After the craziness of the wedding, then holidays has FINALLY settled down, I finally have the time to round up our honeymoon trip to Majorca and Barcelona. Sean and I wanted to have a really fun, long honeymoon trip to help us destress from all of the wedding planning. After much contemplation and research, we decided on 2 full weeks under the Spanish sun.
Spain has never been at the top of my traveling bucket list, so why Spain? We looked into places we both wanted to go, like Italy and Greece, and lots of topical locations (but September is hurricane season so those were nixed). But we felt like there was so much pressure on making the trip perfect, seeing everything we wanted to see AND enjoying our honeymoon. So we saved our bucket list locations for another day, and decided on Spain because we just wanted to relax, eat good food, and drink wine, with a little sightseeing mixed in.
I was a little nervous that I would regret that decision, wishing that I had picked a place I really wanted to see. But I am 100% happy with our decision. We got the perfect mix of everything and felt less pressure to complete a never ending list of to-dos and to-sees. Don't get me wrong, some people feel about Spain the way I feel about Italy or Japan, but this just worked for us.
If you know me, you'll know that I have become quite the perfectionist when it comes to planning a trip. I am queen of itineraries, TripAdvisor, and travel tips. I am not the most well-traveled, so I'm learning as I go, but we definitely learned A LOT about international travel in general, as well as traveling to Spain. So to keep this post from being a literal novel, I'll be focusing on Majorca here, and will post a Barcelona Guide soon. SOOOO... Without further ado, here goes!
Majorca (aka Mallorca) is not a typical choice for many travelers. We chose to spend one week here because it was as close to Island vaca as we were going to get during hurricane season. Majorca is part of the Balearic Islands, and is the biggest of the chain, which also includes Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera. We learned while we were there that Majorca is mostly German tourists, Ibiza as you may know is known for partying and house music, Menorca is smaller, less crowded, and might be suitable for older tourists, and Formentera is the smallest island and is often a day trip for tourists in Ibiza.
When you get to Majorca, it doesn't really even feel like an island because it is quite big, but it is FULL of beautiful resorts, quaint mountain towns filled with stone villas and picture-esque cliffsides. I've broken our trip up into a few key topics that will be helpful if you are planning a trip to Majorca.
Learning The Island
We read a lot about German tourists on TripAdvisor. Enough to make us even wonder if we should reconsider going to Majorca at all. What I learned was that the North, Northeast, and East side of the island is heavily German. You might be wondering what I've got against Germans... Well, nothing, but a lot of reviews mentioned the German Tourists being loud and rude and some people even went as far to say that it ruined their trip. So we focused mostly on the Southwest and west portion of the island, which is what I would recommend to American tourists. Specifically we visited Santa Ponsa, Deia, Valledemossa, Soller, Puerto Soller, and Palma.
Getting to and from the airport was really simple via taxi. If you are arriving at an odd time, like we did on the way there (arrived about 2am local time) we used balearic transfer to book a driver. It was super simple, and affordable. A driver (spoke english) picked us up, and drove us directly to where we needed to go. Our first few days we mostly hung out at the resort, laid by the pool, beat jetlag, and walked to a beach nearby. One day we did a little day trip and used a rental car, which was pretty easy once we got it booked through our hotel concierge. The only hiccup was finding an automatic car, since neither Sean or I drive manual. It cost a little more, but we got one and the process was easy and worth it.
We stayed at two different hotels on the island, one in Santa Ponsa, and one in Palma.
Santa Ponsa: Sentido Punta Del Mar
Pros: Affordable for what you get. They have options for full board and half board. We did half board. The breakfast was pretty decent with lots of options, but the dinner was underwhelming. The view was great and it was very quiet and relaxing.
Cons: A bit of an older crowd. Lots of german tourists here too, even though we were trying to avoid that. The food was pretty average, and the area left something to be desired. Nothing really within walking distance as far as bars or restaurants, mostly other resorts and apartments around the hotel.
The Bottom Line: Would probably not recommend this particular hotel because even though it was pretty, and worked for us, there might be a better area and the cons outweighed the pros for me.
Palma: Hotel Almudaina
Pros: Good location, walking distance to pretty much everything in Palma. Cute rooftop bar that serves good drinks and has an awesome view of the city. Nice breakfast buffet, if you book that option. Pretty affordable rates, and can book with points.
Cons: Small-ish rooms with no real view. We got past it though because we were in the city, and I think most of the hotels there were like this.
The Bottom Line: Alike most travelers on tripadvisor, I would recommend this hotel without hesitation. If you don't stay here, a drink at the skybar is a must for a view of the city.
We took one full day trip where we drove up the west coast of the island and saw some adorable and picturesque cliffside cities. From Santa Ponsa, it was about a one and a half hour drive, and the whole way was beautiful. There was a little town called banyabulfar that we drove through that I felt gave a real depiction of what life on Majorca is like- so quaint and charming. Then we proceeded on to Deia.
