It has been more than couple of weeks since I came back from Formentera and I can’t stop thinking about this tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. It is definitely one of the last best kept secrets of Europe and the most stunning island I have been so far. Formentera is just 20 minutes ferry ride from Ibiza, and is nothing like its big sister: 100 times more beautiful with kilometres of Caribbean like white sandy shores and azure blue waters, plenty of privacy, fantastic food and buzzing beach parties at the sunset there is literally nothing more you could ask from this place.
Locally known as a day trip destination for the tired Ibiza clubbers and expensive yacht owners, it actually is a paradise holiday destination well-kept away from us mortals. I accidentally heard about it from my boyfriends Spanish colleague, who said its an island where only Spanish (and as it turns out Italians) go, and when I saw first pictures – there was no doubt I’m going as well. Formentera is still very undeveloped, with very limited amount of accommodation, which makes everything quite expensive, but there is always a way around it by choosing more remote corners of the island and enjoying scootering or cycling around the island and knowing restaurants which serve amazing food that doesn’t break a bank.
Best beaches & beach bars of Formentera
It’s very hard to choose best beaches of Formentera as there are just no bad ones. I would divide them by areas making it easier to get around and see more of them. Starting with two biggies – Ses Illetes & Playa Migjorn plus remaining small villages – Es Calo, Es Pujols and Cala Saona, all of them more than fabulous. The true magic about Formentera beaching is that every beach comes with a cool beach bar, which also serves amazing food, so you almost choose the beach by the place you would like to spend the day sipping cocktails and eating gazpacho. Here are just some of them ( check all of them in Top Tips at the bottom of the post).
Ses Illetes beaches
Ses Illetas area located in the natural park of Ses Salines and is a home to some of the most beautiful beaches of the island. The seabed in Ses Illetes is covered with fields of posidonia sea grass, that gives water the crystal blue colour and therefore is protected by UNESCO. Unfortunately beauty comes with a price, and not just you need to pay parking fee (the only place on entire island) to access any of these beaches, the most popular Ses Illetes beach get’s so crowded, that it’s hard to enjoy the view, when some stranger is sweating less than meter away from you.
As it is a Natural park there is quite a limited space where to leave your car, which means you will not be guaranteed to park your vehicle at the beach you want and might be redirected to the closest available parking and walk. So make sure you get there bright and early. Toll in 2014 was 3€ – moto rollers, 5€ – cars, 8€- quad bikes. The alternative to parking headache – catch a bus that stops meters from the Ses Illetes beach (http://www.autocarespaya.com/es/autobus_formentera.php).
Playa Ses Illetes
Playa Ses Illetes consists of two rather tiny bays of shallow crystal clear waters backed by a narrow sandy shore. Due to the shallow waters yachts have to park further away in the sea and beach remains in sole disposal of holiday makers of the coast. Little islands opposite the beach completes the view – if only it would be a little less busy, this could be a dream like destination. On the second bay of Ses Illetes you will find the most expensive restaurant of the island Juan & Andres (http://juanyandrea.com), where apparently you are almost guaranteed to spot some celebrity. Well at least you know what you are paying for!
If you prefer a little more peace and privacy while still enjoying the magnificent views choose Playa Llevant or further beaches on the tip of the island. On the opposite side to Ses Illetes you can finally breath in some air – Playa Llevant is a much wider, longer and much more exciting beach than Ses Illetes. Magical blue water gets deeper slightly quicker which also means you can have a normal swim instead of dabbling in the water which hardly reaches your knees. There is a nice restaurant on the beach (http://www.restaurantetanga.com) that serves best Gazpacho soup and paella of the island.
Twin beaches – Ses Illetes meets Llevant
Further north from Ses Illetes and Llevant you will find so-called twin beaches, where two above meet in a narrow strip of a land. There is no road access to these wild beauties, so you will have to walk from the closest parking (which I think is Ses Illetes bay), but I would assure you its absolutely best effort you can make to get a complete privacy with the nature. The magic of this place is that while one side of the sea might be choppy due to the high winds, other side will have perfectly calm waters. Walking further down the end of the island you will find man-made stone figure city, which is quite impressive as well.
