As a vacation destination, Croatia hits all the high notes – year-round mild weather, inexpensive accommodations, and easy access from most major transportation hubs in Europe.
And then there’s the coast.
Croatia’s coastline gives every other one in Europe a run for its money. The water, in every shade of blue, complements the green landscape and the neutral tones of the beaches that line the Adriatic Sea.
With more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline, Croatia has plenty of beaches to choose from. Unfortunately, most of them are not sandy. They are covered in what could be called pebbles if you want to sugarcoat it. Calling them gravel would be a more accurate description. A word of advice — bring water shoes. You’ll need them not only for the rocky beaches but so you don’t puncture your skin on a sea urchin — otherwise known to tourists as those little black spiky balls.
Water shoes are available at kiosks near most public beaches. You’ll also find sunscreen, sunglasses, and sunshades, so you don’t need to bring beach supplies with you if you’re flying on a budget airline and don’t want to pay extra baggage fees.
Sun loungers and umbrellas are usually available to rent from the businesses along the beach. You’ll also usually find souvenir stands, cafés, restaurants, and bars. In other words, everything you need for a perfect day at the beach.
Some of Croatia’s beaches are world-famous and others are relatively unknown, but I haven’t come across one yet that wasn’t worth the trip. Here are some of my favorites:
Zlatni Rat, Brač
Regularly rated among the top beaches in the world, Zlatni Rat is at the top of my list. The vee-shaped beach on Brač is referred to as the Golden Cape or the Golden Horn and has a resort-like feel.
A tourist train runs every 30 minutes from the harbor town of Bol and drops passengers off at the top of the hill overlooking the beach. At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find a smattering of cafés, bars, and restaurants as well as (paid) bathrooms, showers, and places to rent sunbeds and umbrellas.
Windsurfing, paddle boarding, and jet skiing, kayaking, parasailing, and wake boarding are popular activities and nearby vendors rent equipment out to beginners and experts. If you tire of swimming and sunbathing, you can explore the Roman ruins hidden in the midst of the pine grove that borders the beach.
Banje Beach is a municipal beach in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It has great views of the city’s walls (a stand-in for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones) and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat.
The beach’s bars serve up killer cocktails while DJs spin the latest international tracks. Its party vibe drives its popularity and the beach can be quite crowded during tourist season, but there are plenty of things to do while you’re waiting for a spot in the shade.
Dubrovnik Water Sports rents out equipment for most any water sport you want to try and adrenaline junkies can make reservations for flyboarding, parasailing, or speedboating.
If you want to escape the crowds, take a ferry from Dubrovnik’s harbor over to Lokrum Island. Because its beaches are more like large outcroppings of rock, it gets fewer of the tourists looking for the typical beach experience.
Claim your spot and settle in for a day of relative peace and solitude. When you’re ready for company, join the other sunbathers and nature lovers for drinks at one of the island’s scattered bars and restaurants.
Continue your uber-relaxing day with a massage or fish pedicure while peacocks strut their stuff nearby.
If you’re a GOT fan, don’t miss the island’s small Game of Thrones museum where you can sit on the Iron Throne (!)
Copacabana Beach, Okrug Gornji
If you want a smaller family-friendly beach, try Copacabana Beach in Okrug Gornji.
Popular with the locals, but relatively unknown to tourists, this beach is a short ferry ride away from Trogir.
During beach season, they anchor an inflatable playground in the cove that’s a big hit with kids. The vendors along the water are well-stocked with snack food, supplies, and souvenirs. Tour operators offer day trips to other islands or you can rent a boat (with or without a captain) and go exploring yourself.
If we missed your favorite beach, ping us at: [email protected] with your suggestions.
About the author:
Beth Hoke rejoined the expat life after spending her childhood in Europe and the United States, then settling in Chicagoland to raise two daughters.
Now an empty nester, she is roaming Europe, armed with a TEFL certificate and an online position teaching English for EF.
Beth has been traveling around Europe for two years. She’s filed posts for Dispatches Europe from at least six countries including France, Italy, Germany, Serbia, Croatia, and Madeira, Portugal.
Read more from Beth’s Croatia adventures here: