In the past, this little sister of the Balearic islands (the name literally means “little island”) has taken a back seat to its siblings in terms of profile. Ibiza and Mallorca were the ones with glamorous beach scenes and party crowds (“Hey, Jade — see you at the finca later!”). As the baby of my family, I know how Menorca feels. “One day,” mother says, “you’ll find people who appreciate you for who you are.”
For this gorgeous island, that time has arrived. (As for me, I’ll tell you later.) On a recent quick trip to Menorca I was captivated by its laidback vibe, the natural beauty of the island and its intriguing history. I’m not the only one who’s noticed. People are beginning to appreciate the appeal of the island, making it the perfect time to go — there’s plenty of buzz but not overwhelming crowds to fight.
It’s easy to do Menorca with flair, I discovered, with all kinds of family-friendly activities and distinctive local food and drink, including Menorcan gin. Although on our trip with the kids, that will be for the grown-ups only. (We’re strict that way.)
Here, my top 11 reasons to put Menorca on your list of places to go next
1. The amazing array of beaches – From the pool at Leblue Seaclub, in front of my hotel PortBlue Salgar, a little stretch of water and sand promises relaxing walks. From the Son Bou beach, you can launch pedalos with built-in slides, kayak, kite-surf and more. There are more than a 100 beaches on the island, where you can snorkel, windsurf, hire sunloungers or buy snacks and drinks. My favourite was “Lovers Beach”, accessed via a narrow path through undergrowth next to a road. The path leads to a collection of sand, rocks and surf just big enough for a handful of couples or families.
- Great for families with small kids: Binibeca Beach
- Great for active fun: Son Bou
- Great for a picnic & paddle: Lover’s Beach
- Check out this good list of Menorca beaches from The Guardian
2. The coolest bar ever – There are lots of stunning places to drink around the world, but Menorca plays host to one of the best: Cova d’en Xoroi, set within the side of a cliff. After a walk down a winding staircase, you can retreat to one of the bars in the dark recesses or linger on one of the viewing platforms in the sun. I spotted a family here with young kids excitedly exploring the different seating areas and playing amid the tables. Book one of the VIP viewing spots if you’re feeling flush. Whether you go during the day or evening, this is a stop you’ll remember forever. Note: It’s open only during the summer and the evening discos are over-18s only. http://www.covadenxoroi.com
3. The Cami de Cavalls. This path encircling the island crosses gullies, wetland, farms, leading you past watchtowers, lighthouses and coves, through olive groves and along inaccessible turquoise beaches with stunning views. You can do a self-guided walk, hire bicycles or go old-school and ride horses. The trail gets its name from the Catalan word for horse (cavalls); it was originally a horse path for soldiers. (Get acquainted with the trail with this post about hiking the trail from Heather on Her Travels.)
4. The intriguing world of the quarantine island. I’ve never met a child who wasn’t secretly a ghoul. In the harbour of the city of Mahon, at the Lazareto de Mahon, you can indulge them. This is where immigrants who were sick or suspected of carrying diseases were kept, quarantined until they were cleared as well…or died. The Lazareto was opened in 1817 and was a self-sufficient island, in full use until 1917 to guard against plague, cholera and other infectious diseases. Arrivals were divided into those already infected and those suspected of infection, with sections for medical staff and the superintendent. The main gate is all Paladian splendour and one of the most striking and chilling details is the the tiny chapel, encircled by cells for the inmates, with bars across the open-air windows. Areas are still used for lectures, seminars and more for health workers. You can visit on guided tours during summer. http://lazaretodemahon.es/visitas/
5. The Fiestas – Fiestas are an opportunity for Menorcans to celebrate favourite saints with music, food, even fireworks along with displays of Menorcan horses, a sleek, black breed indigenous to the island. Here’s a list of some of the festivals and their dates, which run from June through September. These are authentic celebrations, so expect to meet locals while you let your hair down.
6. Favaritx Lighthouse – I loved this stripey lighthouse standing 47 metres above sea level, towering above the dramatic black rocks of Favaritx Cape. Take your camera and prepare to be busy: It doesn’t have it a bad side. Craggy rocks all around make for at least a half hour of fun exploring (and Instagramming for older kids) and negotiating your way to the outcrop. TIP: Wear trainers or other sturdy shoes and take a sling or backpack for carrying babies.
7. Wander in a maze – In Lithica near the town of Cuitadella is a centuries-old quarry, now restored, with a series of cool gardens and mazes to wander. It’s unusual and different, not your typical garden visit.
8. Sailing – One look at the clear waters surrounding the island and you will want to hire or charter a boat and set sail. You can bareboat or hire a skipper and spend a week circumnavigating the island, dropping anchor in pretty harbours and sunning yourself on deck or just go on an outing to see the island from the water.
9. Watersports – Windsurfing, jetskiing, snorkeling, kayaking…you get the idea. If your kids, like mine, love a bit of action, they’ll adore the watersports here, in crystal clear waters, all easily accessible.
10. Menorcan gin, cheese and seafood – No cheese lover can visit the island without trying Mahon-Menorca cheese, which can only be made with cow’s milk from the island. It has a pleasingly salty tang. The local Menorca gin Xorigeur (gin was a staple drink of the sailors who visited) is frequently mixed with fizzy lemonade to make the local Pomada, which has every gin drinker I know praising its refreshing qualities. I love the bottle shape, with the handle for your finger, where the sailors would thread through rope and toss it over their shoulder. Other specialties include the blue spiny lobster soup along with delicious seafood of countless varieties, Menorcan wine, and local sobrasada sausage.
11. Water parks – Even with beckoning beaches and beautiful walks, no child can resist the siren call of a water park. The Marina Park Hotel features Splashworld and a stay there guarantees unlimited access to its pools, Sidewinder featured slide, multi-lane versions, tube slides, an inflatable ring ride and special area for under-3s (check out this action video of one of the slides). The park Splash Sur Menorca features a water play area including drench bucket, slides, lazy river and a Kamikaze slide (this video gives you a flavour of the park). Guests staying at the Club Hotel sur Menorca (which has accommodation from doubles to 2-bed apartments) get preference at opening.
Did I miss off one of your Menorcan favourites? Let me know in the comments section!
Other great resources for your Menorca trip:
I visited Menorca as a guest of Visit Spain, in a trip organised by Traverse Events. All opinions are my own.