Mallorca (pronounced My-orca), also spelt Majorca, is the largest of the 4 main Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera) located off the eastern coast of Spain and absolutely BREATHTAKING! This 1,405 square-mile island is situated in the western Mediterranean Sea and is a popular tourist destination for Europeans, especially Germans in particular. We visited in September 2017 and the good news for us is that since tourism is the island’s greatest source of revenue, almost everyone on the island speaks multiple languages, with a universal language being English! While not many Americans visit Mallorca, many Europeans speak English as a second language, so it is a pretty universal language with which to communicate with….lucky us! Mallorca is a beautiful island that can provide just about any type of terrain that can thrive in a Mediterranean climate that you can think of…it has gorgeous sand beaches, pebble beaches, coves, caves, limestone cliffs, and rugged mountains. The island is a well-known travel destination for rock climbers due to its mountain peaks, limestone cliffs, and coves. Many famous climbers venture to Mallorca for its deep-water soloing locations, and the famous Es Pontas. Mallorca offers lots to do for adventurers and relaxers alike, and is one of the most beautiful islands we’ve ever visited! Keep reading to find out more about this amazing island, our favorite spots, and our best advice!
1.) Rent a car
- We knew that we wanted to explore the island a bit during our 5 days, so we rented a car that would give us the freedom to explore as we wanted. Because we had a car we were able to see so many different parts of this amazing island, and all on our own time and schedule! Pro Tip: if you’re planning on renting a car, DON’T rent from Gold Car. They are the cheapest option online, but have a bunch of hidden fees that you don’t know about until after it’s too late. The $15 insurance is not optional, and even if you purchased it online like we did they still make you purchase it in person from them. They also require a surprise $100 gas deposit, that, even if you return the car with a full tank of gas you only get $75 of that deposit back. Everyone in front of us in line was having the same issue with these surprise fees, which made the process long and tedious…it took forever to get our car, and they did not negotiate or compromise with us or anyone else in line at all. In the end, we ended up only renting this car for 2 days, and then we returned it and rented a car from Avis for the rest of our trip. We paid about $140 for 2 days at Gold Car, and $160 for 3 days with Avis and a lot less fuss. HIGHLY recommend getting a rental car for the freedom it offers, but don’t bother wasting your time with Gold Car 🙂
2.) Try all the Tapas
- Tapas are a traditional Spanish cuisine that usually refers to appetizers or snacks, although to be honest, it seems like really anything can be considered “tapas” these days. While they were traditionally appetizers or snacks, every restaurant does them differently, so it is a little tricky to figure out. Sometimes they really are appetizers and snacks, other times they are sides that are ordered alongside an entree, and other times you order several tapas to share and create a customized full meal on your own. The only thing that really seems consistent from restaurant to restaurant is the fact that they are small(ish), shareable portions. Our favorite tapas came from the restaurants that did them as mini entrees, so we created a full meal by ordering 5-6 tapas plates and sharing them all. This way allowed us to really try a lot of different Spanish specialties at one sitting without a.) getting too full, and b.) spending a ton of money! We didn’t have to make decisions about what to try or not try, we could try it all!
3.) Cala d’Or
- We spent our first 2 nights in Cala d’Or, which is on the southeastern coast of the island and about an hour from the airport in Palma. It probably would have been hard to get here without a rental car, so again, highly recommend going the rental car route! We opted to stay at a more budget-friendly hotel option (stay tuned for that post coming soon!). The main hub of the town is a super cute little downtown area full of shops and open-air restaurants…it actually reminded us a lot of Greece, except it was cuter and cleaner, just not on the water. That main hub there is the perfect place to stroll in the morning and grab a cappuccino or espresso on your way to the beach. If you see a “cafe delice” on any of the menus you HAVEto try it! Its half espresso and half condensed milk that you mix together and drink, but I’ve only ever seen it on the menu in Cala d’Or, so definitely give it a try if you can find it! I know it sounds gross, but don’t knock it ‘till you try it 🙂 We also did dinner in that main hub every night too, it’s a super fun little area where you just walk around and read menus that are displayed until you see something you like, or hop around and get drinks and tapas. Definitely don’t forget to stop for gelato….that became a nightly tradition for us 🙂 (Pro Tip: tipping isn’t a thing in Mallorca, in fact, when you pay by credit card there isn’t even a tipping option available, however, it does mean that concierge services like bellhops and valets aren’t a thing either).
- Even more important than the adorable downtown area with great food are the coves and beaches! Most of the beaches are pretty crowded due to the fact that the majority of the coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, so sand beaches are a hot commodity and fill up pretty quickly. The good news is that if you aren’t a fan of crowded beaches, you can almost always adventure along the limestone rock coves until you find a more secluded area. A lot of the coves have ladders that go right into the water so you don’t even have to jump if you don’t want to! Just make sure you have shoes with you, as the limestone can be pretty sharp. I was mostly fine in flip flops, it just requires some concentration. We checked out the coves at Cala d’Or Beach, and Cala Gran and were not disappointed! Absolutely STUNNING!
