Portals Nous, particularly before the arrival of a motorway connection in the late 70s, was once just a sleepy southwest Mallorcan village. Yet its beautiful coastal setting and close proximity to the capital, Palma, attracted wealthier families who started to build smart summer houses in the 1930s. The area gradually grew in stature and exclusivity until Portals Nous’ breakthrough year – 1986.
Not only did nine holes of Martin Hawtree-designed golf open for business under the prestigious Real Golf de Bendinat name but 1986 was also the year that the then President of the Balearics, Don Gabriel Cañellas Fons, officially inaugurated Puerto Portals. Portals Nous was no longer sleepy but a luxurious force to be reckoned with.
The brainchild of the late Klaus Graf, a German business magnate who also founded Hotel Son Caliu in the 1960s, Puerto Portals was inspired by the glitzy mainland marina of Puerto Banús which had its lavish star-studded inauguration party almost two decades earlier in 1970. For his Mallorcan interpretation, Klaus laid down several hundred moorings, a commercial and leisure area and beautiful fountain-filled gardens and walkways. The end result was stunning and on 4 July 1986 the ribbon was cut.
Naturally it took a while for the fledgling Port to find its feet. As a child I personally remember writing home on Portals postcards displaying half-empty berths dotted with old-fashioned motoryachts and modest wooden sailing yachts, but it already sparkled with a sense of what was to come.
As word spread, some of the world’s finest yachts started to appear. Three-masted classic schooners – 65m white-hulled Jessica and 55m blue-hulled Shenandoah – showed up in unison, a genuinely beautiful sight, and a Saudi billionaire’s 85m motoryacht also graced Puerto Portals shores. Meanwhile smart new marina-front developments such as Silver Point and Las Terrazas sprang up and set the benchmark for luxury apartment living.
Fast forward 31 years and that sparkle has blossomed into a blaze of glory. Puerto Portals now proudly stands shoulder to shoulder with its notable European counterparts – from the Italian Riviera to the Côte d’Azur – and the marina hums with nautical comings and goings by day and buzzes with diners and admirers by night.
Puerto Portals’ 639 berths range from the ‘cheapest’ eight metre (currently priced from 23 euros per day or 266 euros a month) to the largest and most expensive 60 metre (price on request). This allows for a colourful mix of moored vessels ranging from jetskis, Llaüts, MasterCrafts and Scanner RIBs through to mid-range Azimuts, Princesses, Fairlines and Sunseekers and finally the upper echelons of custom-built megayachts with their helipads, swimming pools and uniformed crew. 58 metre CRN J’ade, with her aquarium and drive-in floating garage, is a regular fixture at Puerto Portals and stands out against a sea of fibreglass white thanks to her metallic warm grey hull.
All berths are supplied with water, electricity and wifi and there is 24-hour patrolled and CCTV-monitored security. The fuel quay is open for all, but will come to you if your yacht is over 18 metres. Other Puerto Portals services include a luxury concierge, meeting rooms, weather information, showers, laundry, first aid, waste disposal and a busy 7,499m² shipyard operated by Mundimar Portals complete with 90 tonne travel lift and the ability to house boats up to 27 metres in length.
Of course with famous yachts come famous faces and Puerto Portals has seen them all. The Spanish Royal Family has enjoyed the marina from the word go – after all it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from their beloved summer residence, Marivent Palace. King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía have a warm fondness for Puerto Portals and have seen their children grow up there, not least their youngest son, who is now King Felipe VI. Felipe continues the tradition and was spotted as recently as summer 2016 when he dined with wife Queen Letizia, daughters Princess Leonor and Infanta Sofía, and his parents. Diana, Princess of Wales, was also a fan of this special port.
Royalty aside, Puerto Portals has hosted fashion icons Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, Claudia Schiffer, Elle Macpherson, Paris Hilton and Gisele Bündchen; acting legends Brad Pitt, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas; musicians Julio Iglesias and Sir Rod Stewart; sports stars Boris Becker, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafa Nadal, Jenson Button and Carlos Sainz and businessmen Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson. They are just some of the names that appear on an endless list of the rich and famous who have graced Puerto Portals with their presence in the last 30-odd years.
Your best chance of a celeb spot is to hang out at either 1987-established Flanigans, said to be former King Juan Carlos’ favourite restaurant, or Wellies, the Port’s most iconic eatery which has been there right from the beginning (albeit with a year’s closure from 2015-2016 when it changed hands, but not name, and became incorporated within Grupo Cappuccino).
In a similar fashion to its berths, Portals’ commercial and leisure offering runs through the kaleidoscope of ‘cheap’ to ‘expensive’. Lighter wallets are suited to an affordable beer at Reeves followed by a reasonable pizza at Diablito and the purchase of a new outfit at Le Pirat while heavier ones will be able to sustain elegant sushi at neighbouring Tahini chased by steeply-priced G&T on the Cappuccino terrace and a new designer handbag at Arias.
The truly well heeled used to spend their hard-earned euros in Puerto Portals’ original Michelin-starred restaurant, Tristán, which opened in 1986. Sadly this establishment also closed its doors in 2015 but, like Wellies, has also been reincarnated and is now in the hands of star chef Fernando Pérez Arellano from two-Michelin-star Zaranda at Hotel Son Claret in the Mallorcan village of Es Capdella. All-new Baiben threw open its doors in September last year and offers international crossover cuisine alongside a creative cocktail bar and 700-wine bodega. “Puerto Portals is Mallorca’s number one location and this corner is the number one place to be,” said Fernando at the time.
Now under the stewardship of Corinna Graf, Klaus’ young flame-haired daughter who took up the position of CEO in 2012, Puerto Portals has never rested on its laurels and continues to adapt, grow and improve. Car parking and street lighting have both been upgraded over recent years, while the entire location is kept immaculately clean and secure with the landscapes manicured to within an inch of their lives – even the control tower (Edificio de Capitanía) bears a smart Breitling clock on its façade.
The port also boasts an extensive events programme, something that Corinna has great passion for. Puerto Portals will host the three-day Oris Rally Clásico, one of the most important classic car rallies in Europe with over 100 entrants, in March; the Botánica Insólita flower show for nature and health lovers in May; the gruelling Aquatlon (run-swim-run) in June; the 52 Super Series Sailing Week in July; the casual music-filled Sunset Market in August-September; the SOS Animals charity market and dog contest in September; children’s favourite Sankt Martin in November and a traditional Christmas Market with ice skating rink in December-January. Undoubtedly the programme will grow as the year unfolds.
So how does Corinna describe her 31-year-old baby? Puerto Portals’ new custodian says it’s a fun place, not at all elitist, and open to everyone. You can enjoy it at night, by day, with children, with your significant other, invite your grandparents or work colleagues to dinner, set off on a boat or on a jog, savour a drink, a stroll, or head to the beach. It’s a place that welcomes you, to relax, to do as you please – and it’s open 365 days a year. Corinna, we’re not going to disagree.
Sarah Drane, email@example.com