After an inquiry from one of my esteemed blog followers, regarding the back story to the Catalina Hotel, located on a privileged, front line site on the sunset strip of San Antonio, I feel now is a good time to tell it. The building is one of the most sought after properties on the island, due to its location and potential but beware, like much of Ibiza, it has a very interesting history. It was the first Hotel built on what is now the famous Sunset Strip around 1957, just when Spain was starting to implement Franco’s mass tourism model. The building to its North side, (now part of Cafe Del Mar), was called Hostal Marilina and the distinctive tower to its south, was the Faro Pension, also know as Casa Pons (now Fresh Ibiza). In 1964 the owners started to build the high rise extension behind Hotel Catalina, to cater to Franco’s mass tourism idea, designed to put Spain back to work.
When the Valdes family sold up and retired, the Hotel came into the ownership of the notorious pirate Hotelier, Fernndo Ferre Cardo, who infamously built the Grupo Playa Sol (GPS) Empire, from one hotel to seventy two, using only cash and cheap, black market employees. He never held a bank account and used to write his contracts in the Czech language, so people could not understand them. He was arrested for corruption and workers rights abuse in 2010 and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014, with the trial becoming quite the scandal in Ibiza, involving senior politicians and the Banco Popular. It is because of this tangled web of lies, deception and forgery, that Hotel Catalina remains closed today, rotting away and proving an unwanted eye sore on the strip.
The Catalina was used as a Guardia Civil barracks after its closure, as squatters were breaking into the property at a time when squatter rights laws in Spain were very relaxed, not like they are today. When I was speaking to a potential buyer of the Hotel a few years ago, I was informed that GPS made a number of changes to the interior of the Hotel that had no permission and were not licenced legally. This problem is one of the reasons why I think, the property has not come up for sale yet. There are probably a few political skeletons waiting to come out of the Catalina closet if it goes back on the market, so for some, its best that it remains idle. The Mambo Group now own what was the original pension Catalina, founded by the Valdes family way back in 1956 and today its re-branded as Savannah. So next time you pass by the old Hotel Catalina, take a minute to appreciate the building as a monument to the old buccaneering pirate days of doing business in Ibiza.