Ibiza has a reputation as the party-hard, all-night rave summer hot spot of the Mediterranean. Come summer the White Isle is suddenly pulsating with as many tourists as the hottest new Manhattan club on a Saturday night, with the population growing from a mere 142,000 to literally millions. I’m not sure Tim was ever the clubbing kind. For me, that ship sailed after a few years of dragging my butt out of Vegas clubs and to bed just before dawn way too many times during my days at UNLV. Not really our cup of tea, Ibiza wasn’t even on our radar. That was until Boatsetter, a sort of Airbnb for boats, invited us to experience life’s little luxuries with an Ibiza yacht charter.
Yacht Charter with Boatsetter
You don’t have to be among the ultra rich to live large.
The average American boat owner only averages 26 days at sea per year. Those costly boats mostly sit in marinas only slightly more than my Audi TT sits tucked away in a garage beneath Bordeaux. Boatsetter connects boat owners and captains with the rest of us wish-we-had-a-boat-and-were-living-it-up-on-the-high-seas people. It’s a win-win: boat owners can make a little extra cash and the rest of us don’t need to actually own a boat or even need to know how to sail one.
How does Boatsetter work exactly? You simply pick your destination from over 600 destinations in the US and around the world, choose whether you want the boat with or without a captain, enter the number in your party and the date you want to sail the seas. You can then peruse the various boat options available, most of which are boat rental by owner, and choose the one perfect for your occasion. While a romantic charter for just the two of you might be reserved for a special occasion, splitting the cost between a group of friends suddenly makes boating like a baller pretty affordable.
The majority of Boatsetter’s customers rent a boat for a day or even just a half day. Though in Ibizia where the boats are all owned by a charter company instead of private individuals, multi-day charters and sleeping onboard are also an option.
Ibiza recorded 7.1 million tourists in 2016, a record setting number. The majority visit in the summer months from June through August and thousands arrive per day via the various cruise ships porting in Ibiza Town. With crowded beaches and tapas bars bursting at the seams, nothing sounded better than the freedom to drop anchor and explore Ibiza’s more peaceful side and her surrounding islands as we wished.
We checked out some Boatsetter reviews, agreed it sounded like a service we should check out, and were soon on our way to Ibiza for a 2-night private yacht charter.
Our yacht was the Daddy Cool, a 60-foot Princess v 58 power yacht that can sleep up to four in its two double cabins with en suite bathrooms plus the crew in the twin cabin, or accommodate up to 12 for a day charter. There’s also a kitchen with a fridge, stove top and coffee maker and a living room/indoor dining area. The entire cabin is air conditioned. This particular yacht was entirely refitted in 2017, so it was like being on a brand new yacht.
Our Daddy Cool luxury yacht charter included complimentary drinks including beer, wine, cava, sodas and water. It also included complimentary snacks, towels, snorkel equipment and a stand up paddle board. Fuel costs were not included and the estimated fuel cost for the day charter trip we did is €450. Some of the Ibiza boat charters even have the option to rent extras like kayaks or jet skis to bring along for fun in the sun, depending on each boat’s “garage” storage capability.
Each boat is unique on the Boatsetter site, just as each apartment is unique on Airbnb. You should thoroughly read the description for what is and isn’t included and any rules (some boat owners don’t allow you to bring aboard dark liquids like red wine and grape juice that can stain, for example). Some charters have ability to arrange catering, others allows you to bring your own food and drink aboard, some include certain food and drink or you may have the opportunity to go ashore for lunch or dinner as we did. The descriptions also list amenities onboard. And just like Airbnb, you can message with the boat’s owner to get any questions you have answered before you rent a yacht for a day.
Day One: Eating Our Way Through Ibiza
Ibiza Town was just steps away from the marina where our Daddy Cool yacht was moored, which was perfect for checking out the various things to do in Ibiza Town. One of our favorite ways to explore cities is to join food tours, and our first order of business was to eat our way through the old and new towns on an evening Ibiza Food Tour.
We easily spotted our guide, Simon, a Brit that came and made Ibiza home over 25 years ago. It was immediately apparent he was incredibly knowledgeable and we were in for a good time.
