Rafael Nadal has created something very special with his first hotel

As someone who grew up taking annual holidays to the Mallorcan countryside, I never really saw Palma as anything special. It was a stopover destination, a necessary connection. As I got older, it became a place for hen and stag parties. But now it’s something else entirely.

Just like Ibiza’s successful stylish rebranding, Mallorca is getting its own chic facelift, as Rafael Nadal opens the doors to his family home on Playa de Palmanova.

Okay — that’s not entirely true. The two-time Wimbledon champion’s first hotel, Zel Mallorca, is modeled after his own home. Nadal himself is from Mallorca, so it makes sense that the 22-time Grand Slam champion would make his transition to hotel ownership here.

But Mallorca also has a growing luxury side, making it an ideal first destination for Nadal’s Mediterranean-based lifestyle brand Zel, in partnership with hotel chain Meliá. The chain opened a second location on the Costa Brava this month, with locations in Madrid and Punta Cana due to open soon.

What’s more, the party scene is thriving. Also new to the island is Lío Mallorca, the boisterous club and cabaret restaurant made famous in Ibiza, run by the founders of legendary superclub Pacha. Could Mallorca be the new Ibiza? It’s beginning to look like it.


    (Zel Hotel)

(Zel Hotel)

Zel Hotel Mallorca is located near the capital Palma, directly on the Playa de Palmanova, a sandy beach on the south coast of Mallorca (there’s nothing like the text “0 km from the beach” on a hotel’s website, right?).

Zel is a 2.5 hour flight from Stansted, a 24 minute drive from Palma de Mallorca Airport and a 20 minute drive from the city centre, making it easy to get to but also away from the hustle and bustle of Palma’s lively and historic centre.

It’s also close to the party town of Magaluf, should you choose to indulge in your obligatory Balearic night out. And if it’s uplift and escape you’re after, a 50-minute drive will take you to the picturesque, tumbling cityscape of Deià, where The Night Manager was filmed, a very aesthetically pleasing runner-up.


    (Zel Hotel)    (Zel Hotel)

(Zel Hotel)

Arriving at Zel, you’d be forgiven for not seeing the power of the interior, given the clean, white exterior of 165 rooms and 21 suites. Inside, it’s homely and sunny, bathed in light that pours from the open-plan reception area, which has been converted into a shop, restaurant and beach club on the first floor. Nadal consulted on the design to make the hotel feel as close to its Mediterranean home as possible, and this is evident in the details: a beer fridge in the lobby for open consumption, a record player in the room with Elvis and BB King vinyls, books left behind to be passed on to other guests.

Zel takes inspiration from the outdoor culture and spontaneous lifestyle of the Mediterranean, which you feel when you walk around the reception. That familiar feeling of being watched by hotel staff — all with good intentions — is not there at Zel. This is a big sleepover at your famous friend’s house.

The interior will also make you desperate to visit Nadal’s real home. The man has good taste. It’s all washed wood and striped linen, with freestanding bathtubs looking out over the turquoise sea. Rattan and wicker are used liberally, and everything feels as if it would be just as at home on the beach as in a bedroom.


    (Zel Hotel)    (Zel Hotel)

(Zel Hotel)

The hotel has two swimming pools: one overlooking the sea and the beach club, at the back of the hotel, and one hidden in the wellness area (also called the spa). The wellness area offers a range of facials, massages and treatments, including a “No Filter” facial that will make you look as good as your best Instagram post. As sceptical as I was, I have to say they nailed it: I was glowing.

The open floor plan downstairs also features a “concept store” featuring some of Zel’s stylish interiors and toiletries, as well as live music in the restaurant — which people actually dance to. It’s a party! And if you’re crazy enough to exercise on vacation, there’s a 24-hour gym and bike rentals.

Extracurricular activities

    (Biel Grimalt)    (Biel Grimalt)

(Biel Grimalt)

Mallorca’s most popular extracurricular activity last year came in the form of luxury cabaret club and restaurant Lío. Recently reopened for the 2024 season, Lío is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced – unless you’ve been to its sister venue in Ibiza, or iconic Ibizan superclub (and owner of Lío) Pacha.

The £250 minimum spend restaurant-come-cabaret is fast becoming a celebrity hotspot, with the likes of Anne Hathaway and Kylie Minogue spotted in its depths. And with menus curated by Michelin-starred Mallorcan chef Andrew Genestra, along with Lio’s head chef Felipe Moren, it’s a genuinely indulgent experience – before things get completely wild. Expect writhing dancers, flowing fine wines and plenty of laughs.

To cleanse yourself of your sins, a much healthier day trip would be to Palma’s Gothic Roman cathedral, Santa Maria of Palma, better known as “La Seu”. The lavish stained glass is breathtaking, as is the climb to the phenomenal terraces (215 steep, spiraling steps). The views are worth it, though.

Eat Drink

    (Zel Hotel)    (Zel Hotel)

(Zel Hotel)

The great thing about Mallorca is that it is socially acceptable to eat ham for breakfast, because it is acorn-fed Iberian ham. The king of hams. The best ham you will ever eat. You will find it on every menu at Zel Hotel, whether it is the breakfast buffet (much better than average I must say), the lunch menu at Beso Beach Club or the amazing dinner menu.

Besides the ham (which I really can’t recommend enough), there are other Basque-Mediterranean specialities, such as the elaborate lobster paella, coca bread, Josper-cooked squid with sobrasada and a thick grilled sea bass, Bilban style (the traditional method of southern Spain). There’s also wagyu carpaccio and bluefin tuna tartare, which are must-try.

Apart from Zel, De Tokio a Lima is a restaurant in Palma worth visiting, with its green terrace and special cocktail menu. Try the gazpacho here, you will never forget it.

Which room?

    (Zel Hotel)    (Zel Hotel)

(Zel Hotel)

Guests can choose from rooms or suites with garden, street and sea views (all suites have sea views). The suites are palatial, with a private terrace, a Bali bed and a spa bath.

That said, with two pools and a beach just a stone’s throw away, a junior suite is also a good choice, and the balcony offers the opportunity to watch the sunset and dry your towel. Plus, there’s a panoramic shower and a freestanding bath, so you can pop an Elvis LP on the room’s turntable and gaze out to sea as you soak in the tub.

Best for…

    (Zel Hotel)    (Zel Hotel)

(Zel Hotel)

Party in style. Zel is not a party hotel — it’s fun, sure, but relaxed, chic and well-mannered in the evenings. But now that Palma has become a fresh option for anyone looking for a luxury Ibiza-style holiday at a lower price, this property offers you the chance to get out and have fun, then return to a serene Mediterranean home when you’re done. There really is no better place to suffer a hangover.


Rooms at ZEL start from £229 per night. melia.com

Leave a Comment