Es Pas and Espalmador Island
At the very tip of Formentera northern side, you can see it’s baby sister – Espalmador island. It is said to have some of the most wildest sandy beaches in this area and a famous mud bath in the middle of the island. While anybody owning a yacht or a boat has the privilege of accessing island much easier, on the low tide you can wade to the Espalmador through the narrow sandbar from Formentera. I was there on the day red flag was on, so I didn’t even dare to get into the water.
Sunsets on the beach
Formentera has probably the best sunsets I have ever seen and the best place to watch them is Ses Illetes that opens a full horizon for the sun to go down. While you can make your own romance on the beach, these are two really cool places where you can end your evening with a view. Es moli de sal (http://www.esmolidesal.es), is a restaurant with terrace bar in a renovated salt mill on the cliffs above the shore. The other place is recently opened hip beach bar Beso beach (http://www.besobeach.com) , bartenders here are absolute eye candy, cocktails are brilliant and party continues till the sun goes down. Just before the sunset everybody moves to the beach and waits as the sun falls into the sea, which looks more like a show than rather normal part of every day.
On the other side of the island, Playa Migorn is the longest beach of the island and is a complete contrast to the flashy Ses Illetes. No more rows of speedboats, just a never-ending blue sea and sandy beaches. It’s so long and wide, that you can find your own private spot and you will notice a lot of people wearing no clothes at all as nude sunbathing is allowed all around the island. The other thing – as the beach is so long, to find particular spot where you would like to spend a day you have to follow beach bar/restaurants signs on the main road from San Ferran to Es Calo, and drive through the dirt path till you reach the beach.
Playa Migjorn, Blue Bar beach
Built on the sandy dunes, this legendary bar has been discovered by hippies in the 60’s – legends says that Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley has been playing gigs on the beach. It is indeed a Blue bar as everything is painted blue and for no clear reasons UFO theme has been followed throughout the place. They have live music or DJ sets every night and is a must go place during the day or in the evening. Regarding the beach – there are some rocky spots in the water, so be bit careful where you get inside, especially when the waves are high. (http://www.bluebarformentera.com)
Playa Migjorn, 10.7 beach
My personal favourite was 10.7 – located on the 10.7km on the road (daaah, that’s why name is 10.7) from San Ferran to Es Calo, this beach restaurant is owned by Italian gentlemen, offering a fantastic modern Italian food, fantastic blue views and trendy terrace on the roof for the evening drinks in style. This beach is quite rocky almost to the water line, but it has sandy patches where you can lay your towels, and it’s not overly crowded as well. (http://10punto7.com/)
Playa Migjorn, Vogamari beach
On a more traditional note Vogamari (http://www.vogamari.es/) is a nice restaurant on the beach with home made traditional Spanish food. Beach has quite a lot of dry seaweed on the shore, so I wouldn’t say it was the nicest of the bunch.
Es Arenal beach
Going further down Es Calo road, this is the first exit (well second if you count the first exit to Playa Migjorn which leads to the Beach hotel) on asphalted road from San Ferran. We arrived on a day sea was roaring, red flag was on full high which ment no swimming, but waves were epic. My boyfriend is a passionate wannabe surfer and he immediately spotted a surf rent shop further down the beach at Es Copinar (see next beach) and cough his first wave of the year. It felt like standing at the Atlantic ocean as the waves were crashing into the sandy beach, absolutely amazing!
Es Copinar beach
This was another favourite of mine on this side of the island. Once you have passed Es Calo village and turn on the road with the sign to Es Calo des Mort, you will end up on the Es Copinar beach. Walk straight away from the busy hotel at the entrance of the beach, towards a little kiosk with seashell decorations. It has a tiny beach in front of it, which on this side is the only one with a sandy seabed, so getting into the water is a bliss. Burgers are not great,but beach and the view is fantastic!
Es Calo des Mort
Es Calo des Mort has been named the most beautiful beach of the island. It is quite remote and probably hardest to reach if you don’t count the twin beaches. Right from the Es Copinar beach with the seashell kiosk, continue walking above the cliffs 300 meters further down the end of the island, you will find this tiny little cove of paradise. As it’s so remote, you will see 80% nudes, so maybe this is the place you take your panties off as well. Access to the beach is an improvised stairs of a rope, so don’t take anything big with you, might be hard to bring it back.
Es Calo beach
Es Calo is one of the seaside towns which also has its own beach, it is much rougher landscape with only few spots of sandy access to the sea. But it’s different and not bad at all.
Es Pujols is the only resort like town with hotels, restaurants and nightlife plus it has a beautiful city beach, which is quite narrow and therefore quite crowded. But if you don’t have own transport and you don’t really feel like discovering the island, there is nothing wrong with it. There is a mini island opposite the beach, so you can swim there just for fun.
Nightlife in Formentera:
You would think Formentera is a tranquil sister of crazy Ibiza, for me 30 plus, there was more night life I could actually manage. Not counting Blue bar, 10.7 and Beso beach for the sunset parties, if you stay in Es pujols, these are just couple of establishments I noticed you can rock through the night.
Tipic – club (http://www.clubtipic.com/)
Bananas & Co, after dinner cocktail bar (https://www.bananasformentera.com)
Pachanka, late night bar & disco (https://www.facebook.com/pachanka.formentera)
During the summer, there are several bars that are opened on the main square, so just discover.
Best beach bars in Formentera
Ses Illetes beach bars:
Nr.1 – Beso beach http://www.besobeach.com/ – Trendy place for lunch and buzzing parties before the sunset. DJ’s, supermodel bartenders & fantastic sunsets. Book it in advance if you want to get a table. Nr. 2 – Es Moli de Sal http://www.esmolidesal.es/ – Not located directly on the beach, but has a fantastic view and terrace for late night drinks and excellent restaurant during the day or night. Don’t forget to book it in advance for dinner. Nr. 3 Tiburon http://www.tiburon-formentera.com/english/ – located between Besobeach and Es Moli de Sal, nice beach club, on not that of a nice beach. Nr. 4 Tanga http://www.restaurantetanga.com/es/index.php – located on other side, Llevant beach serves excellent food.
Playa Migjorn beach bars
Nr.1 10.7 https://www.facebook.com/10punto7 excellent food, and great terrace for evening drinks. Nr.2 Blue Bar http://www.bluebarformentera.com/ – legendary place with live music or Dj sets every night. Nr. 3 Flipper & Chiller http://flipperandchiller.com/ relaxing lounge. Nr.4 Vogamari http://www.vogamari.es/ Nr. 5 http://www.geckobeachclub.com/#/home-es – fancy beach club, not sure it has a public entry.
Es Calo & Es Pujols:
On Es Calo beach you will find a palm themed Amore Kiosk, Es Pujols – wide range of places, for the city beach, don’t miss the terrass & sushi at Can Vent.
How to get to Formentera?
You can reach Formentera by ferry from Ibiza. There are regular ferry connections, that leaves every 30 minutes. Main ferry lines are Balaeria (https://www.balearia.com) , Pitiusas (http://www.mediterraneapitiusa.com) , Transmapi (http://www.trasmapi.com). One way tickets is 20 eur (in 2014) if you book in advance or if you buy on spot it’s 27 eur.
Transport on the island: as it is so small, scooters are extremely popular, there is even a scooter line on all main roads making it very safe and scooter friendly. If you are up for a challenge – rent a bike, but that means riding in a 30 degree direct sunlight. Or you can go old-fashioned way and rent a car, there are plenty of local and international car rental companies on the La Savina port. Book in advance if you want to, but there is always a spare care available from some of the bunch.
Where to stay?
If you want a bit of civilization – definitely choose Es Pujols, it’s just 15 minutes away from the port, has a fantastic range of restaurants, night life and you can easily get to the Ses Illetes and Migjorn beaches and it even has a very decent beach of its own. If you prefer a more wild and remote holiday making choose Es Calo, Playa Migjorn or Cala Saona (there are several hotels and hostel apartments, but with smaller choice of restaurants, so you would have to drive for dinner if you don’t want to cook). And not a bad option is a capital Sant Francesc Xavier- it’s right in the middle of the island with great road access to all the beaches, it has lovely centre with small café’s and restaurants and plenty of shopping plus it even has a tennis club if anybody’s interested.
Places to eat:
Island has been completely occupied by Italians and every second restaurant you walk in will be owned or food will be cooked by Italians, therefore food is amazing everywhere you go. In Es pujols, we didn’t have a bad dinner, even restaurants by the sea were absolutely amazing, starting from paellas, modern seafood, grill and even sushi, this is a food paradise as well.
Map to all the Formenetera beaches: