EIVISSA, Spain -- When I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I close my eyes and imagine I'm in my cheerful yellow room at the Hotel Hacienda on Ibiza, with a Jacuzzi and a terra cotta-tiled terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. Then I relax. It's surprising that such a small island can have such a large hold on my psyche, but it does.
One of the southernmost Balearic Islands off Spain's east coast, Ibiza has the lazy energy of a seal basking in the sun. Having survived centuries of invasions and name changes -- from the Phoenicians, through barbarian, Byzantine, Arab, and Catalan rule -- Ibiza survives now on tourism, with a languorous hospitality.
''Our main export is sunburns," said a shopkeeper in Eivissa (the Catalan name of the capital city, as well as the island). ''In the near past it was potatoes. In the far past it was salt."
There is certainly not much farming anymore -- but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ibiza may be small, measuring only 25 miles long and 12 miles wide, but it has not been overbuilt. And there's enough variety in the five municipalities that travelers can easily find what they want, whether it's a ''foam party" at an after-hours club in Sant Antonio or a dish of grilled shrimp near some fishermen's shacks at a quiet cove in Sant Josep de Sa Talaia.
The island is a beach lover's paradise. The coastline is fringed with 56 beaches, some long and sandy stretches, some no more than tiny coves. The water is a luminous turquoise because of a vast plain of seaweed called Neptune grass, one of the largest seaweed beds along the Mediterranean, that helps oxygenate and clean the water. The rest of the island is green and lush, with an average yearly temperature of 65 degrees and a fair amount of humidity. Parts of the island are hilly, though the highest point is only 1,550 feet above the sea.
But Ibiza is more than just a playpen of sand and sea. In the historic quarter of the town of Eivissa, the fortified Dalt Vila (Upper Town) was declared a World Heritage site in 1999. Surrounded by a wall that dates to the 16th century, this town within a town rises through a maze of streets that lead to a 14th-century cathedral on the top of a hill. It's worth a walk to the summit for the view alone, a sweeping vista of the southern coast, including the town's harbor, and mountains in the distance.
Also within the old town walls is the archeological museum. Through winding corridors that connect three galleries distinctly different in architectural style, the museum presents a history of the island (and its neighbor Formentera) that covers 3,000 years, from prehistory through the Phoenician colonization, and on through Roman and Islamic times.
History buffs may also want to visit the nearby Puig des Molins Necropolis, or city of the dead, where as long ago as the seventh century BC the Phoenicians buried urns of cremated remains. Located on a small plot of land in a residential neighborhood, the site could easily be overlooked. According to the curator, Benjamin Costa, the necropolis is ''the only Phoenician and Punic burial site intact in the world." Last spring, the adjacent museum was being restored, but it was possible to climb down into the ancient burial chambers where a number of sarcophagi from the fifth century BC to the first century AD are intact.
Sant Eulalia is the second-largest town on the island. Preferred by an older and upscale crowd, it stays warmer in winter because of mountains that protect it from the wind. A spiffy promenade rims the long beach, running past the port where yachts and sailboats rest and alongside hotels, restaurants, and shops. From here you can climb a winding street to the Puig de Missa, a church-fortress from the 16th through 18th centuries.
Also nearby, the Ethnological Museum of Ibiza is worth a visit. Located in a typical rural farmhouse, it has an exhibition that includes artifacts from Roman times to the 18th century, including household objects, tools, musical instruments, clothes, and jewelry.
To fully appreciate the laid-back spirit of the island, head inland to Las Dalias, the hippie market that has been flourishing every Saturday for five decades in San Carlos. There, vendors hawk everything you need to satisfy your inner flower child, including silver jewelry, glass beads, rope-soled shoes, Indian blouses, serapes, and satchels with tiny round mirrors embroidered in the surface. This may sound like Cambridge, but it's not, as you can't find a tent in Harvard Square where tea and sweets are served on Oriental rugs while a DJ mixes world music tunes and a woman dances as she swirls colorful scarves.
As for my psychic balm, the Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena sits on a northernwest cliff embraced by Mediterranean pines. It was here, 30 years ago, that Daniel Lipszyc, an architect from Belgium, hiked with his son Alvar, who, with his wife, Sabine, runs the hotel today.
''It took us two hours to hike here through the forest from San Miguel," Alvar Lipszyc said. ''When my dad saw the view from this spot, he said, 'I need to share this emotion with other people.' "
He certainly does.
My only regret about this trip to Ibiza was that I couldn't stay longer. But I visit often -- when I close my eyes.
Necee Regis is a freelance writer who lives in Boston and Miami Beach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.