Our first stop was all about discovering the local spirits produced on Ibiza. Though Frigola, a typical Ibizan liquor, is usually served after dinner as a digestive much as limoncello is in Italy, we were kicking off our evening with a glass of it. Wild thyme basically grows like weeds on Ibiza in summer and this liquor is made with the thyme gathered on a mid-summer’s morning, along with brandy, distilled water and a lot of sugar. It’s typically served neat, which is exactly how we enjoyed it.
Next up was a refreshing glass of Ibizkus Rosé, produced by Ibiza’s leading wine producer. While I wouldn’t think of Ibiza as a wine producing region, the Phoenicians introduced Monastrell grapes on the island around 500 BC. Wine-making has never really taken off with all the other tourist-driven ventures to dive in to, but we were intrigued to learn that there are a handful of vineyards in the north west corner of the island that make up one of Europe’s unlikeliest of wine trails. Perhaps on a return visit…
We fittingly finished up our first stop with Palo. It’s typical from the Balearic Islands, which Ibiza is the third largest of. The liqueur is made from the quinine plant originally from South America. The Countess of Chinchón discovered that quinine was growing in the Balearic Islands in the 17th century, and the plant had excellent medicinal values for treating things like malaria and digestive issues. Eventually it was used to make this Palo liqueur, but it’s so bitter that a heap of caramelized sugar and some other things had to be added to make it palatable. I wasn’t a fan of sipping it straight up, but after trying it we added tonic to it to make it a cocktail. It suddenly was a bit like drinking an alcoholic root beer, and that I can 100% get behind. Palo is typical as an apertif because it whets the appetite…and we were about to eat and eat and eat some more.
Our next stop is precisely why we love food tours. Boris Buono, the former chef at the first rendition of Michelin-star Noma in Copenhagen, came to Ibiza after what he said was a pretty low point in his life. He opened a secret restaurant tucked away behind a nameless door on a side street close to the UNESCO Dalt Vila. It’s next to one of the top Ibiza attractions, yet you’d never stumble upon this restaurant without being in-the-know.
As Boris is Danish-born, the menu is fittingly a Scandinavian take on Spanish tapas using only the best local ingredients available.
We had a smoked eel atop gazpacho, which was thoughtfully paired with a glass of Bodegas Parra Jimenez Verdejo. It’s so good we know we want to come back to Taller de Tapas for the full tasting menu dinner another night. Another couple on the food tour booked their dinner reservation for the next night as well.
Weaving our way out of the cobbled streets of the Old Town, we’re all a bit skeptical as we followed Simon through the New Town. Here there’s not much in the way of architecture to lure the tourists over, but rising rent prices in the Old Town have made it so that many of Ibiza’s long time businesses have been forced to move over to the New Town. We make a stop to taste herbal tea made with the island’s plethora of wild grown herbs and sweetened with rosemary honey. We also pop in to Ibiza’s oldest bakery to taste savory and sweet pastries like the Flaó, a typical cheesecake made in Ibiza with goat cheese and spearmint, before getting a peek in to the back room.
And of course, you can’t come to Spain and not stuff yourself full of Jamón ibérico. We try three different grades of Jamón ibérico along with three Spanish cheeses, while getting a lesson on identifying the famous black ham from other less-worthy hams.
Another of our favorite stops is for pintxos, and everyone in the group is instructed to select whichever two we’d like from the selection on the bar before heading to our reserved table. Carafes of Tinto de Verano, literally the “red wine of summer” and a simpler form of sangria, are soon passed around. It’s another spot so good – and so close to the marina – that we note it to come back to.
There’s always room for gelato, and the food tour finishes with a stop for two scoops of artisan gelato back in the Old Town.
Day Two: Formentera and Es Vedrà by Boatsetter Yacht Charter
Basically nothing happens before noon in Ibiza, and we had a leisurely morning before our crew arrived to ready the yacht for today’s outing to Formentera and Es Vedrà. Venturing out for a coffee and pastries, we pass the chaotic line of people already sweating and waiting to board the fast ferry boat from Ibiza to Formentera. We’re glad that’s not us.
