The good, the bad and the ugly sides of Mallorcas tourist development meet along a 25-km stretch of coast. Tacky resorts sit next to exclusive retreats, it seems that everyone wants a slice of Palma Bay. One moment you can be in Portals Nous, with its chic marina crammed with millionaires' yachts, the next in seedy Magaluf, all British pubs and wet T-shirt contests.
Once upon a time, a fisherman casting his net into the sea at S'Arenal could have gazed around an empty coastline where the only buildings to stand out would have been Palma's cathedral and castle. Nowadays he would barely be able to distinguish them among a continuous stretch of hotels - a concrete jungle extending all the way to Magaluf. And he wouldn't be there anyway as there are few fish left to catch.
Occasionally you come across a glimpse of what this coastline must once have been like. Follow the road beyond Magaluf through the pine woods. Suddenly you are among tiny coves where, out of season, you might still find your own private beach. Eventually you reach the headland of Cap de Cala Figuera where you can look back at sweeping views of the entire bay. Cliffs plunge into the clear blue sea, with not a hotel in sight. Come up here at midnight for utter peace and solitude; but listen carefully and you might just be able to hear the disco beat of Magaluf pounding away beneath you.
Like it or loathe it, you are bound to spend some time in Palma Bay. Even if you are not staying here, you should visit it at least once to see some of the best, and the worst, that Mallorca has to offer. Each of the resorts has its own character - young or old, British (Magaluf) or German (S'Arenal), cheap-and-cheerful or jet-set rich. And despite the (over)-development that has taken place, you cannot say that the beaches in the bay are anything less than glorious.
Plans are however, afoot for a regeneration of the area from s'Arenal to Can Pastilla. The Town Planning Consortium for the improvement and landscaping of Palma Beach was set up in 2005 with the aim of promoting the refurbishment of hotels, complementary tourism services and the area in general.
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