Ibiza's lo-fi little sister is all grown-up. Often hailed as a wilder, more bohemian alternative to the White Isle, in recent years Formentera has slowly started to sway to a different beat, thanks to the discreet arrival of chic Europeans seeking an alternative kind of hedonism to that found on the mainland.
Surrounded by marine reserves, the island's clear waters, scenic cycling trails and beaches bookended by blonde dunes serve up a blissed-out cocktail of back-to-nature living catering for the matured DC10 crowd that's swapped sunrise Circoloco sessions for 6am Pilates classes. Sure, there's still a heady sense of creative spirit, but the flower headbands have been swapped for silk headscarves hand-spun by Italian fashion houses.
The arrival of cult Spanish brand Pacha's second accommodation offering - its first hotel sits beside the legendary superclub - cements this shift. Pacha's roots date back to 1967, when it opened in Sitges, near Barcelona - a time when "make love and not war" was a movement and not just a slogan on a Topshop t-shirt. It landed on the White Isle in 1973, when nightclub moguls (and brothers) Ricardo and Piti Urgell bought a dilapidated finca on the outskirts of the old town. It was soon attracting a glamorous medley of jet-setters, hippies and dance-music disciples to its al fresco terraces. Later, when the DJ stopped spinning and the sun replaced the moon, the crowd would retreat to Formentera - huddled in boats - to continue the afterparty on these untamed shores.
Casa Pacha's return to Formentera in the summer of 2021 seems fitting. The Ibizan institution seems to have come full circle as we emerge sleepy-eyed but eager, motivated yet mindful, after the lockdowns of the pandemic. With superclubs having been shut for the entirety of the 2021 season, Balearic pilgrims have been seeking other ways to connect with its infectious, open-minded energy.
Sitting pretty on the rolling Playa de Migjorn dunes, this 14-room bolthole lures those keen to soak up the slower pace of life on this beautiful Balearic Isle.
All 14 rooms and suites celebrate Formentera's rugged natural allure with wood, linen and statement ceramics made by local artisans scattered throughout. Signature Pacha design flourishes are apparent in the abundance of coffee-table books, vintage vinyl and murals made of iconic own-brand artworks. Oh, and in the killer sound system installed in each room.
Subtle Coke-bottle curves - seen in the polished, bleached-concrete headboard that doubles as a bar - soften the primal colour palette, while each bed is angled to directly face the sea. In the bathrooms, huge hunks of gold-flecked stone have been carved out to create sinks topped with brassy brassy taps, bringing them bang up to date.
Most rooms have a balcony or terrace with (partial) sea views. Our terrace was furnished with a concrete-hewn daybed, above which thick ropes acted as a canopy, providing welcome shade. It would have been the ideal spot for an evening Caipirinha, except for the fact that it overlooks the back of the restaurant. I think I gave the staff a bit of a shock, sitting there in my Shiseido sheet mask, swaddled in my dressing gown, nursing a cocktail.
What's for breakfast?
A smorgasbord of cold meats, cheeses, breads, oven-fresh pastries and Greek yoghurt sprinkled with granola. There is a hot menu but you have to ask for it.
How about lunch and dinner?
Lunch is long, lazy and showstopping. It is taken in the sandy-floored restaurant, with its prime views over the stonewashed-denim-coloured seas, while a DJ - sporting Jesus-esque long hair and pina colada-hued sunglasses, naturally - spins chilled-out Pacha classics to a crowds that fondly reminiscences about sessions at Space (Hi? Haven't heard of it).
Both wine and sharing plates flow freely. Our top picks are the buttery, ginger-spiked chicken, the garlic-topped squid rings and the fatty sashimi, served with crisp Melba toast and a mountain of salt quarried in Ibiza, its grains pebble-sized. The turbot - swiftly and expertly deboned at the table - is fished from local waters and delivered by island fishermen's day boats twice daily.
Despite only opening in May, word has quickly spread and, uncharacteristically for an island that thrives on spontaneity and where most restaurants and beach bars don't even have a website, tables are booked out weeks in advance. Secure your lunch spot as early as possible to avoid being beaten to it by an in-the-know superyacht crew.
In contrast to the wine-fuelled, three-hour lunch, dinner is a much sparser affair, with a limited tapas menu available. Venture into Es Pujols instead. We recommend Fandango, which is located at the far end of the town's famed hippie market.
Is there a bar?
Studded with vintage vinyl and oversized faux flowers - in a nod to Pacha's flower-power heyday - the G&T honesty bar in the lobby invites guests to mix their own evening drinks. Elsewhere, the beachside restaurant is a worthy sundowner spot - the sun dips just beyond the junipers that litter the dunes - but was shockingly quiet during our stay. Go now, before others catch on.
Few and far between. This isn't the kind of hotel where you'll be waltzing through a multi-floor spa emporium or posing next to an Olympic-sized swimming pool. There's no spa, no pool and no menu of extracurricular (read: organised fun) activities. But the luminous blue waters, wild sand dunes and massages taken beneath pine trees more than make up for it.
Within a short walk I can find…
Miles of sandy beach, of course, and a rustic chiringuito, whose mojitos come in at a respectable £7. Casa Pacha's guests also get complimentary use of the rattan parasols that dot the shoreline, so there's no need to rush to secure your sunlounger - that's way too fast-paced for somewhere as chilled-out as here.
Things I should know
At sunrise and sunset you'll have Migjorn's sands all to yourself. Day-trippers from Ibiza arrive steadily from 11am, laden with cooler boxes, umbrellas and enough lilos to resurrect the Titanic, while the superyachts come in their droves for lunchtime, ordering enough rosé at Casa Pacha's restaurant to sink, well, the Titanic. Those moments of blissed-out stillness on either side of the island's "rush-hour" should be cherished.