Having spent 2 years mostly living in harbour or at anchor, I realise we know quite a bit about the island, so here are some ideas on where to go when you visit with your boat…
Part 1 – Es Vedra to Portinatx
When you first arrive from Formentera or Denia, you will probably see Es Vedra or Vedranell. If you have the time and daylight, it is worth anchoring just between the 2 islands, for a few hours of snorkelling among the giant rocks. Not a great anchorage to stay the night but it’s an awe inspiring place.
Next to these islands is Cala D’Hort which has a huge sandy anchorage with good holding and protection from all but W/SW. There are 3 restaurants, the middle of which is the best value and least touristy. You can leave your dinghy on the beach, at the fishing huts on either side (not great in a swell) or tied up a the jetty by the Es Boldado restaurant (left hand side). Good walks and sunset views if you follow the road then the cliffs up to the right of the beach and if you have a few more hours you can carry on to the Es Vedra viewpoint, the pirate tower and the scramble down to Atlantis (aka Sa Pedrera). Going left through the lower terraces of Es Boldado gets you to a rocky forest walk, past an isolated cove which is great for snorkelling and down to the little beach of Cala Carbo. There are no shops in Cala D’hort and the nearest are around a 15 minute drive away in Es Cubells.
Sailing North round the headland you get into a long wide bay with many beaches and developments. Notable in these is Cala Vadella, which is sheltered and has a number of restaurants and other facilities. Beautiful place for snorkelling or exploring the rock caves, but anchoring is limited as there are lots of moorings.
The biggest beach in this stretch is Cala Tarida, which is really a town in its own right, with many shops and restaurants. Lots of sand and good holding, but lots of boats. Despite Cala Tarida being over developed, if you tuck right in at the North end it can be quite sheltered, with a couple of less accessible (by land at least) beaches. From the left hand edge of the main beach there are some steps going up to the main road which has most things you could need, including buses to other parts of the island.
There are a couple of nice beachy coves before you pass the headland and start to see the islands that guard the entry to San Antonio Bay. Cala Conta (Comte in Ibicenco) is on the ‘mainland’ and is always full of masts. Be careful though as the channel between here and Illa des Bosc is shallow, narrow and rocky. We’ve done it a few times in our 0.6m draft cat but in anything like bad weather we take the more forgiving route between Illa des Bosc and Conejera (aka Sa Conillera). This channel is rocky and drops to around 5m, so most boats can get through the middle without worrying (but keep a careful eye on Navionics all the same!). The slightly longer route is just to go round the N end of Conejera and straight towards San Antonio. The bay on the E edge of Conejera is worth a mention as it is sheltered from all but E wind and a beautiful place to swim. There is a large sandy patch on the Northern side of the bay and a few rock/sand patches elsewhere. You are not allowed to go ashore and there are no facilities on Conejera.
Apart from Cala Conta, which is quite exposed but a great spot, there are 3 anchorages along the stretch to San An: Cala Roja, Cala Bassa and Port des Torrent. Cala Roja is rocky and isolated with no buildings. You will struggle to find a sandy patch to anchor but if you do you may have the bay to yourself, and if you scramble ashore you can see the pirate tower and walk round the impressive cove.
Cala Bassa is very popular and quite sheltered, with a nice beach which is rammed most days. There are often boats or beach clubs with music playing through the night (we once went over to a large sailing cat at 2am to ask them to turn the outside speakers off, as they were making our windows shake). Good snorkelling and walks along the rocky coast but no facilities. The restaurants do leave their toilets open at night though.
Port des Torrent is a small sheltered bay with great holding and if you tuck in by the fishing huts is ok in most winds. This is really the start of the suburbs of San Antonio, and a short walk will get you to the edge of the Cala de Bou area, with shops, library, playground, laundry, bakeries etc. An hour or so’s walk will get you into the centre of town.
