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Best Places to Stay in Croatia

The 7 Best Places to Stay in Croatia by the Sea

The scenic Balkan country with its historic cities, bustling beaches, and azure waters owns all the ingredients for a dreamy summer getaway. Croatia is popular with families, honeymooners, backpackers, and party-seekers, and its 6,000 kilometers of Adriatic coastline cater to all vacation styles. But you might be wondering, where are the best places in Croatia by the sea?

With 78 islands, over 500 islets, and 80 reefs, the Croatian archipelago is the second largest in the Mediterranean, after Greece, so it is no surprise that holidays to Croatia are synonymous with seaside pleasure. The mainland itself boats over 1,000 kilometers of some of Europe’s most picturesque coastal scenery, and you don’t have to look very hard to find fabulous beach towns and buzzing cities punctuating the indented shoreline. 

Our guide offers a rundown of all the best seaside destinations in Croatia to suit every crowd, from the sleepy cobblestone streets of Korcula to dynamic Dubrovnik. Let’s get into it.

Rovinj

rovinj
Photo by Envato Elements

Kick-starting our list is the much-loved city of Rovinj, located on the west coast of the colorful Istrian Peninsula. The fishing port is Croatia’s second-most visited town, after Dubrovnik, and for good reason. Rovinj harbors its own micro-archipelago, with 14 individual islands dotted immediately off the mainland. The city perfectly balances culture and atmosphere, with beachside relaxation. 

Istria County is Croatia’s heart-shaped, westernmost region, comprising most of the Istrian Peninsula, although some of it is shared with northeastern Italy. Blending Croatian culture with western European elegance, Istria is known for its wineries, olive oil, hilltop towns, and rich heritage, and many of the residents are actually Italian-speaking. 

The old town of Rovinj stands to attention, with its crowd of warm-hued houses nestled together on the seafront. Cobblestone streets lead to the Basilica of St. Euphemia, a hilltop church in the heart of historic Rovinj that towers over the city. Its 61-meter bell tower and steeple dominate the city skyline and is actually the highest in Croatia. 

Rovinj’s jagged coastline offers a variety of bays, coves, and pebbled beaches, some with easy access to the sea and others with rocky corners reserved for serious swimmers. Italianate in nature, Rovinj is quintessentially Istrian with its narrow roads, brightly painted buildings, and fishing boat-lined seafront and is a must-see seaside spot for any holidaymaker. 

Zadar

zadar
Photo by twenty20photos on Envato Elements

Situated on the Dalmatian coast, Zadar is best known for the Roman and Venetian ruins that comprise its historic center. The city is surrounded by ancient walls, punctuated by original Venetian gates and the 11th-century St. Mary’s Convent houses religious art from as far back as the 8th-century. 

Zadar is also home to the 12th-century St. Anastasia’s Cathedral and the rotund Church of St. Donatus, a pre-Romanesque basilica from the 9th-century. Still, the city has a lot more to offer than ancient ruins. Stunning sunsets, wild national parks, and great nightlife make Zadar stand out as a great holiday destination, all while being more peaceful and undiscovered than towns like Hvar and Split. 

Borik Beach is the most popular in the region. Located on the northern outskirts of Zadar and accessible by coastal path or bus, Borik still boasts a reputation for being a sprawling urban beach, with both sand and stone sections. There’s tons of accommodation up here from vacation rentals to hostels, and it is one of Zadar’s busiest spots in the summer. 

Zadar is also a gateway into Croatia’s festival scene and it is located just one hour from the island of Peg, best known for its cheese but also for the pebbly, Zrce beach which is host to the annual Hideout Music Festival where international acts entertain crowds of camping revelers every year.   

Sibenik

sibenik
Photo by twenty20photos on Envato Elements

Known as a stepping stone to the Kornati Islands, Sibenik is a unique seaside destination with a history that is neither Roman nor Greek in origin. Often overlooked as a tourist hotspot, the laidback city, steeped in heritage, is definitely worth a visit. And not because of its unusual architecture, but that’s a great place to start.