Our crew consists of our captain José, and an attendant named Sandra. They’ve stocked up beer, wine, Cava, water and soft drinks along with snacks for us. Our only job is to literally kick back and relax.
Soon we’re sailing out of the marina and our private Ibiza to Formentera boat trip takes us past the already packed beach resorts that line the coast. Out on the water, we quickly forget that it’s barely noon and already a scorching day. Sandra cuts up melon for us, which is a perfectly refreshing snack while we watch the coastline of Ibiza get smaller.
It’s not long before the first sandy spit of the island of Formentera comes in to view. Despite some clouds threatening a rain shower in the distance, the day’s conditions are perfect. The sea is calm, there’s little wave and no wind. It’s days just like this one that uncover the sandbar at low tide that allows people to walk right across it from Formentera to the private owned and uninhabited islet s’Espalmador. This pass is tricky to navigate thanks to a rocky ledge and since it’s low tide, the water is only about 1 meter deep.
Only smaller boats can anchor off of s’Espalmador. The beach here is also one of Spain’s infamous nude beaches.
Formentera is the smallest of the Balearic Islands at just 85 square kilometers, and is located only about 6 kilometers off the southern coast of Ibiza. But it feels like it may as well be a million miles away. Seventy percent of the long, mostly flat and narrow island is protected from developers. It’s also surrounded by the clearest waters in all of the Mediterranean, earning it the reputation as the Caribbean of Europe.
There’s just a handful of villages on the island punctuated by long expanses of open land. Though difficult to reach since the only way on or off of Formentera is by boat, the population swells from just 12,000 year round residents to more than 45,000 come the summer months. We sail on past the villages and hot spots that the tourists taking the ferry from Ibiza to Formentera make their way to.
The first local hidden spot Captain José wants to show us is one of the many caves of Formentera. The cave isn’t far from the Torre de sa Punta Prima, one of the 18th century watch towers built all around these islands to fend off pirate attacks. But it’s only accessible by boat and most visitors to Formentera never see it, despite practically standing on top of the cave if you make the hike up to the Torre de sa Punta Prima.
Captain shows off his yacht captaining skills and slowly pulls us right in to the cave. There’s a couple locals that have made their way along the coast in a skiff to climb up the cave walls and jump off the cliffs in to the mystical blue water illuminated by the sunlight.
We anchored for a bit a little further down the coast of Formentera next to the mega yacht, Palladium. The Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov can apparently be found quite often around Ibiza and Formentera every summer and we watch his fleet of jet skis practice impressive acrobatics out on the water.
There’s also a smattering of deserted beaches in hidden little coves that we can use the stand up paddle boards we’ve brought along to get to, since the boats are regulated to anchor a certain distance offshore in order to protect the beaches. We’ve also got snorkel equipment, which comes with every Boatsetter Ibiza boat hire.
Close to Spanish lunch time, we pull up anchor and make our way to the village of Es Pujols. There’s a free skiff service that takes yacht passengers like us from the yacht to shore, and Captain José calls for it to come pick us up. We go ashore for lunch at one of the best restaurants in Formentera: Chezz Gerdi.
Formentera practically has more Italians than Spaniards come summertime since the island is a favorite holiday spot for them. Chezz Gerdi pays homage to that with a fusion of the best ingredients from Italy, Spain and Formentera. As tempting as the king crab bar is, we always like to try the local dishes. Our waiter suggests the grilled Formentera octopus to start, followed by a squash ravioli with pear, herbs from the island and sage butter. Everything is light and flavorful, and perfect for such a hot day.
We lingered for a while quenching our thirst with gin fizz rosé cocktails while taking in the scene. A steady stream of visitors wander down along the beach boardwalk that connects Chezz Gerdi with the village of Es Pujols.
Before calling the skiff to take us back to our yacht, we wandered around the village a bit. It’s cute with a smattering of shops and bars and a few other restaurants. But it’s clearly the beach where the action and nearly everyone is. After all, the beaches are the number one things to do in Formentera.
