Long sandy beaches, cobblestone alleys, rows and rows of palm trees - sounds like heaven on Earth, right? But in fact, it's just a description of Croatia's coastline. And with hundreds of miles of coastline to explore, you might have a hard time deciding on where to start and what places you absolutely have to see. Which is where this post comes in handy.
Want to party all night? I know the hottest spots. Want to just relax under the shade of a tree and fall sleep while reading a book on the beach? No problem, I can tell you about the best beaches for daytime naps.
Get out your itinerary and start planning; when you're done reading this guide you will want to book a flight to Croatia ASAP.
There are a few different ways to hop from one island to another, and each is better suited for a different type of traveller. Here are your top choices, and everything you need to know about them:
If you’re travelling alone and you love meeting new people, this is probably the best option for you. You can hop on a party cruiser, and sail along the Croatia coastline for a week. You’ll get to see some of the most popular destinations in the country and have the time of your life while you’re doing it.
It is great for: People who are on a tight budget, solo travellers, couples
If you’re anything like me, and the thought of spending a week on a boat full of strangers is just scary, then this is definitely the better option for you. Especially because a private yacht tour also means a flexible itinerary – you will have some input on where you are going to go and how long you’re going to stay there.
It is great for: Families, groups of friends
I am a DIY traveller. I like to choose my own destinations, and make unplanned stops along the way. And if that also sounds like you, then this is the best option for you.
Croatian islands and peninsulas are pretty easy to get to. There are ferries that transfer vehicles from major port towns (Ploče, Split, Rijeka etc.) and plenty of catamarans and smaller boats that transport only passengers. Plus Croatia has great roads with some gorgeous scenic views, so just driving along the coastline is an experience in itself.
It is great for: Families, DIY travellers, groups of friends, couples – everyone!
In terms of food and groceries, islands are a lot more expensive than coastal cities. Which is fine if you don’t really care about how much money you spend. But if you’re on a budget and you’re trying to plan how much cash you’re going to spend, here are a few tips:
1. Skip the restaurants.Sure, treat yourself to a nice dinner a couple of times, but you’ll save a lot of money if you don’t go out every single night. Especially when visiting the pricier towns, like Hvar or Korčula, where a T-bone steak can easily set you back about 33 EUR.
2. Shop at chain supermarkets.Try to find a Lidl or a Super Konzum wherever you are at. The prices are much better than at local shops, and there is much more variety to choose from. Also, the quality of the food is just better – I’m not going to say where, but I did see an awfully expensive piece of green chicken at a local shop.
3. Find local wineries.The south of Croatia is very popular for its local wines. And the Pelješac peninsula is just swarming with wineries – if you’re driving through it, you will see a sign (Wine à) every 200 meters or so. You can go visit them, taste the wine and purchase it for much less money than you would at a supermarket. The same goes for olives and olive oil – going directly to the source is always a better choice than getting the mass-produced version.
4. Ask to see a pricelist before you order.That way, you will know how much your meal costs beforehand, and you will avoid any nasty surprises.
These three tips alone could save you hundreds of euros, especially if you’re travelling with a group of friends. And you could use that cash to extend your stay for a few more days – isn’t that better than just blowing it all away on a three-course meal?
If you're never been to Croatia, it can be difficult the pick out the best places to visit. That's one advantage of the pre-organized tours and cruises - you don't have to worry about that at all. So, I'll show you a few places that are included in most cruises and tours, but also a few personal favorites that aren't as popular with organized sailing trips.
And here's a tip based on years of vacationing in Croatia: if you want to avoid crowds of tourists, skip the Makarska Riviera in high season. Just last weekend there were over 75.000 tourists there. The small towns are really lovely, but they get so crowded in July and August that it's practically impossible to find a spot for your towel on the beach.
Get there from Ploče. You can catch a ferry that departs from the Ploče harbor every 2 hours, which is the fastest way to reach Trpanj. Your other option is to drive through the Pelješac peninsula – it’s about an hour’s drive from the moment you enter the peninsula to Trpanj, and the stunning scenic views are more than worth it.
