With over 1,000 miles of mainland coastline and more than 1,200 islands, Croatia is the perfect holiday destination for beach lovers. The Adriatic Sea glistens and sparkles, and pine and olive forests offer natural shade cover on many of the beaches, making Croatia one of the premier vacation spots in Europe. Whether you choose to stay in Dubrovnik with its wealth of historical attractions or venture over water to some of Croatia’s secluded islands, you’ll find plenty of picturesque beaches to explore. From lively stretches of sand where locals play beach games with vigor to tranquil spots without a soul in sight, Croatia’s coastline has it all.
With over 1,000 islands to explore, Croatia is a beach lover’s dream, and where you end up depends on where you fly into. It is easy to cross from one island to the next aboard state-run ferries, but for a faster journey, opt for one of the catamarans that serve many of the islands.
An aerial view of Split's golden coastline. Unsplash/Grant Ritchie.
Fly to Split to take advantage of the biggest ferry port on the Adriatic. From here you can easily travel to the islands of Vis, Hvar, Brac, Solta and Korcula. Here are some of the best beaches:
● Stiniva Bay: One of Vis’s most iconic beaches is Stiniva Bay. Surrounded by dramatically high rocks on each side, the bay's blue waters shimmer against a small, rocky beach.
● Grandovac: A 20min walk away from the village of Kut on Vis, Grandovac is a small, protected stone beach flanked by pine and tamarisk trees.
● Dubovica: Another of Croatia’s iconic beaches is home to a stone house that looks as though it is balancing on the sea. A long sweep of pebbles and stunning scenery make this Hvar beach a solid favorite among visitors.
● Sesula Bay: Protected from the wind by its position, this picturesque bay on the island of Solta has sweeping sea views and two quality restaurants.
Island of Hvar. Unsplash/Marcus Lofvenberg.
Land in the baroque city of Dubrovnik for easy access by catamaran to the islands of Korcula, Hvar, Mljet and Lastovo. Here are some of these islands’ top beaches:
● Saplunara Bay: Situated on Mljet, Saplunara Bay is known for its wide, sandy expanse and sheltered location. With dense pine forest behind the beach, the bay offers plenty of protection from the wind and sun. A 10 minute taxi or bus ride from the ferry pier in Sobra, Saplunara is well worth the effort.
● Saplun: Located on the island of Lastovo, Saplun is only accessible by boat. This is back-to-basics sunbathing at its best: There are no showers, no restaurants and no bars, so come well-prepared for simple pleasures on ample sand and plenty of natural shade.
● Vela Przina: One of Korcula’s most popular beaches, Vela Przina is a 15min bus ride from Korcula Town. Its wide expanse of sand and views out to Lastovo make it great for families.
Travelers listening to the fascinating sea organ by Zadar's seaside prominade. Flickr/Michał Kołodziejski.
Fly into northern Dalmatia’s hip, colorful city and explore some of the nearby rustic islands, including Uglijan, Pag and the Kornati Islands National Park. Here are some of the region’s finest beaches:
● Mostir Beach: Located in central Ugljan, Mostir Beach is family-friendly with sand and regular volleyball games.
● Luka Cove: Within easy walking distance of Ugljan’s Muline, Luka Cove offers a more peaceful beach experience than Mostir.
● Lojena Beach: Located on Levrnaka, one of the Kornati Islands, Lojena Beach is accessible by boat from Zadar or Sibenik. White pebbles cover the beach and the sparkling views make it worth a visit.
The charming city of Rovinj in the Istrian Peninsula. Flickr/Beraldo Leal.
This craggy peninsula, with its indented green coastline, entices with pristine seawater and tranquil bays. Here are some beaches you won't want to miss in Istria:
● Lone Bay: One of Rovinj’s most visited spots is a pebbly beach situated next to Golden Point Park. Offering plenty of shade, boats and other water sports equipment to rent as well as views of the quaint old town, it’s perfect for families with young children and teenagers alike. Refresh yourself in the restaurant, or try your hand at climbing at the nearby quarry.
● Hawaiian Cove Beach: This pebbled beach is flanked by large boulders that daring teenagers use to jump into the water. The center of the beach provides easy access into the sea, making it very family-friendly. Pine trees provide natural shade, and it is close to the historical town of Pula with all its amenities.
