After the launch of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite planned for 2022, the region around the Balearic Islands (western Mediterranean Sea) will be the target of several in situ sampling campaigns aimed at validating the first available tranche of SWOT data. In preparation for this validation, the PRE-SWOT cruise in 2018 was conceived to explore the three-dimensional (3D) circulation at scales of 20 km that SWOT aims to resolve, included in the fine-scale range (1–100 km) as defined by the altimetric community. These scales and associated variability are not captured by contemporary nadir altimeters. Temperature and salinity observations reveal a front that separates local Atlantic Water in the northeast from recent Atlantic Water in the southeast, and extends from the surface to ~150 m depth with maximum geostrophic velocities of the order of 0.20 m s−1 and a geostrophic Rossby number that ranges between −0.24 and 0.32. This front is associated with a 3D vertical velocity field characterized by an upwelling cell surrounded by two downwelling cells, one to the east and the other to the west. The upwelling cell is located near an area with high nitrate concentrations, possibly indicating a recent inflow of nutrients. Meanwhile, subduction of chlorophyll-a in the western downwelling cell is detected in glider observations. The comparison of the altimetric geostrophic velocity with the CTD-derived geostrophic velocity, the ADCP horizontal velocity, and drifter trajectories, shows that the present-day resolution of altimetric products precludes the representation of the currents that drive the drifter displacement. The Lagrangian analysis based on these velocities demonstrates that the study region has frontogenetic dynamics not detected by altimetry. Our results suggest that the horizontal component of the flow is mainly geostrophic down to scales of 20 km in the study region and during the period analyzed, and should therefore be resolvable by SWOT and other future satellite-borne altimeters with higher resolutions. In addition, fine-scale features have an impact on the physical and biochemical spatial variability, and multi-platform in situ sampling with a resolution similar to that expected from SWOT can capture this variability.