Unspoilt, idyllic, glistening sand, turquoise water… just about every tourist brochure cliché is actually true when you are talking about the beaches in Menorca.
Menorca takes its name from the Latin word for ‘minor’ because it is smaller than the neighbouring island of Mallorca. This is why you often see Minorca also known as Menorca.
Menorca, it’s the second largest island of the four, drawing its name from its smaller size in comparison to neighbouring Mallorca (Majorca). Menorca is the most north easterly Balearic Island and with Ibiza and Formentera on the western side of Mallorca, completes the group known locally as the Baleares.
Situated off the coast of northern Spain, the closest mainland city is Barcelona with daily flights to the island all year round from both Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.
Menorca has 3 main seasons:
- The low season which extends from November to March: prices are the lowest at this time of the year but on the other hand it should be known that the island is running a little slowly. Less public transport, fewer restaurants/bars open (there are still some) and a cooler climate (12°C to 15°C during the day). In short, it is a very beautiful season for hiking but not so much for swimming.
- The high season which goes from June to August: the summer holiday period! Not surprisingly, it is the period with the most activities and atmosphere on the island. The sun is almost always shining, the beaches are stormed (even if it is still reasonable compared to the neighbouring islands) and of course this is the period when prices take the elevator for accommodation or car rentals.
- Between seasons: from April to June and from early September to late October. In my opinion these are the best seasons! The temperatures are mild (20° to 25°), the prices are reasonable and above all there are not too many people. If you come for a swim, aim for September or October because in spring the water is still a little cool!
The easternmost Balearic island moves to its own mellow beat. Its twinset of sea-splashed cities, eastern Anglo-Spanish Maó and western maze-like Ciutadella, are delightfully low-key and distinctive, and the white and golden – sand bays that stud its 216km coastline are among the loveliest in the Mediterranean. Inland, the island remains distinctly rural, with an estimated 70,000km of dry-stone walls criss-crossing fields and rolling hills between whitewashed villages.
Menorca is only 48 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide but it still manages to pack in over 100 beaches along its coastline – more than Ibiza and Mallorca combined. Consequently, unfurling a towel and soaking up the rays are the most prevalent thoughts of the thousands of holidaymakers who touch down at Mahón Airport during the six-month season. And indeed, Menorca is a perfect place to go snorkelling and to discover hidden caves. You can also get spectacular views of the stunning coastline, and the island’s marvellous nature by either hiking on Monte Toro, its highest peak, or by a going on a horseback excursion. The reward of any activity is always a breathtaking view, and on a clear day, you can even see all the way to Mallorca.
Menorca has been called one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean Sea, which is no small claim, considering there are over 100 Mediterranean Islands from which to choose.
Here in Menorca you can expect a less saturated experience of tourism and you can uncover the most beautiful crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean:
This small, white sandy beach, backed by pine trees, flanked by cliffs and lapped by stunning azure waters, is picture perfect. In fact, photos of Cala Macarelleta, and the bigger and busier Cala Macarella next door, are widely used to entice tourists to the island. The bigger beach next door has car-park access, toilets and a restaurant, but it is well worth the short walk over the cliffs to this more unspoilt stretch of sand. The views from the cliff are incredible, and the smaller beach has a more remote and peaceful feel to it, something you will definitely appreciate in high season. For the ultimate beach day, ditch the car and arrive by boat.
Calas Mitjana and Mitjaneta
One of Menorca’s most beautiful (and as a result popular) beaches, Cala Mitjana is a gorgeous cove in the south of the island, with high pine-topped cliffs on either side and vivid blue, shallow and calm waters. There is a small car park a short walk away, but in high season this fills up quickly, so the beach is best accessed by boat. As with many of the beaches in Menorca, its remoteness and lack of facilities are part of its charm, but this does mean you need to come prepared. In high season, the cove gets very busy, so it’s best to arrive early and bring enough supplies to last the day. Swim around the headland, or hike over the cliff to Cala Mitjaneta, for similar beauty on a smaller scale, with fewer people.
