Balearic Islands Car Hire
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The Balearic Islands comprise Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera and neighbouring minor islands and islands including S’Espalmador, Dragonera and Cabrera. They’re an archipelago of Spain near the east coast of the Iberian peninsula in the western Mediterranean.
Administrated as a province of Spain and autonymous community, the capital of the Balearics is Palma de Mallorca, and although they share some cultural and climatic commonalities with the rest of Spain, their distinctive cultures, cuisine and conventions charm tourists and locals alike.
Although the cost of living in the Balearics has crept up recently, it’s still cheaper than the UK for criteria like accommodation, clothing, utilities, transport, eating out and more. This economic trend extends to car hire, which is good news if you’re thrifty with this particular part of your holiday spending. At the moment, hiring an economy car in Ibiza like a Nissan Micra or similar costs just £52 for 4 days, the chic Fiat 500 is £70 for the same duration and a slightly roomier (and appropriately named) Seat Ibiza is only £89 for 4 days. Rent a car with Enjoy and you can hit the road in this ravishing part of the world ̶ here’s some more information on the Balearic Islands to rev up your engine!
- About the Balearic Islands: the three largest islands in the Balearics are Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza and each has its individual highlights. Mallorca is the biggest, with a well-developed tourism infrastructure, beautiful beaches and rugged, verdant mountains, Menorca is in the middle, considerably quieter and popular with nature lovers, and although Ibiza is the smallest of the main islands, it packs a punch with its legendary club culture, beautiful scenery and Boho vibes.
- Airports and Access: the Balearic Islands are served by Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI), Ibiza International Airport (IBZ) and Menorca Airport (MAH). All airports are located in convenient reach of each island’s infrastructure, so it’s easy to hop in your hire car when you land and start your holiday without delay.
- Driving around the Balearic Islands: as you might expect from an area with such a kaleidoscopic variation of terrain, there are some superb road trips available ̶ here are a few highlights.
In the Ancient world, the two largest islands were known as the Gymnesiums and at various times they were occupied by the Phoenicians and the Romans, before falling to the Vandals in AD 671, then suffering Viking raids in the 9th century before being fought over by the Moors, France Italy and Spain, briefly becoming a British dependency in the 18th Century, then returning to Spanish control in 1802 and remaining part of Spain ever since. Today, the Balearics are a UNESCO World Heritage Site with four distinctions in Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza, and are perennially popular with tourists from Britain, Germany and further afield.
If you’re based in Palma, Mallorca, the coastal drive up to delightful Deià only takes around a half hour (via the MA1110 and MA10) and the scenic views from this rustic village are captivating. The most scenic spot is the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista ̶ it’s a short hike up the hill to this church and you’re rewarded with a wonderful vista.
Meanwhile, if you’re in Menorca, head to the stunning, natural Pregonda Beach on the north coast via the Son Amettler Road and you’ll love the red-tined sands and rugged, rocky outcrops.
If Ibiza is your bag, Cala Jondal is a pretty white pebble beach complemented by crystal waters, verdant pines and dramatic cliffs, located on the island’s south coast, just 15 minutes’ drive from Ibiza Town via the E-20 and Disseminat sa Caleta.
Guide to Balearic Islands
The history of the Balearic Islands is full of fascinating twists and turns. For instance, it seems that the free-spirited nature Ibiza is famous for stretches back much further than the island’s Hippy fringe ̶ according to legend, natives of the archipelago were infamous for their habitual nakedness and Phoenician invaders insisted they spared blushes by wearing long tunics. Chances are that you won’t spot many locals in their birthday suits when you visit these days, but you can immerse yourself in the areas unique history at sites like the beautiful Gothic La Seu cathedral in Mallorca, Palma, which dates back to the 13th Century, Menorca’s amazing megalithic sites like the Cala Morell Necropolis, a burial site used up until the 2nd Century AD, and the myriad attractions of the charming, castellated Dalt Vila, Ibiza’s Old Town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Balearic Islands are blessed by a preternatural beauty, varied terrain and diverse fauna and flora which eclipse the sun, sea and sand that characterise most summer holiday resorts. For instance, at the Albufereta Nature Reserve in Mallorca’s Bay of Pollença you can see migratory birds on their annual exodus, lakes, flooded meadows, streams and beaches, and the iconic Lighthouse Cap de Favàritxt perched on a rocky promontory on Menorca’s north coast provides stunning views over grey slate cliffs that are one of the oldest geographical formations in the Balearics. Meanwhile, Ibiza’s inspirational100,000-year-old Can Marça cave is secreted in a cliffside and was once a smuggler’s secret treasure trove, and fabulour Formentera boasts beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters.
The Balearic Islands also punch above their weight when it comes to music and they’ve produced world-class contributions to the field in several diverse genres. An authentic ‘xeremiers’ ensemble features a flabiol (five hole pipe) and xeremies (traditional bagpipes), renowned classical composers Antoni Literes and Francesc Guerau hail from the archipelago and Ibiza has been a global capital of house music since the mid/late-1980s, with superclubs like Amnesia and Pacha propelling the island’s reputation as one of the world’s best places to party.
Things to do in the Balearic Islands
Despite their reasonably diminutive scale, the Balearics have an endless array of activities to suit travellers of every taste. From magnificent mountains to blissful beaches and historical buildings to buzzing bars and clubs, it’s impossible to be bored here!
A cracking climate, brilliant beaches and pristine waters are the perfect formula for making the Balearics a haven for fans of watersports. At Es Grau beach, just 9km from Mahon, Menorca’s capital, the cloistered, serene sands and shallow waters are ideal for families learning to snorkel, but if you fancy something less sedate, try wakeboarding or flyboarding at Ibiza’s Punta Pinet beach. Alternatively, Mallorca’s Alcudia Bay is ideal for windsurfing and Formentera’s Illetes is popular with the yachting set and also offers water-skiing and kitesurfing.
If you want to feel groovy baby, head to La Mola Hippy Market at Formentera. Held every Wednesday and Sunday from May to October, this vibesy market has been a hotspot for artists and creatives from across Europe and beyond since the peak of the Hippy counterculture in the 1960s. You’ll find unique arts and crafts made from leather, silver and wood, complemented by live music, dancing and storytelling ̶ the entire place is infused with the ambience of peace, love and happiness which its creators have curated for generations.
Cheese to please
Dairy food fanatics should make a beeline for Mahon in Menorca, where the eponymous cheese is one of the world’s tastiest varieties. You can get your chops around this delicacy at a local tapas bar and if it really tickles your taste, buds, buy it by the wheel at the local Mercat des Claustre.
Eating out in the Balearic Islands
Balearic cuisine is colourful, exotic, creatively presented and, above all, completely delicious. As you might expect, seafood dominates many dishes and lobster stew (caldereta de langosta) is Menorca’s most famous dish and served across the archipelago. However, sobrasada (paprika-peppered pork pâté) is also superb, and legendary local extra-virgin olive oil is a key ingredient in many signature dishes. Here are a few highlights from the islands’ eclectic eateries:
Top pick in Palma de Mallorca is Es Baluard Restaurant & Lounge, next to the Es Baluard Museum on Plaza Santa Catalina. Chef Joan Torrens is a Mallorcan native (originally from Inca) upholding a proud family heritage in local cuisine infused with international influences ̶ the deep-fried squid is simply divine.
Alternatively, try the Fabiloa Gastronomic Garden at the bijou Sant Jaume Hotel. This is a wild garden-themed city centre sanctuary where Michelin-starred chef Tomeu Caldentey and his team serve up delicious dishes like grilled salmon with sautéed buckwheat and vegetables ̶ which patrons typically wash down with a glass or three of fresh bubbly, naturally!
