Putting together a shortlist of the best things to do in Menorca proved more difficult than I’d anticipated.
Its name literally means “smaller island”, in contrast with neighbouring Mallorca. But despite its size Menorca surprised me with a myriad of gorgeous towns, secluded beaches and delicious local dishes.
The island marches to the beat of its own drum, and it’s a laid-back one. The kind that makes you want to jump in a convertible and drive around with the top down. Only in this case the convertible would be electric – Menorca has been championing sustainable tourism for years.
That’s not the only thing that distinguishes it from its neighbours like Mallorca or Ibiza. It’s quiet, unspoilt and gentle. I’m not saying you won’t be able to find a good party on the island but if that’s your reason for visiting rethink your choice of destination. Instead, visit Menorca for its secluded coves full of white sand, gentle hikes and mellow wines.
Before you read the post I’d highly recommend you watch this video. It’s just five minutes long and will give you the proper lowdown on the best things to do in Menorca. Reading about the island is one thing but actually seeing it is unbeatable.
Beautiful, huh? Without further ado here are my best tips on what to see in Menorca…
Menorca’s capital isn’t huge but there’s a lot going on in the summer. You might want to plan your trip to coincide with the Sant Jaume Festival, which takes place on July 24-26. It’s one of the island’s biggest festivals with live music, fireworks and lots of horses.
But there’s no need to book any specific dates. Menorca is beautiful all year round. You can just walk around and soak up the atmosphere, admiring the warm hued buildings you’ll encounter along the way. You could also search for the best street art on the island or uncover its culinary secrets.
One of the most polarising condiments known to mankind supposedly originated in this Menorcan city. Mahón… salsa mahonesa… mayonnaise. But even if you’re vegan like me you’ll find something delicious to eat, like aubergine topped with breadcrumbs which is a local specialty.
Don’t forget to try the local Xoriguer gin and pomada, a mix of gin and lemonade. My favourite place to grab a drink was Bar Lemon – their free pours are more than generous which will make for a lively evening. As for the morning after don’t say I didn’t warn you.
2. Mahón Harbour
Mahón has one of the largest natural harbours in the world, second only to Pearl Harbour. That’s what our Menorcan tour guide told us anyway – when I later tried verifying it about a dozen other cities seemed to be vying for the title.
Second biggest or not it’s definitely beautiful. The water is clear and dotted with several small islands, one of which I’ll introduce you to in a minute. The best way to explore Mahón Harbour is by boat – my favourite were the glass-bottomed ones from a company called Yellow Catamarans.
3. Isla del Lazareto
You can also catch a boat from Mahón Harbour to Isla del Lazareto. The tiny island has a pretty dark history – it was used as a quarantine for people with leprosy, yellow fever and other dangerous diseases throughout the 19th century.
People could be quarantined here for as long as six months and some much longer. Between 1817 and 1917, over half a million people passed through Lazareto’s ornate stone gate and several thousand died there. They were buried in the still cemetery which you can still see on site.
But don’t worry, all that darkness in the past and all that remains are beautiful views. My friends and I were lucky to be able to stick around until sunset, something you usually aren’t able to do unless you hire a private boat. Seeing the sky redden over the crystalline waters of Mahón Harbour was the perfect final touch.
4. Playa de Cavalleria
Yasss beaches! No article about Menorca would be complete without a mention of its unspoiled sandy coast. If you, like me, love lying on the beach and not feeling like a fish out of water – more specifically a sardine – you’re in for a treat.
I’m only going to include two of my favourite beaches here but there are dozens if not hundreds to choose from. Let’s start with Playa de Cavalleria, a natural beach on the north coast of Menorca. You can only get there by foot – it’s about a 10 minute walk from the nearest free car park. Don’t forget to bring water and snacks, because there are no shops or restaurants here.
This is not one of those beaches where you can live out a Castaway fantasy. You will not be here alone. But the drive and short hike still discourages most tourists so you’ll get plenty of privacy.