With sheltered, shallow water and plenty of space to spread out, both the gorgeous beaches at Son Saura, in the southwest of the island, are popular with local families. There are two sandy beaches (Banyul and Bellavista), separated by a rocky point, and although there are lifeguards and toilets, the beaches have a relaxed feel and don’t get too busy. Together these two beaches make the largest cove in Menorca. The free car park is about 10 minutes’ walk away and while the beach itself is great for young families, the walk is not really doable with a pushchair, so it’s one to visit with walking-age kids.
A stunning white sandy beach, with natural shade provided by the pine trees and rocks, Cala Turqueta is yet another piece of Menorcan paradise. With water so turquoise it almost seems unreal, it’s easy to see why this beach has become so popular that it has two car parks (only one of which is free). Not only is the sand soft and white, but this small cove is great for snorkelling around the rocks, and for those who like flinging themselves off cliffs into the crystal clear water below.
Playa de Cavalleria
A remote and wild beach, but with easy access by car, Playa de Cavalleria is the largest bay on the north of the island, and the reddish sands are backed by extensive dunes and rocky hills. The eastern end of the beach, nearest to the car park, and accessed by a wooden staircase, is sandier, while the other end is rockier and the water better for snorkelling. There are no facilities at Cavalleria, so bring supplies (and shade), and make sure you check the weather, as the wind can certainly pick up here.
Playa de Binigaus
This long, pristine stretch of white sand is perfect for those looking for a wild, untouched beach, but with easy access. The nearest car park is a ten-minute walk from the eastern end of Playa de Binigaus, on the edge of the small resort town of Santo Tomás. The sand is soft and plentiful, and the water divine – a great beach to linger on for the whole day. If it’s privacy you’re after, head to the far end of the beach, under the cliffs, where it tends to be much quieter. There are no facilities, but there is a fantastic beach bar and restaurant, Es Brucs, on the neighbouring beach at Santo Tomás, only a short walk away.
However, Menorca has a lot more to offer than just sandy beaches, amazing landscapes and its beautiful coastline.
Take a stroll to the historic cities to see the architectural heritage of the British occupation or the medieval era: to Fort Marlborough with its gloomy tunnels, to La Mola or to Cathedral Ciudadella, a beautiful church with lovely stonework and stained glass windows. On top of that, you can sample one of the best legacies of the British ruling: locally distilled gin.
Gin was popularised during the 18th and 19th century, and the brand “Xoriguer” was born in the early 20th century, on this very island with a very distinctive aroma. Sample one of the best legacies of the British occupation, called La Gin was popularised during the 18th and 19th century, and the brand “Xoriguer” was born in the early 20th century, on this very island with a very distinctive aroma. Sample one of the best legacies of the British occupation, and grab a Menorcan memento on top. and grab a Menorcan memento on top.
Menorca’s most famous hot spot, Cova de’n Xoroi, is located in a cave halfway down a cliff, and the legend has it that a famous pirate here met a watery death. While this venue is a bar by day, it transfers into a disco by night, as soon as the lights turn down, and the music turns up.
Mahón (or Maó), an interesting capital with a turbulent history, saw many sea conflicts as the Spanish, British and French grappled for control of this strategically important naval base. The influences of all three cultures, as well as the native Baleriac one, can be seen here today.
Ciutadella de Menorca is a small town and the cultural rival of Mahón. Take a stroll along the canal-like harbour and dine on fresh lobster in one of the waterside restaurants, before checking out British colonial ruins.
Menorca has many beautiful lookout points, and one of them, in the island’s north, is Cap de Cavalleria. Visit at sunrise or sundown for the most spectacular views. The beautiful Faváritx Lighthouse also offers lovely coastal views of quaint little roads which end in crystal clear bays.
A word of advice: do not come to Menorca if you are a nocturnal neon-seeker with a penchant for high decibels to which you may be used to after visiting Mallorca ‘next door’. Although this smaller island is not the destination for a heavy night out, the lights will not turn off at bed time already, as Mahón, Ciutadella and most resort areas have a profusion of bars and a handful of clubs – however, do not expect A-list DJ’s and dancing till breakfast, and you will then most certainly enjoy a quite great night.
For the most stunning sunset views head off to Fornells and book a table at Isabella Beach Club, you won’t regret it!
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