Deia: We parked our car and walked around the village. We got some lunch at a charming cafe called Sa Font Fresca and explored the streets and alleyways. There are a couple of really good restaurants here, and even one michelin star restaurant. It was closed when we went, but was recommended to me by a friend. A lot of forums recommend going to cala Deia (the beach) but it was pretty underwhelming imo. Hard to get to, mostly rocks and kindof crowded.
The Bottom Line: If I went back to Majorca, I think I would try to stay in Deia for 2 nights instead of Santa Ponsa. It was really charming and filled with nice resorts and places to eat.
Valledemossa: A short drive from Deia, we saw this little town on our way back to Santa Ponsa from Deia. We got a cappucino at a cute little cafe, and then explored some shops and more alleyways.
The bottom line: If you are driving through, worth a quick stop, but wouldn't go out of my way to see it.
Soller & Puerto Soller:
One of the highly reviewed day trips on Majorca is the ferocarril (aka old wooden train) that takes you to Soller from Palma. You can book a ticket that includes the train to soller and a tram from soller to Puerto Soller (the port of soller). We chose that option, I think it was about 60 euros a person. The train is kinda entertaining, albeit crowded. The view is mostly flat land and farms, with an occasional lookout and a couple tunnels. Once you get to Soller, you can hop on the tram which takes you to the port, a fishing port/marina. We walked on the beach and got lunch at a cute cafe, where I had one of my favorite meals in Majorca.
The bottom line: I would recommend an overnight in Puerto Soller. Because it is one of the most popular outings from Palma, it is very crowded. There were lines to get on and off trains/trams and I think it would have been more relaxing to do a quick overnight here. Take the train in, check into one of the cute beach hotels at the port, then go back the next day to avoid so much travel in one day.
Palma: We stayed in Palma for 2 nights while we were in Majorca. I would definitely recommend staying in Palma for at least 2-3 nights, probably either in the beginning or ending of your trip to Majorca, since it is the city the airport is it. There are TONS of really good restaurants and it has a cool relaxed city vibe. However, if you are short for time, you also could just visit Palma for a day and do a whirlwind tour around the city.
The bottom line: At least, you need one full day- morning to night, at most 2-3 days in Palma. I would visit downtown for shopping, eating, etc. There is a big main cathedral in Palma that is worth seeing. It doesn't take long to see the whole thing- maybe 1-2 hours at most. There is a tree-lined street in the middle of downtown that has a lot of cute restaurants where you can wine & dine alfresco. If you stay for longer, just walk around the city, along the water, find fun places to eat and enjoy the capital of Majorca.
We booked our flights with norwegian and I can't recommend them enough. We splurged for premium, but with a budget airline like Norwegian, even the premium wasn't too expensive. If you are willing to shell out a little more, its worth it. The seats were super comfy, with a lot of space, good meals, endless entertainment, and friendly service. It was our first time flying Norwegian and I was nervous I might get an experience like Spirit or Frontier, but it was top-notch for the price. I slept pretty much the entire flight to Majorca, and then watched like 5 movies in a row on the way home on my personal TV. Great experience.
Other ideas that didn't make the cut:
I heard mixed reviews on the drachs limestone caves. This is on the East Side of the island and its a big limestone cave you can tour. I think you walk a portion of it and then you get in a boat where they take you a little further and watch a musical performance. Some say its too crowded and the drive for us was just a little too far.
Wine Tours: There are some wineries in the middle of the island that you can tour. I had a friend recommend Mallorca Culinary Tours for a personal wine tour with a guide. We were thinking of doing this but ran out of time.
Cap formentora: If you are staying on the west side or closer to the north edge, there is a big natural park I think at the north tip of the island that many people recommend seeing. Again, this was just too far for us to get to.
Below are all restaurants that I either went to & liked or were recommended to me.
Santosha [Palma]: Good for lunch/brunch. Really cute and cozy inside with really good food and coffee.
Koa [Palma]: Our favorite dinner while in Palma. The interior is really cool and they serve GREAT cocktails. We got tapas to share, and everything was delicious. If you don't go to Koa, look up where it is on a map because we saw a bunch of other good-looking restaurants on the same alley.
13% [Palma]: Amazing tapas, great wine selection, friendly service. This was a really good local gem.
Riverarena [Palma]: We tried many a gelato and this place had our favorite. They had really unique flavor options and it was really good.
SkyArea [SkyArea @ Hotel Almudaina | Palma]: Incase you skipped the part above, this is a must if you are staying in Palma. It's the bar/restaraunt/terrace at the Hotel Almudaina. You don't have to be a hotel guest to go there and they had great cocktails and food, but the view is the best part of the whole place. We sat up on the terrace and had sangria and played cards watching the sun set and it was beautiful.