Another beachy favourite of mine was Binidali. It has crystal clear aquamarine waters and while it’s secluded, you’ll find a beach bar with spectacular views perched on the rock above.
The beach is small, quiet and has an authentic feel. If you’d like proper virgin territory (don’t worry, I giggled at that too) check out Cala Biniparratx which just up the coast eastwards. There you’ll find a limestone gorge with a sandy beach at the end, in a sheltered cove.
There may be piles of washed up seaweed as this is an unserviced beach. Unless you plan on eating those don’t forget to bring snacks this time either.
Oh, Ciutadella! This was by far my favourite town on the island. I mean, just look at it!
I didn’t fall in love with it immediately. The centre is full of tourists, more so than anywhere else I’ve seen on the island. The key to enjoying Ciutadella is getting away from the crowds and not rushing.
Leave your guide book at home and just spend a day exploring the town’s romantic side streets and the port. But do bring your camera otherwise you’ll be kicking yourself.
If you watched my video above you will have already seen the wonderful little restaurant my friends and I discovered. You can find it here and open it in a new tab to watch later – I promise it’s worth your time.
While you’re there don’t forget to try an ensaimada, a traditional Mallorcan and Menorcan pastry. But that’s not the only food you should be trying because Ciutadella is quite the foodie spot.
Binibeca is a really interesting little town. Those white facades and cobbled streets – it looks really authentic, right? Wrong!
This fishermen’s village was designed by Spanish architect Antonio Sintes in 1972. Many of his contemporaries deemed his idea crazy. Why would you want to create an old school town when you can build one of those towering blocks of grey concrete?
Luckily he eventually got the green light which has helped this part of Menorca – and others that were developed since the 70s – preserve its character. As for the fishermen? They actually ended up moving in after the project’s completion.
8. El Toro
This is the perfect Instagram photo, says the wall… and I’m wont to agree! El Toro is Menorca’s tallest hill rising to a height of 342 m. It’s not much but it’s enough to give you spectacular views of the entire island.
Atop the mountain you will find the Sanctuary of the Verge del Toro. There’s also a towering statue of Christ with his arms spread out, which reminded me of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer.
S’Algar is a purpose built resort town, so not a place I’d normally seek out. But the nearby Cala Alcaufar beach is very peaceful, with just one bar and one restaurant. I especially loved the rock formations next to it.
Head there to watch the sunset or go on a short stroll across the moon-like surface. Don’t leave your walking shoes at home – those sharp edges will really dig into your flip flops.
10. Binifadet Winery
You may not find the Binifadet Winery on any other list of things to do in Menorca, but that doesn’t mean you should leave it off your itinerary. You can enjoy a free guided tour of the winery, walk through the sun-drenched vineyards or savour a glass of wine on their vine-coverered porch.
They also serve some deliciously unpretentious local cuisine, from soft sobrasada sausage to fish marinated in Xoriguer gin. Vegan options are few and far between but the staff are happy to help. Regardless of what you order, all of the dishes on the menu are designed to complement the wine range Binifadet offer.
Menorca has a long history as a wine-growing region. Their wine was already a valued asset in Roman and Phoenician times and reemerged during the British domination of the 18th century. Nowadays you’ll struggle to find imported Menorcan wine abroad so consider bringing a few bottles back as a souvenir.
11. Cova d’en Xoroi
And finally, Cova d’en Xoroi is probably the coolest bar on the island – because where else can you enjoy a sundowner in a cave perched above the sea?
These sea washed cliffs are shrouded in the legend of a love story. According to legend Xoroi, a young shipwreck survivor, found refuge in the cave. Soon thereafter the surrounding houses were robbed and from one of them a young bride-to-be disappeared.
Many years later she was discovered inside the cave along with Xoroi and their three sons. Upon being surrounded he threw himself into the sea, taking his secrets along with him.
I’m not sure how I feel about this bride-stealing Lothario but there is something undeniably romantic about the view from these rocks…
Have you ever been to this beautiful island? What are your favourite things to do in Menorca? Any fun activities I’ve missed out? Let me know in a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!