Flailing around in foam after 14 pints and a dodgy E isn't everybody's idea of fun. But, according to Jane Bussmann, in Ibiza the party crowd gets bigger, and more boorish, every year. Photographs by David Pearson
Long before Radio 1 thought it had the right to be here, Ibiza was a party island. Local legend has it that, in Roman times, particularly successful soldiers would be rewarded with two weeks in Ibiza, and a galleon full of wine and women - the original Club 18-30 holiday.

In more recent times, Ibiza has been a refuge for every kind of rebel against straight culture - a colony of eccentrics, gays, Vietnam draft dodgers, free-loving followers of the Bhagwan and artists so useless nowhere else would have them. With this kind of guest list, it was just a matter of time before someone lit the blue touch paper on the party of the century. It all kicked off in the mid-Eighties in a club called Amnesia and the Grace Jones haunt, Pykes Hotel.

Like Paris at the turn of the century, Berlin in the Thirties and New York in the Seventies, Ibiza in the Eighties had something palpable going on. It was a blueprint for an enlightened society; the most tolerant - and therefore the most exciting - venue on the planet. While British nightclubs were hellholes full of Gary Davies's and Malibu, Amnesia was a temple of bacchanalian sophistication. Film stars mixed with Belgian transsexuals on rollerskates, 50-year-old men in silver basques, local dowagers with fluorescent hair, Freddie Mercury's entourage and someone who could have been Joan Crawford, apart from the codpiece and the 3ft-high platform shoes. In keeping with the island's Utopian philosophy, Amnesia had no VIP room, so an ordinary clubber could mingle with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Whitney Houston, Roman Polanski, James Hunt and the cast of Dynasty.

Ibiza has a special relationship with Britain, because Amnesia was the birthplace of acid house, that very British, hedonistic youth cult also based around visions of a Utopian society. Twelve years later, the ruthless profiteering of the Anglo-Spanish club organisations and the big tour companies has given this ideal world a battering, promoting the Ibizan experience as a one-dimensional pills 'n' booze bender.

Mercifully, the lager culture is still mostly contained within the beach resort of San Antonio, as shown in these photos. The heart of the island, the gay quarter of Ibiza Town, still has its exotic atmosphere. But only time will tell if Ibiza will remain a bolt hole for the eccentrics of Europe.

Jane Bussmann's book, `Once in a Lifetime: The Crazy Days of Acid House', is published by Virgin at pounds 9.99

Sea full of rubbish

Bacchus's ashtray? The detritus of hedonism in San Antonio Bay - and better quality water than served in most clubs. Note the glass with the slice of orange still in position.

Hippies with bongos

Cala de Benirras beach on the north of the island. Lager purgatory or bongo hell? The choice is yours. Luckily, hippies are so chilled that they are even less adventurous than the beer fiends, and they rarely move from their perches on a couple of beaches.

Outside Mamma Mia

It's 7am in San Antonio's West End, and this brave fighter has completed the disco pub tour. His "friends" have thoughtfully added ketchup warpaint to his face, in case, when he wakes up, he wants some to go with the chips strewn around him. Spend the night in San An and you will see the other legendary warriors in the battle against sobriety: Vomiting Boy, who can be found on his hands and knees studying the previous night's oily beans, and Crying Girlfriend, who is usually slung between her two friends' shoulders, her platform-shod feet dragging along the cobbles, dribble running down her chin as her friends recite the mantra: You're Too Good For Him.

Flyer girl in PVC

This glittery wench belongs to the troupes employed by the clubs to stalk the town at midnight, hunting stray clubbers to bring back to their masters. She's topless, but in the world of the performance parader, she's barely made an effort. On a good night it looks like Doctor Moreau forgot to lock the cages. Paraders emerge fully-formed from the back room of an anonymous beauty salon in the town. This peacock factory turns out anything from human zebras to 10ft red devils with large black appendages, sticking their black tongues out at families eating in restaurants. The back alleys of the gay quarter are sometimes haunted by one troupe painted dusky green, naked apart from papier mache snouts, like mournful fictitious beasts. Ibiza Town is where the wild things are.

Boy meets girl

If you haven't pulled, you're not in Ibiza. From chic transvestite bars to grubby beds-on-a-rota, the White Island is at it 24 hours a day. Here, the girls watch the boys watch the boys dressed as girls watch the world go by. But in a land where a vodka and lime leaves no change from a tenner, there's no such thing as a cheap date. Most of the disco pub casualties are guileless youngsters, much less experienced than they'd have you believe. Given a few days here, however, those with any spirit of adventure will have shed the innocence they couldn't get rid of in a car park back home.

On the menu

A restaurant in San Antonio advertising the quality exotic fare demanded by the British on holiday. Hidden in the olive groves of the inland valleys there are restaurants serving Michelin-standard fare - from some of the best seafood available anywhere in Spain to home- made tortellini dished up under the stars. But these restaurants stay hidden because they require a car, a credit card, and adventurous tastes. When you're hampered by youth, a tight budget and a hangover of catastrophic proportions, baked beans are a holiday essential.

San Antonio's Egg

The Egg is a landmark that indicates you are entering San Antonio, Ibiza's grim lager slum. This sculpture was specially designed to be still recognisable after 14 pints of out-of-date Heineken and an adulterated E. A holiday in San Antonio feels like a night in Bernard Manning's navel, and is without doubt the worst place in the world, unless you are 18, British and drunk, in which case you will have a fantastic time meeting other drunk British 18-year-olds with vestigial powers of speech, in traditional Olde-English, Iberian-theme pubs. The streets are packed with youngsters in boob tubes, bootleg Yves Saint Laurent shirts and plastic go-go boots, united by one thought: I'm going to teach my liver a lesson it won't remember.

On the dancefloor

A smiley club night in Amnesia, run by the Mancunian promoters Bugged Out. On "espuma" nights the place fills 3ft-deep with foam, and young Brits flail around like very drunk puppies in their first snowfall. These days, Amnesia has expanded from the intimate, open-air terrace of the Eighties into a fairly grim, anonymous industrial bunker. "The industrial look in Ibiza of all places," scoffs Alfredo, the Argentinian DJ credited with starting acid house here, "We don't have any industry."

If anything, Ibiza's industry is its nightlife. Where British roads have supermarket hoardings, this island has vast posters advertising club nights, aimed squarely at the young Brit pound.

Waiting for the bus

Bleary young faces after a night put on by Liverpool's club kaisers, Cream. In Britain you might catch a night bus home, but Ibiza has its own Disco Bus. The Disco Bus plays loud dance music as it trundles between the disco Meccas of Amnesia, Privilege, Pacha and Es Paradis. It all adds to the heightened atmosphere of a school journey.

Sweat it out

Less conscientious clubbers, who haven't been to bed in five days, may have to resort to desperate measures to sweat the stimulants out. Two step classes later and they still won't have tired themselves out. This is the only holiday destination where you will return home wafer-thin - unless you are a drug mule with several kilos of cocaine sewn into your buttocks. n