In San Antonio bay itself, you can anchor on the S side by one of the beaches and there are a number of pontoons you can tie up to with good access to plenty of shops and 20 mins walk to the centre. If you want a slightly longer dinghy ride, many people cross the bay and tie up at the first pontoon between the main beach and the Harbour. Be careful when anchoring on the South side to avoid posidonia, either with the anchor or chain scope… there has been a big crack down in 2021 with many tonnes of illegal moorings being removed and the authorities regularly patrol to move on posidonia killers!
Looking at the harbour, the right-most pontoons are run by Ports IB and apparently a bit cheaper than the Es Nautic ones (all the rest). However, their shower block is small and a good walk away, and they don’t let catamarans in. The sailing club (Es Nautic) are very good but silly prices in July/August (EUR100 per night for us compared to EUR12 in Winter). However all the mooring balls in the bay belong to them and are reasonably priced (EUR20 for our 9m cat) including shower facilities and free 24 hour water taxi to get you ashore. They have a 24 hour fuel berth and for water, you can go in for under EUR10 per half hour. Cruising Association members get 20% discount, apart from in July/August. VHF Channel 9 call for “Es Nautic” or book online. You can’t book the mooring balls online and usually have to call at 9am to get on the waiting list for a ball at 12.
In anything but a W wind, Calo Des Moro is a good anchorage, just outside the bay on the edge of town, a short walk from the famous Cafe del Mar and Cafe Mambo. Easy walk to all the shops that San An offers. It is also in front of the excellent Golden Buddha which looks up-market but in reality is child and dog friendly, and not very expensive. The owners are friends of ours, so there are often small herds of kids running riot or curled up on the sofa-beds while the adults coo and clap at the sunset. The only place to land in this cala is the boat launching ramp, and sometimes the lifeguards tell you you can’t leave your dinghy on the rocks. The solution is to go ashore out of lifeguard hours, go ashore when they are the other side of the beach and make a quick exit before they can walk over, or drop off the main group then send someone back to tie up the tender and swim ashore.
The coast N of San Antonio is both wonderful for sailing and not great for overnight anchoring. Both beaches of Cala Gracio and Cala Salada are beautiful but have lots of posidonia and warnings saying no anchoring. People do anchor there though and if you are off season you may find a good sandy spot inside the area that is cordoned off for swimming in Summer. Further up the coast, Es Portixol is worth a mention for the wow factor of this hidden high sided rocky cove. No more than 1 or 2 boats can anchor in it and I am told even then it’s a good idea to put lines ashore but if you can get in it will be worth the effort (we have only visited it by the long walk in).
The main anchorage N of San Antonio is Port San Miguel, which is quite sheltered and has a few shops and restaurants. Various options for anchoring in here depending on swell but plenty of sand. There are some good walks either up to the pirate tower to the S, or up towards the Can Marsa caves which are worth a visit.
If the swell is bad in San Miguel, chances are it is better across the bay in Benirras. This is guarded by an impressive rock stack which often has people jumping off from around 10m (It feels much higher when you are up there!). The beach has a few restaurants and a hippy market some days, as well as drumming on the beach most evenings, lots of naked sunbathers and crowds of people coming to see the sunset. It gets so crowded some days that they block the road and run a bus service from a car park miles away. The best spot on the beach is about 100m offshore in my opinion. The left hand restaurant does reasonable priced take away pizza which you can eat on the beach whilst listening or dancing to the drumming. It is a nice walk N from Benirras to Calo de s’Illa aka Moon Beach. Take plenty of drinking water!
Finally on the North coast is Portinatx with the Northern most pirate tower and the biggest lighthouse in the Balearics. There are a couple of bays before it and the main Portinatx bay has most facilities you would want before jumping off to Mallorca or carrying round to the East coast. If you walk round the coast to the N you can get to the lighthouse then carry on to a rocky beach with lots of crystals (Pro-tip: if your kids like collecting rocks, make sure they bring their own backpack and only take what they can carry…)