Under sail among the pearls of the Mediterranean

Our tips on cities, sights, natural beauty and excursions on the yachting islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza.

The Balearic Islands are much more than just a party destination. Discover their hidden coves, amazing hiking trails, delicious Mediterranean cuisine, stunning landscapes and hippie history. All from the deck of your boat, of course.

The Balearics were once a haven for European hippies who came to these Mediterranean islands in search of paradise. With literally hundreds of beautiful bays, mountains and picturesque towns, this area has everything a sailor could possibly want of a sailing holiday. Expect milder temperatures all year round, a relatively calm ocean, and stunning landscapes, beaches and harbours.

Who will enjoy sailing in the Balearic Islands?

The sailing conditions here are ideal for novice skippers who want to sail on their own for the first time on a charter yacht, but also for experienced sailors who want to enjoy sailing further offshore from land. In addition, the islands also boast a great diversity with each one offering something unique to captivate you.

Apart from the occasional tight manoeuvres in some narrow bays, the coastal areas of the Balearic Islands are not too challenging for sailors. Mallorca in particular has an excellent maritime infrastructure with more than 80 anchorage bays along its 550 km long coastline.

sailing boats and sailboats in a turquoise cove by the rocks on the island of Mallorca

Cala Sa Nau bay in the southeast of Mallorca

Mallorca: From the Pearl of the Mediterranean to the Cape Formentor Lighthouse

Mallorca is the biggest island of the archipelago, with its capital Palma serving as the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. From June to September, Mallorca can get rather busy due to its widespread appeal, but there are still ways to get away from the crowds. The picturesque island of Mallorca has several hidden treasures that only locals or well-informed visitors are familiar with.

The most beautiful towns and hidden spots of Mallorca

Make sure not to miss out on the capital city, Palma de Mallorca. It is one of the liveliest cities in Europe, boasting authentic Mediterranean charm. With its breathtaking cathedral, bustling nightlife, and numerous impressive marinas, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.

The city of Palma, also known as the pearl of the Mediterranean, has changed considerably in recent years. The Mediterranean atmosphere attracts thousands of visitors and can be felt on every corner. Small boutiques and shops line the narrow streets around the Plaza Mayor, while the main streets of Palma are lined with chic brands from the world of fashion.

Aerial view of La Seu, the Gothic medieval cathedral in Palma de Mallorca, Spain

The medieval Gothic cathedral of La Seu in the capital of Palma de Mallorca

Puerto Portals is Mallorca's glamour hotspot, with its luxury yachts, first-class restaurants and a range of top international brands. It is one of the island's most exciting spots where, especially in summer, you can catch a glimpse of such famous faces as Paris Hilton, Jim Carrey, Jenson Button and Bill Gates. The harbour boasts over 650 berths, and is a popular destination for members of high society to moor their sleek boats. The area surrounding the harbour is filled with designer boutiques, top real estate and yacht agents, and a variety of places to relax and enjoy a drink or a bite to eat.

No visit to the northern part of Mallorca is complete without heading to the northern tip of the island — Cape de Formentor, where the Serra de Tramuntana meets the Mediterranean at the end of a 20-kilometre-long peninsula. The scenery along this dramatic route is undeniably spectacular. Although the lighthouse itself isn't accessible to visitors, the surrounding area offers breathtaking views of this untamed and rugged location. The white sandy beach, framed by pine trees, is one of the most exquisite on the island.

Cap de Formentor lighthouse on the Spanish Balearic Islands of Mallorca at sunset

Cap de Formentor Lighthouse

Sóller is one of Mallorca's most stunning towns, which has undergone extensive refurbishments to its harbour in recent years. The town is a haven for hikers, cyclists, gourmands, and those seeking a sought-after retreat. The region's wealth is due to the flourishing citrus groves in the valley. A popular excursion is to take a journey on an old wooden train to Sóller, which follows a 28km narrow gauge line that was opened in 1911 to transport fruit to Palma. There's also a frequent tram line that passes through the citrus groves, offering a delightful way to explore the area.

