Although it’s not the largest beach on Menorca – that honour goes to the beach at Son Bou – this swathe of sand is the most popular on the island. Known to many as the ‘queen of beaches,’ this curved cove caters to the crowds it draws with plenty of open-air restaurants and ice-cream shops, as well as a full complement of watersports.
Amazingly, although it’s not the biggest of the Balearics, Menorca boasts more beaches than Majorca and Ibiza put together. The great majority of the island’s beaches have been awarded Blue Flags because of their superior cleanliness and quality. One of these is Son Bou, which also happens to be Menorca’s largest beach and a great favourite with families.
This horseshoe crescent of pure, white sand is far away from civilisation – you’ll have to drive 20 minutes from Mahon and then walk for 15 minutes just to access it. And, there are no restaurants or bars in sight, so you’ll be well advised to pack a picnic. But, if it’s peace and quiet on a pristine sweep of sand that you’re looking for, then you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere that fits the bill better than Cala Presili.
If it’s local produce that you’re after, then you can’t go wrong by heading over to the Farmer’s Market that’s held each Saturday in Ciutadella beside the cathedral. Look out for deals at the cheese and sausage stalls, but make sure that you only buy goods that have the ‘denominacion de origen’ label, because that’s the only guarantee you’ll have that you’re getting authentic local produce. For clothes, jewellery and crafts, check out the bric-a-brac markets, which are held Monday to Saturday, in Ciutadella’s Noveau and Mahon’s Placa de S’Esplanada.
Son Bou features a few commercial centres where you can find local high-street brands, as well as Quicksilver beachwear. If you’re in the mood to get some body art or cartoons, then you’re in luck if you head over to Cala’n Bosch’s marina after dark, where stalls offer everything from jewellery and leather goods to henna tattoos and caricatures. There are similar wares available at stalls that line the promenades at Cala Galdana, Santo Tomas and Punta Prima.
The best bet for high-end shopping on Menorca is definitely Ciutadella, where you’ll find boutiques showcasing everything from ornate jewellery to D&G sunglasses. Mahon’s main street also has its share of high-end shops. For the most part these stores specialise in goods – such as top-quality jackets, handbags and belts – crafted from the soft local leather.
Grab a table at one of the waterfront restaurants and bars that line Cala’n Bosch’s marina and you’ll have an amazing view of the fishing boats at anchor in the harbour, whilst you are serenaded by the guitarists who come to play each night by the sea. In Cala Galdana and Son Bou, the nightlife is of the laid-back variety and mainly centres around a few karaoke bars and pubs. Fairy-lit restaurants form the main attraction, meanwhile, in Santo Tomas and Punta Prima.
Although Menorca is light on the heavy partying, there is one spot that those in search of lively nightlife simply should not miss – the Caves of Xoroi. Near to Cala’n Porter, this club is set in a group of caves nested in the side of a cliff, allowing you to dance the night away on terraces suspended out over the sea. Ciutadella also offers up some serious partying places, with several massive clubs pumping out the beats until the wee hours of the morning. And, not to be outdone, Mahon’s waterfront features a collection of jazz bars and cocktail lounges.
When you feel like really treating yourself to a signature Menorcan dish, try this specialty, which is made from lobsters, onions, garlic, tomatoes and parsley. This piping-hot casserole is usually served with crusty bread.
Mayonnaise – that well-known accompaniment to so many of our favourite dishes, from chips to sandwiches – actually was created in the town of Mahon in the 1700s, where it was known as ‘salsa de mahonesa.’ Nowadays, Menorcans have added a twist to their invention, adding plenty of garlic to the white stuff, and calling it allioli. Delicious on crusty bread or as a dip for just about anything, this is one time where the sequel can get better than the original.
A saffron-tinted rice that’s tossed with local seafood, this specialty of Menorca bears more than a passing resemblance to paella. But, as it’s light on the shellfish – featuring just a few shrimps and clams – has a much more broth-like consistency, the differences between the Spanish and Menorcan dishes are quite obvious.
Menorca’s very own product, this cheese mingles a variety of different flavours and textures – such as buttery, salty, sweet, creamy and nutty – all at the same time. On the island, locals tend to eat this cheese sliced, drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper and tarragon. Spicy chorizo sausages also go really well with this delicacy.
Gin has been a staple tipple on the island ever since the British held sway here in the 1700s. Menorca even boasts its own brand – Xoriguer. Pomada is an after-dinner digestif that’s designed to help food go down well. It’s made with gin and lemon and provides a tangy finale to any culinary evening on Menorca.
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