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Edging my way deep inside a dank and aging 100,000-year-old cave was the last thing I expected to be doing when I booked a quick beach holiday to legendary party island Ibiza.

But here I am, ducking down narrow corridors that snake through sharp fossilised stalactites. My guide motions to a thick black ‘X’ and reveals that Can Marca caves, located on a cliff overlooking sleepy San Miguel’s port, were once a secret smugglers’ hideaway.

It feels like a scene straight from Raiders Of The Lost Ark … that is until the artificial golden lights dim suddenly and dramatic red, blue and pink strobe lighting pulsate onto a nearby waterfall. I spot UV lights, too, illuminating waterpools with a green glow. You’ve got to hand it to the locals – only in club-crazed Ibiza would an ancient natural wonder be given a rave makeover.

Rave cave: Can Marca

To many, Ibiza is synonymous with clubbing culture and for being the playground of the rich and famous (or the young and wasted). I’ve arrived in mid-May, about a fortnight before the big clubs open for the summer season. Though the island is certainly quieter and a little cooler in temperature during off-peak, it’s also substantially cheaper (some hotels can be four times as expensive in peak season) – and ideal for discovering what else the island has to offer aside from its nightlife.

I wake to clear blue skies and glistening ocean, and decide to head off for a ramble along San Miguel’s rocky beach cliffs – through pine woods with blue, white and red wild flowers, the odd prickly cacti and magnificent views out to sea. Though this tiny island, which can be driven top to bottom in no more than 40 minutes, has been inhabited for over 2500 years, much of it is still rural and its vast array of dense woods, nature parks and beach trails make it ideal for walking and cycling. 

Look out: towers for pirate-spotting

The path soon opens up to reveal a hidden cove with glamorous four-poster day beds scattered on its sandy shore. It looks heavenly, but perhaps 11am is too early to stop for sangria. Instead, I make my way up to the look-out point, where a brick-walled tower stands defiantly, one of many former pirate-spotting stations dotted around the island.

After a day of leisurely exploring the area on foot, I catch a ferry to nearby island Formentera – touted to have beaches more beautiful than Ibiza’s. It takes me a while to find my sea legs on the choppy boat trip, but once there I can’t help but think, “This is paradise.” The chilled, hippy-esque island has only become a tourist spot in recent years, and the beaches are still pristine, so I spend the day hopping from one stretch of blissfully white sand to another on a rented bicycle.

Later, back on Ibiza, I get chatting with one of the staff members at my hotel, 22-year-old Mowita Schutte from Holland. She says the island doesn’t get the credit it deserves for its wide appeal beyond dance parties. “What I love about living here is that it has a really creative vibe, and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a hippy or a millionaire.”

“What happens in Ibiza, stays in Ibiza,” so says the mantra, but for Mowita this doesn’t refer to debaucherous nights out. It’s more about “anything goes” here.If that all sounds a bit too New Age-y, you may also be interested to know that before clubbers claimed the island as their spiritual home in the Eighties, it really was a haven for hippies. And that Sixties culture is still very much alive today.


The other Ibiza: Caves, beaches and gloriously laid-back hippie-culture
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