Ports of Call: The Balearic Islands
As we ease away eastward from Sunseeker’s Mallorcan base in Port Adriano, near the island’s capital of Palma, the dart-like hull of our Predator 57 seems to snarl through the waves, rather than slip through them. The water here is soupy green but soon turns royal blue as we race along the coast past a fishing boat or two on our hour-long journey past Palma to Es Trenc, a long strip of beach popular with locals. The ride is silky smooth, any choppiness being ironed flat by the pressure of our considerable hull.
Shaft-drive Volvo Penta 900 engines produce a lot of power below the surface and while our cruising speed is an easy 22 knots, you can sense the boat itching to add another 10 to that. “I like open boats,” says our captain, James Sinclair, as the roof retracts to let the cloudless sky in. “And this is a very dry boat – no spray. I delivered one of these from Poole to Portsmouth in strong winds with a following sea and we were doing 25 knots without any trouble at all – other boats would have been doing 12 or 13.”
When we arrive at Es Trenc, the tender takes us in and we eat at a wooden-board restaurant where the sangria is sweet and strong and the seafood paella is spiced to perfection. The shallow, turquoise waters often reminds visitors of the Caribbean but Es Trenc’s greatest draw is its isolation – you feel as though you’ve discovered it yourself for the first time, a secret that no one else knows about. Mallorca is so often the victim of its own success with clumsy hotels plonked on every grain of sand yet Es Trenc is happily devoid of this modern plague and has now been designated a national park which means the hordes won’t be descending any time soon.
If you are looking for greenery and more verdant scenes, a day’s cruising will take you up to the northern tip of the island, Cape Formentor, which is held to be the most beautiful coastline on Mallorca; the pine trees almost meet the water as it slips up the white sand. But if you feel the need to beat a retreat back to civilisation for the night, it’s best to press on around the island to put in at Port de Soller; a word of caution here, large yachts could struggle to find a berth in the medium-sized marina but you can always anchor offshore.
Five minutes’ walk up a fairly steep hill from your berth and you’re in the relaxed splendour of the Jumeirah hotel enjoying the commanding views of the town and harbour below. As I sit down to dinner, the setting sun lights up skiffs drifting by this beautiful backdrop. But closer still, right under my nose, the most enormous fried prawn is lying on a bed of liquid-soft prawn carpaccio. It has been selected for me by Jesus, the chef in charge of the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant, as the centrepiece of a tasting menu that takes in local Iberian ham infused with a sweet thyme and lemon sauce, soft and rich lamb in beef stock, and more exotic touches such as a passion fruit sorbet. This extraordinary feast is being washed down with the local Binissalem red wine, derived from Manto Negro grapes via a viticulture process developed by the Moors nearly a 1,000 years ago. It’s had a little time to mature and it is quite delicious. There’s fun to be had taking the old wooden tram from the marina to the town of Soller, which lies a few miles inland. This is a pleasant place to have lunch and boasts what must be Europe’s most surrealist train station hosting as it does a small museum of works by the leading surrealist artists Joan Mirò and Pablo Picasso. Mirò’s grandmother lived in Soller and you wonder if she is one of the figures in his painting Femmes Sur La Plage, with its abstracted waves and humanoids that seem to be running to the sea and shrinking from it at the same time. A little girl to my right seems equally uncertain about the picture, screwing up one eye to view it better, then attempting to look at it upside down. Maybe it helps.
There’s high culture in Deia too, a few miles along the coast. Drop anchor in the village’s natural harbour and you can swim on the beach where Robert Graves, the British author best known for his novel I, Claudius, swam daily for half a century. It’s a 20-minute walk up to his house where you can see his study, lined with the books of the last century.
Mallorca, of course, has two little brothers in the string of pearls that form the Balearic Islands. To the north is tranquil Menorca, much like Mallorca with pleasant cruising to pretty towns and quiet harbours, near-deserted beaches to swim in and seafood restaurants to while away the evenings in; it is a magnet for those who want to see the landscape at its most natural. But to the south of Mallorca lies the wild child of the family, always out late and making the neighbours roll their eyes. Ibiza: party capital of Spain. Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll see another side to this island.
A day’s motoring from Port Adriano, put in at the plush Santa Eulalia del Rio on Ibiza’s eastern side where the marina, with a little under 800 berths, has a Sunseeker dealership and full service workshop. The town also has a huge range of restaurants if you’re considering stopping off to eat, otherwise a few minutes’ drive away you’ll be at the five-star seafront ME Ibiza hotel which has its own quay for tenders and small boats. The hotel has a lively vibe, in keeping with the island’s reputation; the DJ by the pool plays until midnight.