The small coastal village of Deià on the north-west coast of Mallorca is one of the prettiest villages on the island. The village has long been a magnet for famous artists, writers and other creative people. There are some interesting little boutiques, galleries and shops, and plenty of places to eat and drink — including the Michelin-starred Es Racó d'Es Teix. A twenty-minute walk from the village takes you to Cala Deià, a small rocky cove with a pebbly beach and beach restaurants famous for their fish.

For lovers of the mountains, Serra de Tramuntana is the place to be and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.

The rocky mountains of Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca with a mountain lake

YACHTING.COM TIP: Take a look at our three sailing route recommendations in our guide — The Balearic Islands: discover Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza from the deck of a boat. One trip around Mallorca and Mallorca-Ibiza and Mallorca-Menorca routes. 

Treat yourself to a gourmet paradise in Mallorca

There's nothing quite like sailing a yacht around the coast of Mallorca, and there are many fabulous waterfront restaurants dotted around the island that are easy to reach from the water for lunch or dinner.

Whether you choose to anchor in a secluded bay, find a buoy or rent a temporary mooring in the harbour, the options are plentiful.

If you're in the town of Deià, be sure to visit Ca's Patró March, made famous by appearing on the BBC series "The Night Manager" in 2016. Its secluded location, rustic interior and menu of the freshest seafood make it the best meal by the water.

In the same location, high up on the cliffs, is Sa Foradada, a no-frills establishment famous for its paella, which is prepared over an open wood fire.

The most talked about beach club on the island is Nikki Beach, a place to go for a lively atmosphere while dining alongside the beautiful, rich and famous. It's no problem to drop anchor in the sheltered bay of Calvià Beach, where Nikki Beach offers a water taxi service to and from your boat. When choosing your meal, be sure to check out the sushi boats.

Menorca: indulge in 3,000-year-old traditions

Menorca is probably the best choice if you want to escape the crowds. It's large enough and full of nice spots to explore, but not as crowded as Mallorca or Ibiza.

Menorca is definitely an island for sailors who would like to spend a quiet holiday on a sailboat and most travellers are drawn to there by its dreamy beaches and family atmosphere. Menorca is a destination steeped in a rich history, shaped by enigmatic ancient settlers and various foreign powers. The island has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1993, showcasing the region's commitment to preserving its natural environment and biodiversity. Menorca serves as a model for conservation, with extensive areas of pristine nature to be discovered on both land and sea.

The beautiful beach of Cala Macarella, Menorca Island, Spain. Sailing boat in the bay.

Cala Macarella beach on the south coast of Menorca

YACHTING.COM TIP: Prior to embarking on your island cruise, we advise familiarising yourself with the potential impact of weather and natural forces. Learn about the winds in the Mediterranean and find out how to harness the ocean currents in the Mediterranean to your advantage.

Where to go and what to experience in Menorca

Ciutadella, once the island's capital, is located in the very west of Menorca, with a small natural harbour directly adjacent to the medieval town centre. Getting lost in the maze of narrow cobbled streets is a joy, but don't forget to check out the magnificent 14th-century cathedral on the Placa des Born.

A visit to Menorca wouldn't be complete without embarking on a time-traveling journey along the Talayotic route. With over 1,500 monuments dispersed across the island's relatively compact size, Menorca essentially functions as an open-air museum showcasing the Iron Age Talayotic civilization that once thrived there over three millennia ago. Spectacular stone structures can be found in every corner of the island, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the ancient history and culture of this unique destination.

Don't miss a tour of the vineyards. Although the island's original wineries were devastated by phylloxera in the 19th century, this ancient tradition has been revived in recent years. 

