By Matt May
Majorca, or Mallorca, is the largest of the Balearic Islands and is one of the most popular Spanish destinations for holidaymakers from the UK, Germany and other northern European locations. The island of Majorca is located around 200 miles to the east of Valencia and is around a two and a half hour flight from most UK airports.
Due to its breath-taking scenery, beaches, coast line, and continual development, Majorca has been a popular destination for British and German tourists since the 1960's. The larger resorts such as Magaluf and Alcudia have been developed for younger clientele and have a thriving nightlife, whereas quieter resorts such as Pollensa attract older couples and families.
The north of the island is now easily accessible via the Ma-13 motorway which has reduced journey times from Palma Airport to resorts such as Alcudia to just over an hour.
The following is a "round the island" guide to help you choose which resort is the best choice for your Majorcan holiday.
As both the cultural and commercial centre of Majorca, Palma is a city rich in history and culture. Palma is not renowned as a beach resort, but there is a small beach at Portixol which is located around a 15 minute walk to the east of the cathedral. The best local beaches are at Cala Mayor or C'an Pastilla.
The city has origins dating back to Roman times and the Old Quarter is has many historic buildings. Palma Cathedral which overlooks the sea is the most prominent building in Palma and is open to the public.
The commercial district of Palma has a wealth of designer shops and retail outlets where it is easy to spend your holiday money in a hurry.
The nightlife of Palma is vibrant (especially in summer) with many bars, restaurants, and clubs located in the El Terreno district of town.
The first town located to the east of Palma, C'an Pastilla is more like a suburb of Palma than its own resort town making it a great base for those who want to enjoy the activity of Palma without actually residing within it. Given the fact that it was the first major 'British' holiday destination on Majorca it is still dominated by British tourism with plenty of pubs and cuisine to match. The town itself is very small and consists of a cobbled main which leads to the marina. On the western edge of town is a 2km stretch of beach that is known as the Playa de Palma which meets up with the Arenal promenade allowing for easy access between the two tourist locations. The only downside of C'an Pastilla is that in recent years the beach in some areas has become quite littered so those looking for unspoiled areas of Majorca perfection may want to head elsewhere.
Located about 15km from Palma on the southwest shores of Majorca is the huge resort of Magaluf. Magaluf has a rather tarnished reputation due to the somewhat rowdy nightlife in summertime. However, as a younger person's destination the resort is the ideal location for 18-30s holidays, hen parties, stag nights and the like with lively entertainment available throughout the night, particularly in summer.
Next door to Magaluf is the twin beach resort of Palma Nova. In general Palma Nova tends to be a little quieter than Magaluf, but not by much! Palma Nova is a vibrant and active holiday resort with a thriving nightlife, especially from May to September.
It should be noted that during the off-season when the tourists head home for the summer the dynamic of the town completely changes with many middle-aged couples enjoying the serenity of the area and the pleasantly warm sunshine that can be found on many days in winter. The beaches are kept tidy due to strict drink laws and the banning of alcohol in any form on the beach and there are plenty of shops and restaurants to be found throughout the town and the promenade which links Palma Nova with Magaluf as mentioned earlier.
Originally Paguera was a small German resort but has recently become more popular with the British. Paguera is a relatively quiet resort which is ideal for families with small children due to the long sandy beach which doesn't get deep too quickly so is safe for young children.
There is a glass-bottom boat which allows visitors a glimpse of some of the homes of the many celebrities who have houses in the neighbouring exclusive Puerto de Andratx hillsides.
If you are looking for somewhere a little different on the island, then why not try the historic town of Soller which is located a few kilometres inland on the rugged north western edge of Majorca in the hills. Soller offers a quiet respite from the busier resorts of the island and gives a flavour of traditional Majorcan life.
If you want to visit Soller from Palma, there is a fantastic old train (Tren de Soller) which has been running the route since 1912. Train enthusiasts will love the old carriages and you get to see some fantastic inland Majorcan scenery along the way.
For more information see the Soller Railway website. There is also a tram service which runs the 5km from the old town down to Port de Soller.
Soller is very popular with walkers as there are coastal routes towards the port (Port de Soller) and inland mountainous routes which attract hikers from around Europe. Due to Majorca's warm climate, the best months for walking are the cooler months between October and May.
The north of Majorca is home to some of the most rugged and spectacular scenery on the island making the area especially popular with walkers and nature lovers.
Cala San Vicente is a small, fairly quiet resort which offers a great base for walkers set in a picturesque bay. The resort is especially popular with families and older couples, many who visit in the later months of the year and springtime.
Situated in the far north western corner of Majorca is the popular resort of Puerto Pollensa. The resort has a reputation for being exclusive, but has some affordable hotels and some of the best beaches on the island. Puerto Pollensa is about an hour and a half to two hour drive from Palma airport. About five kilometres away from the port is the ancient town of Pollensa complete with narrow streets and plenty of ancient architectural treats.
