9 things to do in Mallorca, Spain beyond the beach
The Balearic Islands off the south coast of mainland Spain have long been popular destinations for Europeans to enjoy some of the best beaches in Spain (if not all of Europe). The largest and most popular of the Balearics is the island of Mallorca (sometimes spelled as “Majorca”), which sees 10 million-plus visitors each year concentrated largely during the summer months of May to September.
The island's 262 beautiful beaches are a great drawcard for visitors but there is so much more to discover on this surprisingly large island in the Mediterranean.
With the first nonstop flights from the U.S. to Mallorca commencing this summer, Americans shouldn't just limit themselves to working on their tans on the soft, white sand or cooling off in the turqoise crystal-clear blue waters.
Here are nine things to do in Mallorca, Spain beyond the beach.
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Taste some local wine
With so much sunshine every year, Spain is a great place to grow grapes which means there's plenty of delicious wine to sample right across the country that's not sangria from a large box in the refrigerator.
There are only around 5,000 acres of vineyards on Mallorca, and plenty of demand from the millions of tourists who visit each year, most of the wine produced here never leaves the island. The most common grape variety you will find on Mallorca is manto negro. This type allows three different styles of wine to be produced: early harvest can make a still or sparkling rose, normal harvest sees a dry red wine, while late harvest makes for a sweet red.
If you prefer white wines, keep an eye out for local moli grapes, which are often blended into sauvignon blanc or chardonnay varieties.
You'll likely see plenty of blended varieties on the island as it's easier to market types of wine that are already familiar to tourists.
There are more than 70 wineries on the island and they are reasonably spread out. It's a good idea to book a half-day or full-day tasting tour so you can enjoy a glass or three without having to worry about driving yourself to the next one; the legal limit to drive in Spain is 0.5mg of alcohol per ml of blood, which is lower than the 0.8mg level in the U.S. and the U.K.
Related: World's most unusual hotels: spend the night at an artsy Spanish winery
Stroll the capital Palma
With only one commercial airport on the island, you'll be flying in and out of Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI). Many visitors head straight to the luxurious hotels and resorts spread across the coastal areas of the island. However, the capital of Palma is well worth a visit.
Home to around 400,000 residents, the town has a beautiful mix of modernist and Art Nouveau architecture styles. The influence of one of Spain's most famous architects, Antoni Gaudí can also be seen in some of the window and doorway designs (though you'll need to head to Barcelona for a proper Gaudí experience).
There are plenty of winding alleyways to lose yourself in and stop for some jamón y queso (ham and cheese) and vino (wine) or cerveza (beer). Don't worry if your Spanish is rusty — the local retailers are very used to tourists and most will speak some level of English as they welcome you in.
The centerpiece of Palma is the spectacular Palma Cathedral (also known as Le Seu) which looks particularly impressive at night when it is lit up. Grab an ice cream from a street vendor and enjoy the view during the warm summer evenings.
Related: 10 photos: Gaudí architecture, beaches and sangria in Barcelona
Hike along a clifftop
To work off those tapas and wine there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails across the island. One of the best places to hike on Mallorca is the area of Sóller, in the northwest of the island. There are hiking trails of differing lengths, from easy rambles to half-day adventures that you will need a decent level of fitness to complete.
Look out for the mapped options that take you along the coast. You'll be treated to breathtaking views from the clifftops across the water. While this list focuses on activities beyond just flopping down on a beautiful beach for the day, if you do hike the coastlines near Sóller you may encounter the odd quiet cove beach which is great for a quick dip after all that hiking in the sunshine.
Pack some swimwear, a towel, hiking shoes, plenty of water and sunscreen.
Related: 8 of the most beautiful beaches on Mallorca, Spain
Wander Port de Pollensa
There are plenty of attractive towns and villages dotted across the island but if you want a great mix of beauty and relaxation, look no further than Port de Pollensa on the northern coast.
There's a charming esplanade of boutique hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and retail but don't worry about being hassled by shopkeepers here — everything moves at a quiet pace and no one is in a hurry. The nearby old town of Pollensa features Roman history and excellent dining options.
Every Wednesday morning there is a street market in Miquel Capllonch Square with some 200 stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, local snacks, handicrafts and other souvenirs to remember your visit. It's worth getting up early every morning to witness the spectacular sunrises over the water.
Birdwatchers should check out La Gold wetlands only a few minutes from the port where dozens of native and immigrating birds can be spotted.
Enjoy some local cuisine
All these activities are bound to work up an appetite. You'll find plenty of familiar Spanish options across the island including tapas, pintxos, paella, patatas bravas, and gazpacho as well as international favorites. But "when in Rome," while not try some local delicacies?
Here are some dishes local to the island of Mallorca:
- Tumbet/Tombet: A vegetable stew often topped with a fried egg and served with crusty white bread to sop up the liquids.
- Ensaïmada: An unusual sweet pastry made with... pork lard. Often eaten in the mornings with a strong coffee (and a strong stomach).
- Snails: If you don't like the sound of snails you might like the sound of the broth it is cooked in: a mix of fennel, chilli, mint, parsely and lashings of garlic.
- Mallorcan soup: A traditional Mallorcan thick soup of onion, beans, paprika and sometimes pork and beef — great to warm you up but this may be a little heavy for a lunchtime meal on a hot summers day.
