Best Croatian Beaches: Where to Find Them and What They Offer
With over 3,600 miles of coastline wrapped around its ragged mainland and 1,246 stunning islands, it will come as no surprise that Croatia has some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. From soft, sandy bays to hidden, hypnotic caves, from pebbly promontories and rocky bays to deep, blue inlets, there is every type of beach to choose from. So whether you’re looking for a secluded, romantic spot to weigh anchor, somewhere vibrant to enjoy a cocktail or an sunlit sea cave to explore, here are some of the most popular Croatian beaches, from south to north, to tempt you; just don’t forget to bring your swim suit!
The walled city of Dubrovnik has drawn visitors for centuries, but today the beaches and crystal clear waters of its riviera are just as popular with swimmers, sunbathers and kayakers. South of the city is St Jacob beach, one of the city’s smallest pebble bays overlooking the Old Town and popular with locals. Just save your energy for the 160-step climb back to the coast road! Best known is Banje Beach, a pebble strand facing the eastern gate of the Old Town that is home to parasols, sunbathers and the local jet set. Within westward walking distance from the fortified citadel is the rocky promontory of Dance Beach, close to the secluded stone beach of the luxury Hotel Bellevue (also named as Europe’s coolest hotel by the UK’s “Sunday Times”). And finally, if you’re looking for a quieter, family friendly beach, then head north to the Kopakabana Beach, popular also for its water sports. With all these Croatian beaches to choose from, it’s no wonder that the local tourist board describes the area as “The Mediterranean as it once was.”
Sailing north out of Dubrovnik, Mljet Island is the first of Croatia’s larger isles that you reach. And it’s also one of its greenest, with a dense forest interior and a gently sloping, fir-lined shoreline. There are several shingle beaches around its coast, but the only sandy beach is unspoiled Saplunara, perfect for nature lovers, at the southeastern end of the island. To explore Croatian beaches further, with the wind in your hair, book our full day speedboat tour of Mljet and the nearby Elaphite Islands and create some unforgettable memories.
Continuing on up the coast beautiful Hvar, queen of the Dalmatian islands, is next. It’s a fabulous mix of heavenly sandy or shingle bays shaded by Mediterranean pines, laid-back cocktail beach bars and lively beach nightlife that draws celebrities and the well heeled. And there’s plenty of choice between Hvar and the rest of the Pakleni archipelago of islands. From the paradise that is Palmizana Beach, snuggled in one of the stunning inlets of Sveti Klement island, to the naturist freedom of Jerolim Beach on Sveti Jerolim, to the laid-back bars of Laganini Beach (laganini means “to take it easy”) on Ciovo or the little south-facing pebble bay at Dubovica Beach, just take your pick.
All are easily reachable with a water taxi transfer or under your own power with a kayak tour of the Paklinski Archipelago from Hvar. For more ideas, check out our recent post on the top 5 things to do in Hvar.
Pronounced “Bratch,” Brac Island is the tranquil alternative to its southern sisters, Hvar and Korcula, and provides a perfect window into authentic Croatian island life. It’s rockier than its neighbors, but fabulous for swimming, scuba diving and water sports as the lack of sand makes the waters visibly clearer, adding to their beauty. Zlatni Rat Beach, on the northern coast, is a case in point. It’s a typically natural, undeveloped beach and is ideal for sun bathing.
But its location, sticking out into the Adriatic, also makes it a wonderful wind trap bringing windsurfers flocking at the slightest hint of a breeze. South coast Lovrecina Beach is the sandy alternative and a haven for pure sun worshippers, stretching for 100 fantastic meters out into the gentle surf.
Venture further out from the mainland and you’ll find Vis, one of the least developed islands in the Adriatic, with some of the best coastal spots. It’s home to Stiniva, dubbed the best of all sandy European and Croatian beaches by the tourism agency Europe Best Destination this year. Secluded, achingly beautiful and accessible only via a steep, narrow path or 16-foot wide sea entrance between two huge cliffs, this really is a diamond in Croatia’s crown and well worth the trip!
Close by is Stoncica, one of the best sandy bays for children, with a gently sloping, shallow beach and plenty of shade for the height of the day. Or to explore further, why not book our Vis Island and Blue Cave tour? After taking a speedboat ride around the island, you’ll visit the hypnotic Blue and Green caves that are illuminated by the sun’s rays reflected off the sea floor, creating a sensational light show.
