The traditional way of life of the Balearic island of Menorca hasn’t been destroyed by mass tourism and its great charm and character make it an ideal destination for relaxing family holidays. The island is well known for its beautiful, sandy beaches and a fine selection of quality accommodation.
What will strike you very quickly on arrival in Menorca is just how small the island is. On my first visit I picked up a rental vehicle at the airport and headed west for Ciudadella. Even allowing for a brief stop at the prehistoric ruins in Alaior we covered the 50km journey across the island in around an hour. The island is even narrower from north to south.
When to Visit Menorca
Weather: Menorca enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate with average annual temperatures of 15-17°C and summer highs from 23-26°C. Rainfall is mainly in the autumn months so glorious weather can be expected in the spring and summer months. Menorca enjoys a fairly mild climate throughout the year but is exceptionally quiet during the winter.
Festivals in Menorca: A good time to visit is during the ‘Festes de Sant Joan’ in June when Ciutadella welcomes visitors to its summer festival. The fiestas at the end of July in Es Castell are also highly recommended.
During the Spanish civil war neighbouring Mallorca very quickly became a Nationalist stronghold whilst Menorca resisted. As a ‘reward’ for the island’s support Franco later allowed mass tourist development in Mallorca but prevented such growth in Menorca.
The result is that the island remains a relatively low-key destination with little in the way of overdevelopment whilst neighbouring Mallorca is home to some of Europe’s largest tourist resorts.
Map of Menorca
Menorca’s airport lies just 5km southwest of the island’s capital Mahon. It’s a relatively quiet destination when compared with its busy neighbour over in Mallorca, attracting 90% less visitors. As such flights to Menorca tend to be rather seasonal in nature with the main tour operators and some budget airlines providing summer flights to Menorca but few services during the winter months. Domestic flights keep the island reasonably well connected with Barcelona and Madrid.
Menorca Airport Transfers
Menorca Airport Car Hire: Menorca is a tiny island with a small population. Driving is very straightforward and car rental rates tend to be very reasonable. Whilst there are car rental offices in the airport you’ll get much better deals by hiring your car before travelling and collecting the keys at the appropriate desk in the terminal. Zest Car Rental are highly recommended as their rentals don’t include any nasty hidden extras when you come to pay.
Shuttle Bus & Private Transfers: The best option for any visitors who don’t wish to rent a car is to pre-book a private transfer and have a vehicle and driver waiting to collect you on arrival. The service caters for any group size and covers all the main resorts. Most popular destinations include Cala’n Forcat, Ciudedela, Cala’n Bosch, Binibeca, Fornells, Arena d’en Castell and Es Castell.
Public Bus: The cheapest transport option is to take a public bus into Mahon bus station then connect with another bus that is going to your final destination. These buses run every 30 minutes into Mahon beginning at 6am with the last service around 10pm. This certainly isn’t the most convenient way of travelling especially if you have children with and the bus services seem quite unreliable so if the bus doesn’t turn up you’ll have to take one of the local taxis which wait outside the arrivals area.
Taxi Transfers: If you’d rather take a taxi you’ll find no shortage of them waiting at the rank just outside the main doors of the airport. The private transfer option provided by the shuttle company mentioned above are usually cheaper than on the spot taxi rates.
Best Places to Stay in Menorca
For such a small island the accommodation options are impressive ranging from small, self-catering apartments to luxury hotels and sumptuous villas. The most popular holiday resorts are Cala en Bosc and Cala’n Blanes on the west coast but these are tiny in comparison with the likes of Magaluf over in Mallorca. Their easy access to the island’s waterparks makes them popular choices for families with children.
Most other resorts scattered around the island tend to be very small offering great opportunities for a laid back holiday. Cala Galdana and Cala en Porter on the south coast are a couple of personal favourites.
If you’d really like to get off the beaten track and experience Balearic life, Menorcan style, then you can book traditional country farmhouses (‘llocs’) for your stay rather than looking for hotel accommodation. There are also plenty private villas for rent around the island.
Best Beaches in Menorca
Cala En Porter: This is one of the oldest and most popular family beaches on the island which is located on the south-east coast. Wide and sandy and framed by steep cliffs on either side, there are sun loungers, water sports and safe bathing for children. The beach has many places for eating and drinking during the day and evening.
Cales Coves: Just south of Cala En Porter, this fairly inaccessible spot is simply stunning. It offers nothing in the way of facilities but is highly recommended for anyone looking to get off the beaten track.
Platja de Son Bou: On the south-central coast, this long, beautiful beach with its sand dunes is a family favourite thanks to its shallow waters. Beach bars and watersports are widely available.
Binibequer: Located near the island’s southern tip, this is a small beach with safe and shallow waters set in a really pretty cove. There are plenty of sun beds for hire and a beach bar.
Arenal d’en Castell: Standing on the island’s north-east coast, this popular family beach is surrounded by hotels and apartments so it can get very busy during the summer months. It has fine white sand and is well equipped with bars, restaurants and watersport options.
Cala Blanca: Located on the west coast, this is one of the island’s most built up beaches where tourist developments dwarf the coastal area.
Cala Santa Galdana: With its white sands turquoise waters, this beautiful beach on the south-west coast is one of the island’s popular destinations. It is well served by beach bars, restaurants and watersport operators.
Cala Pregonda: This scenic bay on the north coast is relatively unspoilt with just a few private villas in the vicinity. Its white sand and crystal clear waters can be enjoyed with a scenic backdrop of pine and tamarisk woods.
Es Grau: This is a true gem on the north-east coast of Menorca which is easily accessible from Mahon. It is part of the S’Albufera des Grau nature reserve so has escaped tourist developments. It’s ideal for young children thanks to its shallow waters and is a great spot for snorkelling and kayaking.
Punta Prima: Standing on Menorca’s southern tip, this is one of the largest beaches on the island which is popular with windsurfers and other watersport enthusiasts. Strong winds and sea currents mean that conditions aren’t ideal for young children. Bars and restaurants are located nearby.
Son Parc: On the north coast near the island’s golf course, this beach serves a purpose-built holiday resort. In spite of the tourist developments in the area, the beach remains popular with families and is well equipped with facilities.
Best Places to Visit in Menorca
Mahon: Located on the island’s east coast, Mahon is the capital of Menorca with a history dating back to the Carthaginians. The notable Georgian architecture and the city’s gin factory are reminders of British rule over the island during the 18th century. Mahon has one of the world’s largest natural harbours which has long been of strategic importance. Today it is a popular port of call for cruise ships.
Ciutadella: Located on the western side of the island, this stylish town is well known for its excellent seafood restaurants. It was originally the capital of Menorca and is home to a number of historic sights such as the 17th century defence tower of Castell San Nicholas. Cuitadella also boasts a stunning cathedral which was rebuilt from the origins of a mosque in 1287.
Fornells: Located in Fornells Bay on the north coast of Menorca, this fishing village has a history dating back to the 16th century when a watchtower was built as a defence against Barbary pirates. Today it is best known for its excellent seafood restaurants surrounding its harbour where lobster stew (caldereta de langosta) is the signature dish.
Naveta des Toudos: On the road between Mahon and Ciutadella you will find this ancient burial site which claims to be the oldest roofed building in the whole of Spain. Menorca has over a thousand pre-historic monuments and this is probably the best known one of all.
Monte Toro: This is the highest point of the island from where visitors can see the whole of the island on a clear day. At the top there is a convent which is the home of Franciscan nuns who are happy to open their doors to the public throughout the summer months.
Best Things to Do in Menorca
Boat Tours: Trips run at regular intervals and some have glass bottoms enabling you to have a peek at the local marine life which thrives in this area due to the Biosphere Reserve and fabulously clear blue waters.
Snorkelling: The waters around Menorca are perfect for snorkelling with many a ship wreck and coral cave to explore. There are also some excellent PADI dive schools where you can learn to scuba dive.
Hiking: Although not ideal during the summer months because of the high temperatures, there are some spectacular coastal pathways around the island. Highly recommended is the one from Punta Prima to the watchtower at Alcaufar.
Mountain Biking: In the centre of the island, the 20km long Cami d’en Kane runs from near Mahon to the town of Es Mercadal. It’s a great excursion by mountain bike but can also be covered on foot or on horseback.
Golf: Located close to Fornells on the north coast, the Golf Son Parc Menorca is the island’s only 18 hole golf course. It is set in absolutely beautiful surroundings and welcomes visitors.
Historic Sites: The island has a lot of historic attractions due to invasions by different civilisations over the centuries which left their mark on the land. Of particular interest to history buffs is the world’s largest concentration of pre-historic sites.
Museums: The Museu de Menorca is the largest museum on the island and contains detailed information about its past as well as holding the island’s collection of fine arts. The museum is located in a former monastery in the capital city of Mahon. Another famous museum is the Museu Hernandez Sanz Hernandez Mora where you will find maps and engravings going back as far as the 17th century. The Scientific, Literary and Artistic Arthenaeum is a natural history museum which holds a research library with books by local authors and exhibits a collection of drawings and paintings by Vives Llull, a well known Spanish artist.
Theme Parks: For families holidaying on the island you really should not miss a trip to the AquaRock Waterpark. This place is great fun kids with highlights such as the kamikaze slide, go-karts and a mini golf course. Another popular waterpark for young children is Club San Jaime near Platja de Son Bou on the south coast.
Nightlife: Typically the Menorcan nightlife is very laid back so the island isn’t recommended for the 18-30s crowd who’d be better off going to Ibiza or Mallorca.
Trotting Races: This is a popular sport in the Balearics which has taken place in Mahon and Ciutadella for more than 200 years. The races are different from traditional horse racing because the riders have to keep the horses at trotting speed and not allow them to break into a gallop.
Sailing: The Balearic Islands are a popular destinations for the worldwide yachting community. A highlight of Menorca is sailing into Mahon’s spectacular natural harbour with the town’s architecturally delightful houses standing on the cliffs above. Another popular excursion is to sail around the north coast of the island to the picturesque sheltered harbour at Fornells which has frequently attracted the Spanish Royal Family during the summer months.