Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca

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I’ve been visiting Puerto Pollensa  on the north-eastern tip of Mallorca for 25 years now and I can quite categorically say, it’s my favourite part of the world. Many a wonderful holiday has been spent there and each time I go, a flood of happy memories come to me like the gentle lapping of the water on the golden beaches. In all that time, I’ve seen a few changes but the essence of the place has remained unchanged. Thanks to frugal town-planning  where only old buildings can give way to new, Puerto Pollensa has retained the charm that so enticed us in the summer of ’82 and just about every year since.

First of all though, if you’re reading this hoping to get an idea for your next stag or hen-party destination then move along please, there’s nothing to see here. You won’t like it. Go to Blackpool instead. For the rest of you who don’t like their holiday being spoiled by drunken thugs in union jack t-shirts then read on …

Where is it and how to get there?

Puerto Pollensa nestles at the foot of the Tramuntana mountain range approximately 1 hour by car from the capital, Palma. Thanks to a new motorway (completed 2005) that takes you virtually to Puerto Pollensa’s doorstep, hiring a car and driving there has never been easier. Considering a taxi from the airport will cost around 50 British pounds or 80 Euros (and the same going back, obviously), hiring and driving is the sensible option. For a week stay and with a little shopping around, a small car can be had for about 100 quid. This not only costs the same as a return taxi-fare but you get the use of a car for a week. Compared to England, I would say driving in Mallorca has about the same ‘fear’ factor. The roads, on the whole, are superbly maintained until you start going down some of the minor routes. They can be rather tight and kerb-stones are non-existent – watch out for 6 foot drops or if you’re driving in the mountains, thousand-foot drops.

If you *have* decided to drive from the airport, and I applaud you, simply leave the airport, join the motorway and take the second junction onto another motorway following the signs for Andraitx and Alcudia. Stay on that road until you get to the end. Following the signposts, Puerto Pollensa is a few miles further on and to the left a bit. Simple eh?

What can I do when I get there?

One word for ya’ – relax. You’re about to experience life the Majorcan way. First of all, the beaches. One of the few concessions made to mass-tourism is the construction of approximately two miles of beaches that can only be described as first-class. These stretch from just south of the marina to way past Tamarells snack bar situated on the outer fringes of the town and they go north as far as the army training centre just at the foot of the steep climb up to Cap De Formentor (don’t worry, the army base is not as bad as it sounds!). As they built the beaches (around 1986-onwards), they used some of the inevitable detritus to build convenient breakwaters several metres away from the shore. The Port de Pollenca bay is sheltered by a long and natural out-crop jutting from the mainland meaning the sea is never rough, big waves are virtually non-existent and there are no strong currents – certainly not near the bathing areas. These man-made breakwaters have made it *even* calmer, which is particularly good for the young or nervous swimmer. If you like swimming in the sea, snorkelling or just lying on your back on a li-lo, this is the place for you. Underwater, visibility can stretch to 20 metres or more . There’s plenty of watersports too. Wind-surfing, yachting, water-skiing, scuba-diving, even those damned banana boats (not such a good idea in my opinion but there you go). There are parasols and hamacas (big sun-loungers) available for hire for between 6 and 10 euros per day.Be wary as during the hottest part of the year, jellyfish can make an unwelcome appearance. During our stay in June 2007, our daughter was stung on the thigh. Luckily, the knowledgeable lifeguards were able to dispense some cream and she was straight back in the water! We were told that to find one in June is rather odd (and it was just the one) as they usually arrive in August. That’s global warming for you.

I mentioned the marina and for a town as small as Puerto Pollensa, it’s a real marvel. It was extended several years ago in the mid-nineties and it’s a real joy to walk around and see how the other half live. There are some wonderful boats and yachts as well as a flotilla of small fishing boats, thankfully still being used. There are a couple of top-notch restaurants situated directly in the harbour and the prices reflect the exclusive clientele. One of the dishes was 100 euros! (I can get two flights for that!). If you want to experience the high-life without the cost, I suggest the Restaurante Chino just across the road. You can’t miss it – there are two huge golden lions outside. The dining room is on the second floor and the views across the harbour are spectacular. Prices are roughly the same as you would pay in a Chinese restaurant back home and the food is good too. My daughter didn’t like their spaghetti bolognaise though which is hardly surprising considering it’s Chinese food and not Italian.

