Friday, September 22, 2006


Mallorca is pretty much made of limestone and hence there are caves all over the place. Like most of the tourists we went to se the Caves of Drach which are the most well known just outside of Porto Cristo. And they are a must see if you are on the island, but it is very crowded. We arrived for the first tour which was at 10 in the morning but there were already several coach loads there. Everyone files into the caves in a seething crowd but as you all walks through the caverns gradually everyone spreads out until you get to the bottom where there is a big lake and a large set of banked seats where you are then made to crowd in again. It’s actually quite frustrating as you’ve then got to just sit there in relative darkness until everybody has made it down to this point – we probably spent about 20 minutes waiting there and we were by no means the first to arrive. Once everyone is squashed in again the “guide” comes on the speakers in about 6 different languages to tell you the dimensions of the cave and the underground lake and tell you there is going to follow a little show and not to take photos. This takes about another 15 minutes to get through all the languages and then you have a show which lasts about 10 minutes which involves moody lighing of the lake while three row boat trundle up and down, one of which contains a string quarter and an organ playing some atmospheric classical music. The boats are all lit up too, so it is quite an enchanting little set piece, but I’m still unsure if it was worth all the waiting about. Still the caves themselves are fabulous and the show is good so even with the overcrowding, I’d still recommend it. Just take you time looking at the caves on the way down to the lake so you don’t have to wait there for too long.

The other caves we visited are the caves at Campenet which is much closer to Cala San Vicente. In fact if you have a car, drive on to the motorway and then com of at the very next exit heading in the Palma direction. It’s signposted for “Coves”. These caves are mush smaller than Drach but again if you go early you get a much smaller guided tour where the guide actually tells you lots about the caves as she takes you through. No lakes, but still beautiful caves and I preferred it as without the crowds it was a much more pleasant experience.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Getting about

As I have already mentioned, there is a bus that goes into Porto Polenca (09:45 & 13:30 and another couple of times in the PM that I can't recall) and from there you can get busses to other locations on the island.

You can also walk into Porto Polenca. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half depending on your speed and you follow the road out of Cala San Vicente up past Cala Carbo (see map) which winds up into the mountains (not too steep though). The road gets rougher and rougher - it looks like a herd of Diplodicus have stampeded up there by the 2 foot wide pot holes that are more numerous than bits of remaining road surface - but the locals still drive up to the top at times as there are a few villas up top. At the top of the road you come to a sort of roundabout with a tree in the middle (easily distinguishable on the satelite shot below). Take the second exit which is a walking track that leads up to the high point between the mountains and this becomes a much more rugged trail as it decends the other side into the back roads of Porto Polenca. The track ends at two paths running parallel towards the town. It doesn't matter which you take as each runs either side of a wall and they meet up again in a couple of hundred feet and you get to the road. keep going through the back streets by going in the same general direction you can down the hill side and it should bring you out at the top of Porto Polenca by the Hypermarket - just remember the way you walked if you want to walk back again. The yellow line shows roughly the path of the walk on the satelite picture below.

We also hired a car for 5 days to get about. Roads are pretty good and the motorway has been extended almost through to Alcudia even though most maps show it finishing at Inca in the centre of the island. Coming back to Cala San Vicente from the motorway, follow signs off the motorway for Pollenca and when you get to Pollenca go straight across the first roundabout and first exit off the second following signs from Puerto Pollenca. About a mil from the second roundabout is the turn off for Cala San Vicente. We used a local Car Hire on the main road but the first car they gave us smelt like it had been used to transport fish for a month, and then the replacement (although worked fine) had a engine fault light permenantly on which we were told we could ignore. I think next time I'll spend the extra 10 euros and go with Avis via the tour agent who maintain that all their cars are less than 6 months old.

Map of Cala San Vicente

Clicking on the map below will open it up full size (so you can read the writting on it!)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Mmmm...if you were expecting a kind of Magaluf, pump up the volume, kind of club where you can give it up large then you're in the wrong place. The Don Pedro does some entertainment every night in it's cavernous echoey hall which is ideal if you like crammed in tables, with kids running about everywhere (screaming children and places that echo do NOT go together like peaces and cream) and bingo hosted by the ever bubbly Spanish entertainment director (not sure, but I'm taking a stab that her name is something like Maria). They do do singing acts and magic show etc but the atmosphere was so crap we only tried it one night and never went back.

