Bleached limestone cliffs tower over a powder-white beach, and anchored sailboats bob in transparent blue waters. Snorkelers drift into a cave, lit up by the afternoon sun to reveal a sandy sea floor thats clean enough to walk on barefoot.
The stunning setting at Cala Mitjana, one of Menorca’s premier beaches, is replicated in more than 120 other coves ringing the island. Most of the shoreline is protected from development, meaning the crowds are often thin, and during shoulder season, when it’s still warm enough to swim, you might even have a slice of paradise to yourself.
The combination makes the Spanish island in the western Mediterranean one of the world’s most spectacular beach destinations. It’s the least known of the Balearics, a group that also includes the more-developed Mallorca and party-till-dawn Ibiza. But Menorca offers the opulence of Ibiza with the flash and the natural splendor of Mallorca without the package tourists.
Add its two charming main cities, Mahon and Ciutadella, and you can think of Menorca as low pressure, high payoff. The compact island is only about 30 miles long, so it can offer the best of a relaxing beach vacation, a lively city break and a tranquil countryside retreat in one small package.
Travelers accustomed to any of those types of getaways will feel at home at the Jardi de ses Bruixes Boutique Hot in Mahon, the capital on the eastern end. Owner Anja Sanchez-Rodrigo says she originally worried her unique property’s location would be a deterrent.
“It has turned out to be a good thing,” Sanchez-Rodrigo tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “When people come to Menorca, they want to go visit as many beaches as they can. We always look at the weather, especially the wind, and suggest if guests should go the north or south coast.”
The hotel was originally built in 1812 as a boat captains home but fell into disrepair until 20 years ago, when Sanchez- Rodrigo’s husband, an architect, renovated it for his office. They converted it after the housing crash and opened with eight rooms in 2014. An expansion completed this summer added eight more and a spa clad completely in local limestone, which is called mares.
The renovation emphasized original details like the old tiles in the floor and dining room, and stayed faithful to the local culture. The name of the hotel, for instance, means “dandelions garden” in the Menorcan dialect. “Only a Menorcan would know what that means,” said Sanchez-Rodrigo.