Menorca is the first place in Spain to see the sunrise, has second biggest natural harbor in the world (after Pearl Harbour) and is famous for the megalithic stone monuments (like Stonehenge). The list goes on – apparently, mayonnaise was invented here and not in France, they locally distill gin from grapes (not grains) mixing it in a golden Pomande cocktail with bitter lemonade and Menorca has deep roots of winemaking which are now being rebuilt by new innovative winemakers like Hort.
The little sister of Majorca has a long list of tiny unspoiled bays, that are difficult to reach by foot and can be quite busy in the summer. However the effort of walking 20-30 minutes in a 30-degree heat, is rewarded with the most beautiful beaches I have seen in years – the color of the sand, the water, the tranquil settings of pine woods backing the beach and small inlets revealing most magical beaches. That’s what Menorca is about.
Ciutadella is definitely the best base while exploring Menorca. The city is a gem of fantastic restaurants, nightlife, and architecture. It is close to all the most famous beaches, close to some of the best Northern beaches and as the entire island is only 44km long, it is close enough to explore even the other side of the island.
The list of the unspoiled beaches starts with the Cala Macarella, Macaraletta, Cala Turquetta, Cala des Talaiers and San Saura – all located in close 30 min drive from the ex-capital Ciutadella. All of them accessible mainly by a long walk from the parking which is located at least a kilometer from the beach. If you are not really a “hiker type” who loves to carry all your beach equipment in the desert heat, some of the beaches are accessible by sea – at least so close that you can see them, not necessarily get on the beach. We tried the sea route and at least from Ciutadella, the boat does not let you on any of the beaches but only stop for a brief swim and picture taking stop. So let’s start with the most famous Cala Macarella. As a surprise, it didn’t look as packed as I thought it would be. Beach looks amazing, the color of the water is mesmerizing and there is even a mini beach bar (at least one thing less to carry – the picnic bag). However, do not forget to take some shade with you while staying on the beach.
The prettier and even wilder of the two is the nearby Cala Macarelleta, which is a short 300 meter walk from the Cala Macarella. The color of the water could not be more perfect and so can not be the beach, absolute dream.
Cala en Turqueta
The smaller one of the three is located a good 30 minutes walk from the parking (check the map). It is wild, packed and even has a lifeguard. Don’t forget your brollies, food and plenty of drinks before getting there – and be early, otherwise, you might not be able even to park a car (be there before 10).
Cala des Talaiers
Unspoiled, wild and relatively not busy – this beach is a long walk from the parking, which I couldn’t locate, but there is one. We stopped here for a swim – the color of the water is so crystal clear and blue, it is pretty much surreal. Beach is small but quite empty.
Platges de Son Saura
One of the longest beaches on this side of the island, which seemed easier to reach by car is Son Saura. Divided into two bays of Platjas d’es Banyul and Pltajas del Bellavista – it looked deserted & wild. Long white sandy shores, back with pine woods. No services here as well, but at least the walk to the beach is not that long.
Further down the South coast, the first beach accessible by car is the gorgeous wide bay of Cala Galdana enclosed between hotels & harbor it has surprisingly clean water considering how many people stay here every day. The best place to observe the view is from the restaurant overlooking the entire bay, where you can also get best island specialties. Note: when arriving in Cala Galdana follow the road to the city center (by the harbor), which is very close to the beach. Our choice of parking above the beach took us a 400m hike down the hill.
The promise of the wild beaches has always driven me to go the extra mile, and so I did with Cala Mitjana. Too bad I didn’t do much of research or that I didn’t really look for the signs as in fact I made an EXTRA mile to get there. There are two parking spaces for Cala Mitjana, one is in the Cala Galdana city (at the back of the parking above the Galdana beach) and leads a good 30 minute walk down to the beach, the second one is before the Cala Galdana city and has direct access to the path to the beach. It takes good 20-25 minutes to get down to the beach, and oh yes the beach is glorious. But walking in the 30-degree heat, with umbrellas, picnic baskets and sounds like a nightmare to me. Even though the beach was packed with holidaymakers, the smaller inlet of Cala Mitjaneta which doesn’t have the sandy beach looked, even more, picturesque. It was fantastic to see it but took an effort to get there.
