The Spanish Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza* are known for being sun-drenched, tourist hotspots in the middle of the Mediterranean. But which Balearic Island is best?
*Unfortunately, this article will overlook Formentera, a tiny Balearic Island with crystal blue waters which is easily accessible by boat from Ibiza.
Population: approximately 896,038 (2019)
Annual tourism: Over 10 million international tourists arrived in Mallorca in 2019, with over 5 million Spanish nationals visiting Mallorca too.
Resorts: Mallorca has a number of resorts around the island. The coastal resorts are all incredibly different, but share a common theme – beautiful beaches.
Take Cala d’Or, to the south-east of the island. This area boasts a collection of small, sandy coves surrounded by crystal blue waters. My favourite cove is Cala Egos, as pictured in the featured image for this blog article. Architecturally, Cala d’Or offers a number of low-rise, white-washed villas covered in vibrantly coloured flora. The resort is centred around a marina of many yachts and the owners and guests of which spend their free time in the sophisticated restaurants and bars dotted around Cala d’Or.
This is at stark contrast with the neon lights, tattoo parlours and fast-food chains found in the well-known resort of Magaluf, to the south-west of the island. The area attracts fairly bad press, yet lively Magaluf still offers a stretch of golden sand for party-goers to enjoy. Visitors to Magaluf could also stay in neighbouring Palma Nova, in order to achieve a good balance of nightlife and tranquillity.
Activities around the island: Aside from a plethora of beaches, bars and restaurants, visitors to Mallorca could occupy themselves by exploring the history of the island. Based around a gothic 13th century landmark (Santa Maria Cathedral), Palma, as the capital of Mallorca, is like a mini Barcelona. Meanwhile Alcúdia, to the north of the island, features a neo-gothic church built into the town’s medieval walls and, as such, is an interesting part of the island to explore. Aside from this, Mallorca also offers a vast array of the standard ‘holiday’ activities, including crazy golf, water parks, wine tasting and boat trips around the island.
Population: approximately 93,309 (2019)
Annual tourism: data unavailable, estimated at around 1 million international visitors a year.
Activities around the island: Menorca is best known for its fabulous beaches. Boat tours are offered for visitors to see as many of the beaches as possible in one day. It is also worth taking a day trip to Mahon to see the biggest harbour in the Mediterranean and to sample the local cheese. Visitors can also ascend to heights of 342 metres on El Toro, the tallest hill on Menorca, offering a fantastic panoramic viewpoint of the island – along with a gothic church from 1670 and a statue of Christ at the summit.
Capital: Ibiza Town
Population: approximately 147,914 (2019)
Annual tourism: 7.1 million tourists (2016)
Resorts: Probably the most well-known resort in Ibiza is San Antonio, the party district. This area is packed with bars open all night and offering very cheap drink deals, similar to Magaluf in Mallorca. Another popular area is Platja d’en Bossa, near the airport, which caters for a very wide spectrum – from the budget traveller up to the 5-star holidaymaker. This area is home to super clubs such as Ushuaia and Hï. Additionally, situated to the north east of the island are resorts such as Es Cana, which are calm and classy, with beautiful beaches and a bohemian atmosphere.
Activities around the island: It goes without saying that Ibiza is a ‘party island’. There are a ridiculous number of different party venues on the island, from super clubs like Amnesia to the strip of bars at San Antonio. Even an old abandoned zoo has been converted into an area for hedonists to frequent on Saturdays, with the aptly named ‘Zoo Project’ event.
However, people are very much mistaken in thinking that Ibiza only offers a party scene. One of the most notable experiences on the island is the sunset at San Antonio. People come from all over the island to applaud as the sun sinks into the ocean. Visitors can watch the sunset from the sea (on one of the many champagne sunset voyages that depart from San Antonio Bay every night) or on land, from the legendary ‘sunset strip’ with a backdrop of house music emanating from Café Mambo.
The hippy market in Es Cana is also a must-see for those looking to pick up unusual fabrics and trinkets. Furthermore, the island is perfect for exercise enthusiasts, with fitness boot camps, yoga retreats and stand-up paddle-boarding opportunities all around the coastline.
So, which Balearic Island is best?!
Is it possible to conclude that any of the islands are superior? Ultimately, I suppose the answer is specific to each individual, taking into account factors such as personality, age, fellow travellers and what the individual traveller wants or expects out of a holiday.
Mallorca covers all bases – beaches, nightlife and things to see and do are found on this island in their droves, suitable to all ages and personalities. Meanwhile, unspoilt by tourism, Menorca’s not only ideal for those seeking total relaxation in escaping a hectic work-life, but also for those who prefer a quieter holiday, such as young families and the elderly. Bohemian Ibiza, however, will always attract hedonistic party types of all ages, but the island must not be discounted by others. Ibiza is a truly beautiful place with plenty to do for families and young couples.
At its simplest: those who need a rest should head to Menorca; those looking to party should head to Ibiza; and those looking for a beach holiday with all the trimmings should head to Mallorca. As a female in my late 20s, who enjoys a beach holiday in the sun with plenty to do and a good number of decent bars and restaurants, I personally favour Mallorca.