Helen Warwick stays at the family-friendly Hotel Riomar in Santa Eularia des Riu, a less hedonistic side of Ibiza.
If your impression of Ibiza was just super clubs, unrivalled excess and all-out parties, then think again. True, there lies a hedonistic and free-spirited streak at its heart – something which became an insatiable draw for the hippies and drifters of the sixties, all of whom were looking for a sort of traveller’s utopia, away from the mundane and the ordinary.
But there’s a far more serene side that’s nudged it’s way firmly into island life: where visitors rise early for sea swims, clambering over rock pools to gaze as the sun turns the sky peach. And later, stopping by at local restaurants whose chefs pluck ingredients from their very own kitchen gardens; or forging across the inky waters to Formentera – its wild and deeply beautiful sister island.
I had fallen for Ibiza many years ago when a group of us – all living in London – hired a villa in the hills above Sant Augustin. The trip was wild and bohemian and became so etched in my memory, I knew it was going to become one of my places – Ibiza grips me in a way few places have managed, with its pockets of magic and idyll.
I’ve returned since but, on this occasion, I’d brought along my three children (7, 5, and 7 months) as a bit of an experiment, basing ourselves at Hotel Riomar in Santa Eulalia – a laid-back beach town on the island’s southern coast. I was told it had a go-slow spirit; where low-key chiringuitos and beach days replace all-nighters and kids can pad about the sands and tot into its mellow waters.
I wanted to be beachside, rather than lugging all our gear and baby paraphernalia each morning. and Hotel Riomar sits firmly on the creamy sands, with a dreamy terrace overlooking the beach.
It was here we ate during our first evening at the Ocean Brasserie, dropping back into the chairs after our flight, grins as wide as the ocean tinkering close by. We ordered a large plate of crisp calamari from the short and considered menu, mopping up a lemony aioli and clinking glasses of rose in the thick evening heat. Steak arrived at the table, beautifully pink and soft as a sponge.
And our seabass sat on chilli-spiked green beans, whilst the boys dived into strips of chicken Milanese. It was all gorgeous – and made all the more atmospheric with the tang of salt in the air and the dull roll of waves just beyond the terrace.
We’d also take breakfast here every morning, spooning thick creamy yoghurt into bowls, smothering just-cooked pancakes in maple syrup and cutting thick wedges of French bread to sandwich crispy bacon. The boys giggled in excitement as they bit into chocolate doughnuts and sliced oranges and pulled faces as they tried the green juice every morning. A breakfast for kings as we gazed over the glittering water.
Sometimes one of the boys would wave as they played football on sand the colour of honey or they would swim out to join me, grabbing my nut-brown shoulders as they swam out of their depth. Later, with the salt still drying on my skin, we’d all pad over to the hotel’s pool and the kids jumped in and out of the shallow end, whilst Mia, our seven-month-old, lay on me in the shade to feed as I ordered hummus and flatbread.
We’re always aware of our freewheeling boys: Hotel Riomar is not just a hotel that welcomes families, but it’s a bolthole for romantic couples and gathering friends. But no one cast a second glance when they ran about or shouted that little bit too loud. In the haze of the afternoon heat, when the sky seemed to dance on the horizon, we’d all huddle on the swinging hammocks and loungers in the hotel’s secret garden, TRIBE, a shady corner strung with fairy lights and a jungle of plants for a quick snooze or a game of UNO.
Our room was a space of elegance: a huge crisp white bed, large mirrors, and gorgeous bathrooms. Little details always tick my boxes, like the USB sockets by our bedside and digital-controlled lights. The boys grinned ecstatically as they lay on twin beds, hands behind their heads, feet upturned in their interconnecting room. But the real calling card of our rooms came into view as we brushed the curtains to one side and sat on our balconies, opening to extraordinary panoramas of the beach and the azure water stretching into a fathomless inky blue.
Balconies also peer over the promenade, spanning the length of the beach, and we would head out each evening along the beachside path towards some of Santa Eulalia’s top restaurants.
We ate staggeringly good seafood paella at sand-on-the-floor restaurant UM Beach House, and intricate Japanese small plates with exceptional seafood at Koba. It’s immensely easy to hail taxis too, and one afternoon we headed for a splash-out meal at Izakaya – a slick Japanese pulling out game-changing dishes and theatrical dry-ice-smoking desserts.
Another time we drove to Cas Costas, where we cooked pleasingly pink slices of Spanish ribeye at the table and were served a culinary highlight of our trip: decadent and buttery octopus with smoked potato.
It was a trip filled with elation. The boys counted geckos, built colossal sandcastles, drew their names in the sand and jumped in and out of the sea for hours, whilst Mia slept, and we managed to sunbathe. Hotel Riomar is a space to tune out, to settle in and lie spreadeagled by the pool; where nothing is too much trouble for the staff, with a cheery and cosseting welcome that’ll see you rebooking Hotel Riomar again and again.
Hotel photos (C) Filipe Wiens
Tell me more about Hotel Riomar in Santa Eularia des Riu.
Hotel Riomar, Carrer des Riu 48, 07840
Santa Eularia des Riu, Ibiza Spain
T: 0034 871 183 318 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room rates from €350-€650 during the summer season.