect location.” It is the day after the party as we sit down to lunch with his wife Lucia. Dashing waiters in sailor caps and blue-and-white Breton t-shirts (I have my photo taken with one of them) bring out a feast of mini burgers, quesadillas and a carved wooden boat loaded with brightly coloured sushi.

Nikki Beach is in the northern, more tranquil part of the island near Santa Eulalia. But for a chain that describes itself as “the world’s sexiest beach bar”, the location fails to charm. It sits in a parking lot next to a rather brutal looking motel, recently bought by the Spanish hotelier Melia, which aims to give the concrete block a makeover in time for next summer.

If the outside lacks the glam-factor it makes up for it on the inside. The club has a panoramic view of a stretch of sea that acts as a parking bay for his customers’ yachts – though today there is only one boat on the horizon. Models in white sailor caps, elbow-length blue gloves and floating red shawls pose nearby – all part of the décor – while in the pool a bronzed, statuesque woman is lounging topless.

Languid sun-soaked couples lie on the white beds – Rosé and Champagne-filled ice buckets beside them. Hiring a pool-side king-sized bed for the day will cost you €620, although there are cheaper four poster ones available for a mere €250 and Hamacas (their name for deck chairs) for €25.

I glance at the drinks menu – prices for a bottle of Tattinger Brut Reserve start at €150 and escalate to €25,000 for a bottle of vintage Cristal. You can, however, opt for a strawberry mojito, which, at €16, looks like a bargain next to the champagne. At these prices, you can understand why guests want to stretch their stay and savour every sip from noon until dusk.

After a day at Nikki Beach I head south to Playa d’En Bossa, to the new Ushuaia Beach Hotel, which was refurbished and rebranded earlier this year. This massive concrete complex is the hottest address on the island this year, boasting an open air poolside venue and the pick of Ibiza’s best DJs – from Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong and Idris Elba – who are all playing that night.

Like Nikki Beach, Ushuaia’s owner Paladium is tapping into Ibiza’s ever growing popularity as a beach and music destination.

The hotel’s marketing director Alfonso Gimenez takes me on a tour of some of the finest suites, which can set you back up to €10,000 a night. Leonardo DiCaprio was a guest a few weeks earlier for the launch party, accompanied by a large harem. He must have made good use of the jacuzzi as apparently he didn’t leave his room.

It’s a shame Leo didn’t make it to Ushuaia Tower’s new Montauk Steakhouse. The steaks – I tried all five – were fantastic.

I was given a choice of knives from six different countries, opting for a slim Spanish model, but the meat was so tender that a blunt knife would have done the job.

However, the hotel isn’t to everybody’s taste, with Xbox consoles, space-age white circular beds and Grey Goose stashed mini-bars. Ushuaia caters for groups or couples in their early thirties who have come to play all night and day. One young man I meet at the airport rooftop bar (planes roar continuously overhead) complains that after a week of music, which stops only for a few hours before dawn, he's looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

No one comes to Ibiza to rest – except perhaps for a few hours on one of Nikki Beach’s white couches.

NEED TO KNOW
Nikki Beach (nikkibeach.com/ibiza) is holding its closing Red Party on 6 October.a

Kasmira stayed at the Insotel Fenicia Prestige Suites in Santa Eulalia (insotelhotelgroup.com) where double rooms begin at €295 including breakfast.

For more information on Ushuaia Tower's new Montauk Steakhouse visit ushuaiabeachhotel.com.

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
1 Discover Ibiza on horseback by visiting Can Curreu in San Carlos. These 200-year-old stables offer short rides or long treks for experienced riders on a choice of four horses, so you can gaze over the lush valleys that lead down to the beach.

2 Steer away from the shiny shops and enjoy the rustic charm of Ibiza’s hippy markets. Founded in the mid-20th century, these markets are made for finding handmade gifts to take back to Blighty. Drop by Es Cana on Wednesdays and Las Dalias on Saturdays.

3 Get educated while you’re there by visiting the historical village of Dalt Vila overlooking the Port of Ibiza which boasts a wealth of treasures such as a castle, palace, cathedrals and one of the most impressive Roman collections in the world at Museo Puig des Molins.

4 In the summer of 2010, Ibiza launched 13 all-terrain mountain biking trails and 10 road routes for tourists to get out of the clubs and stuck into the impressive landscape. Bike hire costs €16 a day or €27.50 a day with a guided tour and picnic.

5 Relax your body and mind by booking a yoga session with a trained instructor on one of Ibiza’s sandy beaches. Drop-in sessions start from €15 while private sessions are available from €90 from www.ibizaretreats.com.

6 Kayaking excursions around the clear, blue coast are becoming an increasingly popular way to see the island. If kayaking (or any kind of sailing) floats your boat, visit: www.ibiza.travel/en/excursions.

7 Dive into under-water exploration at the Sea Horse Sub-Awua Marine Centre. Situated on Ibiza’s west coast, the attraction gets tourists to jump on a boat and pull on their scuba gear to see the colourful aquamarine life around the coastline.

8 Get into the swing of things at Amnesia, a smoky, red-lit jazz bar in the middle of Mission District. The staff at this boisterous bar enjoy getting tourists to square-dance. It also offers an abundance of beers and Korean soju-cocktails.

9 You’ll get an impressive holiday snap at Las Salinas Salt Flats on the southern most tip of the island. Water evaporates during the summer months leaving a sparkling layer of pure salt on the bottom of the lakes - a stunning beauty spot.

10 Surfing in Ibiza is a well-kept secret because the waves only roll in three months of the year. If you’re visiting between October and December, bring a board and head to Aguas Blancas, Cala Nova, or Cala Jondal.