The Rebirth of San Antonio

COVID has brought about more challenges in 18 months than most of us will see in a lifetime but it has also thrown up opportunities.

Here in Ibiza, San Antonio has had 2 summers like no other. It’s fair to say that ‘San An’ has had an identity crisis over the last 3 decades, from 80’s hooligans to 90’s space cadets to noughties wannabes. It’s had a chequered recent history but times have changed.

The San An identity crisis revolves mainly around one small area called the ‘West End’, a place that was once the envy of the island, it was the market leader in fun and frolics but has gradually spiralled into a lawless abyss where anything goes and everything is for sale.

In 2015 a new socialist government tried to suffocate the West End by banning terraces after midnight and closing all establishments at 3am. These arbitrary measures only ended up causing more mayhem with mass movement at the same hour displacing the problems to other areas.

The people of San An weren’t impressed and the socialist government lasted 1 term before Marcos Serra, a young forward thinking Mayor was elected in 2019. There was much expectation that he would finally get to grips with the challenges of the West End, creating incentives for those wanting to improve the area and coming down hard on anyone stepping out of line. Then along came COVID.

For 2 summers the West End has remained closed apart from a handful of terraces. For all of us who live in San Antonio we have now seen what the town is like without it, without the noise pollution, without the problems it brings and also without the tourists it attracts.

We’ve seen the other side and we now understand that having a central meeting area that attracts life is a fundamental part of any resort town but we need it to be on our terms. A place that is safe, that is clean, a place that offers fun, food and revelry, not just fast food takeaways and all you can drink. A place where your teenage kids can wander freely.

COVID has shown us something that we never thought we’d see. It took a Chinese virus less than 2 months to do what some have been trying to do for over 30 years but is San An a better place without the West End? The jury is out but even though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what we want, we know what we don’t want, we don’t want to go back to how it was before.

The challenge has been laid before us and San An needs to build back better. It’s a cliched political phrase but one that has never been so apt but here’s the good news, San Antonio is already having a rebirth right in front of our eyes.

What better example than the recently opened ‘Base Hotel’ right in the middle of the West End where the dilapidated Hotel Don Juan once stood. Owned and operated by the people who built Hotel Es Vive from nothing to become one of the Balearics most celebrated hangouts before selling out to a company part owned by Lionel Messi no less. After a big refurbishment, the Base Hotel offers rooms of high quality that won’t break the bank.

Only 50 metres away from the Base Hotel at the bottom of the West End is the historic Hotel Portmany. San Antonio’s first ever hostelry has had an expensive refurb and now offers large and luxurious apartments in the heart of the town. Then around the corner is Sa Clau, part of the Mambo group offering quality accommodation. The list goes on.

A little further afield Wikiwoo continues to attract the insta-influencer crowd with it’s photo friendly design and the new, enormous and luxurious 5 star OKU Ibiza has opened in Cala Gracio boasting the largest swimming pool on the island. This has spurred on the ageing Hotel Tanit next door to finally have a multi-million pound makeover which will bring it right up to date and don’t be surprised if it becomes a mini Ushuaia as it’s owned by the same company.

Extensive work has now started on the Hotel Catalina which is directly above Savannah and next to Cafe del Mar. When finished this will be the next big offering by the Mambo group and is set to rejuvenate that area with quality rooms on the sunset strip.

This is only a snapshot of what’s happening and much more will follow. Massive investment in San Antonio all against a backdrop of the biggest crisis in modern history. San An is going from strength to strength, there will always be haters but that comes with the territory and in many ways it’s been self induced over the last 35 years but times have changed and it isn’t 1987 any more.

COVID has inadvertently thrown up the chance for San Antonio to bounce back better in a new and improved way where quality is better than quantity, spenders are better than forcing cheap drinks on unsuspecting youngsters and where a little less can be a whole lot more.

We have seen that we can survive without the West End but we can also see the benefit of a clean and safe, fun filled leisure area that attracts all nationalities and all ages from all over the island. All we need now is for the West End to wake up and embrace the challenge.

Author: Martin Makepeace

Englishman living and working in Ibiza since 1991. Entrepreneur with a passion for villas, boats, sunsets and San Antonio. Read my blogs, listen to my podcasts and catch me on Radio One Mallorca every Tuesday morning.

3 thoughts on “The Rebirth of San Antonio”

  1. Interesting read again. I have to say the odd night in the mayhem that ‘was’ the West End was vey enjoyable but all night every night I suspect has had its day for many. Hopefully there for 3 weeks in September and I suspect the odd trip to The Highlander will still happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My first visit to Ibiza was back in 1968, yes last century. Many changes seen in that time but the vibe if Ibiza is still there. From the moment the plane doors open. We stayed at the,then, new Hotel Arenal. Over the years I have stayed at many hotels from Hostal Tarba to the Hawaii. All offered excellent value as you grow older, but not in the mind. We are hoping our September holiday will go ahead. Two years without the Ibizan feeling. Can’t put my finger on it just to say it’s a state of mind no other place can replicate.b

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  3. Nice article, but I’m afraid your missing some massive points. As someone who is actually working on the west end at the moment and has been for 17 years I agree that at the moment the tourists problems of normal are near non existent, same with noise pollution and all the negative reviews you write plagued the west end. I would say in Ibiza right now it’s the safest place to visit with nearly no crime. But to say after 2 years covid has helped is just wrong and naive. All the problems you mentioned have just branched out to the busy areas you praise. This is the first year for a long time working on the west end I havent seen any pick pockets or prostitutes, yet walking home every night into the more tourist heavy areas they are rife with both. Covid has not as you put cured west end problems, it has just spread it from an easily controlled couple of streets to a hard to control sea front. Every night 5 or 6 police and guardia control the beach front from noise pollution , pickpockets and prostitutes where as in past years only half that police presence was needed to control the small heart of San Antonio. I think a lot of people forget that without the West End ever existing neither would most of the VIP bars. The West End is the Great Grandparent of many bars that came much later and I think instead of putting them in a home and forgetting about them people need to start caring again and making sure the Heart of San Antonio pumps stong again. I will invite you to actually come and have a drink on the West End so you can see how friendly and safe it is this year.

    Liked by 2 people

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