Cala de Who? The Mystery of the Bay Gone Missing.
Special report by Nick Gibbs, Editor
The Ibizan, and before it The Ibiza Sun, has always had strong connections to Cala de Bou, a.k.a. San Antonio Bay.
Founder Chris Langley lives in the Bay, second owner Dan Darvey based the newspaper office in his Cala de Bou hotel. I had always lived on the other side of the island but gravitated to the Bay because of working with the newspaper, and we now have family roots in the area, our son attending the Es Vedra school.
Despite working to ensure we reflect balanced and proportional news from across the island, this close connection obviously has some effect. It is human nature to pay particular interest to issues affecting your own home ground.
Though close to the municipality of San Antoni, the Bay falls inside Ibiza’s southernmost area of Sant Josep de sa Talaia for all administrative and regulatory purposes.
“It started with a vague notion, but the deeper I went, the more outrageous it became”
Though I cannot give you any numbers to back up the claim, it is generally accepted that The Bay is by some margin the largest residential population in Sant Josep, and together with Playa d’en Bossa which also falls inside Sant Josep, accounts for the vast majority of tourism accommodation, employment and revenue. And I stress, the vast majority.
For people unfamiliar with the area the inset ‘All About The Bay of San Antonio’ will be helpful. Those who know the area well may want to skip past it.
All About The Bay of San Antonio
- Commonly referred to as ’The Bay’, the term was an invention of the British tourist industry in the 70s. They wanted a way to differentiate the new resort hotels being built on the opposite side of the natural bay from the urban centre of San Antonio. Until that point San Antonio Bay was a term used as a geographical feature, La Bahia de Sant Antoni, not in reference to a place, the Southern side of the Bay, as it has now become.
- The actual place names of the areas that form what is referred to as ’The Bay’ are Cala de Bou, Port des Torrent, and bridging the two, Ses Fontanelles, though the latter is heard far less frequently.
- To confuse matters further ‘The Bay’ that is really the Southern half of the natural bay, is itself comprised of several smaller bays that line its coast from Port Des Torrent at its most Westerly point, all the way to Pinet Playa, the last substantial beach to the East. The coast between the series of beaches is of rugged rocks.
- Reflecting this confused state, even fountain of all knowledge Google struggles to interpret search criteria using the term ‘the bay of San Antonio. Google still applies the term as a geographical feature, and so returns results including businesses located in San Antonio itself and San Antonio Bay. However, searching for San Antonio without the prefix ‘the bay of’ will correctly give results in the urban area only. TripAdvisor has caught up and will serve a list relevant to the Bay.
- Most of the hotels, bars and restaurants line Carrer des Calo and Carrer Cala de Bou, known locally as the Lower Bay Road, and these are complimented by a good selection of restaurants dotted along the shore on the various beaches.
- The result is a melting pot of styles and services, from simple low cost cafés and bars to an ever increasing number of chic cocktail bars and eateries, from the most basic family budget apartments to the very top tariffs of Ibiza’s 5 star elite.
- The Bay is amid a major period of redevelopment. Over recent years and still ongoing, many of its midmarket hotel and apartment complexes have received multimillion euro upgrades, many emerging as 4 and 5 star luxury accommodation, reflecting a general change happening throughout Ibiza. A major project now underway is the creation of an uninterrupted paseo (promenade) from Port des Torrent running the entire length of the Bay and linking up with the san Antonio paseo to create an uninterrupted ‘Superbay’ (as we have coined it).
- Though the changes are coming thick and fast, Cala de Bou has a strong sense of community among its local population, with a high proportion of native British and Irish year-round residents and workers.
Is It ‘Cos I’m Bay?
Among many of its residents, businesses and workers there has always been something of a feeling that we are the unwanted love child in the Sant Josep family. A common subject of bar talk, not getting our fair share of resources etc. But then we all have a tendency to bemoan our lot, right?
I hadn’t really thought about it in any terms of objective comparison until sitting taking a coffee in the centre of Sant Josep earlier this year. It was the initially subliminal recognition of post boxes that set the train of thought going. There I was, sitting within 5 minutes’ walk of the Sant Josep post office, yet I could see two post boxes from my terrace table. You see Cala de Bou doesn’t have a post office. And then when I came to think of it, we don’t even have a single post box. Not one post box in the municipality’s biggest urban centre, whilst our borough’s capital, a quaint though otherwise irrelevant village, seems to have them scattered around with a density that avoided the need to even cross a road to post your letter, far less our need to travel to a neighbouring town.
My thoughts went on from there resulting in the inevitable post on Social Media.
It received a reasonably good response online, however the reaction in face to face discussion has been incredible. I totally understand why businesses in The Bay, particularly those who rely on licences to serve tourist customers, would prefer to keep under the radar in expressing their opinions, but given the opportunity to talk offline it seems there is considerable consensus..
Resources & Facilities
When you look at it as a comparative list it is a pretty shocking level of disparity. The resources the little village has over the area’s biggest town is too great a differential to be any kind of coincidence or luck of the draw. This list is not scientific, and gets a bit sarcastic toward the end, but it does paint a pretty realistic picture.
Cala de Bou
|car parks||2 (at least)||0|
|art & exhibition space||1||0***|
|children’s play area||?||1|
|state of repair||9 out of 10||4 out of 10|
|roads from Afganistan||no||yes****|
|abandoned building projects||no||yes******|
* The small Cala de Bou medical centre was closed. There is now a room for a visiting doctor to use.
** A tourist information cabin was constructed some years ago. It has never been opened.
*** An undefined ‘auditorium’ was commenced in 2011.
**** The main throughroute serving the Bay of San Antonio through to Port Des Torrent is in such poor condition it is dangerous.
***** Our community bar closed several weeks ago. There is no information why it is closed or when it may re-open.
****** The abandonded hotel complex in Cala de Bou has been a blot on the landscape for over a decade.
Sant Josep Official Tourism on Facebook
That was back in April and with it off my chest and the new season newspaper in full flow, I didn’t think a great deal more about it until I caught a couple of promotional videos from the Sant Josep tourism page on Facebook.
The videos are beautiful snapshots of some of our municipality’s greatest natural treasures, and I am not saying for one moment they should not be promoted. But at the same time it seemed fair to ask the Sant Josep department of tourism what promotion was planned for Cale de Bou, it being the area in the Borough that earns all the money to pay for nice promotional videos, (as it turned out it might be that these particular videos were made privately and the tourism office was sharing them for free or paid licence, but as you will see it becomes irrelevant).
“The Bay is to the San José family what Meg is to the Griffins”
I did not receive an answer, I didn’t really expect one, but it did provoke my curiosity enough to go digging a little further, and the deeper I went, the more outrageous it became.
Official Sant Josep Online Tourism Promotion
From this point forward it is quite possible readers will think I am exaggerating for effect. I probably would if I were reading it. Please do check for yourselves. The two online locations I am referencing are the Official Sant Josep Tourism Facebook Page and Ditto their own Website. Links at the end.
Also, I need to stress that these are online resources for tourists, and the information is made available in English to be seen by English speaking tourists. In this context none of the political arguments for not needing to pander to the language needs of English people are applicable.
Despite having the largest residential population of San Jose, and a very big if not the largest ratio of tourist beds in San Jose, Cala de Bou has not featured, not even a mention, on their official Facebook tourism page this season.
Given the volume of posts, with many places being featured several times over the past two months, it would seem statistically improbable that the omission of Cala de Bou is a coincidence. Nor could they claim to have forgotten about us, I have reminded them of our existence more than once.
With no luck on Facebook I headed over to the official website to see how the Bay is promoted.
