How to Travel to the Balearic Islands

This popular region of Spain includes the islands of Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera.

Mallorca, Spain
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The Balearic Islands, a sun-kissed archipelago of islands and islets east of the Spanish mainland, are dominated by four stunning sisters: Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera. Ibiza, the party-loving wild child of the bunch, has a shy side too, by way of hillside hamlets and a storied old town. Mallorca, the largest of the islands, offers contrasting pleasures like all-inclusive resorts and laidback, nature-oriented getaways. Menorca, a haven for the low-key traveler, entices visitors with its archeological wonders and a bevy of postcard-perfect beaches. And then there's Formentera, the tiniest sister, whose ethereal beauty attracts boho-chic types who prefer lazy lounging by gentle turquoise waters over glitzy soirees. Whatever your sensibility, here's how to make the most of your visit to the Balearics.

When to Go

Located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, the Balearic Islands enjoy a climate characterized by hot and sunny summers and mild winters. The best months to visit are May, June, and September, if you want to avoid throngs of sun-worshiping crowds, but still engage in outdoor activities. During this time, temperatures fluctuate between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, come July and August, temperatures can soar up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, complete with 10 to 11 hours of uninterrupted daylight.

As it starts to cool down in October, many seaside businesses shorten their opening hours or close their doors altogether for the winter months. The weather remains mild until springtime, with an average high of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and then becomes hot and dry in June, July, and August. In the fall, rainfall increases, albeit slightly, averaging 2.7 inches in October, the region's wettest month.

Lighthouse, Cap de Formentor, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
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Balearic Islands Travel Tips

Transportation

If you plan to explore each island, first, rent a car on Mallorca and take in the scenic coastal routes. Avoid the parking space dilemma during the high season in Ibiza and Menorca by renting a scooter for easy beach access. When in Formentera, Autocares Payas makes stops at several beaches, starting and ending at the main port in La Savina. You can also act like a local and explore the island by bicycle or on foot.

Shopping

El Corte Inglés, Spain's main department store, has two Palma de Mallorca locations, one of which is closed on Sundays. Ibiza and Menorca offer a selection of outlets and high-end boutique shops, while Formentera is known for its bohemian clothing, accessories, and decor shops. Commercial stores are usually open late Monday through Saturday, while independent shops routinely take siesta breaks at some point between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., then reopen until 8 or 9 p.m. Outdoor markets operate daily in some communities, and weekly in others.

Eating Out

Restaurant opening times vary by season and location. During the summer, most Mallorca and Ibiza restaurants are open daily, while some Menorca and Formentera establishments close on Sundays and Mondays. Reservations are recommended during this time of the year. Off-season, restaurants adopt a more laidback schedule; some decrease their hours, while others close their doors until the spring. Call ahead to avoid disappointment.

Beaches

Contrary to popular belief, all of Spain's beaches are public. That said, resort properties pay hefty sums for the privilege to charge visitors for amenities such as sun beds and umbrellas. Expect to pay a separate fee per item, depending on the location.

Tourist Taxes in the Balearic Islands

Expect to pay a tourist tax at your accommodation. Fees will vary, depending on the category of the stay, with discounts offered for extended stays. Cruise ship passengers are not immune; charges are incurred at each port of call.

Getting to the Balearic Islands

American Airlines, United, and Delta all offer direct flights to Barcelona and Madrid from several U.S. airports, including Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX). From Barcelona and Madrid, local carriers offer short, daily flights to Ibiza, Menorca, and the Palma de Mallorca Airport, the third largest airport in Spain. Formentera is only accessible by boat from Ibiza.

Major ferry carriers, Ferry Balearia and Trasmediterránea, operate daily overnight ferries from Barcelona, Valencia, and Dénia to Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza. Formentera can be reached from Ibiza via the Ferry Balearia and Transmapi lines.

Getting Around

Island hopping is a fairly simple affair, with ferries running daily between all the main islands. Some companies permit cars on ferries between islands. And, for seasonal jaunts between Ibiza and Formentera, Aquabus offers a no-frills ride.

Take the vintage tourist train, Ferrocarril de Sóller, to see the breathtaking landscape between Palma de Mallorca and the photo-perfect town of Sóller. Ibiza offers a similar service, a mini locomotive called Tren Ibiza Express. Book this train to embark on a three- or four- hour tour of the island's loveliest towns, including Santa Eulalia and Es Cana. The cheery, red Mao Express train is easy to spot in Menorca's capital and costs only a few Euros for a tour around town, complete with commentary.

What to Do in Mallorca

Take a scenic drive up the west coast to experience the island's spellbinding natural attributes. Start at Valldemossa, an ancient village revered for its rustic beauty and home to Real Cartuja, the monastery hideaway for 19th-century lovers George Sand and Chopin. Then, drive the winding roads through Sóller (surrounded by the dramatic Tramuntana Mountains), complete with views of striking limestone formations, pine forests, hidden hamlets, and teal-hued waters. This majestic hillside town is known for its fragrant citrus trees and Art Nouveau architecture. Eventually, you'll reach Cap de Formentor at the northeastern tip of the island, featuring wondrous clifftop views.

Visit the studio of a surrealist master with a trip to Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró , a Palma-based museum dedicated to the works of Catalan painter Joan Miró. Don't leave without viewing the Sert Studio, Miro's final workspace filled with dozens of unfinished paintings.

Take a tour and taste local wine at select wineries. Inaugurated in 1711, family-owned Bodegues Ribas is the oldest estate on the island, offering visitors a sampling of indigenous varietals such as Prensal and Manto Negro. In contrast, Macia Batle, a modern, more commercial winery, blends local grapes with well-known varieties, such as cabernet, chardonnay, and merlot.

Where to Eat & Drink in Mallorca

In Mallorca, the cultural mores dictate that cocktail rendezvous routinely turn into late-night dinner plans, and beyond. So naturally, many bars are strategically placed within hotels or restaurant spaces. Outstanding venues include the urban-cool Puro Hotel's Beatnik Restaurant & Bar, a fashionable spot with tasty cocktails and global food made from locally-sourced ingredients. Sky Bar at Hostal Cuba offers breakfast by morning and artisanal concoctions, complete with the most magnificent views over Palma, by night. Portals Hills Boutique Hotel's ultra-chic La Cabana Pool Bar and Lounge, a sleek poolside duplex with floor-to-ceiling windows, offers daybeds overlooking the sea and more than 2,000 wines and champagnes. The quirky Bar Abaco is a retro-fab venue set in a 17th-century estate, serving excellent cocktails and alcohol-free libations.

Located in the 27-room Hotel Convento de la Misión, a 17th-century former monastery, Marc Fosh's namesake Michelin-starred restaurant is one of the British-born chef's three contemporary restaurants in Palma. With a focus on clean Mediterranean flavors, this contemporary farm-to-table restaurant creates dishes using seasonal, local ingredients, and is a favorite among the capital's well-heeled residents.

The style-centric Zaranda restaurant — decorated in an inviting palette of neutrals accentuated with gold and dark wood — is housed in Castell Son Claret, a renovated 15th-century castle turned luxury hotel in 2013. Chef Fernando Pérez Arellano's culinary wizardry shines through his fusion tasting menu, complete with regional meat, fish, cheese, and spices, paired with an extensive list of local and international wines.

In Port de Alcudia, Maca de Castro elevates traditional Mediterranean recipes with inventive modern twists. The Michelin-starred restaurant is located in a swanky Mallorcan-style estate, complete with a posh, art-filled dining room. It also includes a more relaxed al fresco space with well-tended gardens.

Where to Stay in Mallorca

Named after the medieval basilica it neighbors, Hotel Sant Francesc Singula is located in the heart of Palma's historic district. This once stately manor home of a 19th-century nobleman was immaculately restored and modernized in 2015. Of its 10 suites, the most alluring is Sant Francesc, featuring hand-painted ceiling frescoes adorned with gold trim and an ornate iron balcony overlooking the ancient square. Standout amenities include a rooftop terrace bar with a lap pool, custom-tailored Mediterranean spa treatments, and Quadrat, the rustic-chic farm-to-table restaurant housed in the former stables.

Adjacent to Capdepera sits Predi Son Jaumell, an idyllic country hotel surrounded by pungent olive groves and the bucolic Sierra de Llevant Mountains. This restored 14th-century estate has 24 distinctive design rooms accented with rustic antiques and minimalist décor. This tranquil stay offers the refined gourmet cuisine of El Bulli alumni Andreu Genestra. The storied relics strewn around the property, and the cozy poolside deck where guests can relax on cushy sunbeds, lend an added ambiance to this pristine accommodation.

In a secluded cape on Palma de Mallorca's scenic bay, the 30-room fortress-turned-boutique hotel, Cap Rocat, boasts a magnificent marine backdrop. The El Cabo Suite is arguably the most outstanding, with features fit for royalty: a spacious room and living area complimented with one-of-a-kind artwork, a private terrace, gardens, and a swimming pool. Exceptional extras include an infinity pool built into the former fortress walls, yoga sessions on the beach, and an underground spa for indulgent tailor-made massages.

Cala Pregonda, Menorca, Spain
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What to Do in Menorca

Explore the treasure trove of tranquil turquoise coves surrounded by weathered cliffs and pines. Cala Turqueta boasts sparkling shallow waters encircled by a thick, wild forest. And Cala Pregonda features distinctive reddish-gold sand and micro islets, which buffer the gently rolling waves. Sample the island's famous cheese, Queso Mahón, made with hand-pressed, unpasteurized milk and aged for one to six months. Visit top producer Subaida, a Georgian-style estate and dairy farm, for a tour around the green grounds, a visit to the animal compound, and a tasting of their best products.

Some of the Balearics' finest surviving examples of prehistoric settlements are found on Menorca. Visit Trepucó (free) and Talatí de Dalt, both just miles from the capital city of Maó, and view the relic remains of ancient Talaiotic ruins.

Where to Eat & Drink in Menorca

Inaugurated in 1979, Bodegas Binifadet remains one of the island's top authorities when it comes to quality regional wines. Visit the cavernous cellars during a tour of the vineyards, which includes a tasting of three of their best-selling vintages. Sample the White Merluzo — a fruity combination of three varieties, including the local grape, Malvasia — paired with homemade organic products, like goat cheese and wine-based jams. Sa Cova is a beach bar and restaurant wedged between the rocks on the shore of the postcard-perfect Cala Torret in San Luis. Stop by for a cocktail, or linger for fresh salads and seafood. At the cliffside Cova d'en Xoroi beach club, your cover charge includes a mixed drink, live music, and the best sunset views over the striking village of Cala en Porter.

In a spacious setting that combines industrial elements with natural wood furnishings, Smoix is the culmination of chef Miquel Sanchez's long-standing desire to help people enjoy the simple pleasures of eating well. The retro-rustic eatery's hearty, yet visually appealing, dishes feature a medley of Menorcan staples expertly paired with Mexican influences — a nod to Sanchez's partner's heritage.

Pan y Vino is a French restaurant with a Catalan soul. Situated in an atmospheric 200-year-old whitewashed farmhouse, the seasonal menu is an inspired mash-up of international concepts. Their menu changes four times a year based on seasonal food offerings from local farmers.

Where to Stay in Menorca

For a decidedly cozy stay, Hotel Tres Sants, an eight-room boutique hotel, packs a wealth of style and character into an 18th-century mansion, complete with a Turkish bath spa. The arched public spaces are decorated with touches of subdued color, and a rooftop terrace offers a birds-eye view of historic Ciutadella.

On a hill overlooking wildflower fields, vineyards, and the Mediterranean, Hotel Torralbenc's exteriors pay tribute to the area's traditional rural heritage. The inside of this former turn-of-the-century farmhouse, however, is a different story. Here, the spacious interior has been remodeled and painted hues of taupe and bone with minimal furniture, meant to highlight the natural surroundings. Twenty-seven rooms and cottages are available to book, varying in size, and each with fantastic views of the enchanting gardens and sea. The hotel's Torralbenc Restaurant resides in the former wine barrel storage room and uses the freshest local products to create artisanal meals.

Other country-style hotels include the bright and modern Hort Sant Patrici, and Alcaufar Vell, an 18th-century manor hotel with a renowned restaurant.

Dalt Vila, Ibiza, Spain
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What to Do in Ibiza

Experience the island's lesser-known northern coast on horseback. Located in the 100-acre Es Murta nature park, Ibiza Horse Valley is a unique rehabilitation center for mistreated and abandoned horses. This organization offers bareback treks through lush forests, along the sandy shores, and over panoramic mountain trails.

Shop the original Hippy Market Punta Arabi, which has 500 stalls of handicraft knick-knackery, craft edibles, and boho décor and clothing. Opened in 1973, this seasonal market (open April through October, on Wednesdays only) pays homage to the hippies that first settled the island in the '60s, and features an eclectic lineup of live music.

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dalt Vila, the island's fortified Phoenician old town situated on a hill high above the rowdy revelers below. Climb the narrow cobblestone walkways, accessed through the main entrance, Portal de Ses Taules, to the historic treasures at the summit: the Cathedral de Santa Maria, the Bishop's Palace, and the 16th-century Ibiza Castle. From here, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views over the city.

Where to Eat & Drink in Ibiza

The Cotton Beach Club is located on the southwestern coast, and serves Asian-inspired bites, international wines, and cocktails in a relaxed setting. The seasonal beach club's stylish wood lounges, accentuated with all-white cushions, provide a welcoming vibe on the sparkling shores of Cala Tarida. Es Tragón, with its culinary team led by reputable chef Alvaro Sanz Clavijo, offers a visually-stimulating prix-fixe menu paired with fine wines (for an extra price). The haute cuisine kitchen caters to guests in an airy dining area nestled in a country-style home.

Located in the sleepy village of San Rafael, Le Belle Ibiza pairs typical white-washed exteriors with a decidedly warmer indoor setting of exposed stone walls, plank wood tables, and patterned seat covers and cushions. The upscale French fusion cuisine focuses on fresh, mostly organic, ingredients sourced from high-quality local producers. The seasonal Amante restaurant takes full advantage of its enviable location on a jagged cliff overlooking the Sol d'en Serra Bay. Serving a healthy, contemporary twist on Spanish and Italian classics, the multi-tiered restaurant and bar offers a luxe reprieve from sun-worshiping on the beach.

Where to Stay in Ibiza

Aquas de Ibiza, a 112-room spa hotel, overlooks the peaceful marina in Santa Eulalia and offers luxury services for the soulful traveler. All the rooms are designed using Feng Shui principles and come with private terraces to ensure maximum comfort. But it's the unlimited access to the deluxe Revival Spa by Clarins that's the real star of the property.

The Giri Residence is nestled in the boho-centric town of San Juan and provides an intimate experience with only five rooms total on the property. The Bougainville Suite, the most stunning of them all, features a neutral palette of furnishings and artwork, an en-suite bathroom with a contrasting stone tub, plenty of natural light, and, arguably, the most sought-after island amenities — a second-floor private terrace, complete with a wood deck dining area and sun loungers. Organically-sourced bites are available on the premises. During the high season, walk a short distance to the property's peaceful garden bar and restaurant, the Giri Café.

For an entirely different look and flavor, book a boutique stay at the dapper, neo-colonial Gran Hotel Montesol. Declared "An Asset of Cultural Interest'' by UNESCO, this completely refurbished 33-room hotel continues its historical vibe with retro-style interiors. Book the suite for city and marina views, a marble bath with a rainfall showerhead, and a king-size bed.

Biking, Formentera, Spain
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What to Do in Formentera

Spend a day, or several, at one of many stunning beaches on Formentera, each with its own set of amenities. Migjorn — great for snorkeling— has the longest stretch of white sand on the island, providing the best opportunity to snag a sunbathing spot during the busy summer months. Calo Saona is a quaint bay beach surrounded by forests, red-hued cliffs, and an upscale hotel. Ses Illetes has powder-white sand, shimmering blue waters, and grass-patched sand dunes, plus an exceptional selection of eateries.

Steal away to neighboring Espalmador, a private islet with crescent-shaped coves, a pristine beach called Platja S'Alga, and natural mud flats filled with wildlife. Accessible via a short ferry ride from La Savina, this lovely oasis is a total escape from civilization. Pack a lunch, as there are no restaurants or hotels on this island, just a dutiful watchtower, a few seasonal digs, and the peaceful sounds of nature.

Only 12 miles from end to end, Formentera can be easily explored by bike. Green bike paths start in La Savina, Sant Francesc, and Es Pujol. One of the longest routes takes cyclists on a relaxed ride from the Faro de La Mola lighthouse, through a changing landscape of livestock and forests with views from the La Mola clifftops, by the El Pilar church and through the Bodega Terramoll vineyard.

Where to Eat & Drink in Formentera

Just minutes from Illetes beach sits Es Moli de Sal in a renovated salt mill, located in the natural reserve, Ses Salines. This seaside eatery specializes in seafood and oozes a casual elegance, with its earth-toned palette of wood, stone, and silver accents.

Juan y Andrea is a favored pit stop for foodies eager to indulge in the island's tastiest seafood paella and fideua (a noodle version of paella). Make reservations far in advance for a table on the grassy sands of Playa des Illetes.

For enchanting sunset views of La Savina marina, reserve a rooftop table for classic bites, fresh seafood, and cocktails at Aigua. This casual restaurant provides breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and boaters can grab Iberian ham, smoked meats, fresh cheeses, and a bottle of sparkling wine to go. Upstairs, the sister restaurant, Aire, offers à la carte bites, a full cocktail menu, and desserts in the evening.

Where to Stay in Formentera

Refined and understated, Es Mares Hotel & Spa integrates natural elements into its elegant interiors. This rural stay allows you to revel in nature's bounty or take a break at the hotel's spa, adorned in reflective golden tiles that radiate warmth. For an ultra-glam experience, try the luxe 60-minute Citrus Essence facial.

Cala Soana Hotel & Spa is situated atop a hill connected by a wooden pathway to one of the island's loveliest coves. This 98-room property blends with the scenery thanks to its earth-toned simplicity. Snag a suite, complete with a private terrace and a Jacuzzi, to enjoy unbelievable views of the sunset's pink and orange rays.

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