Best Croatian Beach Destinations 2024
Croatia (Hrvatska) has come a long way since the summer of 1991, when foreign tourists fled from a region standing on the verge of war. Now that stability has returned, visitors are steadily coming back to a country which boasts one of the most outstanding stretches of coastline that Europe has to offer.
At the northern end of the Adriatic coast, the peninsula of Istria contains many of the country’s most developed resorts, with old Venetian towns like Porec and Rovinj rubbing shoulders with the raffish port of Pula.
Further south lies Dalmatia, a dramatic, mountain-fringed stretch of coastline studded with islands, where you’ll find lively fishing villages and the best of the beaches.
The third largest island on the Adriatic coast, Brac is famous for its milk-white marble, which has been used in places as diverse as Berlin’s Reichstag, the high altar of Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral, the White House in Washington – and, of course, Diocletian’s Palace.
In addition to the marble, a great many islanders were once dependent on the grape harvest, though the phylloxera (vine lice) epidemics of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century forced many of them to emigrate.
Even today, as you cross Brac’s interior, the signs of this depopulation are all around in the tumbledown walls and overgrown fields.
The easiest way to reach Brac is by ferry from Split to Supetar, an engagingly laid-back fishing port on the north side of the island, from where it’s a straightforward bus journey to Bol, a major windsurfing center on the island’s south coast and site of one of the Adriatic’s most famous beaches.
Stranded on the far side of the Vidova Gora mountains, there’s no denying the beauty of Bol ‘s setting, or the charm of its old stone houses.
The main attraction of the village is its beach, Zlatni rat (Golden Cape), which lies to the west of the center along the wooded shoreline.
Unusually sandy and unusually beautiful, the cape juts into the sea in the form of an extended finger, changing shape from season to season as the wind plays across it. It does, however, get very crowded during summer.
When you’re through with the beach, look in at the late-fifteenth-century Dominican Monastery (Dominikanski samostan), perched on a bluff just east of Bol’s center. Its location is dramatic, and the monastery museum holds among its small collection a Madonna with Child by Tintoretto.
Buses from Supetar stop just west of Bol’s harbour, at the far end of which stands the tourist office which has free leaflets and maps.
Private rooms can be obtained from Boltours, 100m west of the bus stop at Vladimira Nazora 18 and there are several campsites in the new part of town uphill from the center.
There are a couple of windsurfing centers on the shoreline west of town, on the way to Zlatni rat, which offer board rental and a range of courses for beginners.
Though the largest town on the island of Brac, Supetar is a rather sleepy village onto which package tourism has been painlessly grafted.
There’s little of specific interest, save for several attractive shingle beaches which stretch away westwards from the town’s harbour, and the Petrinovic Mausoleum, a neo-Byzantine confection on a wooded promontory 1km west of town, built by sculptor Toma Rosandic to honour a local businessman.
Supetar’s tourist office beside the ferry dock at Porat 1 has information on the whole island.
Private rooms are available from Supetar Tours near the bus station, or Atlas on the harbourfront. There are two campsites just east of the ferry dock.
The Hotel Britanida, 200m east of the ferry dock at Hrvatskih velikana 26, is a step up in comfort; but avoid the line of overpriced package hotels behind the beaches.
The clear waters around Supetar are perfect for scuba diving; the Dive Center Kaktus in the Kaktus Hotel complex rents out gear and arranges scuba and snorkeling crash courses from around 200kn, as well as renting out mountain bikes.
Ferry tickets can be purchased from the Jadrolinija office inside the bus station.
One of the most hyped of all the Croatian islands, Hvar is undeniably beautiful – a slim, green slice of land punctured by jagged inlets and cloaked with hills of spongy lavender.
Tourist development hasn’t been too crass, and the island’s main center, Hvar town, retains much of its old Venetian charm.
Ferries run between here and Split once daily, and to Stari Grad, farther east, roughly four times daily. The Dubrovnik-Rijeka coastal ferry stops at Hvar town once a day in summer, less frequently through the rest of the year. Buses make the 30 minute trip from the terminal, 4km east of Stari Grad itself, to Hvar Town.
The best view of Hvar Town is from the sea, the tiny town center contoured around the bay, grainy-white and brown with green splashes of palms and pines bursting from every crack and cranny.
The beaches nearest to Hvar town are rocky and crowded, and it’s best to make your way towards the Pakleni otoci (the Islands of Hell), just to the west of Hvar.
Easily reached by water taxi from the harbor (about 15kn each way), the Pakleni are a chain of eleven wooded islands, only three of which have any facilities (simple bars and restaurants): Jerolim island, the nearest, offers nudist bathing; next is Marinkovac – partly nudist, but with a main beach, U Stipanska; then Sv. Klement, the largest of the islands – here, most people head for Palmizana, one of its most attractive coves with a fine shingle beach. Bear in mind that camping is forbidden throughout Pakleni.
Compact, humpy, and at first glance a little forbidding, Vis is situated further offshore than any other of Croatia’s inhabited Adriatic islands.
Closed to foreigners for military reasons until 1989, the island has never been overrun by tourists, and even now depends much more heavily on independent travellers than its package-oriented neighbours Brac and Hvar.
Croatia’s bohemian youth seem to have fallen in love with the place over the last decade, drawn by its wild mountainous scenery, two good-looking towns, Vis town and Komiza, and a brace of fine wines, including the white Vugava and the red Viski plavac.
