THE BALEARICS, Spain (TheStreet) -- With the proliferation of budget European airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair, a weekend getaway to the Balearic Islands is available from almost any major European gateway.
Even those unfamiliar with the Balearics will likely recognize the names of the islands making up the Spanish chain: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Unlike other starry destinations that don't fully open until July or August, such as St. Tropez or Sardinia, much of Mallorca and Ibiza open on a wide scale come early June -- and with it comes a contingent of luxury-minded travelers that will find a wide offering of stylish, new hotels ready for the taking.
Cap Rocat, a former naval fortress along the Bay of Palma de Mallorca, looks like something out of a 7-year-old's dream but is now a hotel -- just one with real castle walls and a grand drawbridge.
Most likely a Balearic getaway will begin at either Palma or Ibiza, the islands' busiest gateways. A summertime getaway for the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones and the Spanish Royal Family, Mallorca is also home to one of the Mediterranean's glitziest new hotels. A former naval fortress along the Bay of Palma de Mallorca,
looks like something out of a 7-year-old's dream, with real castle walls and grand drawbridge (now a permanent walkway) leading to the hotel's tower entrance. The hotel is on 88 acres and almost two miles of waterfront.
Inside, owner and designer Antonio Obrador outdoes his previous work at Mallorca's La Residencia and the Majestic Hotel Barcelona with a series of effortlessly opulent spaces that capitalize on endless bay views and a history dating back to the 19th century. Much of the building's military history and relics have been incorporated into the design, from views of old cannon turrets in the rooms to using outlying gun pads as the hotel's high-end suites, including lavish covered cabanas and private terraces.
There are two restaurants: Fortress, with gourmet cuisine from locally sourced ingredients and sometimes-homegrown produce; and, closer to the water, the Sea Club, with its al fresco eatery and beach club styling. There's also a Moroccan Lounge inspired by the outdoor lounges of Marrakech, with a colorful tented canopy and oversize candle lanterns.
Far quieter than Ibiza and much smaller than Mallorca, Formentera is often a day-trip destination for island yacht-hoppers who cruise its coastal waters for private beaches and anchorable inlets. In fact, unless you come with your own helicopter, the only way to get to the island is by boat. Migjorn Beach near Ca Mart is one of Formentera's most famous beaches, stretching three miles to stylish beach bars, private villas and a recently renovated
-- the island's most luxurious hotel. This rehabbed motel now feels more like a waterfront estancia wedged in landscape of grassy dunes and rural back roads.
Gecko Beach is in a '60s-style structure reconceptualized with oversized terraces and a grassy resort deck. The deck is strewn with sun-washed teak loungers and chic white umbrellas facing an elevated walkway by the sea, and the outdoor bar and open-air lounge is one of the hottest on the island -- built around a palm tree with thatch roof and staffed with a chatty collection of seasonal workers mostly from Barcelona. Inside, natural stone tile floors complete a mostly white design palette of teak furnishings with a Balinese accent.
The lobby and stylish in-house eatery go from spring tranquillity to high-summer madness between June and August. Sure, you'd like a big pool or for parking to be a bit farther away, but regular yoga retreats and classes will teach you to redirect inner hotel judgment.
For anyone who thinks Ibiza is just about foam parties and teenagers on their first holiday without their parents, far away from the mediocre harbor restaurants and pushy street vendors of the main town is a rustic island landscape mixing the beach club panache of St. Tropez with the inland foodie culture of Provence. It's here, walking distance to the village of San Juan, that you'll find a 150-year old finca called
under a forest of olive trees and coastal pines.
Visitors arrive along a gravel path to the back door or can use the more glamorous front entrance, etched in pure white stucco, framed by a pebbled reflection pool and bearing a teak walkway with perfect patina.
Inside, a serene lobby oozes design sophistication entirely free of white leather furniture or Balinese statuary. Instead, a fireplace rises above marble floors to separate the main lounge from the more intimate dining room. Simple, elongated sofas face built-in banquettes with crisp linen cushions; woven chandeliers hang overhead; and period windows and doors face an agrarian countryside and working farm, just past the quintessential Ibiza pool surrounded in covered cabanas and outdoor bar -- not a hint of techno music to be found.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.