Formentera, the Balearics’ smallest island, doesn’t loudly announce its lures – a low profile is how they’ve kept their Indian Ocean-rivalling shoreline pristine; that and an easy sustainable way of life. But, a snag in their plan is building dreamy waterside dens like Gecko Hotel & Beach Club, whose throwback-Riviera style, wholehearted approach to wellness (they even have a house yogi) and hit-the-jackpot location by beloved Migjorn Beach couldn’t fail to get tongues wagging. But, this gracious host wouldn’t dream of turning you away; in fact, they’ll ply you with mojitos and Mediterranean fish dishes, keep you in excellent company at convivial barbecues and lend you a paddle-board to while away your day. Attention-drawing, but for all the right reasons.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Early arrivals and checked-out guests are welcome to use the facilities.
Double rooms from £179.14 (€212), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.30 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include the sizeable buffet breakfast of breads and pastries, meats and cheeses, sobrasada, fruit, muesli, juices and more, plus hot dishes cooked to order. Plus, a free yoga class each morning and hire of stand-up paddle-boarding equipment.
If you're staying at the hotel, the Beach Club is free to enter and lets you experience Migjorn Beach in style. There are cabanas and hammocks, a lengthy menu of Mediterranean snacks and potent cocktails, plus dressing rooms and showers, and yoga and paddle-boarding are free. Otherwise entry is from €55 a person.
The hotel will be closed from 1 November to mid-April, but dates can change annually.
At the hotel
Public beach, beach club, gardens, concierge, e-bikes to hire (from €25 a day), laundry service, free WiFi. In rooms: satellite TV, minibar, desk, beach bag and towel, flip-flops, bathrobe and slippers, free bottled water, plug adaptor, air-conditioning, all-natural Per Purr bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The Pool Garden rooms have a harmonious balance of earth and water elements, say a greenery-framed split-level terrace with a private pool, perfect for sundowners. And, wherever you go in the Gecko Loft, you’ll have the soothing sight of the sea, from the bath tub, bed and living room.
The unheated pool (open from 9am to 8pm) is adults-only. The resident DJs will set a beat for you to swim along to, there are parasol-shaded sunloungers laid out around all sides, and Balinese-style private cabanas can be booked too.
The hotel was instrumental in popularising yoga and wellness practices on Formentera, so it’s embedded in their DNA – they even have a resident guru, Yiannis Mukta Om (a former pupil of master Sri Dharma Mittra). Free classes are held on the dedicated deck every morning from Monday to Saturday (private lessons available on request), and in low season, renowned teachers are invited to host yoga retreats. To complement your stretches, a range of Eastern-inspired massages, reflexology and facials can be carried out in the two treatment rooms.
Bring Euros aplenty – the good life may be on the simpler side of things here, but it doesn’t come cheap. And, embrace the haute hippie style with wide-brimmed hats, flowy dresses and fringe, plus floral shirts for the men.
The hotel’s ground-floor Pool Patio and Pool Garden rooms are accessible for guests with mobility issues and most public areas too.
Mums on the ‘yummier’ scale can start their offspring on the Med lifestyle young. The hotel is quiet with few distractions, but kids are welcome in the restaurant, where there are highchairs and staff will heat up milk and tweak menu items.
Gecko Hotel is a conscientious sort. They’re committed to replacing all plastics used with biodegradable materials; support the Save Posidonia Project, which conserves regenerating sea-beds, by matching guest donations and then doubling it; and staff try to use electric cars as much as possible. The restaurant adheres to a 0km rule for sourcing ingredients, and work with eco-sound farms and fisheries; and the hotel has joined Whole World Water (in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees), so 10 per cent of all profits of water sold onsite help provide water to refugee camps.
Sea views are democratically doled out on the terrace, but to avoid floating heads in your photographs take one of the coveted first-row tables.
Nudist beaches are big here so even itsy-bitsy bikinis pass muster, but floaty boho looks fly best here.
The restaurant feels exclusive in its seaside setting by Migjorn Beach, it’s dressed in a nautical palette of white and blue with wicker chairs and cushion-plumped sofas. Chef Juan Diego Craywinckel and his team have gone to great measures to connect with sustainable local farms and fisheries and source ingredients on the island. As such the menu is proudly Mediterranean at heart, with bucket-loads of seafood (sea bream ceviche with coconut milk, Thai salad with prawns, various paellas and tagliatelle with blue lobster), juicy steaks and abundant vegetables. Or, jamón ibérico, tacos and gyoza if you’re feeling peckish. If you’re arriving between June and September, don’t miss the fish barbecue on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8pm. Held in the hotel gardens, live music makes it feel like a fiesta and there are plenty of espetada (flame-licked fish skewers) to go around.
Gecko Bar has a sprawling open-air deck, perfect for seaside panoramas. The barkeeps are skilled in Zacapa rum-heavy mojitos and icy pomadas, but ask for the signature Gecko Beach, a zingy mix of gin, lemon, rosé wine, grapefruit juice and soda, plus a herbal hit of lavender. Or, perhaps, a luxurious Gecko Club with Cointreau, limoncello, strawberries and champagne. The Beach Club also has a long list of cocktails, wines and champagnes you can enjoy on or off your sunlounger. At both hangouts, a quartet of experienced DJs (Andrés Labs, Vivé, Bas Abels, Ainsley May), each with a different groove (deep and funky house, a dash of bossa nova…) punch up the ambience. And, next-day regrets can be washed away with healthful juices and smoothies.
Breakfast runs from 8am to 11am, lunch from 1pm to 4pm and dinner from 8pm to 11pm. Drinks flow at the bar from 12 noon to 8pm.
Breakfast in bed from 8am to 11am. Then, snacks (croquettes, Ibérico ham with bread, sandwiches, burgers) and make-a-meal-of-it plates (linguine alla vongole, grilled seabass) can be ordered to your door from till 11pm.
Gecko Hotel & Beach Club is centrally located on the south coast of bijou Balearic isle Formentera, just south of Ibiza.
You’ll need to fly into Ibiza; however, the hotel sits on Formentera island to the south, so once you’ve landed in Ibiza you’ll need to head to the Port d’Eivissa in town; the journey is 10 minutes by taxi, or take the Route 10 bus. From there, the ferry crossing takes around 30 minutes to La Savina on Formentera. Transfers from the ferry port on Formentera (€50 each way) are available on request in the hotel’s electric car for up to seven guests.
The L1 and L2 buses ferry people back and forth to popular beaches, and as this is the smallest of the Balearics, it’s possible to bike around with relative ease (seek out the Green Routes for pathways past sand dunes and notable sights, and through farmland). But a car can help you reach more secluded treasures with ease. Stay green and hire an electric car from Proauto (www.proautorentacar.com) in La Savina where the ferry docks. Follow the PM-820 road to the hotel (around a 15-minute drive); there’s free valet parking onsite, plus two universal charging points.
There are numerous daily crossings from Ibiza to Formentera (depending on the season), so take your pick: Baleária, Transmapi, Mediterránea Pitiusa and Aquabus all zip back and forth. If that feels a bit pedestrian, arrive like you’re the featured rapper in a music video ready to spit fire with Ibiza Delivers (www.ibizadelivers.com), a party-starting private water taxi sponsored by Perrier-Jouët for up to eight guests. The journey takes around 30 minutes. In summer, the La Bahía ferry runs along the coast, taking sun-seekers from La Savina for drop-offs at popular beaching spots.
Worth getting out of bed for
While its sister isle Ibiza became the locus for go-hard clubbing, Mallorca mightily cosmopolitan and Menorca a destination du jour, Formentera was sitting pretty outside the spotlight, and as such has stop-you-in-your-tracks scenery and blow-your-mind beaches that are relatively crowd-free. Migjorn Beach, the hotel’s headline act, is a 10km stretch of soft white sand lapped by gentle azure waters that are safe to swim and paddle in. The best way to experience it is at the hotel’s Beach Club, where there’s a steady stash of champagne, show-off DJs, a delightful Med menu and the option to book spa treatments. Aside from glamorous genetics, Migjorn’s also home to some cheery chiringuitos, wander-worthy trails through the fragrant pine forest at its edge and some parasol-shaded sunloungers for hotel guests. It’ll put you on quite a potent high, and if you want to keep the serotonin flowing, partake in one of the free sunrise yoga sessions held by the hotel’s very own guru Yiannis Mukta Om (private lessons available too). And, in season, see which renowned yogi will be leading the hotel’s wellness retreats. Hire of stand-up paddle-boarding equipment is included free in your room rate and for a charge kayaking can be arranged. Or you can take the hotel’s zippy e-bikes for a spin, an excellent and eco-friendly way of exploring the island. Keep your eyes peeled for the Circuitos Verdes (Green Routes), 40km of meandering paths that take you through the most soul-stirring landscapes. Or hoof it through the countryside on a steed from Club Hipica Can Savines. Charter a boat to go cove-hopping for the day, fish, dive through candy-coloured coral fields, or for a front seat to the sunset with champagne. With its whitewashed 18th-century buildings and formidable central church, Sant Francesc Xavier village feels like a time capsule and has some engaging museums. Follow in Bob Dylan’s footsteps (allegedly) and let the view of the Barbary coast from the Cap de Barbaria lighthouse inspire you, take in the colourful patchwork of salt flats at Ses Salines Natural Park, and for more beachy beauty, head north to Illetes Beach, a spit of smooth sand flanked by calm colourful waters.
