The Hotel Bon Sol is an extraordinary hotel. When it welcomed the first guests in 1952 the hotel had just 14 bedrooms. Sixty years on, the Bon Sol has grown organically to 93 suites, villas and rooms and it reaches down from the cliff-top to the Bay of Illetas, 8kms from Palma, Majorca, where guests enjoy a stretch of sandy beach.
But far more extraordinary than its traditional, white-washed buildings, Moorish tower and arched terraces, is the number of guests who return to the hotel again and again. Many of those seated among the many terraces, lined with dry-stone walls, beside the several pools, or on the sunbeds by the beach talked of holidaying at the Bon Sol for the last five, ten, fifteen years or more, and their parents before them.
All of which means that the original owner, Antonio Xamena and his wife Roger, got it right when they to set up their little hotel, sharing the carefully selected site (warm in winter, with cool summer breezes) with their growing family and newly arriving guests, who soon warmed to the Xamena family as much as to the charming hotel in its idyllic setting.
Antonio Xamena was not only an hospitable host, he was a talented man and an achiever. The first Mallorquin to leave the island by plane, he was also a keen swimmer, artist and lover of nature. His passions are reflected in the Bon Sol; in the artworks that line the walls and the beautiful and mature gardens, with their retaining walls, terraces, steps and pathways which lead guests through every changing features of light and shade.
Xamena was also a forward thinker. From the outset he believed every hotel and house on the island of Mallorca should assimilate its own waste. From the earliest days the Bon Sol purified and used waste water to irrigate the gardens; a system that continued until water recycling became the responsibility of the local authorities when it was used to water the local golf course. In 1968, solar energy (the first in Mallorca) was installed. Almond shell burners are also used for hot water and central heating and the heat generated by hotel’s air-conditioning is used to warm the swimming pools and pre-heat the hot water supply. The whole system achieved remarkable levels of energy efficiency and avoided any pollution of the sea.
Aside from being a considerably larger hotel these days the Bon Sol’s successful formula is much the same today, albeit the hotel’s gardens, suites and beach are now linked by tunnels and lifts to the rooms, restaurant, bars, mini-golf and squash which can be found higher up the cliff. Antonio’s son Martin and his British wife Lorraine, their son and daughter, still run the hotel on a hands-on basis, considering their many guests to be friends and family and treating the now large and spacious hotel as a vast extension of their own home.
One of the most pleasing features of the Bon Sol is the feeling that it hasn’t tried to keep up with the times, it has simply continued to do what it does best; offering wonderful Mallorquin style accommodation, fabulous food and friendly, attentive service. As Mallorca’s tourist trade mushroomed from 40,000 visitors in the early 1930’s to a stable incoming 8 million holiday makers a year by the 1990’s, Antonio Xamena and his family shunned the trend for modern, high rise hotels, knowing that Mallorca would never compete with the contemporary modernism he saw in the U.S.
Instead, succeeded by Martin and Lorraine Xamena, the family developed the stylish and timeless interiors that guests enjoy today. Rich dark woods, marble and stone floors, ballustrated terraces and balconies, large, light and airy rooms typify the accommodation. The classically designed reception area and adjoining bar could date from any decade from the 1950’s onwards, while the suites and rooms have a fresh feel about them, as if newly decorated and occupied for the first time.
The Bon Sol is certainly a very special place, but it would be facile to say that it offers everything for everyone. It certainly has excellent restaurants, it is in an enviable location on a sun-warmed hillside by the sea, within reach of the beautiful city of Palma, it is friendly and comfortable, it has facilities that include a health spa, several pools, a private beach, a beachside bar and restaurant, squash, table tennis and mini-golf, a children’s playground and lush, sub-tropical gardens.
Perhaps what is most revealing is that the Bon Sol’s owners consider themselves to be as fortunate to have found the right guests as their guests are to have found the right hotel.
The Bon Sol’s website suggests that when the first guests arrived by local taxi, Antonio must surely have told the taxi drivers the type of visitor that he wanted. For over six decades they appear to have successfully managed to bring only those who had what Agatha Christie described as "excellent Hotel manners" (“Problem at Pollensa Bay” – London 1936). A fact that is still celebrated today and evident through the family’s abundant fondness for their guests, which shines through as surely as the Mallorquin sunshine.