Along the way you can stop at any one of the million different vineyards, and purchase some of Pelješac’s signature wine. Not only does it taste better than the mass produced versions of it, but it’s also much cheaper.
Trpanj is a great place for both relaxing and partying. There is a disco hidden away in the woods in the old part of the town, which is open until dawn. And the clubs on the main promenade stay open until the early morning hours as well, but only during the season.
On the other hand, it’s also a great place to just nap on the beach, or relax with your friends. There are sandy beaches, pebble beaches, and dozens of secluded stone beaches where you can be alone with just your friends. Sounds awesome, right?
You can get to Korčula from Orebić – the ferry ride is just 15 minutes long.
It is a truly stunning island, and especially the Korčula Old Town, which is pictured here. The entire old town is full of narrow, cobblestone alleys and local wine and olive oil shops. And if you’re in the mood for a panoramic view of the entire town, just climb to the top of the bell tower!
But there is more to this island than just stunning photo ops – if you’re more interested in the quiet places, head to the village of Lumbarda or Brna. They aren’t as popular with tourists and they aren’t nearly as crowded as the central part of Korčula, but they still have some stunning beaches. Vela Pržina is actually one of the most gorgeous beaches on the island of Korčula, and it is located in the Lumbarda area.
But if you don’t mind the crowds and want to party the night away, then I just the spot for you. Stay in the Korčula old town, and head to the Massimo Cocktail Bar. And be prepared for a unique experience – the bar is located at the top of one of the turrets of Korčula Old Town Wall, and to get there you are going to have to climb a ladder! That sounds really fun, especially if you’re a fan of cocktails with a view. But don’t drink too many of them – remember, you will have to climb down that ladder eventually.
Where do I even begin? For one thing, this is the eighth largest Croatian island, but with a population of a little over 1000 people. And in the economical sense, it is one of the least developed islands in the country. However, Mljet is famous for its gorgeous, untouched nature – in fact, more than 70% of the island is covered with forests.
So, if you’re someone who enjoys the beauty of untouched nature, I strongly suggest you consider spending one entire vacation here. You’re going to it love it – the flora and the fauna is so rich and breathtaking that no amount of time you spend there will be enough. And definitely head over to the Mljet National Park – the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean.
Another very interesting spot to see here is the Odysseus Cave. Do you remember the old legend about the nymph Calypso, and how she held Odysseus captive in a cave for seven years? Well, that’s the cave! You can check it out, take a selife in the crystal clear blue sea, and even do some cliff diving if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. And here’s a friendly tip: wear shoes (preferably hiking shoes) since you have to walk on some rocky terrain for 10-15 minutes to get to the cave.
And party people, I will have to disappoint you a bit. Mljet isn’t known for its nightlife, and there are no wild nightclubs there. However, there are some bars and cocktail lounges where you can pop in for a drink or two – the Komarac bar in Babino Polje is pretty much the it place for an after-hours drink. You can also head to one of the hotel bars and relax for a little while there, but don’t expect to stumble upon any over-the-top parties. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about the hottest Croatian party destinations in the rest of this guide.
Hvar is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Croatia because of its wild nightlife. But it also has so much to offer to everyone else: stunning views, fun water sports, and gorgeous nature just outside the town. Keep in mind that it’s also one of the most expensive islands in the country, especially if you plan on going clubbing.
In that case, Hula Hula Hvar is the place to be. It is one of the most popular beach bars in the town, with epic parties. The place is not just a bar – it’s also a restaurant, which serves some pretty delicious (and ridiculously expensive) food. Just keep in mind that the mayor of Hvar has introduced fines and penalties for certain behaviors, so be on your best behavior!
If you’re more interested in a sightseeing experience, then skip the beach bars and head over to Fortica. It is an elevated fortress that’s been around for centuries. You can choose to climb to the top of the fortress on foot if you like, or you can drive there (a cab ride costs about 100 HRK). The view from the top is breathtaking – just imagine looking down not only on the town of Hvar, but also on the surrounding islets.
If you decide to go on a cruise, Split will likely be your point of departure as it is one of the largest ports in Croatia. This is also the second largest city in Croatia, and it is very much larger than all of the other towns on the coast. And that also means that there is much more to see there, with the city’s most popular attraction being the Diocletian’s palace. The palace actually consists of walls that encompass the better part of the Old Town, and they are the perfect spot to escape the scorching summer heats.
The club scene in Split is most famous for the Ultra festival of electronic music that takes place in July every year. Apart from that, the city is full of different nightclubs where you can dance the night away. The Black & White club is among the more popular ones, and so is the Fjaka Cocktail and Lounge Bar. But the perfect spot for you to party is going to depend on your personal taste in music, since the music genre differs from one club to another.
Keep in mind that this is a city, and so it’s not really full of stunning and gorgeous beaches as some other smaller places on the coast. The Bačvice beach is in the central area of the town, but it’s usually very crowded. My advice is to go to the Trstenik beach, which is just outside the town (30-minute walk). The crowds are smaller, the water is clearer and it is just generally a much more beautiful beach than those in the city itself.
Frankly, I cannot choose just one spot on this stunning island and say, hey, this is where you should go on Brač. Whether you choose to go to Sutivan, Milna, Bol, Supetar or Postira you are going to love it there. The water is crystal clear, the beaches are stunning, and the nature surrounding the small towns is beautiful. But I do have a few suggestions based on the type of vacation you’re interested in.
If you’re looking for a more peaceful place, definitely head to Milna village. It is a tiny place and it’s not as crowded as some other spots on the island, so it’s perfect for couples and families. You can spend your time just walking around the marina and admiring the boats, or simply going from one local winery to another and tasting the delicious wine.
And if you’re more interested in partying, then I suggest you head over to Bol. A lot of people argue that this place has the best nightlife on the Brač Island, and I think they’re right – the place is swarming with clubs and cocktail bars. The most popular nightclubs are Bolero and Varadero, which are open until about 3AM. After that, the party moves to the Elaphusa hotel, where you can dance until you can no longer stand on your feet! Additionally, the Golden Horn beach is one of the most stunning beaches not just in the Bol area, but on the entire island.
And one other place I just have to mention is Sutivan. In the recent years, this spot has gained more and more popularity with tourists, simply because of its amazing beaches. If that’s what you’re most interested in, then this is definitely the town for you.
I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard of the Zrće beach at one point. Often dubbed as Croatian Ibiza, this is one of the hottest party-beaches in the entire country. And if you’re looking to spend a night you will never forget – or even better, which you won’t remember at all– this is the perfect spot for you.
Zrće is located just outside the Novalja town on the Pag Island. And there is a constantly a party there – the open-air nightclubs are famous for their 24-hour parties. There are four main clubs on the beach (Aquarius, Kalypso, Noa & Papaya) and several bars in between them. Only one thing is for sure – if you plan on getting some sleep, the Zrće beach is not where you’ll get it.
One cool thing about Pag is that it is connected with a bridge to Croatia mainland, so you can drive all the way there. Which is pretty useful if you decided to go via car or bus, instead of a cruise ship. And, if you’re not that into the party scene, there are also several towns and village on the island where you can spend a peaceful day or two. The Povljana village is one of those – with miles of sandy beaches, it is definitely the perfect spot for a family.
The town of Pag is also pretty tame, especially when compared to the party-beach we talked about. It is just one of those places that makes you want to move there, so that the smell of the sea is the firs thing you notice when you wake up for the rest of your life. All in all, the entire island is known for its long sandy beaches and stretches of olive farms, and it’s definitely worth visiting.
Of course, there are many other stunning places worth visiting, but it's hard to fit them all in a one-week island hopping trip. Maybe we'll get to see more of this country's stunning coastline next year!
But until then enjoy these seven spots, and just remember to bring a good mosquito repellent on your adventure! They are pretty much the only thing that could spoil your awesome island hopping journey.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.