A Guide to Spain’s Balearic Islands

From April to October, the Balearic Islands are vibrating with energy off Spain’s eastern coast and in the middle of the Mediterranean. Travelers make their way to Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera mostly for sea and sand, but also for nightlife, culture, history, and wellness. Here, six places to visit across the four islands, and where to stay on each of them.   

Palma de Mallorca

For the most cosmopolitan feel across the Balearics, start with the islands’ capital of Palma, where urban culture transitions seamlessly to a laid-back Med lifestyle. While exploring the walled Gothic Quarter by foot, check out Mallorcan concept stores like Arquinesia, Rialto Living, and Cortana. Then hop on the historic wooden trolley and day trip to the dramatic northern Sierra Tramuntana, visiting quaint towns Soller and Bunyola.   

Where to Stay: Can Cera

An adults-only hotel, Can Cera is a living art piece just off Plaza Santa Eulàlia in Palma’s center. Contemporary Mallorcan artworks are displayed alongside antique furnishings, gilded chandeliers, and marbled surfaces. One junior suite even features a floor-to-ceiling windowed viewing gallery. Guests can unwind in the stately salon areas and on a stylish rooftop terrace.

Santanyí, Mallorca

This charming village positions travelers within easy reach of many of Mallorca’s iconic white sand coves, and alongside a friendly mix of local and international residents. Time your visit with a biweekly market that winds throughout the town square and pedestrian side streets. A short drive away, you’ll have your pick from a dozen or so pristine sea stretches along the island’s southernmost peninsula – from Cala Mondragó to the east, to Platja des Trenc to the west.   

Credit: Arturo and Lauren

Where to Stay: Can Ferrereta

A 17th Century manor house that has recently been renovated as a 32-key hotel, you’d never guess that such an oasis awaits behind a plain limestone facade, and amid quiet residential addresses. Inside, Can Ferrereta is sprawling, contemporary, and serene. It will allow you an exhale, surrounded by muted colors, a manicured courtyard, pool, and garden; and in a library stocked with vinyl records and Assouline travel guides.   

Maó (Mahon), Menorca

The largest natural harbor in the Mediterranean provides access to this lively port and its cliff-top fortress of a city center. Once the more humble Menorcan capital compared with Ciutadella (a romantic port town on the opposite side of the island), Mahon has blossomed over the past decade with new art and design attractions. You can spend a day touring the Hauser & Wirth exhibition center at a previously abandoned naval hospital on a small private island. Then check into one of a handful of first-class boutique hotels scattered around the colonial plazas.      

Credit: Daniel Schaefer

Where to Stay: Cristine Bedfor

Maó was ruled by the British for the better part of the 18th Century, so it’s fitting that in this latest iteration of the city, a Spanish hotelier would take the concept of cozy English bed-and-breakfast and run with it, creating an island version that’s saturated in sunlight and color. The 21 bedrooms nod to extravagant Georgian architecture, while a secret garden below grows native wildflowers alongside palms and olives.   

Southern coast, Menorca

For its relatively small size, Menorca is spoiled with beaches. The entire southern coast of the kidney bean-shaped island is lined with all shapes and sizes of them, from dunes built for long walking to slivered inlets that can be accessed during low tide only. From a homebase in the center of the island, you can explore from west to east or vice versa, making sure to stop at famed beaches Macarelleta, Santo Tomás, Binidalí, and others. The Camí de Cavalls, a walking path, connects the entire coastline, and you can trek from one cove to another.     

Credit: Yann Deret

Where to Stay: Fontenille Santa Ponsa

The sunset red exterior is unmissable on this grand finca in the Alaior countryside. Dating back to the 17th Century and featuring original Moorish architecture across 15 acres of nature, estate, and terraced gardens, Santa Ponsa is a one-of-a-kind stay in Menorca or anywhere. French hospitality group Domaines de Fontenille refurbished the property, so you can experience it in all its splendor, starting with the spa’s plunge pool, which is built into an underground cistern.    

Santa Eulària des Riu, Eivissa (Ibiza)

This picturesque beach town places travelers in an ideal position for exploring Ibiza’s distinct locales and personalities, from the rowdy capital city to the bohemian countryside and the rugged northern coastline. Rent a car or take a cab exploring: Ibiza Town’s Dalt Vila, the fortified old city, has culture to spare; while Santa Gertrudis is the place for a patio lunch and afternoon stroll. Iconic views can be found in the north at Benirràs beach, and in the southwest, from Cala d’Hort facing magnetic Es Vedra.

Credit: Ana Lui

Where to Stay: Finca Legado

Fresh eggs in the morning, a picnic among fruit trees, and bedrooms individually decorated in “rough-luxe” fashion – this is not your typical Ibicencen setting. But it is becoming more common. In recent years, more properties are putting Ibiza travelers in touch with a more grounded experience, inevitably tied to nature. So this country house with low-key daybeds by the saltwater pool, located off the beaten path between Santa Eularia and Santa Gertrudis, is one welcome respite.     

Sant Fransesc Xavier, Formentera

If the water is clear off Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza, then it is crystal clear off Formentera. If there are less touristy beaches on the other islands, then there will be beaches that are all yours on Formentera. You get the picture. This is the last of the Balearics to seek out, with no airport of its own and a cap on incoming vehicles. Its main village, Sant Fransesc, provides a lovely base. But don’t be fooled, everything on this tiny treasure is accessible by bike or scooter.     

Where to Stay: ETOSOTO

With everything more vivid on Formentera, this vacation house makes for a lovely lens from which to view it all. A whitewashed minimalist masterpiece, much of Etosoto’s beauty relies on its framing of surrounding nature. But the sparse adornment of this nine-bedroom house with two separate beach cottages is deceiving; there’s an intrinsic reason yogis and wellness seekers flock here. The villa usually books up as a whole house for those larger groups, but if you can swing the rental, you might never want to leave it.   

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