The first and most noticeable point is that as far as the website is concerned The Bay of San Antonio does not exist. From the homepage it is not on any menu option of places or beaches. Remember, this is a tourism website, not the main Council website on which you could accept that The Bay would not be shown, and places would be listed in their correct local names. But 90% of British and Irish tourists staying in The Bay of San Antonio will have booked their accommodation as exactly that, The Bay, and they wouldn’t have a clue where Cala de Bou was any more than any of the other Calas listed on the site.
Perhaps a human oversight? It would seem a big one given the proportion of potential visitors it would preclude, but human error cannot be the reason as the first sentence in Cala de Bou’s area description is ‘also known as the bay of San Antonio’.
This misses the point in one fundamental way: to British and Irish tourists. It isn’t ‘also known as The bay of San Antonio’, it is ‘only known as The Bay of San Antonio’. If they were going to do an ‘also known as’ it should be the other way around, also known as Cala de Bou.
Also, Platja d’en Bossa has been anglicised to the known Spanish name of Playa den Bossa. In technical terms using the Playa form interchangeably with the Platja form is the same as it would be to use Cala de Bou and San Antonio Bay interchangeably.
However, any negative consequence of tourists not finding any information on San Antonio Bay is somewhat reduced by the feeble effort that is the Cala de Bou page anyway.
Cala de Bou Description
The Cala de Bou area is next to the town of Sant Antoni, this area is also known as San Antonio Bay, a good place for practicing water sports. It’s an area frequented by island residents and tourists for its wide offer in leisure activities, both, by day and by night. In this area you can watch breath-taking sunsets with the nice view of the Illots de Ponent in the background.
OK, as a succinct description that may not seem too bad. It mentions the ‘breath-taking sunsets’ after all.
Uninspiring but adequate? Not when you start comparing it to the other pages on the site.
Cala de Bou, the biggest tourist resort in the borough, 72 words. Even San Jordi has a bigger and more interesting entry than this. I’ve nothing against the place, lovely hamlet, but there is absolutely nothing there worthy of it having a more substantial entry than The Bay, least of all any tourists.
See the photo sets on the comparison sheet above. Depending how you are viewing this they may be too small to see in detail individually, but you can see the relative amount of pictures each area has, and probably an idea of the quality.
Cala de Bou on the far left gets less than anybody else, and though it is a subjective question, I think most people would agree the quality of the Cala de Bou images is lacking. They look like average visitor shots taken from TripAdvisor. The other locations’ images are professional and much more impressive.
The same applies for the written descriptions, Cala de Bou at the bottom of the list.
- Cala de Bou – 72 words
- San Jordi – 96 words
- Sant Josep – 135 words
- Playa d’en Bossa – 164 words
- The Bay (Bou + Torrent) 143 words
- West (Tarida, Comte etc) 353 words
But it is not just about volume. There is also a clear and marked difference in the enthusiasm of the language.
Sunset & View Cala de Bou entry.
- “In this area you can watch breath-taking sunsets with a nice view of the Illots de Ponent in the background”
The sunset is illustrated by the single OK-but-nothing-to-write-home-about sunset picture in the Cala de Bou set.
Sunset & View in the Comte entry
- “Sunsets. Without any doubt the island’s west coast offers the best sunsets in Ibiza, during the whole year you can enjoy the beauty of the sunsets. The most popular place to watch it from is Platges de Comte but depending on the time of year you can also equally enjoy them from other beaches. Thousands of red, orange and purple tones colour the sky every evening.”
- “Illots de Ponent Natural Reserve. The islets are part of the Reserva Natural de Es Vedrà, Es Vedranell y los islotes de Poniente located in the west and southwest coast of the island of Ibiza. From almost the whole entire coast you can spot the islets of Sa Conillera, S’Illa des Bosc, Ses Bledes (4 islets) and S’Espartar, which form this nature reserve of great beauty and wildlife and vegetation diversity.”
This entry is illustrated by multiple photos of much higher quality in the Comte set.
Cala de Bou ‘nice view’, Cala Comte ‘Thousands of red, orange and purple tones colour the sky every evening’.