El Sabor [Soller]: We had lunch at here and I got a prosciutto and burrata salad that I still think about. We had some aperol spritz and ate on the patio which overlooks the beach.
Restaurant Nama [Deia]: Recommended by a friend.
Es Raco d'es Teix [Deia]: The Michelin star restaurant I mentioned earlier... Recommended by a friend.
General Tips De Espana + FAQs
You will also find these under my Barcelona post. Just some tips to get you through traveling in Spain, and answers to questions people have asked me since our trip.
1. Safety: Since we got back from our trip a lot of people have asked me how I felt safety-wise while in Barcelona/Spain in general. Pretty much anyone who knows anything about Barcelona will warn you about pickpockets. Apparently the people there are accomplished at it and many many tourists get taken advantage of. Maybe I am completely ignorant, but I never saw it happen once, nor did I feel at risk of it. Either way, travel smart. I invested in a small Travelon backpack that I wore pretty much every day of the trip. It had lockable zippers, RFID blocking for cards and passport, and antislash straps. I felt safe with it, and needless to say, I took the normal precautions. I only held 1 credit card and a little bit of cash on me any any time. Leave your passport in your hotel, and just keep your eyes open. Wear your backpack on your front when on public transportation, or in crowded areas like La Boqueria. Everyone is really helpful, and the Catalonian people sortof like tourists. Their city thrives on the money it brings in and they are thankful for it. Which brings me to #2.
2. Language: When we first booked our trip, we were all rah-rah espanol. We downloaded duolingo and were going to try to brush up on Spanish, and then wedding planning happened and I straight up ran out of time and energy to relearn another language. Lucky for us, most people there speak english, especially younger folk, because we learned that its actually mandatory to learn Catalan, Spanish and English in school there. A couple basic terms will help you when necessary. As long as you can say hello and thank you and have a good day, pointing, and smiling will get you anything else you need. Cue #3.
3. Catalonia: Also- hence the aforementioned Catalonian independence battle, Catalonians are very proud of their culture and they don't associate themselves with Spain or Spanish people. They do speak Spanish but they mostly speak Catalan. So it might be worth your time to learn some basic phrases in both Catalan and Spanish.
4. Dining Out: If you've been to Europe, this might be old news, but if this is your first time, keep reading. There is no tipping culture in Spain, or pretty much anywhere else in Europe for that matter. But as far as dining goes, no tips necessary, or expected. If you take a tour with someone that you really enjoyed or worked with a guide of some kind, tip might be nice but not expected. And speaking of dining out, the experience is a lot different than in America as far as service goes. Don't expect to be greeted when you first walk into a restaurant right away. And don't expect constant table service like you are used to either. The server will generally come to your table twice, at most 3 times... once to take your order, once to bring your food, and MAYBE once more to make sure everything is all good, and to see if you want any coffee after your meal. They will not ask if you're ready for your check and they also won't bring it unless you ask for it. The best way is to just make eye contact with your server and motion in the air like you're singing a check and they will bring it. Sounds stupid that I would even need to include this, but it took us a few tries to get this right, so there ya go.
5. Cell Phones: I mentioned above using google maps while we were there. We switched to T Mobile with unlimited data like a month before our trip so that we could use our phones and I am so glad we did. Google Maps was clutch and pretty much navigated our whole trip. With T Mobile, you get free 2g data in a handful of foreign countries, Spain being one of them. If you don't have T Mobile, see how much it is to get an international plan for a month... if it's not too much, it might be worth it. If not, then at least download the maps of where you're going to be offline so you can access them. I've heard that works pretty well.
6. Payment: Random little tip, but most places in Spain did not accept American Express cards. Luckily we also had a visa card that was accepted pretty much everywhere. If you are planning on using a card, make sure you have a VISA that does not incur foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, use euros. If you are going to be using euros, go to your bank a month or so before your trip, and get them there, so you don't have to pay any transaction fees like they charge at the airport. You can also use a debit card in pretty much any ATM, but I still would recommend the bank idea.
7. Water: It's not free anywhere. If it's offered at a restaurant, it means you have to pay for it, and they usually will bring it to you in a bottle, not a cup. I drink like at least 80oz of water a day, and I was dying of thirst basically all the time. We basically went to a market anytime we were going back to our hotel and stocked up on water. The good thing is, its cheap and the bottles are huge in the markets.
8. TripAdvisor: Last but certainly not least... more like most important. If I can give you one tip in planning a trip: Trip Advisor Trip Advisor Trip Advisor. This is your new yelp, and the holy grail of tips and advice. Look up restaurants, transportation, hotels, excursions- anything. Real people, giving real advice and we used it to make ALL decisions regarding our trip! (Other than personal recommendations from friends, that is...)
Well that about does it. If you made it this far... I hope you enjoyed this advice and information. Happy Traveling!