You can try caldereta de langosta prepared the authentic way at Café Balear on Ciutadella’s Es Pla de Sant Joan, a charming waterside café which specialises in this delicacy. But for something a little different, just 5km north of Mahon you’ll find the Cap Roig restaurant ̶ sample freshly caught crab and clam dishes on the sun-kissed terrace with breath-taking views across the rugged coastline.
Ibiza club cuisine
If you want to eat, drink and be merry in the Balearics, San Lorenzo’s Aura is hard to beat. This stylish and sophisticated lounge bar, open-air restaurant and night club complex serves up the party island’s most delectable cuisine (try the first-rate international-style tapas!) and after you eat you can relax in the lounge and throw some shapes as world-class DJs keep the dancefloor filled until 4am.
Transport in the Balearic Islands
Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) is situated 8km east of the capital city and is also known as Son Sant Joan Airport. It’s the third largest in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, processes around 28 million passengers per annum and is served by a wide range of international carriers. Menorca Airport (MAH) is 4.5km southwest of Mahon city centre, handles 4.96 million passengers annually and most of its traffic comes from the rest of Europe. Ibiza Airport (IBZ) is just 7.5km from Ibiza Town, serves 8.1 million passengers annually and offers year-round flights to a range of international locations, as well as seasonal flights to and from hubs like Dublin, Prague, Cologne and London Gatwick. Enjoy works with a number of trusted car hire partners at these Balearic airports, including brands like Europcar, Keddy, Hertz, and hand-picked local firms offering excellent customer service.
Trains and buses
The public transport system in Mallorca is reasonably reliable and most services have capacity for larger items like baby buggies and bikes. There’s an integrated fare system that covers trains, buses, the metro service and bicycles, and you can plug into this by buying an intermodal card, although this has some inherent restrictions that might make it more suitable to those who live here than visitors. Nevertheless, discounted fares are still available on many routes. The mainline train service on Mallorca runs between Palma and Manacor via Inca and there’s a branch line to Sa Pobla. Meanwhile, the bus network is expansive, and the routes are divided into five zones that make it easy to navigate. The island’s main public transport hub is Plaça de Espana and it interlinks the majority of major routes.
There’s no train system in Menorca, but there is an island-wide bus service operated by three companies ̶ TMSA, Torres Alles Autocares and Autos Fornells. All buses operate from Mahon to outlying areas and the main hub is the central bus station near the Plaça de s’Esplanada. The single-decker buses that run from Mahon to Ciutadella are easy to identify from their distinctive bright red colour and you can pay the driver when you board or purchase pre-paid cards. TMSA serves the south coast beaches like Platja de Punta Prima, and operates several services to Ciutadella via Alaior, Es Mercadal and Ferreries. From Ciutadella you can reach the western beach towns using buses that run regularly from the main plaza.
In Ibiza, there’s a decent bus service with connections between all major resorts and in the summer, services run from roughly 7AM to 10PM. There’s also a lively ‘disco’ bus which operates between midnight and 6AM, ferrying clubbers safely between venues and resorts across the island. Furthermore, if you want to explore Formentera, there’s a cheap Aquabus ferry service that takes you across from Ibiza Town ̶ this is for passengers, pets, bikes and bags only, so you’ll have to park up your car for the day.
You drive on the right side of the road in the Balearics, as you do across Spain. The speed limits are 120 km/h (74 mph) on motorways and dual carriageways, 90 km/h (55 mph) on non-motorway main roads (single carriageways) and 50 km/h (31 mph) in most towns and cities. Be careful though ̶ some busy city areas have a lower 30km/h (18 mph) limit and there are presently moves afoot to extend this limit to 90% coverage in cities like Palma de Mallorca, in order to pacify traffic.
Seatbelts must be worn at all times by everyone in the car and children under 18 who are shorter than 1.35m should use a car seat or booster seat.
As you would expect, drink driving is taken very seriously by authorities here. The blood alcohol limit is 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood but if you’re a driver with less than two years’ experience, this is reduced to 20mg per 100ml blood, so if you’re a younger driver, or a driver of any age who has only recently passed their test, please be aware of this.