It is the secluded nature of Cala Varques on Mallorca that is the main source of its special allure. The small, rocky bay lies on a difficult-to-reach section of the island’s coast, south of Porto Cristo and between Cala Romantica in s'Estany d'en Mas and Cales de Mallorca. However, those who make the journey are richly rewarded, and their exertions will be forgotten the moment they spy the crystal-clear, turquoise water and fine, sandy beach, framed beautifully by two rocky headlands covered in pines and the maquis shrubland that is so typical of the Mediterranean. And that’s before they even reach the cova, or pirates’ cave, which promises a spectacular adventure all its own.
Cala Varques on the east coast mainly attracts those who want to see the quieter side of Mallorca and experience the splendour of its countryside. It is located around two kilometres south of the tourist resort of s'Estany d'en Mas, and four from the from Cales de Mallorca, the next larger town. Since this idyllic bay is ensconced in the Cales Verges de Manacor nature reserve, it is completely undeveloped, and does not have any of the normal tourist infrastructure, restaurants or sanitary facilities.
Two headlands frame Cala Varques like an ancient amphitheatre. While the northern headland separates “its” bay from the equally charming Cala Falcó its southern counterpart is more akin to a rounded peninsula, forming a natural barrier between Cala Varques and Racó de sa Teula, another neighbouring bay. Both of the headlands are dotted with pines, evergreen oaks and maquis. For many visitors, however, the real highlights are the light, sandy beach and the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, whose colour here is more pronounced than almost anywhere else on the island.
Soaking up the sun on the beach: The bay’s main beach is around 90 metres long. There is also a second beach, nestled between the jagged rocks 150 metres to the south-east. However, this is only authorised for use at low tide. This second beach is particularly popular among naturists, as there aren’t usually any other people around.
Swimming in the sea: Since the entire length of the main beach offers a shallow slope into the water, it is the perfect place for children to play and splash around in the water while their parents watch.
Snorkelling by the cliffs: The tides in the bay are relatively mild, and thus offer the perfect conditions for safe snorkelling by the rocky cliffs.
Relaxing in the pine glade: Beyond the main beach lies a well-lit pine glade with plenty of shady spots for those looking to get out of the midday sun. This is the perfect place to enjoy your packed lunch while overlooking the bay.
Free-climbing the steep coast: The bay is a popular spot for adventurous free-climbers to practice their deep water soloing, climbing without safety harnesses along and up the rugged overhanging cliffs. But don’t worry - anyone who slips will have their fall broken by the deep waters, so they’re not in any danger.
The bay is tricky to reach by car, especially as it lies a good 20 minutes’ walk away from the nearest parking spot, along a somewhat treacherous path. The easiest way to get to Cala Varques is by boat, from the harbour of Porto Cristo, about seven kilometres away. Speaking of boats, you’ll also find yourself in need of a sea-faring vessel if you want to experience the extraordinary beauty of the Cala Varques cave.
The pirates’ cave, also known as the Sea Cave Mallorca is a fascinating dripstone cave located close to Cala Varques, and one of the island’s best-kept secrets.
To enjoy everything the cave has to offer you’ll need to be in fairly good shape - and most importantly you’ll have to be up for an adventure, able to swim and comfortable in enclosed spaces.
The dripstone cave can only be accessed from the water and requires a flashlight to explore it, as not all of its nooks and crannies offer artificial light. Some parts are only accessible to snorkelers, and the cova also presents explorers with small rocky climbs.
There are a number of diving schools along Mallorca’s east coast that offer tours to and through the cave between April and October. These tours are generally open to anyone aged 8 or over.
Depending on where the journey to the pirates’ cave begins and what else the trip entails, the tour will take between two-and-a-half and four hours. All the necessary equipment is provided by the tour operators, including a neoprene suit, socks, snorkelling equipment, a helmet and a diver’s lamp.
The tours cost around 45 to 65 euros per person. Every tour is led by an experienced, certified guide who will tell you all about the cave’s geology - normally in German, English and Spanish.
Tours normally start in Porto Colom. There, the group will board a boat that takes them to the cova. It is a quick journey along the island’s east coast, past the wild and romantic swimming bays of Cala s'Algar, Cala Murada and Calas de Mallorca.
About 20 minutes later, the great adventure begins, as the group enters the spectacular pirates’ cave and begins exploring its tunnels, chambers and underwater lakes. There are thousands of breath-taking stalactite and stalagmite formations, and the group will also snorkel through three crystal-clear freshwater lakes.
On the return journey to Porto Colom, the tour guide will often stop at one of the aforementioned bays so the group can enjoy a relaxed snorkelling session and discover the underwater world. For real thrill-seekers, there is also the option of cliff-jumping - adrenaline rush guaranteed!
Those who opt to take a tour through the pirate cave can look forward to a stunning display of the power and beauty of nature, the likes of which many visitors to Mallorca never see. The snorkelling expedition allows you to experience the island’s history from a completely different perspective and truly immerse yourself in its past.
If you’d prefer a more relaxed approach to your holiday on Mallorca, you can also leave the cave be, settle down on the Cala Varques beach, and simply enjoy its white sands and turquoise waters.