Idyllic beaches, sleepy fishing villages, and excellent restaurants; it’s little wonder that Menorca’s tourism industry is thriving. Summer gets busy on the sun-drenched island as hotels reach capacity and restaurants book up. Instead, visit in autumn when the temperature cools and the crowds disperse.
The easternmost Balearic Island might be a popular holiday destination, but its approach to tourism has differed from the neighbouring islands of Ibiza and Mallorca. Its status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has protected it from mass development and accommodation comes in the form of family owned boutique hotels and countryside fincas (converted farmhouses) rather than large-scale resorts.
The island has over 70 beaches, with many accessible only on foot. Most are accessed via the Cami de Cavalls (officially named GR223), a 185km trail that loops around the island’s entire coastline, making it a popular spot for hikers, cyclists, and horse riders. The autumn climate is perfect for activities and some of our favourites include horse riding, kayaking, and mellow afternoons at one of the islands many vineyards. Menorca is also a food lovers paradise and has recently been named the European Region of Gastronomy for 2022. Expect high-quality local products (like the renowned Mahon cheese) and superb restaurants.
Though small enough to explore in a few days, we’d suggest a week to really get acquainted. Below are some of the best places to stay, from boutique boltholes in the city to off-grid countryside retreats, plus as an overview of must do’s while you’re here.
The Packing Edit
There’s something special about checking into a proper family owned hotel. They feel more personable, more relaxed, more notable. Add to that an extensive family history and you’ve got Can Sastre, a luxurious boutique hotel whose past is as exciting as its future. The story starts in 1862 when the Sastre family opened ‘La Sin Nombre’, a popular patisserie shop known for its pastel pink interiors and Menorcan candy. The shopfront has since been converted into the hotel’s reception area, but the pastry display cases still house glass jars of brightly coloured sweets. The original candy making and wrapping machines from the 1800s are also on display. The serving counter is now marble-topped and used as the hotel’s reception desk, the shop customers who once checked out now replaced with hotel guests checking in.
The hotel is in the heart of the Ciutadella, a walkable city on the island’s west coast. Its cobbled streets and picturesque harbour can be explored in a day, but its excellent restaurants (Rels, Smoix, and Mon are all Michelin recommended) and stylish boutiques deserve more time. We spent two nights in a Preferred Room, which had an in-room bath, king-size bed, and one of the most spacious hotels showers we’ve ever been in – I could stretch out both arms. Breakfast is served downstairs in the stone vaults and includes a selection of Menorcan meats, cheeses, and pastries served buffet style, with hot items available to order. There’s no restaurant, but staff will happily recommend (and reserve) the best places in town. You’ll find an honesty bar in the lounge, and there’s also a cabinet with items from the building’s past, including rolling pins and wooden spoons originally used at the patisserie.
Most of the Ciutadella is pedestrianised and parking is a short walk from the hotel. If you book your stay direct with Can Sastre, parking is free.
Santa Ponsa Fontenille
A secluded finca tucked away within a 250-acre estate, Santa Ponsa Fontenille is one of Menorca’s smartest countryside retreats. Dating back to the 17th century, the property has been reimagined by French hotel group Fontenille. The interiors are thoroughly colonial with rattan furnishings, arched ceilings, and framed prints of tropical birds and faraway lands adorning the walls.
Our Superior Double (room four) had 30sqm of space and was large enough for morning yoga with a view. Two imposing windows overlooked a leafy courtyard, and the rattan wardrobes and bed frame added to the contemporary colonial vibes. We also loved the large plants in the bedroom and bathroom – a rarity in hotel rooms and something we’d love to see more often. Some rooms have a private terrace and ours was the perfect spot for watching the sunset with a glass of exceptionally crisp Rosé wine, grown at sister hotel Domaine de Fontenille.
Make time to explore the extensive tiered gardens, which are a stunning example of Moorish design. Follow the stone pathways to discover exotic flowers, herb gardens, and fruit trees sagging under the weight of juicy pomegranates and sickly sweet figs. Search hard enough and you’ll find the outdoor pool hidden behind a stone wall. It’s completely secluded and blissfully quiet save for the occasional ‘hee-haw’ from the hotel’s three donkeys.
Guests are free to discover every nook and cranny of the vast estate and there are bikes to borrow. We took a 30-minute walk through the pine forests to Pedrera de Santa Ponca, an abandoned limestone quarry now reclaimed by nature – look out for the small Balearic tortoise’s roaming around. The spa features a stunning subterranean swimming pool within an old cistern and two treatment rooms. Meanwhile, Restaurant Nura (see EAT/ DRINK below) offers all-day dining and is also open to non-hotel guests for dinner.