Waving goodbye to Formentera, we sailed toward Es Vedrà. After the North Pole and the Bermuda Triangle, it’s reputed as the third most magnetic place on earth. At least that’s what the locals love to tell you. The island is a protected nature reserve and you need to request special permission from the Balearic government to actually set foot on Es Vedrà. But as we sail entirely around it, we keep an eye over Captain José’s shoulder at the yacht’s compass.
There’s never been any scientific proof that Es Vedrà has any magnetic properties. It’s entirely made of limestone. The yacht’s instrument panel doesn’t give any indication of anything out of the ordinary. But all of our phones suddenly have no service.
The uninhabited island has a plethora of legends and tales about it. I’ve always been a lover of mythology and am fascinated that one legend says Es Vedrà is the home of the sirens that tried to lure Ulysses from his ship in Homer’s The Odyssey. Another claim is that the island is the tip of the Lost City of Atlantis. And yet another tells the tale of pirates’ buried treasure hidden away in the coves of the island.
What is true is that the cliffs of Es Vedrà shoot nearly vertical out of the water at a staggering 400 meters high. The colossal cliffs continue downward and you’d have to dive to a depth of 100 meters to reach their base. The rocky outcrop of an island is part of the Cala d’Hort Natural Reserve and though very few people are allowed to actually set foot on it, the wildlife on Es Vedrà is abundant and there’s 166 rare plant species. We can’t get close enough to spot the colorful Ibiza wall lizards that skitter about, but we can see the colony of endangered Eleonora’s falcons swooping around.
Es Vedrà is also a spectacular place to watch the sunset. Truth be told, it’s one of the prettiest sunsets we’ve seen and it was a magical end to our yacht day trip to Formentera and Es Vedrà.
Day Three: Ibiza Town and Dalt Vila
When it comes to what to do in Ibiza, you simply can’t leave this island without exploring Dalt Vila. Literally meaning the “Upper Town”, it spans 2500 years of history. It’s a treasure trove of shops, cafes and stunning viewpoints spanning from Ibiza to Formentera. Exploring Dalt Vila is also the best free thing to do in Ibiza.
The hill was first settled by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC. The Romans built a city here during the Roman Empire. Byzantines and Muslims passed through and left their mark. The Catalans took over in 1229 and built the formidable bastions in the 16th century to protect themselves against Berber pirates and the Ottomans.
The roster of civilizations that called this hilltop home at one point or another is exactly why it feels like the Marrakech Medina meets Ancient Rome with a splash of the Greek Cyclades thrown in. We found ourselves dropped in to a cultural cocktail.
There’s three “official” routes for exploring Dalt Vila and checking off all the cultural sites and museums contained within this upper town. You can pick up a free map at the tourist office if you want to follow the routes. We decided to just start at the main entrance, the dramatic Portal de Ses Taules, which is flanked by two now headless Roman statues, and see where the wind carried us.
Dalt Vila is mostly residential, as evidenced by all the laundry strung out between the buildings billowing in the breeze. There are cafes and bars, and some shops and galleries that beckon you to pop in. And we couldn’t help but peek in to the massive wooden doors left ajar, where we’d find tranquil courtyards with fragrant bougainvillea climbing the ancient walls.
It’s worth climbing up the steep cobbled lanes and staircases to the cathedral which crowns the top of Dalt Vila. The views across the marina, sea and out to the mountains are truly spectacular.
Know Before You Go
How to get to Formentera: Only accessible by a boat to Formentera, there are fast ferries that operate crossing around 30 times per day in summer. Prices start from $25 each way. There are also some Ibiza boat tours that operate a day trip to Formentera, but all of them only offer sailing and swimming/snorkeling in coves off of Formentera. The Ibiza boat trips to Formentera start at $250 per person, and with a group an Ibiza boat charter shakes out to about the same cost per person as booking a tour.
Our Ibiza yacht charter was the Daddy Cool, a 60-foot Princess V58 that can accommodate 12 on a day charter or sleep up to four in the two double cabins for longer multi-day charters.
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Our trip to Ibiza and yacht charter was in partnership with Boatsetter in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. This article contains affiliate links. When you shop on Amazon or book on Boatsetter and Viator through our affiliate partner sites, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.