“WELCOME to Love Island!” the tour guide called out as I quit the ferry with windswept hair and glowing face.
I did a double-take, almost expecting to see Laura Whitmore sashay past the pastel-coloured villas of Formentera.
This is the original Love Island, seducing travellers since the Sixties.
A 30-minute ferry ride from big sister Ibiza, Formentera is known for its clear turquoise waters and long, sandy beaches backed by dunes and pine trees.
The smallest of the Balearic Islands, its secluded coves and cool pine forests offer a perfect counterpoint to the buzzing White Isle.
As we dine on squid washed down with cava sangria at the Casa Pacha Formentera beach club, I learn the surrounding seas teem with a lush seagrass unique to the Med, which helps give the waters their colour.
Carlos Bernus of the local tourist board told me: “Madonna was on her yacht and stopped in one of the areas known for these special seagrass meadows. They are the reason our seas are so bright and blue. Anchoring there harms them, so we quickly moved her on.”
With just a few hours to explore, we dipped our toes in the sparkling shallows of Es Pujols’ white sands, admiring the boats bobbing in the distance.
Our day trip to Formentera was quite the antidote to Ibiza, now back on the Government’s amber list after a few weeks designated green.
That means you will have to be double-jabbed to avoid quarantine on your return to the UK. But Ibiza’s party palaces are just the place to celebrate after the drab lockdowns.
If you are ready to splash out, the Grand Palladium Palace Resort & Spa in Playa d’en Bossa is the perfect base from which to explore.
The 5H all-inclusive, low-rise resort has four freshwater pools lined with palms and plenty of loungers for sunbathing.
Double rooms have a whirlpool bath and balcony overlooking the lush gardens or pool. Or treat yourself to a deluxe Jacuzzi room with a large terrace and tub for two.
With the party scene just gearing up again, a meal or two at some of the top restaurants will ease you back into the hedonism.
The hotel’s Portofino restaurant was a great starting point, its buffet of fresh food overlooking the beach with spectacular sunset views.
A short stroll along the beach is the Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza and its restaurant Tatel, an Instagram foodie’s dream.
The art deco-themed dining room, with forest-green walls and mirrored ceilings, serves high-end Spanish fare including lobster paella and truffle tortilla. Live music and DJ sets make for a buzzing atmosphere.
Refuelling next morning at the quirky gem Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel will test those with sore heads after a night on the town.
One of seven venues at the hotel, The Unexpected Breakfast is a riot of colour with a circus theme taken to the max.
Think richly decorated carousel horses, giant scorpion sculptures, and blushing buttock chairs.
The food is every bit as colourful. Vivid yellow omelettes are served fresh, while a sweet stand groans under the weight of glistening slices of carrot and red velvet cake.
Meanwhile, a Ferris wheel offers sugary treats including fizzy cola bottles and candy bananas.
It was just the start to the day we needed as we clambered aboard our kayaks to explore Ibiza’s sun-kissed coastline from the waters.
We visited beautiful coves and caves, and there was even time for some snorkelling.
With just a few days to enjoy the delights, it was a joy to stroll the streets of the Old Town.
Masks are required indoors but that was a small price to pay for the chance to feel the sun on my back.
With the need to take an antigen test to return to the UK, things were made simple — the Palladium has its own testing suite offering antigen tests for 25 euros and PCR tests for 90 euros.
Yes, pandemic travel is a challenge — but the chance to fall head over heels with my very own Love Islands was definitely worth it.
Ibiza and Formentera
COVID: You need proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
Double-jabbed Brits and under-18s need not self-isolate on return after July 19 but must take a pre-departure antigen test and a PCR test on day two.
Unvaccinated or single-jab adults must self-isolate for ten days, testing on days two and eight.
GETTING THERE: Jet2 flies daily Stansted-Ibiza. Also flights from other UK airports. Fares from £29 one way. See jet2.com.
STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 5H Grand Palladium Palace is from £1,199pp including Stansted flights in September. See jet2holidays.com.
MORE INFO: See trasmapi.com, illesbalears.travel and formentera.es.
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