Most will agree that less is definitely more when it comes to buildings on and around beaches, but there is one type of seafront establishment whose presence only the most puritanical beach-goer will balk at – the chiringuito. The playfully exotic-sounding word conjures up a rickety sun-kissed hut, rough-and-readily assembled from planks of driftwood, bamboo and palm fronds on an otherwise untouched beachscape.
The reality on Mallorca over the years, however, had been too many beach bars were being built with little regard for their surroundings, or the environment, and with many operators just getting away with it. The increasing summer tourist swell pushed many sunseekers to escape the crowds, seeking out the more remote and unspoilt beaches – and chiringuito entrepreneurs were rarely far behind. Difficulty in policing the island’s more remote spots, however, together with confusion as to which authority should be responsible, allowed for many to continue in breach of their licences, if they were indeed licensed at all…
Unarguably one of the island’s most gorgeous (and previously undeveloped) stretches of sand, Es Trenc had become dotted with half a dozen mostly stone-built establishments serving the summer crowds. The return to its original state came when it was declared a natural park by Department of the Environment in 2017, and all the permanent structures were demolished. The conditions new chiringuitos had to comply with were strict – including their removal at end of the season. Summer beach bars did return, but with a much smaller environmental footprint.
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One organization who celebrated the move is the Balearic Ornithological and Nature Conservation Group (GOB). They continue to campaign for action on what they see as the many environmental infringements that often go unnoticed, putting pressure on the Coastal Authority or the Environmental Ministry to act. And penalties can be hefty. A chiringuito operator who was running without a licence for eight years on Cala Varques was recently finally facing a fine of €100,000.
Dating from the sixties, the popular chiringuito on Cala Torta is also illegal under the revised regulations, though despite its licence expiring last year, continues to open for business. And it’s similar situation with the beach bar at Cala Mondragó, which is also officially part of a protected nature park, although no penalties have yet been issued. Though it’s not hard to understand why – this particular chiringuito brings in around half a million euros annually to the local community.
There remain, of course, dozens of wonderful – and perfectly legal – chiringuitos scattered around the Mallorcan coast. The hip and secluded Cap Falco Beach Bar nestled in a tiny cove, or the jetty-based Roxy Beach overlooking Portals Nous’s lovely Platja de S’oratori; the excellent paella at Can Gavella on the edge of Playa de Muro or the sweeping views of Pollensa Bay from the Embat Chiringuito Beach; at any number of Mallorca chiringuitos, you are sure to find just the right front-row seat for that perfect Mediterranean moment.