I have so many fond memories of childhood holidays spent in Menorca so it will always be one of my favourite places. I was 5 years old when I went with my parents and younger brother for the first time and have returned almost every year since. It’s the perfect destination to unwind for a week or two with it’s beautiful beaches and pretty cobbled streets. Even after all the times I’ve visited the island, I still haven’t seen all it has to offer but below are some of my top things to see and do here:
Whenever I have been to Menorca we have always stayed in Binibeca (or Binibequer as it’s spelt locally), a quiet little fishing village situated in the south east of the island. It’s a 15 minute drive from Mahon airport, costing around 25 euros if you were to take a taxi. However, to see and appreciate the best of Menorca I would highly recommend hiring a car. The public transport links on the island aren’t the best and so unless you are planning to stay in one place for the entirety of you trip, it is essential to have a car. The resort of Binibeca officially spans from Cala Torret, through Binibeca Nou and ending up in Binibeca Vell. There isn’t too much to do in Cala Torret but you must visit Pedros – a family run restaurant in an idilic location (http://www.deanlafosseatpedros.es). It’s positioned high up on a cliff overlooking the bluest of blue seas. The menu is varied with English and Mediterranean dishes available. They also have an extensive cocktail list ranging from Pina Coladas to Pomadas. Pomadas is a drink made from Menorcan gin and lemon – a very refreshing drink but it can be absolutely lethal! You wouldn’t want more than a couple – I speak from experience (See the bottom of my post for a recipe)! Once a week Pedros has karaoke in the bar and terrace area which is great fun and always very busy. EDIT – sadly Pedros moved to another location in Es Castell at the beginning of 2017 and the space where it once was overlooking the sea remains empty.
A diving shop can also be found in Cala Torret as it’s an ideal place to dive and snorkel around the rocky coastline here.
Binibeca Nou is where you will find Playa de Binibeca Nou – a lovely beach with soft white sand, warm shallow waters and lifeguards on duty so it is especially child-friendly. It’s not the biggest of beaches but it has good car parking and a beach restaurant called Los Bucaneroes which is a converted fisherman’s hut! Ice creams and other food and drink is also available from stalls just behind the beach. The beach is within a rocky cove which means it’s great for snorkelling – kayaks are also available to rent from the beach if you want to get out on the water but don’t fancy a swim.
Binibeca Vell is a quaint little fishing harbour with a few shops, bars and restaurants. As well as a supermarket, here you can hire cars and mopeds. Tour companies often arrange trips to Binibeca Vell as it is such a picturesque town. Narrow cobbled streets and white villas paint a picture very similar to Greece’s Santorini. It’s beautiful and definitely worth a little wander round, even if it’s just to rehydrate with a cocktail or two in one of the few cocktail bars! Binibeca Vell is where my parents’ villa is located.
For the best Thai food on the island you MUST pay a visit to La Boyera. Decorated with traditional Thai lanterns and even a Tuk Tuk it’s a great restaurant that serves delicious food. It’s the best Thai food I’ve ever had and easily outshines any Thai restaurant I’ve dined at in England. The staff here are extra friendly and go above and beyond to make sure you have a great meal. La Boyera serves beer in Stein mugs, originating in Germany these glasses hold 2 pints rather than the usual 1. Great idea if you like a drink but you have to have Popeye muscles to even lift the glass to your lips!
In high season there is a little road train that takes you from Binibeca to Punta Prima for 7 euros per person. Punta Prima is a little town popular with tourists. There are a few hotels here and 5 or 6 restaurants that sit on the beach. At night time a stall appears adjacent to the restaurants selling the best crepes I’ve ever tasted and as it’s only a 5 minute drive from Binibeca, we have been on many late night trips here!