Mornings are punctuated by yoga sessions, including anti-gravity yoga practised like a circus performer in a silk hammock (my best moment: performing a smooth back flip supported by the material and the charming instructor, Sonia). Santa Eulalia is an oasis of tranuillity which is perfect if that’s what you’re after. However, for excitement you need to head just a little south to Ibiza Town. The VIP life here is centred on Marina Botafoch with more than 400 berths up to 30m. Part of the Port of Ibiza, Botafoch alone has 60 bars, boutiques and maritime suppliers including Sunseeker. I make it in time for breakfast and there is nothing better than enjoying the Organic Market cafe’s ricotta and honey pancakes while gazing across the bay to Ibiza’s old town, a hilltop citadel surrounded by golden-brown walls. The contrast with the sleek white and silver yachts between us is something that should be painted. After breakfast, I set out to climb the citadel. Through a maze of steep cobbled streets, past the Columbus House, which tells of the Ibizan origins of that great Genoan navigator, through a little street of restaurants offering local Serrano ham and hardy manchego cheese, I finally arrive at the prize: the cathedral of Saint Mary. It is simple on the outside and has an elegant interior – all the better to show off the beauty of the altarpiece, a statue of the Madonna and child under a cupola held aloft by four white Doric columns.
Back at the marina, the confusingly named It is arguably the island’s best restaurant. Southern Italian cuisine is prepared by double-Michelin-starred chef Gennarino Esposito to be enjoyed slowly in the right maritime atmosphere. The restaurant’s attached club lounge is the place to sip a cocktail afterwards – talented DJs without the manic vibe of Ibiza’s mega-clubs. After all that, if you’re pining to get away from it all, Ibiza’s outlying island of Formentera, just half an hour’s motoring from Port of Ibiza, is lovely for a day’s cruising, or an overnight trip. As we motor, my guide takes great delight in pointing out a rocky outcrop where the bodies of executed criminals were once displayed in order to warn off pirates and invaders. Formentera is an altogether simpler affair than Ibiza with its many five-star hotels. Instead, here you have pretty village squares and whitewashed churches. That said, the four-star hotel Es Marès, near the island port, is friendly and more than comfortable and its quiet spa is a lovely place to unwind. A day-long circuit around the island will take you to unspoilt beaches such as the wild and natural south-facing Es Migjorn. This is a place to anchor, cook in the galley and then go ashore for drinks on the three-and-a-half miles of white sand where you might be the only bodies soaking up the sun.
The Balearic Islands is a mecca of chilled beach clubs, top hotels and restaurants and lively bars. Here are just some of our favourites.
BEACH CLUB GRAN FOLIES
Few other places on Mallorca enjoy such a lush location and lovely laid-back atmosphere as the Gran Folies. Located in the Cala Llamp near Port Andratx, the beach club offers the perfect setting for a lazy day by the saltwater pool. Finish the day with a well deserved cocktail at the lively bar.
The Anchorage is a real sub-tropical oasis. Surrounded by three beaches and sheltered by a bay, this is the perfect place to drop anchor and unwind while the children enjoy the many activities the hotel has to offer. Take a stroll in the shade of the sublime gardens and finish the day with dinner on the stunning terrace.
Hotel Cap Rocat
A former military fortress located in the most secluded area of the bay of Palma de Mallorca. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of The Sea Club restaurant at the hotel, and feast al fresco fresh fish with the backdrop of beautiful surroundings.
Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa
Set in glorious natural surroundings, this is the ideal place to discover the charming Port de Soller. Take a trip on the historic tram and enjoy the views of the beautiful orange groves and the Tramuntana Mountain range, or simply unwind and rejuvenate in the hotel’s luxury Talise spa.
Cova d’en Xoroi
Enjoy a fun-filled evening at this unique cave bar and club. Built into the rocks at the southern resort of Cala en Porter, Cova d’en Xoroi is the perfect place to see the sunset and dance the night away.
Located on Playa d’en Bossa, Beachouse offers an excellent juice bar and is a sought-after spot for a traditional, Italian-style lunch. Afterwards, relax with an invigorating massage while the kids play in the ‘Little Beachouse’.
Blue Marlin Ibiza
One of Ibiza’s most famous beach clubs, the Blue Marlin is located on the beautiful bay of Cala Jondal, in the south of Ibiza. With an impressive menu of both food and events this is the place to see and be seen during the summer months.
Located within the Marina Botafotch promenade, it is a synergy of Italian style, fashion and beauty. Soak up the elegant atmosphere with a cocktail or indulge in the exquisite Mediterranean cuisine, which is meticulously prepared by the Michelin-star chef, Gennarino Esposito.
Nestled within a secluded bay and surrounded by turquoise waters, ME is a luxurious haven. In which to enjoy picturesque views, extravagant cocktails and delicious cuisine. Sophisticated and elegant, ME is a tranquil escape from Ibiza’s thriving nightlife.
Restaurante Juan y Andrea
Join the in-crowd as they sip on chilled Rosé at lunchtime on the terrace of this iconic beach restaurant.
Located on Illetes, one of the best beaches in the world, this is a Balearic must-go.
Also on Illetes, Beso Beach is the perfect spot for a lively lunch in the shade of a palm-lined roof. Take a seat at one of their long tables and dig into the world-famous paella.
Es Marès Hotel & Spa
Set in serene natural surroundings; Es Marès is a small and distinguished family business. A stay here is an adventure of the senses through Formentera’s traditions, architecture, culture and gastronomy.