First founded by Slav migrants, before being fought over by Venice and Hungary ending in a Venetian defeat, Sibenik’s buildings display a rich mix of cultural influences. The 14th-century Prince’s Palace is one of the biggest draw factors to Sibenik. Once a coastal defense site and a former royal residence, the Prince’s Palace now houses the Sibenik City Museum with fascinating prehistoric exhibitions documenting the town’s turbulent past. 

The coastal palace is also located in the immediate vicinity of the 15th-century stone Cathedral of St. James, which is adorned with 71 sculpted faces. You’ll also find St. Michael’s Fortress within the city limits, with its white stone facade and open-air theater, offering undisturbed views of Sibenik bay and the Kornati Islands. 

The city is laidback and a popular place to settle in Croatia. Some beautiful beaches and swimming spots surround Sibenik and it is just 50 kilometers from Split if you fancy some livelier vibes. Although, that’s not to say Sibenik doesn’t come equipped with its own offerings in terms of entertainment. 

It is often dubbed a “city of music” due to its connection to Croatian “Klape” choirs, a form of acapella singing that originated in Sibenik. The art has been placed on UNESCO’s list of cultural heritage and visitors can enjoy regular outdoor “Klape” choir performances from June until September. 

Split

split town
Photo by twenty20photos on Envato Elements

Split is Croatia’s second-largest city and the biggest on the coast, lying on the eastern shores of Dalmatia, sprawling over a central peninsula and its surroundings. Roman, Venetian, Austrian, French, Italian, and even Yugoslavian influences all have their grip over the city thanks to the various rules its been under. The old town forms the heart of Split and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, peppered with unmissable landmarks from the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, to the Diocletian Palace, and the Grgur Ninski Statue.

Stroll the Riva Harbour, peruse the Green Market, sample the sumptuous local cuisine and fresh seafood catches in the number of fine restaurants lining the seafront, and don’t forget to soak up the beauty of the surrounding area. From wineries to national parks and several unforgettable Blue Flag beaches, the Dalmatia region around Split is among the most spectacular in the country. 

There’s also the otherworldly Blue Cave, only accessible by boat. Located on Bisevo Island, some 70 kilometers off the coast of Split, the semi-submerged sea cavern is affected by the partial sunlight that enters and gives the clear water a mysterious blue hue. Visiting the Blue Cave is the flagship of all Split sea tours. 

Split is well-known as one of Croatia’s most vibrant port cities and the nightlife is top-rate. The Ultra Europe festival, held in the Park Mladezi stadium in July, visits the city every year and offers much more in the way of celebration than three days of music acts. The city comes alive during Ultra and you can find entertainment and activities at every turn. The already bustling bars and restaurants are spilling out onto the streets throughout July while the city also experiences some of the sunniest weather in Europe. 

Korcula

croatia by the sea
Photo by twenty20photos on Envato Elements

Known for its dense forest, sleepy old town and upscale resorts, Korcula is a dreamy island in the Adriatic and one of the best places for a holiday in Croatia by the sea. In easy reach from Split via a three-hour ferry, but even closer to Orebic and Croatia’s watersports capital of Viganj, Korcula lies just off the Dalmatia coast and basks in her warm sun all year round.

Korcula is sometimes called the ‘Emerald Isle’ and is deemed somewhat of a hidden gem by the happy travelers that are drawn back to her shimmering shores year after year. Korcula Town is the center of the action and has been dubbed “Little Dubrovnik” for its medieval squares, copper-brown roofs, narrow streets, and old churches.  

Korcula boasts some great swimming opportunities and avid sea-lovers can launch into the water from anywhere along the jagged coastline. If you want open beaches, check out Martina Bok near Vela Luka on Korcula’s west side, or Bavca beach, a peaceful bay lying at the bottom of Zrnovo’s coastal slopes and a regular target for sunbathers. 

The old stone town of Korcula is incorporated into Greek mythology and its thought Poseidon ordered Ezop’s daughter to settle here when the Argonauts were passing by. This is how Korcula earned its other nickname, “Kerkyra melaina”, meaning Black Korcula, as a result of the dense, dark woodland she’s thought to have used for cover. 