- We also took a 30 minute drive south down to Cala Llombards and found an even more secluded spot along the rocks after a little bit of hiking, with a great view of Es Pontas off in the distance too! We brought bread and cheese out with us and had a perfect little lunch right on the rocks by the water. The coves in general were all very similar but absolutely GORGEOUS! At all of them the beaches were crowded but we just hiked around until we found secluded spots. The gorgeous views of turquoise water and white limestone cliffs are just absolutely breathtaking!
- About 30 minutes north of Cala d’Or is Cala Varques. Again, very similar to the other beaches and coves that we had visited where the beach is small and crowded, but if you do a little hiking you can find your own spot free of other beachgoers! This one in particular had a super small parking area, so most people (including us) parked on the road and walked the 1 mile down the gravel road until we got to a large chained gate at the end of the road with an opening just big enough to squeeze through. From there you have to walk another 1/3 of a mile down a rock path through the woods to get to the beach. Once there, we did an additional ¼ mile walk around the beach up to the rocks that led to a secret cove on the other side of the beach that was basically empty. I think this ended up being our favorite cove that we visited due to it’s exclusivity and it’s cliff jumping! Andrew used to be a rock climber, so he loved trying the climbing spots and jumping off the cliffs. There were a few other climbers there who were deep water soloing around the caves and such. Word of caution though, there are jellyfish in the water that we were unaware of until it was too late…we realized they were there the hard way when I got surprised by one that left a 3-inch long rash for several weeks. As long as you’re looking for them though you should be fine! Other than the jellyfish, this was probably our favorite cove that we visited on this trip, so we highly recommend it!
4.) Es Pontas
- Es Pontas, or “the big bridge”, is Mallorca’s famous natural arch, which also happens to be the hardest deep water solo climb in the world, first ascended by Chris Sharma. The structure is absolutely breathtaking and pictures really don’t do it justice. It is pretty difficult to find if you don’t do your research ahead of time. We didn’t, and used a combination of road signs, a sometimes-working GPS, prayer, and lucky guesses until we miraculously found it. It probably isn’t that difficult to find if you know ahead of time to research it, and should only take about 30 minutes driving from Cala d’Or if you don’t get lost. Even getting lost thought it was still worth the trip; we stopped at a few other coves to explore along the way… sometimes getting lost isn’t a bad thing 🙂 (For those wondering, Es Pontas is located between Cala Santanyi and Cala Llombards. You’ll park outside what looks like a national park with a dirt path that you will walk along until you see the arch. You should see a sign or two along the way – it’s only a few minutes’ walk, not a hike). We ended up climbing straight down the cliff so that we could get in the water and swim to the arch, which was UNREAL! We didn’t fare too well on the climb, but there is a pretty sweet rope swing tied to the arch that is available to anyone who can get out there!
5.) Port de Soller
- Soller is located on the western coast of the Mallorca, and is about 1.5 hours away from Cala d’Or and 45 minutes away from the airport at Palma. It’s a super cute
little harbor town with lots to do. There are 2 lighthouses here…one, we found out the hard way, is a military base that is blocked off and closed to visitors (we didn’t find that out until we had walked over there to get in). The other one has a paved road that you can drive up or walk up to get to the top. The lighthouse itself is not accessible to the public, but there is a great view from the top and a restaurant up there if you’re interested. On the way down, I’d recommend stopping at the little café at the bottom of the path…the owner always has a great stash of Spanish wine 🙂 Soller’s main pedestrian road is car-free and runs right along the harbor with houses, shops, and restaurants, and is a great place to stroll and get drinks, tapas, and gelato. There is also a small rocky beach for the beach bums as well, although, to be honest, it was our least favorite beach and we didn’t spend any time on it. We DID spend a lot of time on our hotel balcony which had an absolutely MAGNIFICENT view…I mean, can you GET much better?! To see where we stayed in Soller with this view stay tuned for a post coming soon!
- I HIGHLY recommend driving to Soller and going the “long way” through the mountains. You can take a tunnel that goes through the mountains, but obviously, you miss out on the best part – the view! Winding through the mountain is absolutely incredible, and allows you to get the full Mallorcan experience…beach, coves, and cliffs!