- Whole roast suckling pig: If you are visiting over a festival, special holiday or another special event, you may see this showstopper served up to large and hungry crowds.
Related: From Mexican, Spanish and Puerto Rican cuisine, here are some of the best Hispanic restaurants in the US
Find love at the Love Island U.K. villa
The reality television show that has taken the world by storm first started in the U.K, with Celebrity Love Island back in 2005. Ten years after the first "civilian" version started, it remains one of the most popular shows on British television, with international franchises now matching up sexy singles across the globe.
The U.K. version is filmed in Mallorca each summer for several months at a hilltop villa near the town of Sant Llorenç des Cardassar in the southeast of the island.
While you probably won't be able to get close enough to make a splash in the famous swimming pool while the show is filming, if you are in the area and notice of heap of security guards and staging trucks and trailers, you're probably close by.
The contestants also have a day off each week (usually Saturday or Sunday) where they are allowed to leave the villa, so you may spot them out and about around the island during your visit with production minders making sure they leave the romance for when the cameras are rolling.
Drive up to Cap de Pera lighthouse
Located on the very eastern tip of the island this symbolic lighthouse dates back to 1231 and has been in service as a lighthouse since 1861 and was electrified in 1969.
If you fancy stretching your legs you can park your car in the town of Cala Ratjada and enjoy a scenic walk to the lighthouse either along the cliffs or through the native pine forest.
On a clear day, you'll be able to see the neighboring island of Menorca in the distance. Menorca is like a smaller, quieter version of Mallorca — keep that in mind for future visits if you do find Mallorca too crowded!
Related: Ibiza, Mallorca or Menorca: How to choose the right Balearic Island for your vacation
Take a scenic train ride into the mountains
From the capital city of Palma, for the last 110-years, a train has been heading up to the Tramontana mountain range to provide a vital lifeline to the town of Sóller. Before the train was constructed the only access to Sóller was on foot, through a steep and treacherous hiking path.
The 16-mile train route was a marvel of engineering at the time of construction. It remains a fun and authentic way to see parts of the island that would otherwise be inaccessible and it is especially popular with children.
The village of Sóller is a charming destination regardless of the transportation method, with a bustling town square and great hiking in the surrounding area.
Sign up for a Spanish cooking class
If you've enjoyed local Mallorcan cuisine on the island during your visit, why not learn how to cook it at home? There are plenty of ways to learn — some classes are operated in authentic local restaurants and some in commercial cooking schools. A recent trend has seen cooking classes through the Airbnb "experiences" tab which will match you up with a local who will teach you to cook in their kitchen.
You may find the class offered by a young local who speaks fluent English who will then take you to the home of their mamá (Mom) or abuela (Grandmother) who may not have perfect English, but sure can cook. The younger relative will usually stay for the lesson to aid in any translation and it's a memorable way to both learn how to cook dishes handed down from generation to generation, and to learn more about the traditional way of life on Mallorca.
At the end of the class, you'll get to enjoy a delicious meal that you've cooked yourself, and a glass of vino or two. You'll have new skills and a great story to take home with you.
Related: Inside the tricked-out cooking classroom on Carnival’s new ship
How to get to Mallorca using points and miles
United will launch three times weekly flights between Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) starting on June 3 with the following schedule:
- UA236 EWR 9:05 p.m. departure ⇒ PMI 11:10 a.m. arrival (leaves Sun, Tues and Thurs, arrives the following morning on the island).
- UA237 PMI 12:55 p.m. departure ⇒ EWR 4:10 p.m. arrival (Mon, Wed and Thurs).
This will be the first and only nonstop flight between the U.S. and Mallorca and will add to United’s existing service to Madrid and Barcelona. Service will be operated by one of United’s “standard” Boeing 767-300ERs (as opposed to the premium “high-J” variant) that does not feature a Premium Plus premium economy cabin.
You can book this flight for 30,000 United MileagePlus miles in coach, or 60,000 miles in business class plus $5.60 in fees and taxes each way. There's good availability in coach but very limited availability in business class at this level, even though this is a brand new, seasonal route.
Related: 30 ways to earn miles with the United MileagePlus program
While many European airlines fly to Mallorca via their respective hubs, one of the easiest ways is to fly Iberia via Madrid. Iberia operates to Madrid from New York City, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Using Iberia Plus, you can book flights from the U.S. to Mallorca (via Madrid) on Iberia from as low as 21,000 Avios one-way in economy, 30,000 Avios in premium economy or 43,000 Avios in business class on off-peak dates plus under $150 in fees, taxes and surcharges.
Related: On which airlines can I use Avios?
You can also redeem American AAdvantage miles for Iberia flights to Mallorca via Madrid. You can book economy for 30,000 miles one-way (or 22,500 off-peak) and 57,500 in business class. While potentially more expensive than the same Iberia flights booked through Iberia Plus, it can be a good way to spend your American miles — especially in business class.
Many tourists come to Mallorca to enjoy the stunning beaches. It's a sun lovers' paradise but there's plenty more to do beyond working on your tan.
Make sure you sample the local delicacies (and you can even learn how to make them yourself), and there are fantastic places to take in the beautiful views across the Balearic Sea both during the day and at sunrise/sunset and balance out some indulgence with some exercise.