In the turquoise cove beneath the restaurant, a sleek motor yacht casts anchor. A couple takes to their tender, she with beach heels, outsized sunglasses and Balenciaga bag. She negotiates the steep flight of steps cut into the rocks while carrying a child clad in D&G. The husband doesn’t help. He’s too busy indicating the table he wants—front row at the Sea Club at Cap Rocat. When the waiter explains the table available is toward the back, a small fracas ensues. The man shouts for his skipper to return with the Zodiac. He wants to be taken elsewhere.
“I like this place,” my husband says. Missing the incident entirely, he refers to his prawns, still smoking from the grill. I, on the other hand, like how flashy entitlement, which now ravages the Med, has just been shown its place. At Majorca’s Hotel Cap Rocat, the tone is deliberately understated. To discover such a place in the Spanish Balearics, nearly overrun with tourists, comes as even more of a surprise. “You hear Majorca and pause,” says Hamilton South, a recent American visitor who tipped me off to Cap Rocat. “I envision hideous Palma”—the Balearics’ capital, about 12 miles away—“and way too many tacky tourists, but Cap Rocat is special.”
Lack of ostentation has always been part of Cap Rocat’s identity. The building, which opened as a hotel in 2010, is a former fort at the mouth of the Bay of Palma de Mallorca. “When I was a child, there were military exercises across the water,” recalls Antonio Obrador, the hotel’s Majorcan architect-owner, whose grandmother lived nearby. “We occasionally came for Sunday Mass with the commander. This was in the ’60s, when there were about 80 soldiers left.”
The 19th-century bones of the fortress remain, including the former drawbridge, bunkers and excavated vaults for weaponry. The arsenals are now the hotel’s thick-walled suites, gun emplacements now roof terraces. So while Majorca’s busy capital twinkles across the water, one cannot hear the nightclubs, nor the jets from the airport, just 20 minutes by car. Vapor trails crisscross the sky, and yachts glide across the bay, while any voices—there are only 24 suites spread across 88 acres, and no children—are drowned out by cicadas.
To be this close to the city but not be part of its invasive development is extraordinary. The ground on which Cap Rocat sits is of special scientific interest, and a marine conservation order means there’s no fishing. Thus, the authenticity of the place is conspicuous. Even with the fort’s conversion, there is a lack of decoration. Old bullets are used for door handles and gun carriages for coffee tables, while the colors are reduced to cream, blue, red and orange. “Luxury isn’t about being shiny,” says Obrador. “It is something that makes you dream. It’s why I wanted this to be a closed hotel. With locked gates, you feel like you’re entering another world.”
Not everyone gets it, of course. “Twice we’ve had to send clients on to the St. Regis,” says Pablo Carrington, who manages the hotel. “Cap Rocat isn’t for people who want a guaranteed sea view.” My bed, in fact, stares at a wall. But still, the property seems to me the closest thing Spain has to an Aman Resort—in size, spirit and service. The only difference is the look of the place, which is truly historic rather than an exercise in contemporary resort architecture.
As for the staff in their white linens, they are genuine, confident and accurate. The waiters are devoted to food—off the top of his head, one runs through 50 ways to cook bacalao (cod). They are also quick to recommend simpler local wines ahead of the reserve list. Before starting my treatment, the masseuse, who hasn’t had her intuition whipped into a formula by some international spa brand, asks if she can “exercise” her hands. There are things the staff could do better, including picking up phones more quickly. But after a while one realizes the point here is not activity but sleeping, eating and feeling at ease. The lack of signage, along with the antique-filled sitting rooms, suggest a private home. Breakfast is delivered in a large basket—homemade jams, breads, fresh-pressed orange juice—while dinner is a more gastronomic affair in the courtyard. For my part, I keep going back to that restaurant on the cliffs—so simple, so chic, so true to its locale, where I want to dive into the water, sleep on the rocks, and where very few incursions are allowed to break into Cap Rocat’s throwback Mediterranean fantasy.
Rooms at Hotel Cap Rocat start at $365 for a standard double. Our own favorite is El Cabo, in a corner of the fortress, with a roof terrace and private pool. At Ctra. de Cap Enderrocat, Cala Blava Majorca; 34-971/747-878; caprocat.com.