This is the same view. The same sunset. See what I mean by the Cala de Bou effort as feeble?
I got to thinking that perhaps there was some greater purpose in wanting movement, a reason the council wanted people to see the sunset from a particular location.
But if anything, that would mean that the council discouraged people from the environmental destruction and daily chaos of traffic to Cala Comte.
Instead they could tell the majority of tourists staying in their municipality that they could enjoy the sunset just as much in their own Bay back yard.
So, we are off to a bad start on the tourism guides, but every website has its strengths and weaknesses. How about search?
Unfortunately, no better. San Antonio Bay returned just two results. Cala de Bou’s return of 52 initially looked promising. It turned out 48 of these were for Stand Up Paddle surf in Cala Vadella.
So, whether searching for Cala de Bou or San Antonio Bay the maximum results are 4.
Website Search Results
- Cala de Bou/The Bay – 4
- Playa den Bossa – 13
- Sant Agusti – 28
- Cala Comte – 46
Another bad showing for The Bay. Onward & upward.
I next turned my attention to events.
Surely Cala de Bou must do well here. As the largest residential area by a big margin we’d be bound to have an active agenda of public fiestas, events and cultural activities.
And with the largest tourist population needing entertainment, this has to be where Cala de Bou can cash in on municipal support.
A web search of events near to Cala de Bou returned results of, wait for it, drum roll….
Zero. Nil. Nada.
Over to the main cultural agenda. If there is one thing, we all know in Ibiza, the programme of arts, music, culinary initiatives, sports and much more is never ending. We are spoilt for choice.
Unless it seems, you happen to live in the largest residential population of the largest municipality on the island, because then you get absolutely nothing. There is not one entry in Sant Josep’s 2019 cultural calendar for Cala de Bou.
By now you may have sensed that coming, and in fact the good news is that we do actually have an event. Once a year we have a tent, one churros vendor, and the same kids’ entertainer. Party all night we do, it’s epic.
Sorry about that. I told myself at the outset to get through this without sarcasm creeping in.
But it is truly dismal. Nothing, for the entire year.
We do also have the 3 Kings and for the last couple of years a much curtailed version of the carnival procession.
San Jose village on the other hand, the place where they decide who is getting what, has a steady stream of sardine BBQs, music festivals, food festivals, combined music and food festivals, plus the rich variety of events at their very own arts and film centre.
On the subject of the arts centre I should mention that the construction of Cala de Bou’s undefined auditorium is underway. But given it was started in 2011 we are not holding our breath.
Artisan & Produce Market
The San Jose Artisan and Local Produce market is held weekly during the summer. It is a good example of where self-interest may have taken precedence over logic and demand.
This market event is actively promoted to tourists. I know that for a fact as we receive the promotional material. They could hold it in Cala de Bou and reach many thousands more of the tourists they want to attend. However, it is held in San Jose Village, thereby attracting a fraction of the tourists it would in The Bay, and those that do go along are adding to the traffic carnage the village of San José is becoming known for.
There is no issue over availability of location. There is a ready-made unused market in the Bay. The council have to know it exists as it surrounds the tourist information office they built around 5 years ago and have never occupied for a single day. It also has huge attached parking facilities and a motivated landlord.
But even if they didn’t want to use that space there are no shortage of options. The paseo by Playa Bella, the community area near the mini-library, any one of many closed commercial units, there is no shortage of options.
Given that Cala de Bou has no events and San Jose village already has many, the only logical reason I can think of to explain the decision to hold it in San Jose village and not in Cala de Bou is that the economic interests of the village of San Jose are considered more deserving of the boost the market brings than the businesses of Cala de Bou.
Take a walk around both places and I think you will agree that only nepotism could result in that decision.
It is only one example, and there may be valid reasons why it is where it is. But it is difficult to think of why the Municipality do not see fit to hold anything at all in The Bay.
Sant Josep Beaches
The next source of tourist information I turned to was the special section on the Sant Josep tourism website devoted to beaches.
