No Shoes Required - ST. REGIS MARDAVALL

Alex Benasuli takes a jaunt to the beautiful Balearic island of Mallorca, for a helping of end of season Spanish sun at a classic full-service deluxe resort

The largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands has been one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations for decades. Blessed with 300 sunny days every year, together with warm temperatures that stretch from mid-March to mid-October, Mallorca has something for everyone. Long, sandy beaches and more intimate rocky coves serve as the backdrop to historic sites, exclusive marinas, happening beach clubs and quality seafood restaurants.

Traditional communities are interspersed with luxury villas and more commercial tourist districts, in a way that doesn’t compromise the sheer beauty of this stunning Spanish island. Away from the coast, mountain ranges carve up in the interior into peaks, valleys and plains of immaculate stone villages, groves of almond and olive trees, pine forests and Mallorquin windmills.

Because Mallorca was ruled by the Moors for 300 years, a lot of place names sound a little Arabic. You can visit bodegas and vineyards in Binissalem, the heart of Mallorca’s boutique wine industry. Or pick oranges in the beautiful valley of Sóller, which is particularly gorgeous during the first few months of the year when the fruit are ripe. And the mountains in the south-west, between Andratx and Cap Deia, are simply stunning to cruise through, especially in a cabriolet.

Palma, the island’s seafront capital, is a bustling city of 400,000 with one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain, centuries of history and vibrant arts, shopping and gastronomic scenes. Sun worshippers and boating aficionados enjoy the sandy beaches and coastal scenery. Nature lovers adore exploring the island’s many national parks.

Culture vultures are drawn to the handful of villages that have fostered artists for generations. And foodies revel in the burgeoning agro tourism scene, which has opened up to visitors Mallorca’s ecology, farming, local gastronomy and island customs. Whether you like your holiday chilled and relaxed or full of activities, it’s easy to see why Mallorca’s all-round appeal is so alluring.

There are times in life when only a full-service luxury resort will do. When that resort is set in its own, private sprawling garden complex, in the shadow of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range and directly in front of the tranquil Mediterranean, then even better. Add to this the reputation for sophistication and modern luxury that have become defining characteristics of the St. Regis brand, and you basically have the makings of a hospitality winner.

Twenty minutes from Palma’s well-connected international airport, St. Regis Mardavall, located on Mallorca’s southwestern coast, is a true destination within a destination, and epitomises the essence of a classic high-end resort hotel. A long driveway flanked by mountain vistas and Mediterranean landscaping, leads arriving guests to the property’s main building, of three. Designed in traditional Mallorquin finca style – in a combination of stone, ochre stucco, tiling and exposed timber – it is imposing yet not grandiose.

Check-in takes place on one of the hotel’s numerous terraces, which offer views over perfectly manicured lawns towards the sparkling blue sea. Welcome drinks and light bites ease the arrival process, as the welcoming and efficient reception staff take care of all the formalities, and promptly ensure that guests feel right at home and begin to relax in the first moments of their stay. Soaking up gentle sea breezes, and adapting to the calm of such a gorgeous spot and unhurried pace of life, is quite a start to one’s holiday.

One of the hallmarks of the St. Regis experience is the brand’s renowned butler service and its Mardavall property is no exception. Professional butlers help guests unpack, serve complimentary coffee and newspapers each morning, arrange for clothes to be pressed and are generally available 24/7. St. Regis does butlering very well indeed. And, knowing that one’s personal butler is but a button away, is a somewhat decadent luxury that utterly elevates the guest experience to another level.

Once installed in a guest room and unpacked, one’s shoes can come off and travel clothes swapped for pool and beachwear. The hotel’s 125 rooms and suites are large, and the vast majority have full or partial sea views. All have terraces. Even entry-level room categories have separate sitting and work areas. Beds are enormous and supremely comfortable.

Bathrooms feature double washbasins, big bathtubs and walk-in showers. Terraces are sufficiently ample to dine al fresco, as well as recline on comfy deck chairs draped with blankets on slightly chillier evenings outside of the mid-summer months.

