Love getting on the water? Menorca has you covered. This boomerang-shaped island has a charming port at each end. To the east, handsome capital Mahón perches high above one of the greatest natural harbours in the Mediterranean. To the west, the cobbled streets and palaces of Ciutadella hug a narrow channel lined with bobbing yachts. With the whole island protected by Unesco as a Biosphere Reserve since 1993, Menorca certainly turns heads. But tourism here has always been low key, giving its stone-walled fields, golden beaches, forested coves and Megalithic ruins an away-from-it-all feel – especially when seen by boat, sailing around silent bays.
Cruise the coast of Menorca in style by chartering a boat through SamBoat. Alternatively, set off on a multi-day sailing adventure around the island with Dream Yacht Charter.
A fragrant pine forest surrounds calm, glassy water at Cala Turqueta, southeast of Ciutadella. It might just be the best beach in Menorca, with talc-fine sand, great snorkelling and small cliffs that you can leap from. It’s best experienced early in the day, before trees shade the sands and larger tour groups arrive.
Unlike busier Balearic islands, Menorca maintains a fine line in virgin beaches – especially along the less-developed north coast – with the russet-stained sands of Cala Pilar being one of the finest. On beaches like this, there are no bars, bathrooms or sources of shade, so be sure to bring water, snacks, a parasol, suncream – and plenty of ice-cold Estrella beers.
Menorca’s twin port cities make for fun day trips, too. Ciutadella has a grand main square, gothic churches and an excellent market, while in Mahón you can stroll past Georgian townhouses and explore a prehistoric compound centred around a mysterious T-shaped monolith.
North of Mahón stretches Parc Natural S’Albufera des Grau, a watery wonderland of lagoons, dunes and marshes. It’s a mellow spot for a hike or dip, while budding twitchers should ready their binoculars for some major sightings: falcons, vultures and eagles all call it home.
In the west, Port de Ciutadella marina is reasonably priced, with 170 berths and a maximum length of 23m (75ft). There are plenty of nearby restaurants and bars lining the scenic harbour, too.
On the eastern edge of the island, the capital’s large harbour means Marina Mahón can take yachts of up to 50m (164ft) in its 165 berths. It’s a schlep up the hill to reach most shops, though.
Elsewhere, there are pretty anchoring spots across the island. Port d’Addaia is a sheltered spot on the craggy, sometimes blustery north coast, while on the south coast Cala Màrmols is quiet and remote enough to feel like a real discovery. Wherever you choose, don’t miss the chance to pick up a section of the 185km (115mi) Camí de Cavalls coastal walking route, which traces the GR 223 footpath via verdant valleys, wild beaches and the gentle lap of the Mediterranean.
Menorcan traditions are given a contemporary twist at Mon restaurant on Passeig de Sant Nicolau in Ciutadella. The short menu might feature Moorish-inspired mussels with saffron and orange, squid stuffed with mushrooms or sweet suckling pig. You can eat inside or on the back patio in a restaurant that’s inventive but welcoming.
Bodegas Binifadet, the best vineyard in Menorca, lies in the countryside inland from Mahón. Sit back on the vine-shaded patio and work your way through sobrassada (spicy cured sausage) with white-wine jam, sliced tenderloin tomato and caper salads. Or sample goat’s cheese and wine on a tasting tour of the vineyard and cellars. Either way, you’ll leave this quiet spot with a sense of woozy contentment.
The island has a good selection of boats to charter with specialist SamBoat. Most vessels are based in Mahón or Ciutadella. If you want to speed past the cliffs and coves of Menorca in a fragrant blur, there are bareboat ribs and sleek motor yachts. More interested in sipping a cerveza and boosting that tan? Check out the deck-topped charter vessels. Alternatively, Dream Yacht Charter has hundreds of vessels available for multi-day sailing adventures.
In Ciutadella, Suma on Carrer de la República Argentina is the best express option, while the Mercadona on the outskirts of town on Carrer dels Industrials offers the best range and value. Right by the water in Mahón, along Moll de Llevant, Capitán Haddock is a useful deli and bar, while on the way to the airport, Lidl has a wider range and good prices.
There are a good few sailing events and regattas, but the island’s signature stalwart is the Copa del Rey’s annual Vela Clásica Menorca, which sees crews race classic yachts every August. It’s known for its relaxed atmosphere and nods to Menorca’s proud history of sailing and shipbuilding.
Menorca has fairly mild winters and warm, bright summers. However, it’s cooler and wetter than its Balearic neighbours, Mallorca and Ibiza. Conditions in summer are generally good, with the predominantly northerly winds stronger in the cooler months, when some businesses close. The northwesterly tramuntana wind (a relation of France’s mistral) can be a challenge in spring and winter, although it rarely lasts long.
Menorca Airport, a few kilometres southwest of Mahón, handles departures from across Europe. Ferries connect Menorca with Barcelona (nine hours) and Mallorca (two hours), as well as Toulon in France (13 hours).