Around a 20 minute drive from Binibeca you will find Cova d’en Xoroi, a bar located within a cave on a platform overlooking the sea. By night it transforms into a nightclub with international DJs visiting regularly. It’s a great and unusual experience during the day, let alone at night where the music bounces and echoes around the cave creating a unique sound. The views are spectacular and it’s a lovely spot to sit in the sun with a cocktail. During the day packages are available to buy which include entrance to the bar and a cocktail – at around £10 per person it isn’t cheap but worth it for the view alone. (www.covadenxoroi.com)
Mahon (or Mao) is the capital city surrounded by the second deepest natural port in the world. Here million pound yachts moor up every night and their passengers get off to enjoy tapas by the water. From the harbour you can also book to go on a glass-bottom boat trip. The trip lasts around 40 minutes and is popular with families and couples alike. The clear waters just outside the port mean that lots of different underwater creatures can be spotted! While on the boat the knowledgeable guides give a brief history of the island including the ruins of the San Felipe Fort and the old town of Es Castell. The port is around 5km in length and is lined with dozens of restaurants with both indoor and outdoor seating. My favourite restaurant here is Pierros – an italian menu with extra friendly staff that speak good English. As well as the restaurants and bars that are in the harbour, a popular place to visit is the gin distillery. Here you’ll definitely be given another taste of delicious local Pomada! Mahon is also home to many shops including pharmacies, gift shops and designer fashion boutiques. In the main town sits Esglesia de Santa Maria, a catholic church built in the 14th century. It’s a nice place to visit. Also be sure to check out the market that runs on a Saturday and a Tuesday. The town gets very busy on these days and parking sometimes is an issue – you will always find a space but as the town sits on top of a steep hill it may mean having to climb a few hundred steps to the top!
A short drive from Mahon is a Lloc de Minorca, a small zoo with a range of different animals available to see and pet. It’s a great place to visit with children, especially when the sun isn’t shining. My 6 year old brother loved it and in the summer there are daily shows including Birds of Prey. Entry prices are 11.50 euros for adults and 7.50 euros for children. Check their website for opening times as it varies through the season – www.llocdemenorca.com.
Cala Macarelleta beach
Menorca is home to hundreds of beaches and small coves including Son Bou beach which is the largest. However, my favourite has to be Cala Macarelleta. The turquoise water that surrounds this beach is comparable to that of a Caribbean beach. The beach is split in two with one side being a nudist beach so make sure you head to the left hand side if you like to protect your modesty! The beach is quite small and I can imagine it can get quite busy during high season but should be okay if you get there early enough. The beach cafe serves lovely food and cocktails and the snorkelling is brilliant. The only downside to this beach is the drive to it. My parents have a Ford Fiesta out there and so it’s hardly a big and bulky car and I’m a fairly confident driver. All was well when we set off from Binibeca, our Sat Nav had told us that it would be around a 90 minute drive but it was a lovely day and driving in Menorca is quite scenic so we didn’t mind. About an hour into the journey we were told to take a turning off the main road and head down what looked like a dirt track. As we drove it got more and more narrow until you could only fit one car through at a time. We were surrounded by walls built with sharp and jagged rocks and at first it was fine – until we hit oncoming traffic!! This road is the only way in and out to the Macarelleta beach parking and as it’s such a beautiful beach it’s very popular with locals and tourists. Locals were speeding towards me at 30mph and I’m ashamed to say I shut my eyes when they passed me! After around 20 minutes and very close to a mental breakdown I knocked it out of gear and pulled the handbrake up, refusing to drive any further. I honestly felt as if I could cry it was so stressful and so even though he wasn’t insured Alex drove the rest of the way. Thankfully we (only just!) made it there in one piece and it was 100% worth it but nervous drivers – forget it! You can walk to the beach from another nearby cove – Cala Galdana – this takes around 30 minutes but I’ve been told it’s quite strenuous.
Last year we went on a snorkelling trip from Cala Galdana which was great and I would definitely recommend. A speedboat picks you up from the beach and takes you out to 5 or 6 different coves on the island to snorkel in and around caves and rocks. It was brilliant – even if the water was a little chilly! Blue Islands diving were great and provided all snorkel equipment and wetsuits (http://blueislandsdiving.com/snorkel/).
