Menorca's hidden coast: best secluded beaches & bays
Moving to its own relaxed Balearic beat, Menorca is more chilled than neighbouring Majorca and party-mad Ibiza. The island is necklaced with some of Europe's loveliest beaches, from fine crescents of pale sand to calas (coves) tucked into pine-flanked, rocky enclaves, with water of pure turquoise. They're often compared to the Caribbean, but frankly why would you want to imagine yourself anywhere else?
Go the extra mile on foot or by car, and you'll discover an entirely different side to this Mediterranean island. Whether you want glassy waters for snorkelling, nature reserves where tortoises hang out, or just a fine strip of sand where you can tiptoe away from the crowds, there's a beach with your name on it. These seven are among the fairest of them all, and thankfully, getting to these beautiful bays and beaches has never been easier. Thomas Cook offers great value holidays to Menorca*, departing from airports across the UK.
1. Cala Algaiarens
Swing 12km north of Ciutadella and follow a narrow road to reach this horseshoe-shaped bay - well, actually two bays - on the island's rugged northwest coast. It's a beauty. The car park is around a 10-minute stroll from the beach, or you can reach it by boat, kayak or by walking a stretch of the coastal trail Camí de Cavalls from Cala Morell, 3.5km away. If you come on foot, keep an eye out for the turtles that splash around here.
The secret is slowly getting out, so you won't have this one entirely to yourself in the high season, but it remains quiet and unspoiled, backed by a fragrant canopy of Aleppo pines and shelving gently into crystal-clear water. The sea is shallow, too, so ideal for families and snorkellers.
2. Cala Pregonda
Like all the best beaches, this one on Menorca's north coast is an effort to get to - a hot and shadeless 30-minute walk from the nearest car park - but boy will you be glad you made the effort. Lushly wooded hills give way to a curving bay of reddish-golden rock, with offshore islands affording protection from northerly winds. The sea is calm and clear, and the beach is part of a marine reserve, so keep an eye out for rare audouin seagulls and bring your snorkel.
Take snacks and plenty to drink as there's nothing actually at the bay itself, though there is a chiringuito (beach bar) at Binimel-la, half an hour's walk away.
3. Platja des Grau
A rocky islet divides this long crescent bay in two. The water is shallow and deliciously warm, making this a terrific pick for anyone with kids in tow. If you fancy paddling across to inaccessible coves or the Isla de Colom, you can rent a kayak from Menorca en Kayak. Or go for lunch, say, at beachfront Restaurant Tamarindos. The fideuà (noodles and seafood) is pretty good.
The beach forms part of the S'Albufera des Grau Nature Park, which itself is the heart of Menorca*'s Unesco Biosphere Reserve. So wander off in any direction and you'll reach some fabulous walking trails, leading to lagoons and rocky headlands. The reserve is home to plenty of wetland birds, including fish eagles and kites, as well as lizards and Hermann's tortoises.
4. Cala Macarella
Push on down a rough road south of Ferreries and you'll emerge at Cala Macarella, one of the prettiest bays on Menorca's southwest coast. Or reach it by trudging 30 minutes over wooded cliffs from the popular resort of Cala Galdana. Pine trees and holm oaks fringe this gorgeous stretch of pale sand, lapped by azure water clear enough to see fish dart past even without a snorkel mask.
The bay is at its peaceful best in spring and autumn, as its proximity to the southern resorts means it fills up in a flash in the peak summer months. Crowds aside, it's still worth seeking this cala out. There's a sea-facing restaurant if you want to grab a drink, but you're better off bringing your own picnic. Should you wish to bare all, wander across to the smaller cove of Macarelleta, which is part nudist.
5. Cala Mesquida
This pale-sand, turquoise-sea dream of a playa is just 5km from the capital Mahon. During the week there is nary a soul in sight, but clued-up locals descend en masse at the weekend, so if you're there then, make sure you arrive before 10am to bag a good spot. Nudists stick close to the rocks. Behind the beach is the trailhead for the 186km Camí de Cavalls, a long-distance hike that encircles the entire island.
There's a beach van doing a roaring trade in fresh-fruit gelato in summer, or for something more substantial you can book a table at Cap Roig. Sitting on a clifftop, the restaurant has big sea views and great seafood (paella included) on its menu.
6. Cala Presili
Many beach-goers elicit little gasps of wonder when they clap eyes on this wonderful playa - a 15-minute downhill walk from the nearest car park (take water for the return hike uphill as it can be sweltering). Dig your toes into the sugar-white sand and either check out the marine life with a snorkel or simply float in the sapphire blue sea. The surrounds are pristine as it's part of the S'Albufera des Grau Nature Park. And the views over to the stripy lighthouse on Cap Favàritx Grau? Postcard stuff.
7. Cala Mitjana
With water so luminously turquoise it looks digitally enhanced, this pine-flanked, cliff-backed cala is a stunner. It's a world apart from the busy bay of Cala Galdana just over the headland, which is, incidentally, a 30- to 40-minute walk away along a coastal path that hugs the cliffs. There's little here besides a fine sweep of sand, some pines affording shade and a sprinkling of sea caves, plus water shallow enough for kids to splash around in safely.
The nearest car park is a good 15-minute walk, so take ample water as it's a hot hike. In summer, the beach can get rammed as it's only little, so either sidestep the high-season months or get here early in the day to beat the crowds.
If Menorca's stunning selection of beaches and bays has you dreaming of sun, sand, and sea, then check out the latest online deals on holidays to the Balearic island with Thomas Cook. Remember to see what the weather in Menorca is like, and see when we think is the best time to go.
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