Checking in at Cristine Bedfor guest houses feels more like arriving at a close friend’s house than a hotel. There is no formal reception area, and traditional check-in desks are replaced with antique furniture and friendly staff on laptops. The hotel only opened in May 2021, but it has quickly established itself as one of Mahón’s cheeriest places to stay.
Smack dab in Mahón’s old town, it is walkable to both the harbour and the city’s bars and restaurants from the hotel. The exterior is discreet and understated, but the interiors couldn’t be more different. Expect a smorgasbord of colour, texture, and boldly patterned fabrics. It’s a look that could have easily been kitsch, but Spanish designer Lorenzo Castillo has achieved just the right balance between elegance and quirk.
There are 21 rooms at the hotel, and they range from singles to the larger ‘Cristine’s Terraces’ which have a private terrace overlooking the garden. Our double room was slightly cramped, especially with two suitcases, so we’d suggest booking a bigger room if possible. All rooms have Cristine Bedfor natural toiletries and embroidered linens, and in the interest of switching off, there are no phones or TVs. The hotel is entirely plastic-free and filtered water taps are dotted around to encourage guests to bring their refillable bottles.
The all-day restaurant is a collaboration between the hotel and local restaurant Ses Forquilles. We visited for dinner but found that the all-day menu was better suited for lunch – the cheese and ham sandwich looked out of place at 8PM. The food was very good, and highlights included the Menorcan flatbread with local sobrasada, and rockfish tacos (which were so delicious we ordered two rounds), but the menu needed fewer sandwiches and more dinner choices. Side note: hidden away behind the restaurant is the hotel garden which is surprisingly large given the hotel’s city centre location – they’ve even managed to squeeze in a pool and a gym.
EAT + DRINK
Located within hotel Santa Ponsa Fontenille, Nura (mains from €34) offers a seasonal menu with ingredients grown in the hotel gardens. Expect traditional Spanish dishes with a modern spin. I started with mango and lobster tomato gazpacho, followed by Menorcan beef tenderloin with green beans and celery puree – both were excellent. The most romantic tables are found in the garden beneath the oak tree.
Mercat des Peix
Fish market by day, lively tapas bar by night, Mercat des Peix is a great choice for a casual bite in Mahon. There’s a good selection of local wines and food vendors offer tapas dishes and Pintxos to take back to your table. The freshly cooked seafood is tucked away at the back – don’t miss the Spanish oysters or the buttery scallops.
Cova d’en Xoroi
Located in a cliffside cave, Cova d’en Xoroi is the island’s most unique (and popular) bar. It’s Instagram-worthy sunset views mean huge queues to nab a table and you can’t book evening tickets in advance. Our advice? Get a day ticket (€12), then watch the sunset from the cliffs at Mirador La Fi del Món, just a six-minute walk away.
Get out in the water with Menorca en Kayak
If chartering a superyacht doesn’t fit the holiday budget, then kayaking to hidden coves and beaches with Menorca en Kayak is the next best thing. Located in Es Grau, a fishing village in the S’Albufera national park, the team have kitted out kayakers for the past 30 years. We did a 2.5-hour excursion (€35 per adult) with the brilliant Kevin, and stopped at the UNESCO protected Colom Island, and Sa Toretta beach where we snorkelled above meadows of Posidonia seagrass. Kayak hire starts from €10 per hour.
Explore the Cami de Cavalls on Horseback
Four legs are better than two when exploring the Cami de Cavalls. Cavalls Son Angel offer riding experiences along sections of the trail for all abilities. Their herd of Menorcan horses (distinguished by their black colour and white markings) are exceptionally well behaved and beginners are in safe hands (or hoofs). We trotted through pine forests, scaled rocky hills, and plodded along the windswept coastline during our amazing morning ride. Rides start from €55 per person for two hours.
Visit a Menorcan winery
The Menorcan wine industry is thriving and the Binifadet winery produces more bottles than any other on the island. They offer tours (€12 per person) throughout the day, which include a walk around their vineyards, a visit to the cellar, and a tasting (our favourite was the Tanca 12, a 2018-barrel aged chardonnay). The onsite restaurant is hugely popular, but the service was service excruciatingly slow – though the wine, from €3.25 per glass, made it a little more bearable. Try the sparkling – they’re the only winery on the island who make it.
For more information about Menorca, visit menorca.es.