There is so much to see and do on the island, I haven’t even scratched the surface! Whether it’s lounging on a beach, exploring the old streets of Mahon or learning to snorkel or dive – Menorca has something for everyone and it is my favourite Balaeric island by far! If you’re still not convinced, try out the Pomada recipe below for the true taste of the island. You’ll be booking a flight within the hour! 😉
2 parts Xoriguer gin (or substitute your favorite gin)
1 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 part tonic
3 large mint leaves (optional)
Squeeze one lemon and measure the juice — that will equal one part. Add the lemon juice and gin to a shaker, and shake with ice. Strain into a highball glass, and top off with the tonic. This cocktail tastes tart, refreshingly aromatic and complex. A delight. To give the cocktail a little extra burst of freshness, add three mint leaves to the shaker with the lemon juice and gin. When you shake the cocktail, the ice cubes will bruise the leaves, releasing the essential oils.
Jamaica will always be special for Alex and I. It was our first 2 week holiday together and we had a blast! We travelled in September which is during shoulder season, just after their hurricane season. I was slightly apprehensive when we booked it but all my worries disappeared as I realised that when we were told that there would be thunderstorms every day, what that actually meant was that at around 4pm every afternoon it would rain very heavily for around 45 minutes before the sun would appear again in time for the most brilliant sunset I’ve ever seen. It didn’t make our holiday any less special and in fact I quite liked going back to the hotel room for an hour in the afternoon as the rain helped to clear the humidity that built throughout the day. We certainly wouldn’t hesitate to go back at that time of year and it certainly didn’t mean any less sun, Alex and I returned to England the most tanned we’ve ever been!
We booked our holiday through Thomson Holidays and chose an all inclusive package so that we could take full advantage of all the rum and spirits that were on offer! We were staying at the new Azul Sensatori hotel in Negril (http://karismahotels.com/Hotels-Resorts-Villas/For-Everyone/Azul-Hotels/Azul-Sensatori-Jamaica) which sits on the picturesque 7 mile beach. We flew on Thomson’s new Dreamliner which I thought was fantastic. I usually get really travel sick on planes but I felt fine on the flight, even though it was a long 10 hours. The cabin pressure on the Dreamliner allows more oxygen to be absorbed into the blood which is meant to help with travel sickness and the lighting mimics the time of day outside which is said to ease the feeling of jet lag. As for leg room, I don’t usually have any problems (being barely above 5ft tall) but Alex who stands a whole foot taller than me struggles so we booked ourselves seats with extra leg room which was a god send for him.
We landed in Montego Bay at around lunchtime and felt tired but not as tired as we thought we’d be after a long flight. We jumped on the coach we had booked and after an hour and a half bumpy transfer through the rocky roads of Negril, arrived at the Sensatori. We were given ice cold towels to freshen up and a fruit punch cocktail as soon as we set foot in reception. The reception area of the hotel is amazing as it opens up right onto the beach. We could see the waves lapping up on the white powdery sand as we were checking in which made us even more impatient to dump our bags and change into our beach attire. We were taken to our room really quickly and just when we thought we couldn’t be anymore impressed with the hotel we were even more amazed. The room was a fresh white and blue combination and we had a balcony overlooking the pool and sea with a ‘love seat’.
Even though we were tempted to relax in the room we quickly changed into our swimwear and headed out. We wandered along the beach for a few miles, passing other resorts including the Sandals Couples hotel which looked amazing before returning to the Sensatori’s private beach and settling on one of the day beds where we both had a little snooze .
The next morning jet lag woke us up really early and so we sat on the balcony and watched the most beautiful sunrise over the hotel. While we were there we utilised the many watersports the hotel had on offer including kayaking and a snorkelling trip to the nearby coral reefs. While on the snorkelling trip we made friends with an American couple who had been in Jamaica a little while longer than us and who recommended various trips and excursions that we booked later on. The snorkelling was great and we saw hundreds of tropical fish.