I've mentioned our own hotel (Simar) which had a Spanish musical act on most nights (one night a week is given over to Kareoke - arghh!) most of whom were marginally better than the kareoke but nothing you would be too disappointed to miss. They were OK as background noise but my recommendation is to make sure you have enough conversation to last you through the evenings.

Up the road a few minutes was Trotters Bar (the only Brit Bar in the resort) where they used to do entertainment, but he's had so many visits by the Police due to the neighbour complaining about the noise that he decided to stop live entertainment after our first few days. Hence the only one we saw was a fairly awful Scottish Elvis impersonater, who unfortunately not only picked the most obscure tracks Elvis ever did, but was fairly tone deaf to start with. His friend who did a stint as Frank Sinatra while he was taking a break was much better. The bar still did a couple of quizzes each week (and kareoke!) and would have had a race night had the footie not been on (large screen football for those that want it). Trotter's is being sold to new owners for next season though so that may all change.

Apart from that there are a few quiet restaurants in the resort but not much in they way of bars except for the Hotels. The reason for this is that the three big Hotels on resort all do either Half board or fully inclusive so it's hard for other bars and restuarants to make much.

So again if you can make your own entertainment and are happy with quiet evenings, it's still a lovely resort, but if you want something a little more lively then perhaps look elsewhere. A bus into Porto Polenca only costs 1.10 euros each way but you'd need a taxi back (better part of 10 euros I'd guess) if you want to come back any later than 8'ish.

The Beaches

Cala San Vicente has three main beaches. The first (Cala Barques) is a rocky beach overlooked by hills to one side, a few restaurants to the rear and the Don Pedro hotel on the other side. However the hotel does not dominate as some reports have suggested. This beach is the best for snorkelling as theres lots of rocks out in the bay and many varieties of fish and sealife crowding the cove. there's no bars on the beach but it's only a few steps off the beach to use either the restaurants or the Don Pedro bar. A few minutes and you get to the the Spar so it's not far to keep you supplied for a day on the beach. Although this is the rocky beach (and beach shoes were a must for me to get in and out of th water) a few feet inland from the water's edge and it's relatively sandy so it's still OK as a sunbathing beach too.

The second small beach (Cala Clara) nestles inbetween the Don Pedro and the Simar hotels and does feel very enclosed by then so we didn't use that one at all.

The third beach (Cala Molins - in the two pictures below) is the sandy beach and the fine sand runs al the way out into the cove, so it's easy getting in and out of the water with bare feet. Still OK for snorkelling but for most of the fish you have to still to the sides of this bay where there are still rocks. This beach has a bar (I think attached to the "Grupotel" hotel that streches down the left side of the cove (left looking out to sea). To the right the rocky mountainous coastline streches away with some very nice villas perched on it (the red shuttered one supposed to belong to Cilla Black) and to the rear of the beach is the resorts main car park. Naturally this beach attracts more families as the sand and bar proximity is hand when you have kids.

Personally I prefer the first beach as I'm happy with beach shoes and only really go in the water for snorkelling.

Hotel Simar

The Hotel we stayed in was basic but was clean and tidy so nothing to grumble about. There were lots of things that could have made it better but nothing that should have been "expected" considering the price we paid. Breakfast was extensive with choices of fruits, bread/cheese/ham, coissants, full english, yogurts, cereals etc plus tea coffee and fruit drinks.Dinners had a similarly wide choice and although it's not a gastronomic delight, it was mostly tastyand with enough variety to suit. After two weeks of it, it started to feel dull, but there's a sprinkling of restaurants on resort for when you get bored.
One point to make is that they tended to use premixed cocktails in the bar, which were quite cheap but tasted very watery. Same goes for the fruit juice at breakfast - I think it was more cordial than 100% squeezed.
Staff were helpful, if a little dour, and the rooms were made up every day with fresh towels whenever you put them in the bath to be changed. Rooms were air conditioned and in our room at least there was a socket close enough to the dressing table to plug in the assorted electical hair devices the ladies are fond of.
The entertainment was fairly dire and we made it a point to stay outside the bar as I don't think I could take the spanish language version of Achy Breaky Heart on the Hammond Electric organ at the DB level inside the bar.
We didn't use much of the other Hotel facilities, but there was a pool (with pool side bar), table tennis, a laurdrette (about 5euros if I recall to do a full wash), an internet point (1 euro per 15mins!).
All in all, I'd recommend it as long as you are looking for a budget holiday. It's fine as a base to sleep and eat in, but not a luxury hotel to spend time on your balcony or in your room.