Travel with Children
Mallorca could be the poster child for stimulating and stress-free family travel. Undoubtedly an adults' playground, it's just as packed with diversions and distractions for the littl'uns: castles to scale, warm seas and wild water parks to splash in, caves to explore, beaches to burn energy and warm welcomes all round.
Best Regions for Kids
- Northern Mallorca
Alcúdia and Port de Pollença are natural family-pleasers, with giant gentle bays ideal for long, sandy days. Hit Hidropark for whizzy slides and Parc Natural de S'Albufera for gentle bike rides and birdwatching expeditions. Plus, there are loads of activities for teens – from kayaking to spooky caving.
- Eastern Mallorca
Tell tales of troglodytes as you duck through the glittering chambers of vast caves – none more impressive than the Coves del Drac. There are castles for fantasy play, pony rides, boat trips, safari encounters and a cluster of lovely, gently shelving bays in the island's east, too.
- Palma & Badia de Palma
The island's capital is like a history lesson come to life, whether playing spot-the-gargoyle at the cathedral or clambering up to Castell de Bellver. Nearby, find giant water parks and an aquarium with brilliantly scary shark sleepovers.
Mallorca for Kids
Resorts up and down the island cater for families with their well-tended seafront promenades, playgrounds, pools, round-the-clock activities and child-friendly hotels and restaurants. And the Mallorcans simply adore tots, so wherever you go, you can be sure they'll not only be welcome, but actively fussed over.
It's the little things that are likely to spark imaginations: eating snail-shaped ensaïmada pastries for breakfast, building castles in the sand, taking a (whoa!) helter-skelter ride along the coast to Sa Calobra, or a rickety train ride to Sóller.
There's plenty to appease older children, too: mountain biking, scuba diving, spelunking in sea caves or even cliff jumping – sure to gain them kudos in the classroom back home.
Nappies (diapers), baby food and formula milk are widely available in town and resort supermarkets and chemists.
Eating out with children is a breeze in Mallorca, where large family lunches are a way of life and the mood is laid-back in all but the most formal of places. You’ll get lots of smiles if you have kids with you and letting a tot wander around a restaurant – as long as they’re not breaking wine bottles or bothering anyone – is usually OK.
Many resort restaurants offer inexpensive children’s menus – simple grilled meats, French fries, spaghetti, tortillas and the like, followed by ice cream. If not, most places are generally happy to improvise to suit children’s appetites and whip up smaller portions. Kids with more adventurous tastes might like to try pa amb oli (bread rubbed with oil and tomatoes with a variety of toppings) and paella, while Sóller orange ice cream always goes down a treat.
You cannot rely on restaurants having high chairs, although many have a couple – getting there early increases your chances of snaffling one. It's worth bringing your own harness, though, as these are often lacking. Few places have nappy-changing facilities.
Discounts are available for children (usually aged under 12) on public transport, while under-fives ride for free. You can also expect substantial reductions on sights, though ages vary widely, with free entry ranging from 0 to 16 years. As a rule, under-fours are free and under-12s pay half price, as well as concessions for youths. Most tours (for instance boat tours) offer a 50% reduction for children.
- Wet and wild Kids will gleefully exhaust themselves on the slides, rides and tides at Aqualand and Western Water Park, while kid-friendly Hidropark is handy for the northern resorts.
- Back to nature Treat natural parks such as Península de Llevant and Cala Mondragó like vast open-air playgrounds, full of secret coves, ancient stone towers and flocks of beady-eyed goats.
- Pedal pushing Gentle pedals along the coast and in the bird-rich wetlands of Parc Natural de S'Albufera; mountain biking in the Tramuntana for active teens.
- Float their boat Pair up with a nipper in a tandem sea kayak to explore the caves and coves around Port de Sóller.
- Artestruz Ostriches to stroke, feed and admire in full sprint at this one-of-a-kind park near Ses Salines.
- Palma Aquarium Some 8000 marine creatures splash around in the tanks here. There are monthly shark sleepovers for little nippers.
- Safari-Zoo In the island's east, this is a rare chance to spot giraffe, emus and lions on a safari train.
- Coves del Drac Wend through watery caverns encrusted with stalactites, millennia in the making.
- Serra de Tramuntana Marvel at faces and weird formations in the bizarrely weathered peaks of this mountain range.
- Sa Calobra Feel your stomach drop on the roller-coaster road down to Sa Calobra, with snapshot views of sheer cliffs and canyons.
- Coves d'Artà A magical cave with a forest of formations, including the 'Queen of Columns' and 'Chamber of Hell'.
- Blue Cave Look in wonder at the surreal blue waters on a boat trip to the Illa de Cabrera, part of Mallorca's only national park.
- Parc Natural de S'Albufera Bring binoculars to spot wading birds, turtles and even water buffalo in this reed-fringed nature park.