Suites come in various configurations and some include jacuzzis, kitchenettes and private plunge pools. Families have the added benefit of being able to select rooms that can interconnect to form serviced apartment-style vacationing.

All guest accommodations will be remodelled and upgraded when the property closes in mid-November. Come early spring 2018, visitors will experience a more contemporary and bold, yet elegant palette. Rooms will feature wood floors and a more classic Mediterranean look will prevail, with dark blue accents offsetting the gorgeous natural light that fills every room.

Early mornings on the terrace, sipping freshly brewed coffee, nibbling on warm croissant and perusing my newspaper of choice, with the sea in front of me, was sublime. Large expanses of well-manicured and luxuriant gardens, together with lush green lawns, beckon from every angle. A barefoot stroll across the garden is the best shortcut to the swimming pool, cascading over three levels and rumoured to be the largest in Mallorca.

Comfy chairs for lounging surround the pool, and are strategically placed in clusters amidst the greenery, providing guests with a degree of space and privacy. Canopied outdoor beds cater to those who take their chillaxing more seriously. Taking short walks around the grounds, thick blades of grass underfoot, exploring the different vantage points of the sea and shady spots beneath the trees, are a great way to pass the time while expertly pursuing the art of lounging.

Inevitably St. Regis Mardavall is popular with families, particularly during school holidays. In another section of the garden, close enough for parents to stroll over and check up on their brood but far enough away so as not hear them, the hotel’s kids club comprises two shaded swimming pools and a club house, and provides all manner of organised activities for younger guests. This set-up skillfully keeps the main pool primarily for adults, while children have their own domain in which to have the time of their lives.

Spa and wellness fans will likely fall in love with St. Regis Mardavall. An oasis of tranquility, its Arabella Spa is truly exceptional and offers the most extensive variety of treatments on the island. Like a hidden Atlantis within the resort, an indoor pool flows into an outdoor pool, with another array of lounging areas for those seeking more privacy. Guests unwind in saunas, steam baths and an Egyptian saltwater pool.

More than a dozen treatment rooms offer everything from nail care and traditional massages to luxuriant rituals and anti-aging therapies. Two dedicated traditional Chinese medicine doctors are on hand to delve into their millennia-long heritage, and address everything from sleep issues to digestion and joint pains. Chinese medicine is not only about acupuncture and acupressure – bespoke herbal remedies and teas are an intrinsic part of treatments, and leave guests feeling personally looked after and recharged. Spending half a day or even a few hours at Arabella Spa is akin to temporarily tapping into a fountain of youth.

Whilst St. Regis Mardavall is a relaxed place and positively encourages bare feet and beachwear by day, you might be tempted to smarten up a touch of an evening. Champagne cocktails and canapés are served nightly. Es Fum, the hotel’s intimate and elegant gourmet restaurant, was awarded a Michelin star in 2011 for its innovative and exquisite cuisine. Any restaurant that starts a meal off with not one, or two, but five different flavoured butters, will always have a place in my heart. Hibiscus infused sea salt was a first and hopefully not the last, and my main of creamy rice adorned with langoustines and prawns, served with a grapefruit vinaigrette, was literally to die for.

The five to seven-course Mediterranean, seasonal and local produce-inspired tasting menus, prepared under the direction of talented chef de cuisine José Miguel Navarro, are exceptional and worth splashing out for, especially with wines expertly paired by sommelier Javier Gómez. Dining al fresco on Es Fum’s timeless terrace, whilst taking in the picture postcard views, is a gastronomic treat not to be missed when on Mallorca, whether staying at the hotel or not. (www.restaurant-esfum.com)

It is tempting to never leave the grounds during one’s stay at St. Regis Mardavall, since residents are so spoilt for choice. Either stay onsite, de-stress, unwind and allow yourself to be pampered, or venture out of the hotel and become immersed in the endless possibilities that the island has to offer. As tempting as the latter may sound, trust me, once your shoes are off and your body is kissed by the sun, it’s not easy to put them back on. I could have easily stayed nestled in between the mountains and seas, amidst the bucolic lushness and five-star facilities of St. Regis Mardavall, for a very long time.