One of the ‘must’ things to do is the pine walk. From the harbour, head north on the busy promenade for about 800 metres and just after the Dakota tex-mex place (don’t go, it’s awful), the path narrows and you will find yourself on a beautifully-scented avenue of pine trees, bordering the gentle sea. Keep walking, savouring the view and ambience and you will find yourself at an exclusive beach-fronted coffee bar belonging to the majestic Illa D’or Hotel. Here you can order yourself a Café Della Casa or even better, ‘Unos Canos’ (pronounced ‘Can-yoss’, which is Majorcan for beer!). Don’t use the touristy word of ‘cerveza’. Small warning on the pine walk – the path is quite uneven so tread carefully. We’ve seen a few people come a cropper, especially if they’ve had a few ‘canos’ at the Illa D’or.

There is one, solitary night-club in Puerto Pollensa (as far as I know) and I’m not going to tell you where it is. Go to Magaluf if you want that. Sorry.

Eating out

While on the pine walk, you will notice a few small cafes and restaurants but if you only eat at one, then you really must try ‘Little Italy’. It’s a small, unassuming restaurant with tables competing with passers-by for pavement space. Try it. Seriously, you have to. The food is glorious but best of all, the view comes free. Try and time your visit for when the sun goes down as the sight of the twinkling lights reflected in the mirror-like sea, as you eat your food, is magical. You will feel your soul nourished as much as your stomach. The proprietors of Little Italy are a friendly bunch and if you have to wait for a table, ask to take your glass of wine onto the beach. There’s nothing like drinking wine with sand between your toes and the setting-sun on your back. It’s a perfect combination. You may have to book in the high-season though and expect to pay about 60 quid for a three-course meal for two with *local* wine. I had the beef carpaccio starter and it was quite simply the most exquisite single plate of food I’ve ever eaten. My daughter said the spag bol was gorgeous (which it was, as I tasted it while she went and played on the beach!).

Venturing away from the beach-front you will find many small cafes and bars offering good food at reasonable prices. I would go as far to say as there are really no truly awful places to eat except perhaps the Dakota tex-mex, a solitary Burger King (thankfully it’s usually empty) and the Codfather fish ‘n’ chip shop. One of General Franco’s legacies that has endured to this day is the ‘Menu Del Dia’ which literally means, ‘Menu of the Day’. The big Gen brought this in to make sure the average person could afford a three-course meal with wine and thankfully this tradition is still alive. Any number of restaurants and cafes offer a Menu Del Dia and you can eat superbly for anything from 10 to 20 euros a head. That’s three courses with wine and don’t forget to try the local specialities such as Majorcan lamb and shellfish. Our particular favourites are Tots and Trios but please try different places – they’re all good. A small place worthy of mention is the Golden Lion located next to the imposing Pollensa Park Hotel. You can’t miss the Pollensa Park Hotel as it’s quite easily the largest building in the area, built at a time when tourism was just a twinkle in the town-planners eye. Paco, the Golden Lions proprietor, has been here for as long as I can remember and his roast chicken is legendary. Also try his breakfasts as well as the burgers – they are delicious. No McCrap here. To find it, walk south on the beach front until you hit Tamarells snack bar. Carefully cross the busy road and walk up the side street about 200 metres until you see the Golden Lion.

If you like a bit of atmosphere with your café con leche, then head towards the market square, situated a couple of streets away from the harbour. At night, all the bars and cafes spill out into the square and it’s a great place for the kids to run around. The guy who runs the Boney bar (pronounced ‘bonny’), with his upturned trousers, is a lot of fun. He throws out bags of sweets for the kids and they run around like maniacs trying to pick up as many as they can. They love it. Also, we’ve never been to a place where they HAVEN’T welcomed the whole family. The Majorcans love kids and the waiters seem to save their smiles for the youngsters.

On your walk home at night, stop at the ice-cream bar next to the harbour. Delicious, home-made ice cream and a world away from Walls – so light and refreshing. It doesn’t get any better.

Shopping

Puerto Pollensa has its fair share of nick-nack shops on the front but there are also quite a few clothes boutiques, jewellery stores and other high-end merchandise shops if you’re willing to explore some of the quaint back streets. If you’re looking for a bottle of wine to take home with you, go to the Mir store near the harbour. The owner is a grumpy sod but go upstairs and you will be amazed at the sheer quantity of alcoholic beverages on sale – there’s something for everyone. Again, just off the harbour front, there is a small cake shop making and selling traditional Majorcan pastries and other sweet-stuff. Don’t make the same mistake I did though of confusing Majorcan with Spanish – they don’t like it.

Puerto Pollensa has a great market on Wednesdays, held not surprisingly in the market square. You will find all sorts of stuff here. There is a vast array of locally-grown produce, herbs, spices, nuts, olives, olive oil, sausage, hams, cheese and just about everything else including clothing, shoes and traditional Majorcan crafts. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it and if you’re a budding amateur chef like me, it’s an excellent opportunity to bring back some great stuff that you can’t get back home. Watch your suitcase weight though, especially if you like olive oil. I speak with experience.

Places to go

Majorca, as an island, has something for everyone and you can drive all the way around it in a day (really). However, staying closer to the resort, the first port of call should be the boat-trips to either Formentor or just a quick sail around the bay in a glass-bottomed boat. Sailing times can be found on a notice board by the harbour entrance. Formentor really consists of just a beach and an incredibly expensive hotel. It’s a gorgeous beach but watch out for the sea – there’s a sudden drop in depth just a few metres from the shore. I’ve heard The Formentor Hotel is the most exclusive hotel on the whole island. Whether that’s true or not is open to debate but the prices would certainly indicate so. Charlie Chaplin once stayed there and even Michael Douglas has a property in the area but don’t let that put you off.

If you like driving, drive up to the Cap De Formentor which is located at the top of a nerve-jangling, windy road up the side of a mountain. The view is incredible and worth at least one visit. As is the even more nerve-jangling trip up to the Formentor lighthouse which is situated on the most northern part of Majorca. We tried to do it one year but got scared as the roads were terrifying – or rather, the sudden drop 300 feet into the sea that terrified us even more. Take it steady if you do go. It’s known locally as ‘The Place Where The Four Winds Meet’. I wish we’d known that before we set off.

If you haven’t got a car, you could do worse than catch one of the excellent local buses to either Alcudia market or the water-park there. They seem to ‘do’ public transport so much better than we do in England. It’s cheap, reliable and get’s you to where you want to go. Why can’t we do that? The water-park in Alcudia is good for a day out. Take shade with you as it can be a real sun-trap. The first and only time I ever had sunstroke was there.

If you fancy a walk in the hills, there are several organised ‘hikes’ to places like Cala San Vicente which is a small, secluded and very picturesque little fishing village just over the mountain. You can always catch the bus back if you’re too tired. There’s great swimming and snorkelling to be had in Cala but beware the strong currents – the sea isn’t as sheltered as it is in Puerto Pollensa.

If you’ve not had enough of markets, then I suggest you catch a bus to nearby old Pollensa. It’s a beautiful, old-fashioned town and has an incredible market on a Sunday. The stalls never seem to stop winding their way through the narrow, cobbled streets. If you’re feeling energetic, climb the 365 steps up Calvary hill – again, the views are tremendous and well worth the effort.

There’s a small travel-agency next to the patisserie mentioned above near the harbour that can organise a trip to the Pirates Adventure in Magaluf. A coach will pick you up and drop you outside the Café 1919 (great coffee) next to the harbour. It’s expensive, but the show is outstanding and well-worth the money. If you’re lucky, you’ll be asked to sit at Lord Mellions table and partake in the show! (Like we did this year and I ended up dancing on stage – I was so nervous I couldn’t even move my feet!). Kids and parents alike will sit agog for the whole duration of the show.

Where to stay

Unfortunately, I can’t be too helpful here. I’m lucky enough to have a good ole’ mum who has a place there and she lets us stay when we want. She’s great. I can’t comment on the quality of the hotels and guesthouses in the area as I’ve never stayed at any of them. There’s a lot of them though and I can comfortably guess that there’s bound to be something in the price range of everyone. I *can* say with authority however, wherever you stay in Puerto Pollensa, you’re never far away from either the beach, restaurants or shops.

Downsides

It’s hard to find any. The only thing I can really say is to be careful when crossing the main road in the southern area of the resort. It can be busy and drivers tend to ignore the few pelican crossings that are dotted around. Make sure the driver has seen you and is slowing down before you cross – both ways. Watch out for impatient drivers over-taking on the crossings as I’ve seen that happen!

Conclusion

As a family holiday destination, you really can’t go wrong. It’s never *too* busy. It has a massive range of bars, cafes and restaurants to suit every wallet and pallet. It’s within driving distance of just about anywhere you would care to visit on the island. The people are friendly, particularly if you make an effort with *their* language (Majorcan remember, not Spanish). The beaches are glorious. The scenery is beautifully dramatic and the sunsets even more so. There are things to do, places to see, stuff to eat, presents to buy. But most importantly, the kids will love it and so will you. Food for the soul? You got that right.

Try this website for more information: http://www.puertopollensa.com

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