Croatia’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches and islands as well as stunning historic cities. It’s rare to get both so close to each other, which makes Croatia a unique place for a holiday as it has the perfect mix of sun and culture. Inland there are great national parks and the lively capital city of Zagreb.
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Croatia Beach Holidays
Croatia has almost 2000km of coastline and over 1000 islands dotted in the Mediterranean Sea. Although most of the beaches are either pebble or rock, the clear blue seas make Croatia a very popular destination for beach holidays.
Dalmatia is at the southern end of the Croatian Coast. The area is famous for the beautiful cities of Dubrovnik and Split, and the islands just off the coast – including the stylish Hvar.
Dubrovnik is at the southern end of the Dalmatian coast. The amazingly well preserved old town has marbled streets and narrow alleys connecting medieval churches and palaces. The tiled orange roofs of the city make it instantly recognisable as the location used for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.
The most popular activity in Dubrovnik is walking along the top of the fort’s walls. The 2km continuous walk gives great views of the city and the sea below.
Dubrovnik has several beaches close by. Banje beach is the closest and sits just outside the old town. Lapad beach is around 4km from the main part of town and is backed by lots of bars and restaurants.
Lokrum Island is only 10 minutes away by boat and has a rock beach that is less busy than those on the main land. The island is also home to a Benedictine Monastery.
For a longer day trip from Dubrovnik you can head to the Elafiti Islands. These are a small archipelago off the coast of Dubrovnik and are much quieter than the city and beaches around it. There are three main islands – Sipan, Kolcep and Lopud, which combined have a population of around only a thousand. Ferries take you to the islands from Dubrovnik or you can do a private boat tour.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia and the largest city on the coast. The city is centred around Diocletian’s Palace – a 3rd Century Palace that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Elsewhere in the old town you can still see Roman walls and temples.
The city is very lively at night, with lots of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
On the mainland near Splut there are a number of beaches. Bacvice beach is very close to the town but tends to get very busy, especially in summer. There are some beaches slightly further away from Split that are less busy in summer including Kastelet, Kasjuni and Bene.
A lot the popular Croatian islands are near the city so Split is a popular start point for boat trips either as a single day trip or part of an island hopping itinerary.
South of Split is the Makarska Riviera – a 60km stretch of coast. The Riviera is home to some of the best beaches in Croatia and is broken up by a number of towns including Makarska itself, Brela and Tucepi.
There are a number of sandy beaches along the coast, which is rare for Croatia. Brela is one of the best areas along the coast for beaches and luxury resorts.
Hvar is an island near Split. Hvar is one of the most famous Croatian islands and is known for its small coves, old towns and nightlife. The main town on the island is Hvar Town, but there are a number of the small towns and villages including Stari Grad and Jelsa.
Hvar Town has 13th Century walls and an old fortress, with stylish bars and restaurants surrounding a modern marina. Stari Grad is quieter than Hvar Town and as the oldest town in Croatia is full of historic buildings and streets.
Around the island are lots of hidden beaches where you can sunbathe or go swimming in the clear water. The centre of the island is home to small vineyards and olive groves.
Korcula is an island half way between Dubrovnik and Split. The island has lots of beaches – in the north they tend to be rocky, but at the south of the island you can find some sandy beaches near the town of Lumbarda.
The main town on the island is also called Korcula and has lots of bars and restaurants, but does not have as much nightlife as Hvar. The town itself is a well-preserved medieval town.
The hilly and amazingly green interior makes Korcula very popular with cyclists.
Brac is a large island near Hvar. Similar to Hvar the island has lots of small isolated coves. Bol and Supetar are the two main towns on the island.
Bol is a good place for watersports – kitesurfing and windsurfing are popular and you can book dive trips as well. The town also has one of the best beaches on the island – Golden Horn.
Other Places in Dalmatia
There are a number of other popular towns in Dalmatia that are surrounded by beaches, including Podgora, Podstana, Igrane and Podaca.
Istria is at the north end of the Croatian coast and the area was previously part of the Venetian Republic. Consequently a lot of the towns and cities have an Italian feel to them due to their architecture. Outside of the towns there are lots of small vineyards many of which offer wine tasting.
Rovinj is an old town set on a narrow peninsula at the centre of the Istrian coastline. The town climbs up from the sea to the Cathedral of Sv Euphemia that sits on the top of a hill at its centre. The town is full of narrow alleys and Venetian architecture.
A 15 minute walk from the town there are lots of small coves that form Lone Bay. The coves have shingle beaches and most of them have beach bars and restaurants.
Porec is a small town to the north of Rovinj. The old town still contains a number of Roman structures, but the most notable site is the Byzantine Euphrasian Basilica – built in the 6th Century.
There are a number of beaches in the area – particularly between Porec and Zelena. Naturally the beaches are rocky but there are a number of man-made beaches that make swimming easier.
The city is lively with lots of bars, restaurants and clubs.
Pula is a city at the southern end of Istria. The centre of the city is a square called the Forum, which has been built on the old Roman Forum and still has the remains of a 1st Century temple, in addition to the impressive 10th Century City Hall.
The main site in the town is the Roman Amphitheatre, which was built in the 6th Century and is one of the largest surviving Roman Amphitheatres.
To the south of the town there are a number of beaches. These are a mixture of rock, pebble and shingle beaches. The slope into the sea is gentle making it a great place to swim and snorkel in the shallow water.
Other Places in Istria
There are a number of other popular areas for beach holidays in Istria. Rabac has one of the best beaches in the area, whilst Vrsar is a small fishing town with a number of nearby luxury resorts. Umag is a small town with lots of upmarket hotels and a great marina.
Cities and Cultural Sites
Whilst the coast of Croatia combines great beaches with culture, some time away from the coast can be very rewarding.
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and its largest city. The oldest part of town – known as Upper Town – is a beautiful medieval old town with lots of old churches and gates still intact. Most of the sites are around the main square.
The 19th Century Lower Town is home to most of the bars and restaurants. This area is very lively at night with lots of bars playing live music.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a forested area with 16 interlinked lakes. The park is north of Split and is quite near the coast – making it a good option for a day trip. The main attraction of the park is hiking – the terrain is quite hilly and you will pass lots of waterfalls on your way up the hills and be rewarded with great views from the top.
Croatia is a relatively small country and is very easy to get around. Dubrovnik is on everyone’s must see list, but apart from that itineraries vary a lot depending on whether you want to go island hopping or head inland to national parks and Zagreb. We can help you plan your perfect trip based on what you want to do and how long you have.
Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik
If you want to see the best the Dalmatian Coast has to offer start off with a couple of nights either in Split or just to the south on the Makarska Riviera. From here you can catch a boat to the stylish island of Hvar and enjoy great nightlife, before heading south – again by boat – to the beautiful city of Dubrovnik.
Where to Stay in Croatia
Croatia has a large range of upmarket and luxury hotels – whether you want a boutique hotel in the centre of Dubrovnik or a peaceful island retreat.
Getting Around Croatia
The best way to get around on the mainland is to hire a car. Getting between islands is possible by ferry or by private boat hire. Once on the islands taxis are available on the bigger ones, and on the smaller ones you can cycle or walk.
Getting to Croatia
There are direct flights from the UK to Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb from London, whilst other UK cities have direct flights to Dubrovnik only. Flight time is around two and a half hours.
When to Go to Croatia
The best months for Croatia are from May to September. If you mainly want to look around the old cities the months of May or September are best as its cooler and less busy. July and August are the hottest months and the best months for a beach holiday.