Perched comfortably between central Europe and the south-eastern Balkans, Croatia is home to one of the most picturesque and alluring coastlines on the continent. Croatia’s beaches range from small, isolated bays to dramatic peninsulas, which stretch alongside the Adriatic sea from northern Rijeka to Dubrovnik in the extreme south. The most seductive shorelines are found on the southerly Dalmatian coast. With more than 1,200 unspoiled islands to explore, sailing holidays and boat trips are a great choice for discovering Croatia’s hidden gems.
You won’t find the typically built-up, resort-style beach fronts that you’d find in destinations like Spain or Greece, but this is what allows Croatia to retain its unique charm. Before you slather on your sunscreen, you should know that sandy beaches are also few and far between! You’ll need flip flops or water shoes for the pebbles (and pesky sea urchins!), but the outstanding beauty of these locations will have your jaw dropping to your feet! You’ll fall in love with secret coves and mountainous backdrops, awe-inspiring views and the enticingly crystal-clear, turquoise waters. It’s no wonder that Croatia has spent the last decade as Europe’s fastest rising holiday destination!
1. Zlatni Rat, Brac Island
Let’s start, of course, with Croatia’s most famous beach! Zlatni Rat, or the “Golden Cape,” is found on the island of Brac, accessible by ferry from the popular town of Split on the mainland. In Brac you can enjoy a lifestyle of a slower pace, which may be why it is sometimes overlooked in favour of nearby Hvar, which has become known for its nightlife and its identity as the glamorous haunt of the rich and famous. On Brac you can wander around the cute town of Bol, which has a small farmers market, a number of nice cafes, and even a tasting room for Stina, one of the country’s most well-known wineries.
A bus or taxi ride will transport you to this astonishing beach. Zlatni Rat is described as triangular or tongue-shaped in form, stretching elegantly out into the ocean. The shape of the shore changes according to the tide! Sometimes the tip completely shifts to one side and joins the shoreline, resulting in a formation of a small lake in the middle. As a protected landscape since 1965, this is definitely one for the bucket list. The beach has become on of the most famous symbols of Croatian tourism due to its originality and beauty.
2. Sakarun Beach, Dugi Otok Island
This is truly one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, thanks to its crystalline waters and fine white sand, which are rather rare in Croatia! If you didn’t know better you’d think you were in the Caribbean! The approximately 800-metre long bay offers plenty of space for sun-seeking tourists, and the lack of hotels contribute to the dreamy, peaceful atmosphere of this location. The beach is surrounded by wild nature and lined with scented pine forests which provide cool shade in the hot months of midsummer. Sakarun is a paradise which has so far largely escaped the clutches of mass tourism, so visit this beach ASAP before the secret gets out!
3. Stiniva Cove, Vis Island
Vis is the farthest-flung of the main islands that are dotted along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. As one of the most recent islands to open up to tourism in Croatia, its landmarks and way of life have been well preserved and protected. Vis has become more familiar since it featured as a filming location for Mamma Mia 2, which has attracted the traveller’s gaze.
Stiniva Cove is a pristine beach only reachable by boat or a mountain hike. The trek is well worth it, as this charming and unspoiled bay is a true masterpiece of Mother Nature. The cove is embraced by stone rock formations moulded by strong winds and waves, with a narrow entrance in the middle providing access by boat. Although hiding between the towering cliffs, this haven is just waiting to be found! Take a swim in the calm, crystal-blue waters, before chilling out with an ice-cold drink at the most tiny and rustic beachside bar. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
4. Bacvice Beach, Split
One of the few sandy beaches in Croatia, this more centrally located beach is found just a short walk from Diocletian’s Palace in the popular port of Split. Fun fact! Bacvice is famous as the home of picigin, a uniquely Dalmatian sport which involves a lot of leaping around to stop a small ball from hitting the water. If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a game of picigin this might be a unique opportunity to absorb some local culture!
During the day the beach attracts locals and tourists looking to cool off in the water. As the sun goes down, Bacvice prepares to unleash its alter ego. The beachside bars and clubs turn up the volume as the beach switches to an infectious party vibe. During the summer, it’s also the home base for music festivals such as the aptly-named Split Beach Festival. There’s a lot of fun to be had here which makes Bacvice a great choice if you love both beaches and nightlife!
5. Betina Cave, Dubrovnik
You’ll need to hop in a boat or kayak to get to this water-access-only beach. Betina Cave provides a blissful oasis escape from the buzz of Dubrovnik in the summer. This secluded bay has no infrastructure, so be sure to pack your own food and drink before setting off – especially plenty of water in hot weather!
Despite the lack of facilities, the serenity here is absolutely unmatched. You can take in the dazzling blue and green hues of the Adriatic from a shore which will have you believing you’re on your own private beach! Escape the crowds of medieval Dubrovnik for a day and reconnect with the natural landscape, breathing in the fresh ocean air and absorbing some of Croatia’s classic coastal views. It could be one of the most special moments of your trip!
Could you see yourself sailing away around Croatia’s unspoiled islands? Check out our Croatia sailing tours to see this country’s beautiful beaches and coastline for yourself!