Returning to the mainland, Split is the second largest Croatian municipality and largest city on the Adriatic Coast. Built around Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace, it is fabulous for beach lovers, especially youngsters, since many of the beaches are shallow and sandy. Bacvice Beach, a sandy, crescent-shaped bay, is a particular favorite and just a short walk from town. It’s also the home of picigin, a variation on water volleyball. Further along the coast, Kastelet Beach is a vibrant alternative for those wanting bar and club culture alongside a stunning, stony beach.
For a touch of luxury, check into the Radisson Blu Beach Hotel; its glorious, panoramic sea views, together with one of the best Croatian beaches, make for a well-appointed, tranquil break. Or book a full-day sailboat trip around the islands to Discover Croatia’s Beaches. And don’t forget Fido, too, as Split has some of the few bays where you can take dogs swimming!
Head north up the coast to Zadar, home of the unique sea organ played by the power of the sea; here you’ll find some of the most popular Croatian beaches for families. Kolovar’s pebble beach is surrounded by perfumed pinewoods, perfect for youngsters and anyone seeking fun via parasailing, water skiing, jet skis, diving or sailing. Or hop over to Jazine Beach, another spot suited to little people, where the water is so clear you can practically count the pebbles on the seabed. There’s plenty of family fun here but for more ideas, check out our post on the Top 5 things to do in Zadar.
With picturesque villages, serene bays and majestic cliffs Dugi Otok, or long island, is an oasis of tranquillity. Ideal for families, the pristine white stones of Saharun Beach intensify the sapphire, turquoise and azure shades that dapple the sea and sky above this 1/2 mile (800-meter) long beach. It’s a wonderfully low-key place to unwind and soak up some rays. To get totally off the beaten track, however, strike out for Telascica Bay in the island’s nature park. Boasting a breathtaking natural port, the bay’s six-mile long shoreline folds and extends to form several tiny beaches–make sure to book a transfer to see its beauty for yourselves.
Staying out to sea, the Kornati National Park, nicknamed the “nautical paradise” and with well over 100 islands scattered along the Adriatic coast, is heaven on earth for yachtsmen and sailors. Offering some of the best sailing in the Med, the park also has quite a few Croatian beaches to enjoy, too, so what could be better than taking a cruise around the Kornati archipelago or enjoying a wonderful sailing adventure around the Kornati park on your own yacht? And make sure you stop at Lojena Beach, a simple but beautiful natural sandy beach on the southwest coast. The view from the hill behind the beach is one of the most beautiful vistas in the entire country.
As we continue north, Pag island offers clubs, parties and Spring break festivities at Zrce Beach. Its not really family friendly, especially if your youngsters are still little, but it is certainly one of the most popular Croatian beaches for clubbers. After all that partying, Mali Losinj, up the coast, is the perfect place to recover with its delightfully picturesque fishing villages, warm seas, quiet beaches and spa hotels. Why not check yourselves in the Hotel Bellevue or Hotel Alahambra for some R&R against the backdrop of pine forests, gently sloping beaches and clear blue seas?
And from the Hotel Bellevue on Mali Losinj, you can take a transfer to our next stop, Cres Island, where craggy cliffs hide coves, caves and rare wildlife including the griffon vulture. Lubenice Beach is undoubtedly one of the most popular beaches here, not least because a short boat ride away is the famous Blue Cave where sunlight reflects off the sea floor into a grotto, lighting up the roof and waters like electricity. Or spend the day at St. John Beach, ranked the 13th most beautiful beach in the world–for a small island, Cres is blessed with some wonderful Croatian beaches.
And finally, we reach the northern region of Istria and the end of our beach crawl in the picturesque fishing port of Rovinj. Just a short walk from the historic town sits the luxury Monte Mullini hotel at Lone Bay Beach; it’s perfect for a spa break, gourmet dining or some beach time to restore your energy. Even closer to town is the island of St. Catherine with its pebble beaches. Swim, play volleyball or windsurf before you retire for your delicious dinner at the 5-star boutique Hotel Adriatic. And then watch as the sun sets, lighting up the skies over the 50-foot (15-meter) high gold, silver and bronze rocks that sit just off shore. It’s the perfect way to end our journey from south to north, via some of the best Croatian beaches to be found!