Earlier this year I spent a wonderful weekend in Mallorca, an island that I love. My visit this time may have only been brief but it was a real treat staying at what I now consider to be the best spa hotel in Mallorca, Hotel BonSol.
A gem of a hotel in a sleepy village near Palma
Exuding history and charm the Hotel BonSol, as I soon discovered, is a unique gem tucked away amongst the pines on the hillside of the village of Illetas, just west of Palma. On arrival the owners’ Martin and Lorraine invited us for a welcome drink. I wasn’t here long before I noticed what a wonderful rapport they have with all their guests.
Reminiscent of a medieval castle, the public rooms are delightful and fascinating to explore with beautiful antique furniture, suits of armour, ancient tapestries and the occasional sculpture for Thailand.
My room, pictured below, was spacious and extremely comfortable, tastefully decorated and had a generous private terrace with a view of the Med. Perfect!
After unpacking (and trying one of the chocolates thoughtfully left out) I headed off to one of the outdoor swimming pools, despite the chilly temperatures outside. I’d already been told that the water in this pool was warmed all year round by the heat generated by the refrigerators, so thought I should check it out. I had it all to myself, the perfect way to unwind after the flight, with a quick 20 laps (or rather… floating in the sunshine while watching the birds darting about).
Apart from the beautiful rooms and sea views, lovely swimming pools and friendly, helpful staff, not to mention its quiet location just a short bus ride from Palma, there is another reason to love BonSol. We’ve all heard of the phrase green washing and I have to admit I’m a little sceptical when hotels claim to care for the environment. Hotel BonSol, however, has been truly ‘green’ since before the term was even invited, before any of us had heard of the ozone layer or carbon offset, before I was even born.
Sustainability comes to Mallorca
Some 60 years ago an enlightened man called Antonio Xamena, the current owner’s father, lived with his family in a former manor house on the old Bendinat Castle estate near Palma. Anotonio dreamt of turning his home into a family run hotel combining traditional Mediterranean hospitality with his love of nature and respect for the environment.
The house was thoughtfully restored and first opened as a guest house in 1953. It was essential to Antonio that sustainable practices and renewable and recyclable resources should be used wherever possible. One of the first initiatives, when the hotel first opened, was to use otherwise discarded shells from the island’s almond production to power the heating system. Another significant milestone came in 1968 when the family were the very first people to install solar panels on the island.
Over the years the hotel has grown but it fits discreetly into its local. At each stage of its development the main consideration has been to minimise the impact on the local environment. Two tunnels passing under the roads now connect the various buildings which tumble down the hillside to the sea. This major engineering and environmentally challenging project, was achieved over a 10 year period with the use of environmentally friendly, water-boring jet drills.
Considering the global environmental concerns that we are now only to aware of, Antonio Xamena clearly showed incredible foresight.
Replanting the Rainforests
Even more impressively the families commitment to sustainability reaches way beyond the shores of Mallorca. Following extensive research the Xamena family selected Costa Rica as the ideal place to launch their carbon offset initiative. They calculated how much CO2 the hotel was producing annually, including their guests flights to get there, and worked out how many trees they would need to plant to offset this. On land where a vast expanse of rainforest had previously been destroyed, the family bought the equivalent of 240 football pitches and started planting trees. 50% were teak and 50% local rainforest trees.
Acquiring more land a few years later they now own 520 football fields with some 230,000 trees. What’s more, in doing so they have provided work for 30 local families who plant and maintain the new forests.
Back in Mallorca a visit to Palma is a must and the new Palma Pass comes in very handy to get from the hotel to the capital, just a short bus ride away. The Pass gives you free access to a great range of museums and art galleries but, true to form, I’m more interested in the market, always a wonderful subject for my camera.
We have a splendid lunch at Hotel Tres, an elegant, modern boutique hotel slap bang in the centre of the city, with a fabulous roof-top terrace overlooking the city, complete with sun loungers and a plunge pool. Then there’s time for a little exploration through Palma’s historic street with a spot of window shopping before hopping on the bus back to Illetas.
Dining at BonSol and Meson Ca’n Pedro
On our first evening we dine at the hotel’s restaurant and I’m delighted to hear that they have two menus, one full of tempting international dishes and another with traditional Mallorcan fare. I mix it up a little and order from both. As anticipated it is excellent, as is the service and the wine.