There’s no need to stand on ceremony when it comes to dining in Formentera, even fine diners aren’t the tie-and-dress-shoe sorts, and some of the island’s best food can be found in the higgledy-piggledy chiringuitos along Migjorn Beach. Say, Chiringuito Pelayo, with its steaming paella pans; ramshackle, thatch-roofed Kiosko 62 for enchiladas, nachos and ham and cheese platters washed down with boozy lemonades; or Flipper & Chiller whose sand-dusted terrace has superlative views as you get stuck into crab-stuffed macaroni and sea-fresh catches – it’s owned by Nacho Vidal, a popular Spanish pornstar who pivoted to other hungers. Further inland, in picturesque pastoral landscapes, eateries get more romantic, such as A Mi Manera, where you can see the ingredients you’re eating grow around you in lantern-lit gardens; the menu is simple, with a focus on high-quality meat and whatever the day-boats bring in, but delicious. Elderly trees tower over the terrace at Can Carlos, and pan-European dishes elevate any date night, with suckling lamb, foie gras and plentiful pasta. You’ll spot Chezz Gerdi on the north coast thanks to its cherry-red VW van painted with peace signs. Fun and freewheeling, with live music some evenings, the only thing it’s very serious about is its food and cocktails – the artisanal pizzas are revelatory, its sushi flavourful and the king-crab bar crafts crustacea with aplomb. Pair with a Negroni Latino, a concoction of rum, port, vermouth and cinnamon, garnished with a bay leaf.
The Blue Bar, which is indeed painted in an Yves Klein-esque hue, was once frequented by the likes of Hendrix and Dylan, and Pink Floyd, who took to its stage; the current owners have kept up its ‘place to be’ rep – one half is DJ Kaya, whose breadth of musical influence makes for a top soundtrack. Further along the coast, Lucky Bar is teeny with few seats on its terrace, but it doesn’t stop punters piling in for budget-friendly beers, Aperol Spritzes and a friendly feel. Both bars are close to the hotel and Migjorn Beach.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this languidly elegant hotel by Migjorn Beach and shown off their newfound limberness (thank you, yogi Yiannis), a full account of their barefoot-luxury break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Gecko Hotel & Beach Club in Formentera…
You know what they say about holiday romances: they don’t last. So, watch yourself at Gecko Hotel because it has the kind of pinch-me setting that you can fall hard for. If the Maldives took a Spanish lover, the result might be Migjorn Beach, where ombré aquamarine waters meet soft white sands, unruffled green stretches and rocky outcrops. The typically low-rise Gecko (no view-blocking builds allowed here) could be righteously smug about the first-rate spot it’s settled in, but it’s far too laidback and courteous for that. It has harnessed the Fifties riviera energy of jet-setting A-listers in oversized sunglasses and infused it through the sort of friendly neighbourhood hangout where notching up spent mojitos and sleeping them off on a Bali bed or getting hands-on and messy at breezy summertime fish barbecues is encouraged. Erotic Picasso etchings on the walls and glazed bathrooms in rooms are further evidence of its playful side, a charismatic touch – alongside pergola-shaded patios and private plunge pools – amid neutral and nautical decor. Days here pass in an ecstatic haze of spirit-aligning sun salutations, lobster lunches, tan top-ups, bike sojourns offsite and sunset apéritifs, threaded through with those wow-moments that lie in wait to overwhelm you. Whether you’re breakfasting on the deck, pausing on your balcony, looking up from your lounging spot or getting momentarily distracted from a sizzling paella pan, there’s the zillion-carat blue that'll have you wistfully pining over pictures long after you’ve returned home. So, yes, summer loving happens so fast – all too fast – but with Gecko Hotel as your stalwart wingman for the wonders of Formentera, there’s always next year.