- Cala Deia is a gorgeous little cove about 30 minutes from Soller that I would highly recommend making a pit stop at. The drive from Soller is absolutely gorgeous and runs through the incredible little Spanish town of Deia. The town looks like a picture from a magazine of a traditional Spanish town with its stone walls, shingled roofs, overflowing flowers, and Spanish homes. Even better is the cove with its small pebble beach and rock cliffs. I would suggest going early as the parking lot supposedly fills up and it gets trickier to drive down there once it gets crowded. The road down to the cove is a long narrow road with lots of switchbacks and tight turns that make it a little difficult if there’s a car coming the other way. Parking is only 2 euros for the day, which isn’t bad at all! We chose to forgo the small pebble beach and opted to follow a path through the woods that led to a rock cliff that we were able to climb all over and explore. It was only a 5 minute hike through the cliffs and woods to get to our secluded spot on the rocks…totally worth it!
- We spent our last night in Palma, the main city of Mallorca that also houses the airport. The city is thriving with culture and life and you definitely need to check it out! We aren’t big on cities, but this was a fun one….especially since there happens to be gelato on every street corner 😉 There are tons of shops and restaurants and cafes all over the main plaza, where you can find anything you want, it’s kind of like a mini NYC, but older and prettier. Plus, there are tons of little bonus alleys that you can explore and adventure all through the city, and really cool doors around every corner!
- The biggest attraction is Catedral de Mallorca, also known as “La Seu”. The huge gothic cathedral dates back to 1229 and is absolutely stunning. It was only a 15-20 minute walk from our hostel (again, post on where we stayed coming soon) and is totally worth it for the view of this magnificent building. You can tour the inside of the cathedral for about 7 euros per person, but we didn’t end up opting into the tour based on our limited amount of time. If you have time to I’d recommend trying it, but even without the inside tour the outside view is outstanding and definitely worth a trip!
Obviously, eating and drinking is a huge part of Spanish culture, check out some of these famous Spanish specialties!
- Paella – this is obvious, and honestly probably the best authentic Spanish cuisinewe had on our trip. Paella is a traditional dish made up of rice, spices, veggies, and meat. Most restaurants will have several different versions to choose from, usually they offer a traditional paella with chicken or beef, seafood, or a vegetarian option. Even if you try nothing else authentic, DEFINITELY try this one!
- Jamon – this is Spanish dry-cured ham that has been cured for up to 18 months and is served in thin slices, often on top of some type of bread. The two main types are jamon iberico, which is ham from a black Iberian pig, and jamon serrano, which is ham from a pig from the mountain range.
- Croquetas – these are the Spanish version of croquettes, which is essentially an American mozzarella stick, but instead of cheese, the inside is filled with jamon, chicken, or cod. The chosen filling is then bound with béchamel sauce or mashed potatoes, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. Croquetas are a common tapas option in most Spanish restaurants. (To be honest, these weren’t our favorites, we prefer the Greek version with cheese, but still worth trying!)
- Café delice – not sure if this is a Spanish thing or not, and we only found it in Cala d’Or, but this drink is AMAZING! I mentioned it above, but’s made up of espresso and condensed milk that you mix together, and worth a try!
- Espresso and cappuccino – these are a European staple, in fact, it’s hard to find regular coffee here sometimes, everyone just drinks cappuccinos or espressos! Not that we minded…. 😀
- Gelato – gelato shops are all over Mallorca and I was in heaven! We got gelato every night, with our favorites being hazelnut and coffee flavors. Since gelato actuallyoriginated from Italy I can’t classify it as an authentic Spanish specialty, but I definitely think it should be on your list to try! What’s not to love?!
- Tapas – as stated before, try all the tapas you can! It’ll give you an opportunity to try as much of Spain as you can!
- Beer/Wine/Sangria – like most of Europe, beer and wine are almost always cheaper (or at least the same price as water) at every meal, so we had beer and wine at every meal, not that we were complaining 😉 You can get both beer and wine for around 2-3 euros each, and I would highly recommend trying the local varieties!
- Gazpacho – we didn’t get a chance to try this, but from what we understand it a traditional Spanish red soup made of vegetables and served cold.
- Turron – we didn’t get a chance to try this either, but were told that it was a Spanish specialty. Apparently it is made up of honey, sugar, egg whites, and nuts and is shaped into a rectangle or round cake. It is typically served as a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain.
- Churros – we were super excited to try this Spanish fried dough treat that actually originated from Spain and we looked all over the island for them. We asked tons of locals who either couldn’t figure out what we were asking for (probably because my husband can’t roll his “r”’s correctly), or had no clue where we could find them…NOT a good sign. We FINALLY found them in a food truck in a mostly-deserted corner of Plaza Espana in Palma, near a children’s carnival area that had about 3 rides. They were wildly disappointing and I would recommend leaving the churros for mainland Spain since Mallorca is apparently not up to the typical Spanish churro standard 😉
**all opinions and photos are my own, for which I received no compensations or discounts.