The following evening we all head off to the family’s favourite restaurant a short drive away in the village of Genova. Meson Ca’n Pedro is a down to earth traditional restaurant full of families and friends tucking in to hearty local cuisine. Popular with locals from Palma, it is most famous for its pa amb oli (bread with olive oil), snails and grilled meats. They had some delicious seafood too, such as this octopus pictured below. Possibly not a place for a romantic evening for two but the perfect setting for a Mallorcan feast. Superb!
The Nirvana Spa
All too soon my last morning arrives but before I go there is another aspect of the hotel that I’m eager to experience, the spa. Having spent sometime unwinding in the beautiful relaxation room I go down one floor to the spa itself. I have selected an Abhyanga massage from their range of Ayurvedic treatments from India. So much more than simply a massage, Abhyanga works with your chakras, releasing any blockages so that energy can flow through your body. Interestingly the points focused on during this type of massage are the same points used in Chinese acupuncture. These two disciplines developing completely independently from each other significantly adds to their credibility. The massage is relaxing as well as invigorating. I particularly remember how a feeling of complete calm washed over me as my expert therapist, Lisa, massaged my temples and the area of the third eye (just above the gap between your eyebrows). Afterwards I feel most serene yet still full of energy. A point to note, an Abhyanga massage releases a lot of toxins from your body so it is important to wash thoroughly afterwards so that they aren’t absorbed back into your skin.
When I visited India a few weeks later and booked an Abhyanga massage there, I was rather disappointed as it fell far short of my earlier massage at Hotel BonSol. I suspect that the Mallorcan version may actually have been more authentic than the one I had in India. Of course, I am no expert and the one in India was still very relaxing and more than reasonably priced but it did not have the rejuvenating effect that my massage at the Nirvana Spa had.
Sadly it is nearly time to leave. After a superb lunch of paella in the hotel’s lounge bar and a fond farewell with the family and staff, I’m whisked off to the airport. A short flight later and the earlier massage is still showing its effectiveness as I skip down the stairs at Gatwick, full of beans, on my way to pick up my luggage before the short train ride home.
Hotel BonSol is not a small hotel yet it very much feels like one due to its clever design. That’s quite something when you consider the range of its facilities…. including tennis and squash courts, crazy golf, table tennis, pool table, volleyball, petanque, children’s playground, fitness-room, saunas, spa, turkish bath, thalasso and physiotherapy (pause to catch breath) swimming pools, sun terraces, an outdoor yoga terrace, conference facilities and indoor yoga room, the quiet beach cove, not to mention the 146 rooms, suites and villas, all charmingly unique. All this and yet amazingly the Hotel BonSol has a positively cosy feel.
It’s perfect for a multigenerational holiday, as well as couples seeking a romantic escape or a luxurious weekend with the girls. But for me what really makes this such a gem is the hotel’s respect for the environment and the warmth and generosity of the Xamena family and all their staff. Thank you for such a wonderful weekend.
It is no wonder that so many of the hotel’s guests are repeat customers. Many in fact think of BonSol as their personal holiday home, visiting several times a year, making good use of the hotels offer to look after a packed suitcase for you so you can travel light on your next visit with just hand luggage. What an excellent idea. And I’m already planning my return.
Hotel BonSol Resort & Spa is a 4 star superior hotel in the vilage of Illetas, just 5 miles from the centre of Palma and about 11 miles from Palma Airport.
Classic Collection Holidays (0800 294 9315) offers 3 / 7 nights at Hotel Bon Sol from £609 / 1099 per person in July ( £549 / £997 in May). Prices based on 2 adults sharing a classic room on half-board basis with return flights from Gatwick (other regional airports available) and private transfers.
Hotel Tres is a stylish 4 star hotel in the heart of Palma with contemporary interiors. Double rooms from €215 with breakfast – advance bookings offer 15% discount.
For more information on Mallorca visit Fomento del Turisme.
Disclaimer: My flights, accommodation and meals during my stay were complimentary courtesy of Hotel Bon Sol, Hotel Tres and Classic Collection Holidays.