A holiday to Menorca is all about taking it easy. This little island offers quiet countryside, whitewashed villages and more beaches than Ibiza and Majorca put together.
Spotlight on relaxation
Granted, it’s less hip than Ibiza and less happening than Majorca, but that’s exactly Menorca’s pull. This Balearic isle doesn’t do flashing neon, but rolls out low-rise resorts, pretty marinas and golden beaches instead.
Son Bou's sandy beaches
If the latter caught your attention, set the sat nav to Son Bou on the south coast. It’s home to the island’s longest sandy stretch, which goes on for 3 kilometres. Plus, because the place is surrounded by rolling countryside – you’ll pass some pretty rugged terrain to get here – it has a really chilled out vibe.
Laid-back Punta Prima
Equally low-key is Punta Prima. It was one of Menorca’s first holiday resorts, and it’s still going strong today. The Blue Flag beach here is a corker – so much so, locals flock here on weekends to make the most of the white sands and shallow waters.
Lively Cala'n Bosch
For something a bit more up-tempo – by Menorca’s standards, anyway – try Cala’n Bosch, further west. The yacht-filled marina, with its open-air cafés, fish restaurants and trendy bars, is the place to head as soon as the sun sets.
Things to See and Do in Menorca
A little island, a lot of beaches
When it comes to Balearic beaches, quiet-and-shy Menorca comes top of the list. It’s got more stretches of sand than Ibiza and Majorca put together. And it’s definitely not a case of quantity over quality. From massive swathes of white sand to teeny coves hemmed by pine-cloaked cliffs, the beaches here are seriously photogenic.
The big beach
The stretch of sand at Son Bou is a beach-lover’s playground. It’s one of Menorca’s best beaches – a big deal on an island that’s got hundreds of them. You’ll find it on the south coast, unravelling smack-bang in front of the town. It’s a popular spot, but with 2 kilometres of sand to pick from, there’s always plenty of elbow room. A handful of beach bars line the sand, so drinks and snacks are always on tap. And if you like to keep active, there are watersports up for grabs, too.
The secret beach
If you’d rather have the sands to yourself, Cala Presili will be right up your street. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Menorca’s capital, Mahon, and once you park up it’s an easy 15-minute stroll down to the sand. The beach itself is a curve of flour-soft sand, surrounded by cliffs and watched over by a lighthouse. The shallow waters are a great paddling spot for little ones, too. There are no facilities here, so make sure you pack a picnic and plenty of water if you plan on staying all day.
You won’t find any 5th Avenues or Oxford Streets here, but on-trend types can get a fashion fix in Mahon. The narrow lanes in the centre of town are lined with upmarket, one-off boutiques and jewellery shops as well as high-street favourites like Mango and Zara. Ciutadella’s streets have a sprinkling of stylish shops, too.
Menorca is famous for its leather goods – especially shoes, which are well made and fairly cheap. Your best bet is to head for one of the out-of-town factory outlets, like Castillo Menorca near Ciutadella, where you can also buy bags, belts and the like. They may not be brand names you recognise, but it'll be quality stuff. Or for a handmade pair of shoes, try the town of Ferreries – it's where most of them are made.
Markets are a big hit here. The two biggies are at Mahon’s Placa de S’Esplanada on Tuesday and Saturday, and Ciutadella’s Art Noveau marketplace on Friday and Saturday. Expect painted pottery, clothes and leather goodies at both. Or, give the Monday to Saturday-morning food markets a go – you can find them in the cloisters of Mahon’s Carmelite Church and over in Ciutadella’s Placa Libertat.
If the neon-nightclub scene isn’t your thing, you’ve met your perfect match in Menorca. Evenings here revolve around food, so do as the locals do and get stuck in. The tiny town of Fornells is a 20-minute drive north of Son Bou. This is your best bet for waterfront restaurants, especially seafood. And Ciutadella's old quarter is the place for cosy tapas restaurants.
Cala’n Forcat and Son Bou have a selection of lively bars, but last orders don’t stretch much beyond midnight. The biggest nightspot has to be Mahon. Head down to the harbour where there’s a handful of stylish bars and clubs. Over in Cala en Porter – a 15-minute drive from Son Bou – is Cova d’en Xoroi. Set in cliff caves, it's possibly the only club on the island where you can dance until breakfast.
Caldereta de langosta
King Juan Carlos travels from Majorca on his yacht just to get his fix of this pricey lobster casserole, cooked with onions, tomatoes and garlic. You’ll find cheaper alternatives like caldereta de peix – with fish instead – but it’s worth the extra euros for the real McCoy.
Get your day off to a sweet start with some sugar-dusted ensaimadas – coil-shaped pastries, which usually come in a lovely box. To breakfast Menorcan style, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and dunk them in. Highly addictive.
Borrachitos al gin de Menorca
Nothing beats these little cakes soaked in Menorcan gin and served with strawberries. The island’s signature dessert is Menorca’s answer to sherry trifle.
You can’t go far without seeing this name pop up on a menu. It’s Menorca's very own ice-cream from the Alaior region. Smooth, creamy and sold in every variety you can think of.
For a real taste of Menorca, give this refresher a whirl. A traditional tipple at summer fiestas, it’s served in a highball glass filled with ice, and topped with Xoriguer gin, lemonade and a slice of lemon.
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Arenal d'en Castell
Arenal d’en Castell is a purpose-built resort on Menorca’s northern coast. The place hasn’t overdone things, though – it’s really just hotels and a few bars and restaurants. Location wise, it’s surrounded by woodland and comes on a cliff-side setting, with a small train to help get you round the place. It’s also got a rather lovely Blue Flag beach.
As holiday resorts go, Cala Blanca’s a newbie. The town was built in the Nineties, as the tiny island’s popularity sky-rocketed. And it’s certainly been designed with holidaymakers in mind. Take the seafront, for example – it’s loaded with restaurants, a pretty beach and a lido for sunset-gawping.
As purpose-built resorts go, Cala’n Bosch fits into Menorca’s southwest coast beautifully. What you’ve got here is whitewashed hotels and terracotta-topped villas that give the place that traditional Balearic feel. Its centrepiece is a smart marina ringed with restaurants and bars, though the cute-as-a-button beach gets plenty of the limelight, too.
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