Ciutadella Menorca marina Port sunset town hall and cathedral of the balearic islands

Marina in Ciutadella

For those seeking a change of scenery, a climb up Monte Toro — the highest peak on the island, rising over 350 metres — is a must. Monte Toro is considered the spiritual core of Menorca and has been a destination for pilgrims for centuries. Its peak is still dominated by a 17th-century monastery, which now includes a restaurant, offering visitors the opportunity to savor both the stunning panoramic views and the delicious local cuisine.

If ports interest you, be sure to check out Mahon, a prized naval base fought over by empires from the Romans to the French. Mahón is the capital of Menorca, the birthplace of mayonnaise and the second deepest natural harbour in the world. It is ideal for a day visit. Be sure to explore the old town, which is a colourful mix of colonial architecture, military fortifications and slightly cosmopolitan culture. The winding cobbled streets are best explored with a guide, while a cruise on the water is a great way to see the whole city.

YACHTING.COM TIP: The Norte de Menorca Marine Reserve is a rare unspoilt coastal area in the Mediterranean, making it a paradise for diving enthusiasts. With its plethora of marine life, lush coral reefs, and exceptional visibility, the reserve is home to hundreds of species waiting to be discovered. Visitors can expect to encounter a diverse range of animals, impressive rock formations, and explore intricate caves and crevices. Additionally, the reserve's 15 accessible dive sites offer the possibility of uncovering the remains of an ancient shipwreck.

Ibiza: on foot and under sail

Ibiza is renowned as the party capital of both the Balearic Islands and possibly all of Europe — however, the island also boasts a wealth of attractions for yachting enthusiasts. For instance, the Dalt Vila acropolis — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — offers a fascinating glimpse into Ibiza's rich history. Moreover, there are numerous secluded coves and tranquil spots where visitors can escape the crowds and experience serenity.

In the summer season, Ibiza is hailed as the world's ultimate clubbing destination. However, if this is not your preferred way of spending time, you can still create your own unique experience by tuning into the sound of waves lapping on secluded bays, the calming hum of outdoor yoga, or the enticing scent of fish grilling on the beach.

Ibiza harbour with luxury yachts and the Dalt Vila acropolis in the background

Ibiza harbour with luxury yachts and the Dalt Vila acropolis in the background

The Dalt Vila district of Ibiza's capital is a maze of whitewashed streets, lined with bars, boutiques, and clubs. Within the 16th-century walls, visitors will find a vibrant mix of stylish locals, long-term residents, and some of the best dining options on the island. The magnificent walled historic core boasts a myriad of cobbled streets, fascinating sights, and traditional laundry balconies. Originally inhabited by Phoenicians, this district was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1999. Take a leisurely stroll along the 16th-century walls to the elegant hilltop cathedral and the thousand-year-old castle for breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

The town is surrounded by several fantastic beaches, but with a yacht, you can discover your own secluded paradise. Venture westwards to snorkel in the unspoilt waters of Cala d'Hort, explore the crystalline coves of the petite Cala Mastella towards the east, or head south to Ses Salines. A quick trip from Ses Salines leads you to Formentera, the smallest of the Balearic Islands, where you can enjoy the vibrant green lizards, wild rosemary, and the liberating sight of nude sunbathers in serene surroundings.

View of the idyllic beach of Cala d'Hort with a palm tree in the foreground, Ibiza Island, Spain

Cala d'Hort beach

The north of the island, with its untamed terrain, unspoilt charm, and relatively undiscovered status, is arguably the most stunning region of Ibiza. The vast hills that exude a refreshing scent of pine, eventually yield to tiny white-walled villages and coves surrounded by majestic cliffs that can only be accessed via hiking.

For those seeking a leisurely stroll, the hiking trails offer a great option. Ibiza's coastline boasts a myriad of picturesque trails, leading to remote lighthouses, ancient watchtowers, and hidden coves, that are ideal for a peaceful hike. Follow the well-marked paths that meander past quaint country houses and through rustic, undeveloped countryside for a truly authentic experience.

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FAQ How to enjoy a cruise in the Balearic Islands