Mallorca, Palma Bay
From Playa de Palma to Magaluf and Palma de Majorca’s capital city
The good, the bad, and the ugly sides of Mallorca’s tourist development meet along a 25-km stretch of coast. Tacky resorts sit next to exclusive retreats, it seems that everyone wants a piece of Palma Bay. There are times when you may find yourself in Portals Nous, with its chic marina crammed with millionaire yachts, or in seedy Magaluf, with its British pubs and wet T-shirt contests.
There are several small, picturesque towns on the island, starting with Cala Blava, a quiet, charming resort with cliffs and coves on the eastern end. A long beach, the Playa de Palma, is framed by the resorts of s’Arenal and Can Pastilla. Almost the entire area is a resort, with hotels lining the promenade and bars and clubs just back. The beach is long, deep, and soft. The airport is just behind Can Pastilla.
During your journey to Palma, you pass through Ciutat Jardi and Portixol, two suburbs with their own cafes and restaurants. Ciutat Jardi’s beach is a bit better than Palma’s. For a short time, Palma dominates the coastline. At the eastern end are beaches, while at the western end are marinas and ferry ports.
A fairly developed suburb of Palma, Cala Major has a small lovely beach and several excellent hotels to its west. There are several more upmarket resorts beyond here, including Illetes, Bendinat (both small and charming), and Portal Nous with its own marina, Puerto Portals.
Next, we visit the big British resorts of Palmanova and Magaluf, both with wonderful golden sand beaches and turquoise seas, and both with promenades dotted with bars, cafes and restaurants. Although recent efforts have been made to make Magaluf more upmarket, Palmanova is still considered more family-friendly.
We reach the western end of Palma Bay with the small resorts of Cala Vinyes and Portals Vells after Magaluf. These are prettier options with small cove like beaches; you are more likely to find a quiet spot here than anywhere else on the Bay of Palma. The beaches face east.
In the past, when fishermen cast their nets into the sea at S’Arenal, they would have looked around an empty coastline where the only buildings that would have stood out would have been Palma’s cathedral and castle. He would be unable to distinguish them today among a continuous line of hotels – a concrete jungle that extends to Magaluf. And he wouldn’t be there anyway because the fish are scarce.
If you take a journey beyond Magaluf, winding through pine woods, you may come across an isolated cove. Drive further to Cap de Cala Figuera and you will be presented with magnificent panoramic views over the bay. Cliffs descend into the crystal clear sea, undisturbed by hotel complexes. At midnight, there is complete tranquillity – although if you listen carefully enough, the faint beat of club music can still be heard coming from below!
Whether you like it or loathe it, you’ll spend time in Palma Bay at least once. If you aren’t staying here, you should visit it at least once to see what’s best and worst about Mallorca. Every resort is different – young or old, British (Magaluf) or German (S’Arenal), cheap and cheerful or jet-set. Even with the overdevelopment that has taken place, the beaches in the bay are absolutely stunning.
From Can Pastilla to S’Arenal, regeneration plans are in the works. In 2005, the Town Planning Consortium for the Improvement and Landscape of Palma Beach was established in order to promote the refurbishment of hotels, complementary tourism services, and the area as a whole. This plan is described on this page, Playa de Palma regeneration plans unveiled.