Discover a beach holiday like no other on a tiny Balearic island

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Kitty McGee
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Stylist’s executive fashion director Kitty McGee settles into island life on Ibiza’s little sister, Formentera

There are a few reasons you might have heard of Formentera; you may have googled ‘best beaches in Europe’ (Ses Illetes on a sand-spit stretching north from Formentera was recently voted number one*); you could be a regular Ibiza visitor who has found solace in a day trip to the White Isle’s smaller, quieter neighbour; or perhaps you’re part of the elite few who have stopped off at the island aboard one of the yachts that head there daily from Ibiza in the summer. 

Much like its neighbour Ibiza, Formentera has a bohemian spirit. But here, without the super clubs and designer shops, on an island that’s a mere 22km long, you can embrace it wholeheartedly. Morning yoga is followed by a relaxed schedule of sunbathing, swimming, eating and drinking. Oh and it’s far easier to find a vegetarian meal here than anywhere else in Spain. 

Within four hours of departing London we’re checking into our hotel in Es Pujols, the busiest town on the island (but still very easy to find a quiet spot). The journey to this point has been totally painless – a pleasant 7.15am BA flight from City Airport to Ibiza, followed by a short taxi to Puerto di Ibiza to catch a 30-minute ferry, another short taxi and here we are.

You’re spoilt for lunch options on the sea front at Es Pujols – we opt for shrimp tempura with wasabi mayonnaise at the low-key Tahiti Beach restaurant on the first day, and later try – and love – the Mexican-style white fish ceviche and lobster rigatoni at the smart but unimposing Boscalina. For dinner try the catch of the day, the seriously good sushi or spaghetti vongole with lime and artichoke washed down with an aperol spritz or glass of rosé at the scenier Chezz Gerdi. 

The aforementioned Ses Illetas – Europe’s best beach – is a short scooter or bicycle ride away and is out-of-this-world beautiful. White sand and turquoise water for miles. Enjoy a day-drinking session at Beso Beach or watch the yacht-set arrive and leave by boat at one of the island’s oldest and most fabulous beach front eateries, Juan Y Andrea.

There is a sand-dune regeneration programme in action on Formentera, which as a result means almost every beach is flanked by the most beautiful Hamptons-esque roped wooden boardwalks, which protect the dunes either side.  

Further inland, the island is dry but green, punctuated with trees and bushes with pretty pink and purple flowers and bright white houses with blue painted doors and windows. The smell of pine trees fills the air as we pass some forested areas on a drive up to the lighthouse on the southeast tip of the island. The views are breathtaking but the sheer-drop cliffs are not for the fainthearted. 

Another jaw-dropping beach is Playa Migjorn, on the south coast of the island and home to one of Formentera’s smartest hotels, Gecko Hotel & Beach Club. Recently relaunched following a major redesign by top Spanish hotelier Pablo Carrington, it’s the perfect place to switch off and be spoilt. To get there, a turning off the main road – PM820 runs through the centre of the island – takes you up a short dirt track passing a scattering of small, quaint properties and shops full of colourful beach accessories. 

A rustic, wooden veranda lined with pink flowers leads you into the hotel to the reception. Once inside, the first thing you see is out through the open air restaurant to the sea. It’s pretty special. The hotel has a distinct Fifties Ralph Lauren-inspired interior with navy and white upholstery, large glass vases filled with sand, starfish, candles and greenery. 

Outside on the terrace the simple wooden deck is home to white-washed, wooden-framed sofas and armchairs dressed with sun-bleached blue cushions. 

The bedrooms are bright and airy with a typical rustic beach-club feel. Each room has either a small balcony or a larger terrace and 13 of the hotel’s 30 rooms have their own pools. The restaurant is relaxed but still quite smart – we watch on as our server carves jamon for us and have the delicious but enormous lobster spaghetti to follow. We are told that the rice dishes are great too; the seafood and shellfish paella on the next table looks really impressive.

Take a left out of the hotel along Playa Migjorn and you’ll find Kiosko Ca Mari, an authentic beach shack and a great place to stop off for a reasonably priced beer or some fresh fish. While to the right, you’ll find Kiosk 62, a tiny beach hut serving the best mojitos you’ll ever taste (made in 30 seconds too no less) and playing all the classics – think Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits. It stays warm until 8- or 9pm so you can enjoy a cocktail sitting on the rocks watching the light fade. 

At every corner of the island you really do feel like you might be in some tropical, far-flung location – or on a film set. It’s the ultimate long weekend away and the perfect antidote to non-stop city living. 

Rooms at the Gecko Hotel & Beach Club are from €235 per night based on two sharing a Gecko Double on a B&B basis;; ferries are €23 per person for a one-way ticket;