For a taste of life in Spain, rent a villa in the suburbs of Cala’n Bosch in Menorca, with your own pool to chill by and the sea just walking distance away
Menorca has about a score of resorts to choose from, but our favourite has to be Cala’n Bosch in the southwest corner of the island (cala means cove in English). For the past three years or so we’ve stayed in one of the villas in the Cap D’Artrutx area, which is near the lighthouse. Staying in a well-equipped villa on a quiet estate rather than in a hotel or apartment is almost like living there, albeit for only a couple of weeks and with no job to go to. And you can’t beat a barbecue by the pool to round off the day.
If you’re booking independently, be aware that not every airline flies there every day (we had to move our booking forward a day because there wasn't a flight with our fave airline, Monarch). We pay around €70 for a taxi from the airport. There is always the option of getting across the island by bus – a shuttle runs into Mahon on a regular basis, and from there you should be able to get the express to nearby Ciutadella, and then another to Cala’n Bosch. That’s all very well if you’re travelling light, but it’s much easier to grab a cab or book a transfer.
Whilst Cap D’Artrutx is fairly quiet, there are shops, restaurants, and transport all within walking distance. Our ‘regular’ watering hole up there has to be Two Rocks - which we assume is a pun because of the nearby lighthouse. This only opened in the last year or so, and is coming on in leaps and bounds. The menu is expanding, and there is now entertainment almost every night. This ranges from a quick quiz (with prizes) to the Robbie Williams and Elvis tribute acts (I thought they were both brilliant and I'm not a fan of either of the originals) and the fantastic Celtic Nights - Irish Dancing with a delightful twist.
The best, for me, is the regular 'Cooking Show'. The bar owner cooks a paella from scratch in a huge pan on the stage. It's free to watch, and if you want a generous portion at the end it's only around ten euros. This is cheaper than most restaurants, particularly where they expect at least two of you to have some, and of course there's the bonus of learning how to cook your own (ingredients readily available at the Spar shop).
Sometimes the acts have to compete with the karaoke bar next door, but there's no animosity between them.
The staff are friendly and attentive - and there's free Wi Fi, too.
Around the corner and past the Spar shop is La Oca. The menu here is just as varied, and we’ve always found the service very good.
If you fancy a change, Cala’n Bosch is an option. It’s built around a small marina, known as the ‘Lago’, with lots of restaurants and a good range of shops (including a supermarket, pharmacy and bank). There’s a sandy Blue-Flag beach just over the bridge and around the corner, and another (Xoriguer) around 800m away. If that’s too far, the bus does stop there. El Toro Negro on the waterfront does great steaks, but it’s always full. It’s next to a little square where there’s often live music, and on the opposite side of that square is La Fontana; a very good restaurant with a chock-full menu, it's busy all the time, but we’ve always been served quickly by efficient, pleasant staff.
Further afield there’s always Ciutadella, which is good for a day’s sight-seeing and shopping or an evening out. Market day is Friday. Most shops close for siesta, so time your lunch for then. There is a plethora of posh restaurants down by the harbour – most have kitchens which, like the shops in the area, are burrowed into the cliffs. Watching the boats come and go as you eat is great. At the other end of the scale, there’s a Burger King next to the town square.
There’s a tourist information booth in the square where you get off the bus, and you can travel to Mahon from near there. Make sure you’re back at the square in plenty of time – they usually insist you buy a ticket from the booth before you get on the bus, and this is one case where they don’t seem to want to wait. We went to Ciutadella and got the last bus back to Cap D’Artrutx. The atmosphere was great – just like being on a coach trip, packed with people from all nations.
Getting around isn’t too difficult. Car hire is not essential. The mini-train (the ‘tren’) does a shuttle service from Cap D'Artrutx to the marina at Cala’n Bosch. Not cheap at about €7 each for a round-trip, but it's worth doing once, as it’s a good way to do a bit of sightseeing in the area, and it’s great fun. The last trip is around 10pm, but if there’s enough demand he’ll often do another one. If you’re only going one way, then it’s about €3 or €4.
The bus (comfy, modern, air-conditioned) is a cheaper option, and whilst the drivers aren’t chatty and smiley, they always stop for you – even if you’re not quite at the bus stop, or are sitting at the stop but don’t put your hand out in time. What a refreshing change. The bus does a round-trip with two loops. It goes down to the harbour (Lago) and then back up to Cap D’Artrutx, then to Ciutadella. There are rumours that it’s ‘notoriously unreliable’ but we’ve used it often and can honestly say we’ve never had a problem.
If all else fails, taxis are inexpensive. If you’re booking by phone, though, you might need a smidgen of Spanish – or at least have your phrasebook handy.
These four-star hotels are right near the marina and not too far from a sandy beach. They're handy for the shops, restaurants and watering holes, too. There’s a regular circular (well, figure-of-eight to be more precise) bus service taking in the Cala’n Bosch marina (Lago), Cap D’Artrutx, Ciutadella and places in between.
This is one of the Mar Hotels Group. The place has a lot to offer, with 146 fully-equipped apartments and 42 studios, a café-bar, restaurant, children’s pool, heated indoor swimming pool, outdoor pool, solarium, tennis court and gym. The spa boasts a sauna, steam room and various treatments. There is a full entertainment and activity programme, making it an ideal family holiday. Private parking is free, too.
This popular family-run hotel is clean and the staff are friendly. It’s ideally situated, with great views of the waterfront, and as a bonus, guests are offered a 10 per cent discount card to use in some of the best local restaurants and bars. The hotel has a range of fully-equipped apartments, studios and rooms, as well as a swimming pool that overlooks the marina, a children’s pool and play area, and an entertainments programme. The restaurant has a play area, with plenty of space. As if that’s not enough, hotel guests have the services of a doctor 24 hours a day, which is reassuring if you’re travelling as a family.
Calle Del Puerto
This hotel is built so that it encircles the grounds and has swimming pools for adults and children, as well as an entertainment programme and a games room with billiards, table tennis and a gym. In the main restaurant there are regular special dinners as well as 'show cooking'. There’s also a pool snack bar and a lounge bar, as well as the à la carte restaurant on the terrace, which has views over the marina. This hotel also offers a medical service. All rooms are at ground level and have air conditioning/heating, ceiling fan, telephone, satellite television/music channel, safe and mini-bar. The bathrooms have hair driers and even a piped music channel.