Secret Alternatives to Busy Marinas for Sailing Around the Balearics
Cala Tuent is a wonderful alternative to more popular marinas | © Maciej Bledowski / Alamy
The Balearic Islands dominate the yacht-charter market in Europe, providing a perfect blend of beaches, mountains, Michelin-starred cuisine, nightlife and sun. Consisting of Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera, the islands have long attracted seasoned sailors to Spain. The only snag is that during peak season, the most popular anchorages can get very busy unless you’re schooled up on how to slip under the radar and explore the islands’ secret side.
Natural Feature, Hiking Trail
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Not so much a secret, but a place that’s so carefully guarded that overcrowding is out of the question. Declared a national park in 1991, this confetti of 19 islets lies a short 10 kilometres off the south coast of Mallorca. Collectively known as Cabrera, the archipelago is home to virgin beaches, abundant flora and fauna, charming cultural sites, a visitors’ centre and the legendary blue cave. Provided your yacht is under 35m (115ft) in length, you’re welcome to stop by, but you will need a navigation permit. Oh, and you can’t deploy your anchor, so reserve a mooring buoy in advance via the Balearic government website.
Cabo Pinar, Mallorca
Cabo Pinar forms the peninsula that separates the Bay of Alcúdia from Pollença and is about as hush-hush as you can get. Declared a military zone in the 1940s, access is heavily restricted to just a handful of civilians each year, leaving the flawless landscape almost entirely deserted. Little wonder, the Spanish Royal Family chose to relax on its pine-clad beaches. You too can enjoy Cabo Pinar by boat, provided you anchor a minimum of 250m (820ft) from the shore.
Caló de Betlem, Mallorca
Head to the extreme east of the Bay of Alcúdia and you’ll find yourself in a place known to the locals as s’Aigua Dolça (sweet water). On the fringe of the protected Llevant Natural Park, this beauty spot is tricky to reach by land and refreshingly uncrowded as a consequence. Surrounded by striated sandstone cliffs topped with dense pines, the cove has transparent waters and plenty of rocks to mooch around with a snorkel. Beware, those very same rocks will bump the bottom of your boat if you don’t keep your eyes peeled.
Port of Mahón, Menorca
While you’d be hard pushed to keep the biggest natural harbour in the Mediterranean on the QT, the handsome Port of Mahón has ample space to hide. The anchorage features three major islands – Lazareto, Cuarentena and Illa del Rei – and together they offer many a sheltered spot to tuck in and daydream in peace. As the sun sets, relocate to a city-front berth so you can grab a cocktail and a bite to eat at one of Mahón’s waterfront seafood restaurants.
Playa Levante, Formentera
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The dinky Balearic island of Formentera is a fantasyland for soft-sand beaches and the clearest turquoise water you’ll see this side of the Caribbean. It’s also expensive and, given its super-close proximity to Ibiza, insanely popular. The superyacht set will generally head to Ses Illetes beach on the west. However, the more shrewd will go east to Playa Levante. The sand and sea are much the same, but the vibe is far less effervescent. Warning: you will encounter people wearing nothing but a birthday suit.
Cala Llentrisca, Ibiza
If loud wave-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care beach clubs are not your bag, rest assured that Ibiza has a softer side. In the deep southwest, not a million miles from some of Ibiza’s most renowned hotspots, lies the secluded fisherman’s cove of Cala Llentrisca. Here, time seems to stand still and, even at the height of summer, the only company you’ll have is local Ibicencos sharing a hearty picnic or keen snorkelers exploring the rich seabed. Top tip: the rustic jetty is ideal for tender drop-offs.
Cala Tuent, Mallorca
Accessed by a switchback road, favoured by keen cyclists and performance-car commercials, it’s no surprise that Cala Tuent offers a slice of tranquillity. With no facilities to speak of, not even a loo, and heaped with smooth pebbles rather than soft sand, it’s arguably best enjoyed from the comfort of your boat. However, do make sure you borrow the skipper’s binoculars to admire the millenary olive trees, standing proudly at the back of the beach.
Puerto Addaya, Menorca
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With the island protected as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, Menorca can be a tricky beast. But, if you do your homework on navigation and anchoring restrictions, there are some gorgeous corners to discover. Wedged between S’Albufera des Grau Natural Park and the North of Menorca Marine Reserve, friendly 168-berth Puerto Addaya is surrounded by some of the Balearics’ best scenery. Access to the marina is framed by a series of uninhabited islands and ancient watchtowers, while a hearty breakfast awaits at the laidback harbourside café.