Menorca holidays whisk you off to a lesser-trodden Balearic Island, where nature trails, peaceful beaches and cute fishing villages are on the menu.
One of the Balearic Islands, Menorca bobs just off the east coast of Spain. While it rubs up next to fab-for-families Majorca and party-ready Ibiza, this back-to-nature island is a shy kind of guy – and that’s why people love it.
Rather than bright lights and big-name sights, Menorca’s more interested in Mother Nature’s handiwork. The UNESO-rated biosphere reserve, the Albufera des Grau Natural Park, is just the place to pull on your hiking boots and blaze a trail past fish-filled lagoons and bird-magnet marshland.
The closest you’ll get to a busy city is Mahon – the island’s capital. Its claim to fame is that it has the world’s second largest natural harbour. This is also where you’ll find the Xoriguer gin distillery, streets crammed with traditional bars and restaurants, and a handful of 18th-century churches.
Bank of beaches
Menorca has plenty of white sand to go around, too, and it tends to be quieter than elsewhere in the Balearics. Take Cala Trebaluger – a forest-backed cove, 40 minutes’ trek from civilisation. Cala Galdana, meanwhile, is big and easy to get to, making it a hit with families.
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 its sister islands combined. 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 over two kilometres of sand to pick from, there’s always plenty of elbow room. A handful of 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. 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 some snacks and plenty of water if you plan on staying all day.
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.
Menorca's 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.
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.
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'n 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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