The Balearic Islands are the perfect place to sail and absorb the Mediterranean warmth and Catalan culture. Sailing in the Balearics offers everything from unspoilt anchorages with turquoise waters and the whitest of white sand beaches to historic cities and impressive natural ports. From local beach cuisine to Michelin-starred extravaganzas and a melting pot of cultural traditions.
Mediterranean-based boats, or those from further afield, should take advantage of sailing in the Balearics, with their quieter anchorages and flourishing marine life. The lockdown of 2020 was an unexpected treat for the islands’ marine reserves, giving them time to regenerate. There is usually at least one fiesta going on somewhere in the Balearics every month. They offer a great opportunity to immerse yourself in local colour, culture and cuisine.
Ibiza is the third largest of the Balearic Islands and one of the best known, making it a popular destination for yachts sailing in the Balearics. Renowned for its laid-back vibe and legendary parties, there is much much more to the island than dancing, DJs and nightclubs. It is also a World Heritage Site, designated for its biodiversity and culture, which makes it really worth exploring. It is home to poisedonia oceanica, a seagrass only found in the Mediterranean, that supports its diverse coastal and marine ecosystem. If you are a keen snorkeller or diver, you will be spoilt for choice for stunning dive sites around the island. You will find four marinas in Eivissa and two more in Sant Antoni de Portmany and Santa Eulalia Marina. And you will find plenty of secluded anchorages around the coast where you can enjoy nature’s splendour undisturbed – our favourites are Puerto de San Miguel and Cala Characca but there are plenty more to discover for yourself.
Cruise Tip: be warned – the cost of berthing in Ibiza is pricey, especially during high season. Remember too that the Balearics marine ecosystem is becoming more protected every year, so you need to be aware of no anchoring zones. Yachts that ignore the rules swiftly find themselves being hit with heavy fines.
The north-west coast of Mallorca is stunning, rivalled only by the west coast of Corsica as one of the most picturesque coastlines in the Mediterranean. Everyone who finds themselves sailing in the Balearics finds a favourite anchorage here – be it at Cala Figuera, Cala Deia, Cala de la Calobra or Cala de la Foradada… The list is almost endless, and we could go on but you will quickly discover your own favourites as you cruise around the coast. Puerto de Soller is a great place to base yourself; from there you can easily explore the rugged northern coastline with its unspoilt anchorages, walled-in by dramatic cliffs. The Serra de Tramuntana mountains tumble down into the sea around Soller and provide the perfect playground for mountain bike enthusiasts, hikers and fell-runners. If you’d rather take it slow, you can enjoy a sedate ramble through the picturesque towns of Valldemosa, Deia and the old town of Pollensa. Many of the coastline’s sandy coves are only accessible by mule tracks and fishing boats, so it is easy to find a place you can have to yourself all day. In the port itself, you will be spoilt for choice for fabulous seafood restaurants with the local prawns always a speciality. Make sure to stop at the chiringuito at Sa Foradada for a drink and dinner. Make sure you order a paella ahead of your arrival – you won’t be disappointed
Cruise Tip: the entire north-west coast of Ibiza island features steep cliffs. Stunning as it is to look at, it can also be very dangerous. Pay attention to local forecasts of the northerly Tramuntana wind and steer well clear of this part of the coast when she blows. Pay a visit when it has settled, preferably with light southerly winds forecast for a few days. This will mean gentle sailing or motoring, but the scenery will more-than make up for the lack of wind.
This is pure Balearics – an unspoilt escape with a languid pace of life and lazy days on white sand beaches with inviting turquoise waters. There’s a strong environmental approach here, with hotel visitor numbers carefully controlled to minimise damage to the flora and fauna. If you want to get away from it all when you are on holiday sailing in the Balearics, Formentera is for you. While everybody flocks to the West side of the island, Es Calo de San Agusti is a wonderful cove worth seeking out on the East coast. In the Pilot guide it is called Cala Raco d’es Mares, but the locals know the place as Es Calo de San Agusti. The water is beautifully clear here and the harbour has a sandy bottom. There is a quay in the small port where you can easily tie up your tender or you call the water taxi service to pick you up from your yacht so you can go and explore the town. Perfect as a day anchorage, it is also a lovely spot to overnight in calm weather. Once you get into the town, head for Can Rafaelet and enjoy the views from the magnificent terrace while you sample a range of typical Formentera-style dishes.
Cruise Tip: practically the whole length of the East coast is made up of beautiful white sand beaches. Along the way you will find plenty of charming chiringuito (beach shack bars) where you can enjoy the freshest seafood, payesa salad (featuring local dried salted fish) and delicious island wines.
The small island of Cabrera is a spectacular marine nature reserve just a short sail from Mallorca. Take a mooring in the bay and then have a wander ashore. We also recommend you take the tender for a visit to the Blue Cave. Navigate through the low entrance of this sea cave and you will find yourself inside the cathedral-like 20 metre high interior. Along with the sea rays, you will enjoy a spectacular light show of turquoise and electric blues courtesy of the afternoon sun. You are likely to see a lot of dolphins when sailing in the Balearics – especially around Cabrera, so keep an eye out on your travels.
Cruise Tip: Cabrera is a marine reserve, so you must book in advance to reserve a mooring buoy. (The cruising guide says you can book 2 days in advance but the government website booking form says up to 20 days). Visit https://www.caib.es/rescabfront and select ‘Mooring’ and complete the booking form or speak to the Oyster Palma office, who will be able to advise.
Menorca is easily explored by yacht and has splendid unspoilt anchorages that contrast with beautiful towns like Ciutadella, Fornells and the natural port of Mahon. Horse riding and sailing go hand in hand on this low-lying island, which is firmly focused on family tourism. If you fancy something different, try a spot of sea kayaking or mountain biking to access the secret beaches of Cala Morell, with their stunning views over crystal clear waters. Ciutadella is a small but perfectly-formed historical city with a natural port. It was at one time the capital of Menorca and, as a result, boasts fine architecture and noble buildings constructed from the local de Mares stone. Don’t miss a visit to the fish market and make sure you stop at bar Ulises, where you can enjoy excellent tapas with a cold beer. There is lots to see here – Ciutadella is a cultural centre, with everything from primitive human settlements to Roman remains, and a municipal museum and Menorcan Biosphere Reserve exhibition at Castell de Sant Nicolau.
Cruise Tip: the trick to finding a berth for the night here in the summer season is to call Club Nautico at 09:00 (when the office opens) on the day you wish to arrive. If you plan to stay longer, you can book in advance. Only smaller boats (less than 40 ft) can access the public marina in the inner part of the port. There is a meteorological phenomenon here that takes place a few times each year – the Rissaga - a strong tide going that goes in and out of the port. You will hear Rissaga warnings in VHF 16 and 85 (Menorca radio).
These cruise guides are intended as food for thought only and are based on the experiences of those who have been sailing in the Balearics. They do not form a definitive guide. The locations should always be studied using the appropriate pilots and charts.
South West Ireland Sailing Guide