Iconic Ibiza beaches: Benirras
The stunningly beautiful bay of Benirras on Ibiza’s north west coast is undoubtedly an Ibiza icon. The contrast of its dark, grainy, pebbly sand against the impossibly clear turquoise water – with the the dramatic outline of Cap Bernat rising from the centre – combined with the sky’s nightly kaleidoscopic colour performance as the sun sets is nothing less than pure Ibiza magic. But, beyond its gorgeous setting and inspiring location, Benirras delivers on a deeply spiritual level, providing a haven of happiness to all those who seek her shores.
Admittedly, the tranquillity for which it was famed has been lost over the years – with its reputation for good times and bohemian vibes preceding it, Benirras is now considered a must-visit on the Ibiza map. It was the early 1960s when drumming first started taking place on Benirras – island folklore tells of a group of hippy friends who spontaneously arranged to meet on the beach to celebrate the August full moon, bringing their bongos to create a laid-back, free-spirited party vibe after the sun had gone down. This became an annual tradition.
The celebration took place each year, becoming more and more frequent until it encompassed every full moon of the summer season and attracting more and more locals and visitors alike, evolving into something much bigger than the hippies ever could have imagined. In August 1991, hundreds of people – hippy drummers, anti-war sympathisers and born and bred locals – converged on Benirras in protest of the first Gulf War in Iraq in an anti-war gathering that would ultimately become known as The Day of the Drums. In the years that followed, the anniversary of this event continued to be celebrated, attracting thousands of peace-loving revellers from all over the world.
By 2002, the authorities considered it a health and safety risk and shut down the event, however this only served to provoke the true Ibiza spirit more. From this point on, the drummers agreed to meet daily at sunset to honour the message of the original event, which ultimately led to the creation of the Sunday drumming sessions Benirras is now famous for. You can feel the ambience shift on the beach on Sunday afternoons, as the faithful tribe of drummers descend from the hills with their instruments – from bongos and timbales to hang and hand drums – ready to provide an intoxicating, rhythmic soundtrack to the sunset. With that many musicians and no conductor to speak of, it has the potential to be a cacophony but there’s something about the energy of Benirras that seems to bring everyone together in harmony. Or rhythm, as the case may be…
The very antithesis of a hipster scene, the melting pot of cultures, creeds and colours at Benirras on a Sunday is all part of its vibe. Shirtless, dreadlocked, tattooed and leathery-skinned drummers adorned in cowhide, shell and beaded accessories play alongside beautiful young creatures in bikinis swaying and dancing hypnotically to the beats, while children frolic in the sea and sand, sun-worshippers soak up the last rays of the day and party people start to treat the beach like a dance floor – facing the sunset instead of a DJ booth. At times, the air can be thick with the aroma of marijuana, evoking a true feeling of freedom, community and the original hippy spirit.
As the sun slowly slides into the sea (depending on what time of year you’re there) the sky takes on an array of incredibly beautiful hues, ranging from red and orange to pink, gold and then finally violet before the stars and the moon twinkle above. Cap Bernat takes centre stage at sunset, surrounded by glamorous yachts and dinky little boats alike – all are welcome to lay anchor here. Islanders have long been known to refer to the famous rock formation as ‘the hand of God’, while visitors have compared it to the silhouette of a woman praying, a giant baby or the Sphinx. Whatever it is you see before you, there’s no denying its presence.
The island’s tight-knit northern community have always strived to preserve the family-friendly essence of Benirras – a place where children (and their dogs!) could always run around unsupervised, jump off the rocks and then meet up with their parents in the little restaurant at the end of the beach for ice creams, fresh juices (from Ibiza’s very first juice bar, Sejuiced) and bocadillos as the sun started to go down. The restaurants have certainly evolved with the popularity of the beach, with the most notable being Elements Ibiza, open from 9am until 2am each day and taking over an entire side of the sand in a beach club style, complete with multiple dining spaces, a boutique, treatment room and lounge bar, however the owners take care to encourage an eco-friendly approach to running their business.
For those who prefer a BYO picnic approach, the legendary supermarket and restaurant/café Can Curune – found at the very top of the hill on the roundabout that leads to the beach road – can provide everything you need, from freshly-made sandwiches and icy cold beer to an array of international deli products. Famously known as ‘Can Curu-Neighbours’ by locals, it’s a place where everyone knows everyone and you can hear the latest island gossip, meet old friends and make new ones – it’s also a great meeting point before and after the beach.
As you’re driving down the winding roads surrounded by pine forest (which is currently regenerating after a tragic fire destroyed much of the environment in 2010), it still feels as though you’re stumbling on some kind of a local secret as you start to see glimmers of the sea appear on the horizon. However, the secret is definitely out. On Sundays in summer, entering the beach road is prohibited once the lower car park is full, to prevent overcrowding and dangerous traffic jams – shuttle buses now ferry beachgoers down the hill and back at regular intervals.
A testament to the authenticity of Benirras is that the original community of flower children who populated the area continue to flock to the beach to this day, despite the exponential growth and change it has seen over the years. Their faces may be a little weathered and their hair flecked with grey, but their energy and spirits remain the same. As long as there is freedom and magic in the air, Benirras will always be the heart of bohemian Ibiza.