Set in the east of Menorca, Mahon or Mao is the cliff top capital of the Balearic’s second largest isle. Families flock to the destination, thanks to its delicious food, superb climate and beaches. It has escaped the large-scale tasteless resorts tolerated by its sister islands and is a fabulous family choice.
Strong British links date back to the times of Nelson, and it was the Brits who made Mahon the capital, moving it from Ciutadella in 1721 during their occupation of the island. The reason? Mahon has one of the largest natural harbours in the world, beaten only by Pearl Harbour.
What’s more, the whole island is designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and home to some 220 species of birds, and 1,000 species of plants.
Getting there/around Mahon
Your flight will arrive at Menorca International Airport, within the city limits of Mahon.
There is a good public bus network to most major points and resorts around the island.
Beaches around Mahon
Menorca is said to have around 100 beaches, more than Ibiza, Majorca and Formentera put together. In the southeast tip are the most popular beaches, including Punta Prima. Cala Binibeca beach, a wide beach quite near the village of Binibeca Vell, is beautifully untouched.
At roughly two miles long, Son Bou is the island’s longest beach with golden sand, and good facilities. Carry on round the southern flank of the island and you come to Blue Flag-awarded Cala Galdana, one of the island’s prime and most beautiful spots.
Sightseeing around Mahon
A boat trip along the harbour of Mahon is a must – especially a glass-bottomed one if you have kids in tow.
This strategic Mediterranean island boasts an encyclopaedic history, so find out more at the Menorca Museum, located in an old Franciscan Convent. Stemming from the days of British occupation, Mahon has a successful gin-making business. Menorcan Gin is unique to the island, so find out more at the Xoriguer Distillery.
Every town in Menorca celebrates its own patron saint with a fiesta from May onwards, culminating in Mahon’s summer Fiesta of Our Lady of Grace.
Family attractions around Mahon
Warm, hospitable people, excellent-quality, good-value hotels and apartments, lovely beaches – this island has family written all over it.
Venture to the caves on the south coast near Cala en Porter or look for boat trips so you can all explore Menorca from the sea.
Take the kids to cool off at one of the island’s fun water parks – the best is Aqua Rock at the popular resort of Cala en Bosch. Also check out Los Delfines Aquapark, near Ciutadella.
Day trips around Mahon
Easily worth a day of your holiday is the historic harbourside town of Ciutadella, once the island’s capital.
Explore Menorca’s countryside on horseback from Son Xoriguer, in the southwest.
The central high point of the island is Monte Toro, so hire a car and go see the monastery and the stunning views.
Check out the striking taula, T-shaped stone structures unique to the island. See them en masse at the Talayotic settlement of Torralba d’en Salord, between Mahon and Alaior.
Eating out around Mahon
Island cuisine revolves around fish and there are wonderful restaurants in Mahon. Try some tapas or caldereta de langosta (lobster stew). If you’re not adventurous, you will also find plenty of familiar flavours.
Islanders mix their gin with bitter lemon to make the popular pomada drink, popular at fiestas.
Also famous is formatge de Mao, a local cheese and mayonnaise was invented here.
Nightlife around Mahon
This is the island capital, so you won’t be left struggling for somewhere to go at night, particularly amongst the bars and restaurants along the port.
Spain’s second largest opera house is tucked away in this unassuming island so if you’re more of the cultured type, see what’s on at Teatre Principal de Mao. Or take a gamble at the town’s portside casino.
Shopping around Mahon
Mahon has great shopping and you’ll find excellent quality leather buys, footwear – particularly the locally manufactured sandals, abarcas – jewellery and local pottery.
Local morning markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays are worth a look, or check out the town’s craft market in Plaza del Carme (Fridays, June to September).
You’re also likely to develop addictions to the locally produced wine, gin, cheese and honey, so stock up on these too.