Back on the beach we found several starfish in shallow water and were encouraged by other guests and hotel staff to pick them up for a photo. It took me a while to buck up the courage to touch one but eventually we both had our photos taken with it – me being the bravest and picking it up first I hasten to add!
One lunchtime we took a boat ride to Boobycay island, a private island where the locals set up their food stalls in the morning, grilling freshly-caught lobsters for you. We got one to share and spent the whole afternoon snorkelling and sunbathing on the beach. We mostly got the island all to ourselves – it was paradise 😍
Throughout the two weeks, our favourite place to be was the swim up bar where we made friends with the bartender. We made it our mission to work our way through the entire cocktail list and whenever we chose what cocktails we wanted next he’d yell a “yah mon!” and slide them along to us. The alcohol measures in Jamaica are insane and so be careful when you’re ordering drinks – one day we had a few too many and in a rush to get out of the pool during one of the afternoon storms, I ever so slightly misjudged the number of steps to exit the pool, ending with me falling in a very dramatic fashion out of the pool and into the shower area. Certainly not one of my classier moments of the holiday!
A short taxi ride from our hotel was Rick’s Cafe (http://www.rickscafejamaica.com), a bar made famous by the daredevils that go there to jump from the tall cliffs into the crystal clear blue sea that surrounds it. It’s also well known for it’s optimal location to catch the best view of the sunset. We arrived an hour before sunset, something we were advised to do in order to get the best view and also to give us time to join in with the locals in jumping from the cliff 85 ft above sea level. I was full of bravado before I arrived but felt slightly more cautious when I saw people somersaulting off the edge! After watching for a little while I decided against it but Alex was keen to give it a go so off he went and I watched with baited breath as he launched himself into the sea. Of course I didn’t hear anything else other than what a wimp I was for the rest of the evening as he soaked up the glory of people clapping and cheering him! Alex dried off and we grabbed a Rick’s World Famous Rum Punch and Sex with Rick (a cocktail of course!). After watching the sunset, we had dinner overlooking the ocean and listened to the Bob Marley tribute band before heading back to the hotel. It was a perfect evening and one that I will never forget.
We went on a few excursions on the holiday – one being to dolphin cove in Negril. When we arrived we regressed to being 5 years old as we were so excited! We were told lots of facts about the Dolphins themselves and were given an insight into a typical day of a dolphin trainer. It was fascinating and we were told that as the Dolphins were not in a pool but in a lagoon within the sea, they were free to leave anytime as they could easily jump the barriers that enclosed them within the lagoon. Apparently Dolphins, as creatures, crave attention and so that is what keeps them there. It was brilliant. We each got kisses, a ride with the Dolphins and they performed various tricks for us. Only on the way back to our hotel did I realised that it was a Monday. As far as Monday’s go, this was one of the better ones I’ve had!
Our next trip out of the resort was to Mystic Mountain, a zip-lining and Bob-sledding adventure in the rainforest near Ocho Rios (http://www.rainforestadventure.com/jamaica-mystic-mountain). It was here that I really felt like I was in Jamaica! We ziplined through the trees (and giant spider webs!!! 😁), rode the bobsled (inspired by the famous Jamaica bobsled Olympic team) and ate typical Jamaica cuisine for lunch – jerk chicken – delicious! Alex wore the GoPro head cam while we took part in all the activities which meant we got some great footage of us zooming through the jungle at high speed! We also got a ride in the sky explorer, a chair lift that takes you 700ft above the rainforest which gave you the most amazing view of Ocho Rios.
After lunch we took a coach to the nearby Dunns River Falls (http://www.dunnsriverfallsja.com). This was my favourite experience while in Jamaica. We started right at the bottom of the waterfall and climbed up the rocks to the top, stopping to relax and have pictures taken every now and then in the various rock pools and lagoons. The water was absolutely freezing but our guide was great – energetic, full of enthusiasm and totally in love with his country – something we found was true with all the locals which was so nice to experience!
The relaxed vibe of the Caribbean islands is like no other and the people of Jamaica are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Everything about our holiday was IRIEEEE!!! and we will definitely be returning in the not so distant future.