- Platja de Muro Fabulous sweep of silky sand and shallow turquoise sea in the north's Badia d'Alcúdia. It backs onto the Parc Natural de S'Albufera.
- Cala Mondragó This southern Blue Flag bay in the Parc Natural de Mondragó is gorgeous, with brilliantly clear water and powder-soft sand. Great for snorkelling.
- Cala Agulla Fringed by pines and dunes, this beautiful arc of a Blue Flag bay sits just north of Capdepera. The water is shallow enough for paddling.
- Platja de Formentor Getting to this north-coast beach by boat or the hair-raising coastal road is part of the fun. Tiptoe away from the crowds on the pine-flanked slither of sand.
- Cala Mesquida An east-coast favourite, this gently shelving bay has dazzling clear water. It's better for older kids due to stiff winds and waves.
Back in Time
- Castell de Bellver The Badia de Palma shrinks to postcard format from this mighty circular castle.
- Ferrocarril de Sóller This rattling vintage train from Palma to Sóller is a real blast from the past – a hit with kids and parents.
- Santuari de Sant Salvador Ramble along the ramparts of this hilltop castle above Artà.
- Medieval Walls Travel back in time with a walk atop the old city walls in Alcúdia.
- Torre des Verger Play pirates at this watchtower precariously perched above the sea near Estellencs.
For general advice on travelling with children, consider the following:
- Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children
When to Go
Bear in mind that many kid-geared sights and activities are open only from April to October. The best season to go depends on what you want to see and do. Spring and autumn are dry, warm and fantastic for hiking, cycling and other active pursuits. Families (including locals) descend en masse on the coast during the summer holidays, so if you are going then, you might want to choose a quieter resort, or base yourself slightly inland at a finca (farm).
Whether you're looking for a self-catering apartment, a coastal resort for families or a rural farm-stay complete with resident goats and donkeys to pet, we recommend dozens of family-friendly accommodation options.
Many hotels in coastal resorts offer apartments big enough for families or one-bedroom suites with a small sitting area and sofa bed. The vast majority of places will squeeze in a baby's cot for free or a child's bed for a small extra charge – mention it when booking.
The all-inclusive resorts that dominate the southern, eastern and (to a lesser extent) northern coastline, do one thing very well: most places employ kids' entertainers to organise children’s activities, from games and discos to craft workshops and outdoor excursions.
Most airlines – including Ryanair and easyJet – will take your pushchair from you as you embark for no extra charge (this needs to be tagged at the check-in or bag-drop desk). For additional items such as booster seats and travel cots, they levy a fee (€10/£10 if booked online, €20/£20 if done at the airport). You can take baby food, milk and sterilised water in your hand baggage.
If you would rather not schlep it all with you, companies such as Multi-Hire (www.multi-hire.com) and Baby Equipment Hire Mallorca (www.babyequipmenthiremajorca.co.uk) rent out the essentials, and it's often a more cost-effective way of doing it than paying through the nose with airlines.
You can buy baby formula in powder or liquid form, as well as sterilising solutions such as Milton, at farmacias (pharmacies). Disposable nappies (diapers) are widely available at supermarkets and farmacias. Fresh cow’s milk is sold in cartons and plastic bottles in supermarkets in big cities, but can be hard to find in small towns, where UHT is often the only option.
If you’ve brought baby food with you, just ask for it to be warmed up in the kitchen; most restaurants will have no problem with this.
Some of the better hotels can generally arrange babysitters for an hourly fee. You could also check out the website Canguroencasa (www.canguroencasa.com), where you can search for English-speaking babysitters (canguros); click on ‘Canguros Baleares’. The going rate is between €5 and €10 per hour.
If you want to explore safe in the knowledge that your kids are in good hands, check out Jelly and Ice Cream (www.jellyandice-cream.com), who arrange English-speaking childcare with qualified nannies and babysitting. Little Ducklings (www.littleducklings.es), Little Puffs (www.littlepuffschildcaremallorca.com) and Angels (www.angelsnursingagency.com) also come recommended. Expect to pay around €90 per day, for up to three children.
You can hire car seats for infants and children (usually for a per-day fee) from most car-rental firms, but book them well in advance.
It's worth bearing in mind that most compact cars are short on space, so you may struggle to squeeze in your luggage and pushchair in the boot (trunk). Check the car's dimensions before booking or consider upgrading to a bigger model.
Top Tips for Travelling with Children
- Ask for extra tapas in bars to suit younger taste buds, such as olives or raw carrot sticks.
- Adjust your children to Spanish time (ie late nights) as quickly as you can – otherwise they’ll miss half the fun.
- Unlike in the USA, crayons and paper are rarely given out in restaurants – bring your own.
- Kids who share your bed won’t incur a supplement – extra beds usually cost €20 to €30.
- Ask the local tourist office for the nearest children’s playgrounds.