● Cape Kamenjak: To the south of Pula, this protected area offers a more tranquil beach experience. Free from urban distractions, the secluded bays and craggy coves you find here are dotted with private spots you can enjoy for yourself. Bring a picnic or visit the Safari Bar, and keep your eyes peeled: You just might spot some dolphins cavorting in the waves!
A lovely day by the Kvarner Gulf. Flickr/Yacht Rent.
Surrounded by rugged mountains, the Kvarner Gulf is a place of protected forest, unspoiled coastline and an untamed wildlife population. The bay is home to the islands of Rab, Cres, Krk, Pag and Losinj, all of which are easy to reach from the mainland. Some of the area’s most excellent beaches are:
● Paradise Beach: As the name suggests, Paradise Beach on the island of Rab is idyllic. With its Blue Flag, professional lifeguards and shallow, crystal clear waters, it makes for the perfect family beach. Rare in Croatia, Paradise is both sandy and home to children’s playgrounds, bars and restaurants and a wide choice of water sports.
● Livacina Beach: Also on Rab, Livacina Beach is sandy with shallow waters, making it ideal for families. In addition to natural shade from the pine forests, there is plenty of choice when it comes to dining.
● Gavza: Easily reached on foot from the lively town of Cres on Cres Island, Gavza is a lovely rocky bay secluded from the bustling town.
● Vela Luka: One of Krk Island’s most beautiful bays is only accessible via a hike of about 4mi, although it is possible to travel back by taxi boat. Well worth the effort, the beach has its own spring with pristine drinking water, a fine, sandy beach and a restaurant.
● Cista Beach: Located on the island of Pag, Cista Beach, meaning "pure," is just 5mi away from the town of Novalja. Its golden sand offers easy access into the shallow waters, making it a perfect family-friendly beach.
● Cikat Bay: This bay on the island of Losinj is made up of three small coves, one of which is a beautiful, long stretch of sand, ideal for young children.
Zlatni Rat Beach. Flickr/Kullez.
George Bernard Shaw called Dubrovnik "paradise on earth," and if you visit in the summer season you’ll understand why: A well preserved old town, glittering vistas and a great selection of beaches await you. But head away from the city and you’ll find even more beautiful beaches and spectacular scenery. Here are some of the best:
● Sveti Jakov: Less than a half-hour stroll from Dubrovnik down the naturally shaded Vlaha Bukovca lies the partly shingle beach of Sveti Jakov. With showers, umbrellas and its own bar and restaurant, the beach has everything you need for a day out.
● Prapratno Beach: Situated on Croatia’s second biggest peninsula, Prapratno Beach is a brew of warm, shallow waters and plenty of natural shade. There’s a campsite nearby, meaning it can get crowded in the summer months, and a ferry pier connects to the island of Mljet.
● Zlatni Rat: Situated on the island of Brac, Zlatni Rat lies just about a mile from the town of Bol. Forming the southernmost tip of the island, this 500yd beach flanks forest on either side in a giant ‘V’ that extends into the sparkling sea waters. Its Blue Flag status guarantees clean water and professionally trained lifeguards, making this a solid family favorite.
Sakarun Bay. Flickr/Laurent de Walick.
While southern Dalmatia sees an influx of tourists each summer season, its northern counterpart can be a little bit quieter. But it’s also home to two lively party scenes.
● Zrce Beach: Parties 24/7 and nightclubs with incredible views are what gives Zrce Beach its name among visitors. Popular with the young crowd, this is the place to be during the summer if you don’t value sleep as much as a great night out.
● Kraljicina Plaza: Located on the picturesque island of Nin, Kraljicina Plaza is a glorious 2mi span of golden sand with warm, shallow waters that are perfect for young children. Close to the beach is a medicinal mud zone home to rare plants and wildlife.
● Sakarun Bay: On the southern end of Dugi Otok island lies Sakarun Bay with its crystal clear, warm, shallow waters. Part of the Kornati National Park, this beach offers the perfect conditions for surfing and wind surfing.
The best travel recommendations come from locals. Check out these Wanderguides from Croatia by locals sharing their travel tips and hidden gems.