Rural charm, sun-bleached beaches and family-friendly activities make Menorca ideal for a laid-back break
Relaxed, low-key and unspoilt, Menorca has some of the best beaches and turquoise waters in the Mediterranean, yet it often flies under the radar of its Balearic sisters. The island has been quietly encouraging sustainable tourism for years, long before it became fashionable. Its gentle landscapes are perfect for long walks and cycling, or just chilling out in a beach cove.
Hit the cities
The island’s cool capital of Mahón does a grand job of merging beach vibes with city culture. Starting in the centre, you’ll find the Museo de Menorca, where you can learn all about the island’s past. Alternatively, a visit to Fortaleza de la Mola, a military fort that’s the biggest natural port in the Med, ensures you’ll take a bit of naval history home, while also enjoying the amazing views.
The town is particularly lively during the first week of September, when the Nuestra Señora de Gracia (our Lady of Grace) festival takes over. Horses parade through the streets, dancing and rearing up to entertain the crowds.
At the top of your destination to-do list should be Ciutadella – Menorca’s old port city on the west cost of the island – known for its medieval streets, historic architecture, old quarter and casual city charm. The main square Plaça des Born is home to the Gothic-style city hall and 19th-century palaces of Salort and Torre-Saura, which you can explore at your leisure. On Fridays and Saturdays, the square’s open-air market is not to be missed. It’s the perfect place to mix with the locals and grab a traditional souvenir – handmade jewellery and pottery are particularly popular. Enjoy a boat trip around the island, taking in the beautiful beaches and quaint coves, and you could even stop for an impromptu dip or lunch on a deserted shore.
With nearly 200 coves around this small island, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Cala’n Blanes is a picture-perfect cove for little ones, with its powdery white sand, calm waters and a rustic beach bar for lunch. The bigger hubs like Cala’n Forcat, Punta Prima, Cala’n Bosch and Santo Tomas are all about lazy beach days, but there are also watersports available if you’re feeling active. The crystal-clear waters allow for fabulous diving experiences, too. To spend time on one of the longest stretches of sand, head to family-favourite Son Bou on the south coast. Situated near Prat de Son Bou nature reserve, it’s backed with stunning dunes, marshes and diverse birdlife for the perfect day trip.
Out and about
It’s easy to get around the island, but hire a car to make the most of your stay. It’s roughly 35 miles in length, so it’s easy to explore the different areas. But despite being a small island, there are three waterparks, including Aquarock by Calan Bosch Marina – ideal for older kids, and has a go-kart track, too – or try Aqua Centre in Calan Forcat for its huge swimming pool and slides for the little ones. In Son Parc, you’ll find the island’s only golf course, or west of Mahón, head to Menorca Zoo – it’s great for getting up close and personal to native animals with interactive experiences.
The island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, due to its preserved natural elements. While tourism is welcomed, the areas maintain their traditional style, with culture, wildlife and fauna key to the island’s laid-back atmosphere, which is great for exploring on coastal walks.
Where to stay
This small island lends itself to a villa holiday, and with Villa Plus (Villaplus.co.uk), you’ll find many great locations dotted around the island. We stayed at The Villa Sea View in the small town of Sa Caleta, which is a ten-minute drive from Ciutadella. The design was modern and stylish, with its own pool and large sun deck. Additionally, it can sleep up to ten people, so is ideal for a big family getaway. The sea views are to die for, and the villa is a short stroll to the picturesque Sa Caleta cove, where there are shallow waters and a beach bar.
To sample a local meal, try restaurant Sa Quadra. It’s a five-minute drive away, near to Cala Santandria beach, and has a traditional menu of tapas, paella, and the local speciality dish caldereta de langosta – a tasty stew made with Menorca’s trademark blue spiny lobster.
Need to know
· Seven nights at The Villa Sea View, Menorca, sleeping ten people, costs from £118 per person during off-peak season. Car hire is available with Villa Plus from £147 for a week. Book online with Villaplus.co.uk
· Flights from London Stansted to Mahón return costs from £150 in September with Jet2.com
· Ensure you’re covered with holiday insurance from £4.25 a week with zero excess for whatever the holiday at CoverForYou.com
· Pre-book your airport parking with Holiday Extra and save an average of £59, compared to the price you’d pay on the day. Booking Meet and Greet Parking ensures that you can enjoy more holiday without the hassle. To book at Stansted Airport, prices start from £78 for a week’s parking from 21 September 2019. Visit HolidayExtras.com or call 0800 316 5678 for the most up-to-date price.