Puerto Pollensa bay nowadays is the home to luxury yachts, with local fishing boats slowly disappearing as every year passes but there are still some natural beaches spread out throughout the bay area including an artificial one, which offers plenty of water sports and facilities. Due to the fact that the bay waters are shallow, Puerto Pollensa is popular with families with young children.
During the holiday summer months finding pavement cafes, shops, and bars is easy although towards the end October many will close for the winter. The resort is about ten minutes away from Alcudia where you can find mini-golf, karting tracks, and the popular Hidropark waterpark.
Situated on the eastern side of Majorca near the Alcudia Bay, C'an Picafort is a popular German resort, with many of the the restaurants and pubs catering to German tastes.
The eastern edge of town has a popular beach and a promenade that is lined with bars and restaurants as well as being a functional fishing harbour. There are two beaches within the resort limits but the best it to its eastern corner where there is also a nature reserve.
Alcudia is a popular family resort with a good range of shops, bars and restaurants as well as a huge sandy beach. Although Alcudia is around 1 hours drive from the airport, the route is easy if you have a hire car. Alcudia like many Spanish towns has the resort area built around the old fishing village and port, and an old town (Centro Historico) inland.
In the Old Town you can enter through the old Gates built during the 2nd century BC by the Romans and then explore the many historical sites via a two hour guided tour. To the west of this area is where you will find the resorts that lay along the Bay of Alcudia. The coastal line reaches 8m until the edge of Playa de Muro and offers plenty of white clean sandy beaches complete with shallow water and plenty of beach cafes and bars. While there is evening nightlife, most of it is located in the resort hotels making it a great location for quieter holidays.
Located to the south west of Majorca, Andratx is an up-market resort which has one of the most picturesque and quintessentially Spanish harbours on the island. Part of the appeal of Andratx is that it hasn't been as over-developed as many of the other Majorcan resorts. Andratx is a haven for small designer outlets including chic clothes shops, art galleries, craft shops, small interior design outlets and other boutiques.
The main downside to Andratx is that it lacks a real sandy beach but three miles down the coast is the Camp de Mar beach so the resort town is still a great base for your holiday if you have a rental car.
The relatively quiet resort of Cala Bona is the perfect way to escape from the bustle of everyday life. Cala Bona is a traditional fishing village rather than a resort, but has been partially developed to cater for the tourist influx. The picturesque marina is the "tourist central", with hotels, bars, shops and restaurants built around some of Majorca's most prestigious moorings.
If the beach is an important part of your holiday, then be prepared to visit neighbouring Cala Millor or choose a different resort.
Located next to and within walking distance of Cala Bona, Cala Millor is the largest resort on the east coast of Majorca and is more "up-market" than many of the resorts such as Alcudia, Arenal and (of course) Magaluf.
The beach at Cala Millor is sandy and the waters shallow which makes the resort very popular with families.
Cala Millor has a large selection of shops and every Friday there is a local market.
One of the most popular resorts on the east coast of Majorca is Cala d'Or. The town has a number of small beaches nestling in coves around the resort, but within walking distance of the tourist centre. One of the most popular with children and families is Cala Gran which has very warm waters as it is sheltered in an attractive bay.
Like all the resorts, in summer (July, August) the beaches are very busy and due to the small sizes of the beaches it can get a bit crowded, but by mid-September there is plenty of room on the beaches and the water is still warm. The water in most of Majorca is still swimmable until late October on warm days.
If you are looking for a busy, but not too lively resort close to Palma airport then look no further than C'an Pastilla. The nightlife is fairly sedate, and activity is centred on the harbour area which is surrounded by bars and restaurants. If you are looking for nightclubs then read on as El Arenal would be a better choice.
Although ease of access to the airport is a major plus, expect a bit of disturbance from the many aircraft that fly in over the resort. C'an Pastilla is a short walk from the neighbouring Playa de Palma resort which is a quieter option.
Playa de Palma (Palma beach) resort is found next to Palma Airport, so transfer times are negligible which may be a factor, especially if you are not planning to rent a car. The resort is very close to the larger C'an Pastilla resort which offers a wider range of shops, clubs, bars and restaurants. There is a mini train which interconnects Playa de Palma with both C'an Pastilla and Arenal, making it easy to move between the trio of resorts.
The lively resort of El Arenal is located a few kilometres to the east of Palma and comprises of a resort built alongside a long sandy beach and an attractive marina. If you are looking for a thriving nightlife (during the summer months at least), and want to stay close to the airport, then El Arenal should be ideal. There is a mini train which connects El Arenal with Playa de Palma and C'an Pastilla to the west.
The Aqualand Waterpark with a number of impressive slides will be a sensation for the kids - the park opens in May and closes at the end of September.
If you require a larger vehicle, Blue Valley Car Hire provide 9 seat self-drive minibus rental at airports throughout Europe.