Ferries leave Split for the two-and-a-half-hour journey to Vis town once or twice daily all year, though in winter the trip can get mighty rough. From mid-May to mid-September there are daily hydrofoils from Split and Hvar Town. From Vis town, buses depart for Komiza on the western side of the island.
Three times a day the bus leaves Vis harbour for the 25-minute drive to Komiza, the island’s main fishing port – a compact and intimate town with a palm-fringed seafront on one side and a ring of mountains on the other.
Rearing up above Komiza to the southeast is Mount Hum, at 587m Vis’s highest point. To climb it you can either scramble up a series of tracks which ascend steeply from behind the Benedictine monastery, or follow the road as it works its way round the southern side of the island, and turn left to the hamlet of Zena Glava (about 10km in all). There’s a wonderful view of the Adriatic from the top, with the pale grey stripe of the Italian coastline far away to the west, and the mountains of the Croatian mainland to the east.
Komiza is popular with tourists because of its splendid beaches. The eastern coast of the bay of Komiza is mostly dotted with pebble beaches (Gusarica, Nova posta, Velo zalo and others), while there are also some sandy beaches.
Buses from Vis Town terminate about 100m behind the harbour, from where it’s a short walk southwards to the tourist office on the Riva just beyond the Kastel. There’s a comfy modern hotel, the Bisevo, and plenty of rooms available from a number of agencies in the center, such as Darlic & Darlic on the harbourfront, and Srebrnatours on Ribarska just to the north.
Vis Town Beach
Vis Town is attractively sited, a sedate arc of grey-brown houses stretching around a deeply indented bay, above which looms a steep escarpment covered with the remains of abandoned agricultural terraces.
The most attractive parts of town are east of the ferry landing in the suburb of Kut, a largely sixteenth-century tangle of narrow cobbled streets overlooked by the summer houses built by nobles from Hvar.
There are no specific buildings to visit, although the stone balconies and staircases give the place an undeniably aristocratic air.
Heading west around the bay soon brings you to a small peninsula, from which the campanile of the Franciscan monastery of St Hieronymous (Sveti Jere) rises gracefully alongside a huddle of cypresses.
The town’s small pebbly beach is just beyond.
Like so many islands along this coast, Korcula was first settled by the Greeks, who gave it the name Korkyra Melaina or “Black Corfu” for its dark and densely wooded appearance. Even now, it’s one of the greenest of the Adriatic islands, and one of the most popular.
The island’s main settlement is Korcula town, and the rest of the island, although beautifully wild and untouched, lacks any real centres.
The main coastal ferry drops you right in the harbor of Korcula town. In addition, local ferries travel daily between Split and Vela Luka at the western end of Korcula island, from where there’s a connecting bus service to Korcula town. There’s also a direct bus service (1 daily) from Dubrovnik, which crosses the narrow stretch of water dividing the island from the mainland via car ferry from Orebic.
Korcula Town sits on a beetle-shaped hump of land, a medieval walled city ribbed with a series of narrow streets that branch off the spine of the main street like the veins of a leaf.
The nearest beaches to the old town are on the headland southeast of town around the Hotel Marko Polo, though they’re crowded, rocky and uncomfortable.
A better bet is to head off by water taxi from the old harbor to one of the Skoji islands just offshore.
The largest and nearest of these is Badija, where there are some secluded rocky beaches, a couple of snack bars and a naturist section.
There’s also a sandy beach just beyond the village of Lumbarda, 8km south of Korcula (reached by hourly bus in the summer).
Regular buses head north from Rovinj towards Porec, Istria’s largest and busiest resort.
The beaches around the old town can get crowded. As an alternative, take a boat from the jetty next to the Marina (7am-midnight every 30min; 14kn) to the island of Sveti Nikola across the water, or walk south beyond the marina where pathways head along a rocky coastline shaded by gnarled pines.
There are few more pleasant towns in Istria than Rovinj, which lies forty kilometres north of Pula. Its harbour is a likeable mix of fishing boats and swanky yachts, its quaysides a blend of sunshaded cafй-tables and the thick orange of fishermen’s nets.
Rovinj is the most Italian town on this coast: there’s an Italian high school, street-names are in Italian, and the language is widely spoken in the town.
You will be able to see the cultural monuments from Illyrian, Roman, and Venetiantimes, while entertainment attractions will make from your vacation an unique adventure.
Paths on the south side of Rovinj’s busy harbour lead beyond the Hotel Park towards Zlatni rt, a densely-forested cape, crisscrossed by numerous tracks and fringed by rocky beaches.
Other spots for bathing can be found on the two islands just offshore from Rovinj – Sveta Katerina, the nearer of the two, and Crveni otok, just outside Rovinj’s bay; both are linked every thirty minutes by boats from the harbour and are home to a couple of hotels, a handful of pebbly beaches and some reasonable places to swim.
By far the largest city in Dalmatia, and its major transit point, Split is one of the most enticing spots on the Dalmatian coast; a hectic city, full of shouting stall-owners and travelers on the move.
At the heart of all this, hemmed in by the sprawling estates and a modern harbor, lies a crumbling old town built within the precincts of Diocletian’s Palace, one of the most outstanding classical remains in Europe.
The main city beach is Bacvice, a few minutes’ walk south past the railway station, a small stretch of shingle backed by a high-tech pavilion packed with cafes and eateries.
Bene, on the northern side of the Marjan peninsula (bus #12 from the seafront), occupies a rockier shore backed by pine forest.