Comparing Island Living: Mallorca & Oahu

Years ago, when I found out I’d be living in the Balearic Islands, I knew I’d be in for a completely unique experience; not only would I be living abroad in Spain, I’d be living on one of the most beautiful, sought-after islands in the world. I had nothing to compare this experience to and, because I was so far away from my home, family and friends, I put an emphasis on meeting locals and learning as much as I could from them.

When Pete and I learned that we’d be moving to Hawaii, my thoughts immediately turned to my time living abroad on the island of Mallorca. I recalled how everything was new and exciting: finding an apartment was just part of the adventure; getting used to a new job and schedule was part of the overall process; and spending quite a bit of time alone gave me an opportunity to blog, explore various parts of Europe, and appreciate my family and friends back home.

Both of these beautiful island archipelagos — the Balearic Islands off the eastern coast of Spain and the Hawaiian Islands — are wonderful locales in their own right. I find myself comparing these two parts of the world (and main islands of Mallorca and Oahu) to each other, and thought it’d be fun to share my thoughts here.

Mallorca and Oahu


Rugged Hiking

Before I moved to Mallorca, I did quite a bit of research online beforehand about what life was life on the island. One of the largest attractions or activities there was hiking. Some hikes followed a road (like this one I tried) and many others were more rugged, with rocky, roughly maintained trails. (Since I did most of my hiking solo in Spain, I didn’t attempt these for safety reasons.)

Coll Baix Hike

From what I’ve noticed in the United States, many of the trails that I usually gravitate towards are located in state or national parks and are very well maintained; you end up walking on well groomed trails that are easily identifiable. Since a lot of the trails here in Hawaii aren’t affiliated with the state or national parks, they aren’t regularly maintained (if they are maintained at all), can be quite worn, and aren’t always marked clearly. Even the hike that Pete and I took recently in Lanankai wasn’t originally created as a trail; it was converted (probably by chance and interest by visitors) to a trail after WWII once the military didn’t need to use the hills for island defense. (And, this trail is one of the better maintained trails that I’ve seen so far on the island.) So, Hawaiian hiking can be quite rugged, too.


Soft, Sandy Beaches

Mallorca and Oahu are both famous for their world-renowned beaches, so it should come as no surprise that they have soft, sandy beaches in common. Puerto Alcúdia has one of the most popular beaches on Mallorca, and Oahu is home to Waikiki Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii. So far, my favorite beach on Oahu is in Lanakai; the sand is incredibly soft, there are fewer people there than at Waikiki Beach, and it has a much more mellow vibe than downtown.

Mallorca beach

Katie Mary Lanakai Beach Hawaii



When I arrived in Palma, Mallorca in September of 2010, it was near midnight and the temperature hovered around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Within a month or so, the temperatures started to fall, and by the end of November we routinely saw average daytime temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We even had snow fall for a few days, which shocked me since I thought I was living in a tropical paradise! Little did I know that Mallorca does see significant seasonal changes in weather, and that 85 degree weather doesn’t last into the winter. As you can see in the picture below, jackets and gloves are highly recommended in the winter months!

Family Visit to Mallorca

In contrast, Hawaiian weather hardly varies from month to month, or even from nighttime to daytime. We do get seasonal trade winds, which affect how warm it feels, but Hawaii is truly a place where swimsuits are year-round apparel options, sunscreen is a safe-bet accessory, and a coat closet is used to store golf clubs in lieu of jackets.

Hawaii weather

Cultural Offerings

Mallorca felt very Catalán and Spanish to me. The numerous festivals, markets, architectural highlights, languages, and food seemed central to these two cultures. Mallorca has had hundreds of years to mature and evolve into its current state, and you can see this depth and richness by experiencing its culture firsthand.

Oahu, on the other hand, hasn’t had nearly as long to adopt other cultures into its Hawaiian heritage. There’s a strong influence of Japanese, Latin and American cultures, and perhaps after a bit more time has passed there will be a more defined culture that combines these influences into Hawaii’s way of life. Right now, while there are very strong Hawaiian components, like hula dancing, the Hawaiian language (which you see on the street signs and hear on the local radio stations), and welcoming visitors with leis at the airport, locals will attest to the challenges they face to incorporate outside influences into their Hawaiian culture.

Images credit: Top image: Google Maps; all other images: Jet Set With Mary

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