Hvar

hvar
Photo by antonpetrus on Envato Elements

With its lively beaches, global restaurants, luxury accommodation, and busy nightlife, Hvar is one of Croatia’s most lusted seaside destinations and there’s something for every crowd. The island is located close to the Dalmatian Coast, although the buzzing Hvar Town is nestled at the furthest western side. 

The old town is a labyrinth of marble and cobblestone streets and the expansive main square is overlooked by a hilltop fortress, set above the Renaissance-era Hvar Cathedral. Hvar Town is also surrounded by well-preserved city walls, dating back to the 13th century and encompassing the entirety of the historic core, including the slopes to the north. 

The island itself plays host to a number of spectacular beaches, like Dubovica, Skala, and Pokonji dol, as well as a number of protected sandy bays, perfect for taking a dip in the alluring turquoise waters or basking in the year-round sunshine. Hvar also boasts picturesque lavender fields further inland, and the island is a great vantage point to the Pakleni islet chain as well as Brac, Vis, and Korcula.    

Hvar has gained quite a reputation as a party hotspot in recent years, with nightclubs, beach bars, international music venues, and beach clubs scattered across the island. It often comes up against Split and Dubrovnik in competition for the hottest town in Croatia, but Hvar’s explorable island landscape, with a variety of hidden coves and sleepy fishing villages, puts it a cut above the rest.  

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik
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Lastly, but undeniably not least, Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s most iconic destinations with its distinctive old town, well-preserved ancient ruins, and strategic location. Jutting out on a peninsula into the Adriatic with red-roofed houses and settlements crowded together on the seafront, Dubrovnik Town is a sight to behold. 

The old town is encircled by huge 16th-century stone walls and among its well-preserved historic sites are the baroque St. Blaise Church, the Gothic Rector’s Palace and museum, and the Renaissance Sponza Palace. All of which command sweeping views over the ocean and city. 

The central plaza, or Stradun, is paved with limestone and entirely pedestrianized. Boutique shops, high-quality restaurants, and bustling bars line the square. Dubrovnik, particularly the Lovrijenac Fort, was actually one of the prominent filming locations for the Game of Thrones television series, and it’s clear to see why the city was chosen. 

Dubrovnik is a gateway to Croatia’s most wonderful islands and is just a stone’s throw from Split. The city enjoys a creative vibe with much of Croatia’s artistic and intellectual elite calling it home. With no shortage of festivals and cultural activities to keep inhabitants and visitors busy, it’s no surprise that Dubrovnik harbors the largest ex-pat community in Croatia. 

When is the best month to visit Croatia?

Croatia benefits from a temperate, Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cooler winters. If you’re after sun, June through to August is the best time to visit Croatia with average daily highs of 85 degrees Fahrenheit and lows in the mid-70s throughout July. Still, Croatia and its islands are among the sunniest places in Europe. If you want to escape the summer holiday crowds and high season pricing, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons, such as May or October, for pleasant temperatures in the 70s and plenty of sunshine. 

Is there a rainy season in Croatia?

Croatia experiences all the seasons, with sunny summers along its coastal strip. However, midsummer thunderstorms and occasional rain aren’t uncommon, especially in the north. Istria, and Rijeka in particular, is no strange to downpours throughout July and August.  

Where is the best beach in Croatia?

With Croatia’s 6,000 kilometers of Adriatic coastline along its mainland strip and 78 islands, there is no shortage of fantastic beaches for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports alike. Some of the top-rated in the country include the cone-shaped peninsula of Zlatni Rat in Brac, bustling Banje Beach in Dubrovnik, picturesque Punta Rata in Brela with its golden sands, and mountainous backdrop, and all of the abundant coves along Kamenjak National Park’s indented and isolated shoreline in Istra.  

How much does a holiday to Croatia cost?

Croatia is neither a budget destination nor a nation that will break the bank. You can expect to spend between €45 ($47) and €105 ($110) per day, although this number can vary greatly depending on your spending habits. Croatia used to benefit from the typical low pricing of the Balkans, but with its Western European allure, surges in tourists have hiked up premiums, especially in the most popular seaside towns.