Next beach to Cala Mitjana is Cala Trebaluger, which unfortunately I didn’t make it as it was even further walking – pretty much the same distance from the Cala Mitjana (and I was exhausted). So any brave hikers, you are welcome to try to get there, the beach looks even more remote and unspoiled, and your effort will pay back.
Playa Santo Thomas
Getting back to reality and more civilized beaches, there is a list of them on the south coast, starting from Santo Thomas the next town after Cala Galdana and second beach of Playa Binigaus on the same coast – a longer and a more private sandy beach. Beach umbrellas and loungers are available at St thomas at all times. Thre is a nice beach restaurant Es Pins on the west side and restaurant Es Bruc on the other side. Platjes d Atalis, as suggested by locals is not really a beach but a gorgeous cliff site. On the same list, next beach is Son Bou beaches are super long, sandy all served by the hotels around it.
Cala en Porter
The last one on the south side, of the kind of a resort type of beach was Cala en Porter. Known for the Cova d’en Xoroi, the cave-like museum overpriced disco and lounge bar, you pay 13 euro entrance fee (but you get a drink) to look at the caves and the magnificent views. The beach it self-reminds me of Palma Mallorca, encased with the high cliffs, with crystal clear waters and white sandy beach, it is a pleasure to be here. Don’t expect too much from the seafront restaurants, though.
On the north side of the island beaches are much wilder, rockier and less sandy. Cala Morell, looks like a Greek island with white houses against the clay color cliffs and beach. The best Gaspazho soup on the island you can find is in a restaurant just above the beach and apparently even better one on the restaurant on the cliff side of the beach. Parking available along the street – beach looks very “hard”, but water deep blue. Short 20 minutes drive from Ciutadella, perfect afternoon escape.
Platges d Algaiarens
Off to more sandy shores, on the way to Cala Morell, we stopped at Platges d Algaiarens, a sandy bay, which was so crowded that our first thought was to leave immediately (especially as we had no water with us, and neither you could buy it on the beach). However, as soon as we heard Spanish man screaming ” Aqua, Coca-Cola, Cerveza, Patates” it was clear we are staying here for a little longer. Parking is limited and split into two parts, one is it further and requires walking for 800 m, second is almost by the beach. It was full before 10am, so come early.
Where to stay?
Definitely in Ciutadella – the other smaller villages around the island will only lock your options of exploring the best food of the island. Mao could be a good option as well, but it is so much further from the best beaches, that you would have to drive for almost an hour compared to Ciutadella, and there is no sea transport from them. There are plenty of beautiful hotels, but if you have a chance stay in Tres Sants or one of their apartments or neighbouring hotels – amazing service, local advice, true Spanish experience, rooftop terrace and inside swimming pool with 34 degrees temperature – something I thought is not enjoyable in the heat of the Menorca, but you actually do!
Where to eat?
Now – this is a gem list of restaurants in Ciutadella, that was shared with Jose (owner of Tres Santa) himself to give you a true impression of the best food of Menorca. Traditional (amazing) seafood restaurants in the harbor Samarador, Cafe Balear (no reservations accepted for outside tables, half an hour wait -but so worth it), Best view (food not that great) Con Sol. Modern fine dining – Rels, Smoix, Mon. Traditional tapas (don’t get scared from the dodgy exteriours) – Hogar pollo & Carniola. Modern tapas – Moriarty and Moli des Comte.
Where to party?
Something we did not expect to do in Menorca was going out – it’s not a full club experience, but for a small town of Ciutadella, it transforms into fab lounge bar area at the back of the harbor. Try – Jazzbah (our favorite), Es pla bar, Kopas club and other small bars & tapas places around it. Open until morning Saturday is the best day to go with DJ’s and dancing. Go Menorca!
Find beaches & parking spots on the map: