This was set to be a list of the best Menorca beaches – the ones that every visitor to the island should sink their toes into.
But as I visited the island to research it, I discovered far more than a list could ever do justice to. Menorca’s coast has a story I felt compelled to share, along with beaches I felt compelled to write about.
Not only are Menorca beaches beautiful, when you compare them to other popular destinations in Spain and popular beach destinations in Europe, they are little known and under-explored. It is an island with tens of virgin beaches begging to be explored.
And that’s because they have a secret past.
As we approached our third deserted beach of the day on a coastal tour with Menorca En Barco, the aquamarine water lured me in like bait on a hook.
Diving into this coastal idyll, I was more than prepared to keep its secret. After all, when you discover something so treasured, un-spoilt and little known, you want to keep it all to yourself. But as it’s you, I’ll let you in on the secret…
First see Menorca’s beaches, caves and towns for yourself
The secret life of Menorca beaches
Let’s start with a couple fast facts – Menorca has more than 130 beaches. That is more beaches than its larger Balearic neighbours of Majorca and Ibiza put together.
And like the golden sands that shift under your feet, Menorca beaches have a long past.
The best beaches in Menorca have been hidden away from tourist masses by a combination of history, the island’s slow adoption of tourism and inaccessibility.
The island’s beaches are clean and well conserved, in part because of an uncomfortable period in Spain’s past. Menorca was the final outpost to fall to Franco’s iron rule after he came to power in Spain in the 1930s.
Islanders resisted his government and went their own way for some years. To punish them Franco implemented a number of sanctions on the island. One of these was that when the tourism industry began in Spain in the 1960s he invested money in Majorca and Ibiza but starved Menorca of investment, stopping it from pushing ahead with tourism projects.
For this reason tourism only took off in Menorca in the 1980s, and by then the world was more aware of the impact of tourism on the environment. Menorca’s planners were more concerned with sustainable development – it’s the reason why there are few high-rise developments on Menorca.
And it’s one of the reasons why Menorca’s beaches are so well-preserved.
The other aspect that has maintained Menorca’s coastal good looks is that many of the best beaches are only accessible from walking routes, such as the Cami de Cavall. Some of these may be just 250m from a car park, others can only be reached by the beach path that takes walkers from bay to bay, or via the Camino de Caballos horse-riding trail that encircles the island.
But don’t think for a moment that these beaches are out of your reach – Menorci’s spend a lot of time on the beach, and you should too. With secluded crystalline bays and a host of caves, it’s well worth just a little extra effort to explore Menorca’s coast.
Five of the best beaches
Menorca’s beaches vary depending on whether you’re in the north or south of the island. Northern one are generally larger with panoramic views and coarser sand of varying colours. They can be more exposed to wind and waves on less calm days.
Southern beaches have fine white sand and are backed by pine forested cliffs.
I can’t promise you’ll have these beaches to yourself in the summer, but you should still find plenty to enjoy on here:
1. Cala Galdana
This large horseshoe-shaped bay is surrounded by cliffs and has shallow warm waters and excellent snorkelling.
2. Cala Macarella & Macarelleta
Macarella is the larger of the two beaches here, and the busiest in the summer months. But they’re both idyllic coves with fine, white sand and turquoise water lapping at the shore. Macarelleta is a short walk away via a coastal path, and is popular with nudists.
3. Cala En Turqueta
This beautiful beach is a 20 minute walk from the nearest car park and is at its best early in the morning or late in the evening when there are fewer people there.
4. Cala Mitjana
Cala Mitjana is one of the first of Menorca’s virgin beaches to be made accessible via car and has two water caves, a three-minute drive from Cala Galdana. It has two sea caves – a smaller one close to the beach with another small beach inside, plus a much larger cave, which is great for snorkeling.
A double heart-shaped bay in the north of the island, Cavalleria is an unspoilt red-sand beach, about 15 minutes walk from the car park – but it’s well worth the stroll.
Where to stay
We recommend the following hotels:
Artiem Audax – a four-star hotel just across the road from Cala Galdana and has a spa with a thermal circuit and outdoor pool.
Artiem Carlos III – in Es Castell this four-star is well placed for exploring the island by road and by boat.