This question is frequently asked here in the Menorca forum. Often it is hard to describe Menorca to anyone who has not visited. It is all too easy to maybe read a few pages if internet guff, but this will never really prepare you properly for Menorcan reality. I would like to post this topic as a guide for all those Menorca fans to add their area of expertise and guide would be first time visitors to the wonderful island of Menorca.
My personal history of Menorca involved me arriving on the island pre-season in April 2000 as a first year holiday rep for Direct Holidays. I had never been to the island before then. I had no preconceptions of the place but arrival pre-season was scary. It did not look like a holiday destination, everything was closed! so from there my first point.
1. The Seasons and getting there
Menorca is typically a summer only destination. Opening touristically from around May 1st - October 31st. Outside of these months travel to Menorca is still possible but mainly by scheduled flights from predominantly London airports. Often cheaper to access via low cost airlines to Barcelona with an onward connection with www.aireuropa.com, www.vueling.com or www.iberia.com . During the summer months the flying programme means Menorca is accessible in around two and a half hours from most UK regional airports.The large tour operators, Thomson and Thomas Cook operate extensive programmes on the island during this time. There is also an increase in low cost airlines flying there from regional airports, these include www.easyjet.com, www.jet2.com and until its demise in Septemeber www.bmibaby.com. Higher end flights also operate by www.ba,com, these include a flight direct from London City Airport.
This can be historically innacurate, though as a rule, you may find May and October to be cooler and also a higher possibility of rain. June through to August the island will attract a much hotter climate. hotter than the Canary Island at the same time in my personal experience. It is not unusual for temperatures in August to exceed 40 degrees. Weather on the island can be forecast in advance by following the link www.thomson.co.uk/Menorca
3. What is the island like
The island itself is not all that large. Around 55 kms long from east to west and 18 kms wide from north to south. If overflying the island, you could be mistaken for having returned to the UK as its interior is made up of patchwork fields of varying shade of green, and small hamlets and larger towns. It could well appear like flying over Yorkshire. On the ground you will find these farms surrounded by typical dry stone walls and fields with an abundance of cattle, just to cement the feeling of having never left the UK. There are two major towns on the island. One is Mahon (Mao) situated on a large deep natural harbour in the east and Ciutadella which is situated on a much smaller harbour in the west. The two are connected by one single lane carriageway running through the heart of the island. Unlike most islands, there is no circumnavigating coastal route! Everywhere you need to go is accessed more or less left or right of this crucial central aretery through the middle of the island. For a small island this can make getting to the next coast resort much longer, as you will typically have to drive inland and along the main road and drop back up or down to the next area. As a rule it will take around 40 to 50 minutes to drive from Mahon to Ciutadella. Also Menorca is an ideal island to try out continental driving, as it is a quiet island and the roads are fairly easy to undertstand.
As a holiday destination, Menorca is on the whole a peaceful island to holiday on even in high season.
4. Is Menorca like XYZ?
Often the forum is posed a question such as is Menorca like such and such a place. The answer is usually NO! Menorca is a designated natural reserve by UNESCO, and as such it is goverened by strict guidelines regarding construction and the nature of its tourism. This gives Menorca a much different profile to its neighbouring islands of Majorca and Ibiza. Menorca typically will attract people who prefer to holiday in a quiet, clean, unspoilt and natural environment. Most accommodation is low rise but there are a few hotels that break this rule due to being constructed long before UNESCO declared it a Biosphere.
Coastal resorts in Menorca tend to be small, with just a handful of shops, maybe a mini-market, bars and a beach. The beaches are something that are the envy of just about any of the Spanish territories. The best beaches are the one's which are best accessed via boat trips or hiring a car and driving part way and walking the rest. Macarella being a famous one.
The largest resort on Menorca is Cala'n Forcat/Blanes. Which is situated in the west, just north of Ciutadella. When I say large, this area is possibly around about the size of Santa Ponsa in Majorca, just for comparison purposes, but quieter. There is a Water park in this resort but it is not to the scale you may be used to from other destinations. The water parks are geared to young children upwards to around 12-14 years old. Another large resort to the south of Ciutadella is Cala'n Bosch. A man made resort (in the main all of the resorts were built for purpose as opposed being oragnic) with a small marina and generally considered a better choice of the two larger resorts in the west. If you were at all looking for a brit themed holiday in the sun the the former (Forcat/Blanes) is possibly the closest you will find. Cala'n Bosch also has a small waterpark for a similar age group.
5. Who is Menorca for?
I think it is fair to say the majority of the influx from the UK are families with children of any age up to 16, but more so children who are usually of pre secondary education. They are seemingly attracted to the cleanliness and low lying resorts with a quiet pace and excellent shallow beaches. Outside of this demographic, the island also attracts couples who may no longer have children at home or in their 40's+, but it would be unfair to say couples younger than 40 won't enjoy Menorca. For the older couples, The resorts of Binibeca, Punta Prima , S'algar, Es Castell and Fornells are very popular. With the exception of Fornells, all these resorts are clustered around the South East portion of the island.
In most destinations, the core package holiday maker would shy away from staying in a town. On Menorca this does not have to be the case. Both the capital - Mahon and Ciutadella the old capital are both working towns, but in such a way they will not intimidate a traveller. Should you chose to stay in either town, you really will be made to feel welcome, especially if you absorb yourself in the culture and pace of the locals around you. Ciutadella does have a small beach and some good hotels and only minutes from a historic and baroque themed stunning town, best sampled when they host the Fiesta de Sant Joan. Mahon does not have a beach but the most amazing spectacular port, with fantastic dining port side. Even the nightlife on the port is quite lively on a weekend, but this is aimed typically at the locals but from first hand experience , it usually always was a great night.
In the interior of the island along the main road are three smaller towns, from east to west, they are Alaior, Es Mercadal, and Ferreries. Es Mercadal is a central point of the island and home of the highest point, which is called Monte Toro (Bull Mountain) which is only 457 metres tall. Menorca is not mountainous, rather nore rolling hills. To the north is another very small town called Fornells which is situated right on the side of a shallow wide bay. A great place for gentle watersports. Midway between the central highway and the south coast is another smaller town called Es Migjorn Gran, which is passed on the way to the family favourite resort of Santo Thomas.
6. What is there to do?
Rest, sunbathe, explore the island (best and easiest by car), watersports, diving,boat trips, fishing, golf, take part in Menorcan culture. Menorca hosts several must-see fiestas throughout the summer months from June to September, with each town taking a turn to host. They have to be seen to be believed and I would urge you to go to one if there is a fiesta during your stay to absorb the atmosphere and possibly the local drink of pomada (gin and lemon, often fanta limon). The fireworks at the end of a fiesta put most show's seen previously anywhere else to shame.
Beyond this, if you have a love of geology,flora/fauna,arcaeology, architecture, then the island has an abundance for you to explore and experience. If not the island is a great place if you wish to relax, take in the sun, read a book, eat tasty food and drink local wines while watching the sun go down or people watch.
Menorca can cater for any budget. Hostels, Guesthouses, Bijou/boutique, Villas up to the Premium/Prestige range, and hotel and apartment complexes to match.
Menorca is unpretentious and caters to it's market well, it is up to you to decide before travelling if Menorca has something for you