Cala de Bou is actually comprised of 2 substantial beaches and several small beaches, so I was interested to see which ones would be included.
The most obvious choices would be Pinet Playa, also known and famed as the Reggae Beach, a lovely and gently shelving beach very popular with residents and tourists alike, including restaurants, water sports and a water taxi and boat trips.
Then also the beach officially called Cala de Bou, also a departure point for water taxis and more.
Plus, the beach in front of the very popular chill lounge Kumharas, arguably the very best sunset spot in the Bay, let’s not forget that “nice view”, plus there are others that have their own charms. The ridiculously quiet, even in peak season, Beach adjacent to The Beach Lounge. The very small beach that no one seems to mind dogs using to cool down at Ses Fontanelles (it never gets cleaned of the shore seaweed, so people don’t tend to use it). Lots of beaches for lots of different people and preferences.
Guess how many Cala de Bou beaches are included in the Sant Josep official tourist guide?
Zero. Nil. Nada. Not a sausage.
Despite appearing to give every beach in the borough their own Beach Page, not one of the beaches in The Bay is listed. See for yourself.
Playa d’en Bossa
By this stage I found myself even starting to resent Playa d’en Bossa, as ridiculous as that sounds.
At the outset I would have expected that they faced similar issues to Cala de Bou. Another unwanted love child the Town Hall would prefer to forget.
Without question they are also under-represented, but at least they get a mention, they are acknowledged. They have had posts on the official Facebook page this year, not many but some. They get a beach page. Their description is 3 times that of the bay and written with some demonstration of interest and enthusiasm.
If San José considers Playa Den Bossa the unwanted love child of its family, it considers The Bay as Meg from Family Guy. Apologies to those who are unfamiliar with Family Guy, but those who know it will know exactly what I mean.
Last chance saloon for San Jose to redeem itself and give some support to the town that provides most of its tax revenue and employment. A final way to show it wants to give good service to the tourists that choose to spend their holiday budgets within its boundaries.
San Jose has a series of direct promotions for visitors. Serving suggestions on highlights of a visit, must do activities etc.
By now we can safely assume that The Bay would not get one of the very good guides produced for Cala d’Hort, Cala Comte and several others. These location guides suggest experiences and highlights for the visitor. We know by now that we are not worthy of such attention, but there is still hope.
12 most Instagrammable Places in Sant Josep
Gotcha! The Bay has to be in this. Our Hotel Paradiso was recently voted one of the most Instagrammed places by no less than Instagram.
Unfortunately not. Nor is anywhere else in the Bay.
10 Essential Things to do in Sant Josep.
Nope. Nothing in the Bay.
I’ve heard a rumour that number 11 would have been ‘under no circumstances go to Cala de Bou’. Given where we’re at I’d take it. Anything to know we’re alive. But no, nothing in the top 10 for the Bay.
72 Hours in Sant Josep, Parts 1+2
This monster of a blog article squeezes every drop out of a ’perfect’ 72 hours in San Jose. Its itinerary includes:
San Jose, the Ponent Reserve, Cala Comte, Cala Tarida, Sant Agusti, and then to finish the first night, “taking in the excitement of the bars and clubs in Playa d’en Bossa”.
The next day starts again in San Jose for reasons that are not entirely clear, and then moves on to Es Cubells, Es Codolar, Es Cavallet, Ses Salinas, Cala D’Hort, Es Vedra, Cala Vadella and Sant Francesc.
The 72 hours in Sant Josep then considers that you might want some evening entertainment and cocktails after the exertions of last night. So where in its broad boundaries does it suggest? The spectacular vista from Rooftop 9? The cool chill and sunset thrill of Kumharas? Or the sand between your toes on Pinet Playa at the restaurant or the Reggae Bar? Or any one of the hundred plus bars in the bay catering for exactly that evening cocktail and entertainment market?
Nope. None of the above. The official department of tourism perfect 72 hours in Sant Josep would turn to the village of San Jose (again) for that particular pleasure, adding the line that really does sum it all up …
“With a little bit of luck it may be a live music night at one of its bars and you can enjoy your drink with live music. And of course, if the night gets lively you just have to go back to d’en Bossa, you’ll have a good time at any of its establishments. “
“With a little bit of luck, it may be a live music night”, brilliant, the sheer cheek of it.
And if you want to up a gear what are your choices? None, just Bossa obviously, yet again the Bay does not merit a mention.
The San Jose tourism people have one last blast of bias in the morning.
After your action packed 72 hours, you’ll be wanting breakfast before you leave. So where do you think they recommend you get it? Possibly Cala de Bou? Which is of course where you are probably staying? I mean come on, they can give us one breakfast surely? Something? A scrap from the Sant Josep table?
But no, what an utterly ridiculous thing to suggest. This is what you must do as directed by the official tourism website.
“Head towards Sant Josep, the capital of the municipality, a charming village where you can have a great breakfast at any of its establishments and cafés. There are many places to choose from. You’ll find from more traditional bars where you can have a coffee and toast to more modern places that serve more innovative dishes. Also enjoy the vibe and life of the village every morning where you see people go through their daily occupations and relaxed tourists seeking to take the best photo postcard of their holidays. Anyhow, we highly recommend strolling through its streets and get some gifts and decor items at their cosy boutique shops.”
I set out on this now substantial article with no such epic intentions. I thought it would be an opportunity to get this ‘poor relation’ issue off my chest and into print as a worthy if transient complaint, provoke some thought but soon forgotten.
But what I uncovered has made it feel so much more. Not one of the individual omissions or half-hearted inclusions mean a great deal on their own. But all taken together it does mean a great deal. There is no way, no argument I could accept, that would explain all these issues as circumstantial, as coincidental and non-intentional.
Cala de Bou is so important to the residential population of the municipality, so important to its tourism and through that the employment and economy of the municipality, that only a determined effort could see it ignored and excluded from the Sant Josep Office of Tourism and Cultural Agenda to the extent it is.
This isn’t a case of feeling hard done by. This is outrageous. It is bias and nepotism at its worst. But most of all, above all other considerations I am in no doubt that the real driving force behind these issues is one thing only. It is snobbery. It is that Ibiza thing when the island looks down its own nose at those who made it what it has become. Snobbery isn’t restricted to Sant Josep alone, but with its border outposts of San An Bay and Playa d’en Bossa serving as its prostitute cash cows for decades, the particular circumstances of the municipality give greater likelihood of that circumstance prevailing.
The neighbouring town of Sant Antoni de Portmany faces similar issues in a crisis of confidence over its own identity, but in San Antonio the problem is all around them, it is in the town where they live and work. They cannot sneer at themselves in the way San Jose feels able to sneer at its own prostitute urbanisations from distance.
The greatest evidence of this is perhaps the cultural calendar and local resources. There may be, just possibly, some commercial factors that could come into play to explain the lack of tourism promotion in the Bay. I don’t think there are, but it is conceivable.
But there is nothing that will demonstrate to my satisfaction why San Jose has its rich programme of events, indulges itself in every resource and such manicured upkeep, and gives us in the Bay nothing. Not even a post-box. We’re not even worthy of recommending a tourist breakfast.
This lack of support may have been hidden by a thriving tourist sector for many years. However, there are big changes coming.
Much of the Bay already faces the challenge of adapting to the severe restrictions on their established entertainment offer, and as the demographic of the hotel accommodation changes from mid-market to high end, and also the paseo extension is built, it will dramatically change the footfall and so business model opportunities for the businesses of the bay and their employees.
At a time the Bay is likely to need the support of the municipal powers more than it ever has before, it is of great concern that the Town Hall views it with somewhere between contempt and oblivious disregard.
Perhaps their reaction to this exposure of the lack of parity in the promotion of the areas within their municipality will be a good indicator of how difficult it will be to effect change in their approach.
Nick Gibbs, Editor