With 1777km of indented coast on the mainland and a further 4058km edging its 1246 islands and islets, Croatia has no shortage of beaches.
Many are rocky, some are sandy and others are lined with smooth, white pebbles, but all are lapped by the warm, clear waters of the Adriatic. It would be an exaggeration to say that there’s something for everyone – surfers should look elsewhere – but most people should find something on this list to suit their holiday needs.
Best for inducing Instagram envy: Zlatni Rat
Zlatni Rat is preposterously good looking, so much so that it adorns every other tourist poster promoting the Dalmatian Coast. It consists of a narrow triangle of tiny pebbles that extends elegantly out to sea, earning it the name ‘golden cape’. Situated on the island of Brač, it’s connected to the petite town of Bol by a shady pine-lined promenade, dotted with stands touting a wide variety of activities, including windsurfing, parasailing, diving, kayaking, mountain biking and boat excursions.
Best for sand and swims: Prapratno
Many of Croatia’s sandy beaches are so painfully shallow that you need to wade out for ages to get a decent swim, but not Prapratno. It occupies a sheltered bay at the start of the Pelješac Peninsula, near where the ferries leave for the island of Korčula. Amazingly, it’s not overly developed. There’s a campground with a shop and a restaurant right by the beach, and some holiday-apartment blocks scattered around, but that’s about it. Only 4km away, the small town of Ston is famous for both its seafood restaurants and its remarkable 5.5km-long 14th-century walls.
Best for young kids: Paradise Beach
In contrast to Prapratno, this large sandy bay flanking the village of Lopar on the island of Rab is extremely shallow. It’s gorgeous, though, and your kids will happily exhaust themselves racing between their sandcastles and the warm, almost bath-like waters, while you gaze on from your recliner. Lopar is a sleepy place in the off-season but come summer, the park lining the beach is dotted with gelato stands, beach cafes and kiosks selling kids' beach essentials.
Best for boaters: Stiniva
The island of Vis is the farthest-flung of the main Dalmatian islands. It’s a magical place, with only a couple of small towns, a sparsely populated interior and a shoreline indented with isolated coves. The most strikingly beautiful of them is Stiniva, surrounded by a near-circle of rocky cliffs, with only a narrow opening to the sea. It can be reached by an extremely rough track leading down from a remote backroad, but it’s much easier to get here by boat. Yachts moor beyond the opening and their passengers swim through to the sheltered white-pebble beach where a lone cafe serves cold drinks, snacks and ice creams to the determined souls who make it here. If you left the yacht at home, it’s possible to catch a taxi boat from the nearby village of Rukavac.
Best for clubbers: Zrće Beach
The polar opposite of Stiniva, Zrće Beach is large, easy-to-access, amped up and offers little shade. But if you’re under 30 and rocking a bikini or boardshorts bod, this is absolutely the place to be. In recent years, Zrće’s beachfront clubs have taken up residency on DJ Mag’s prestigious annual Top 100 Clubs list. From June to September the ‘Ibiza of Croatia’ fires up, with festivals, themed party weekends and guest slots from superstar DJs. You’ll find the beach near the town of Novalja on the sun-scorched island of Pag, which is joined to the northern Dalmatian mainland by a bridge.
Best for respite between drinks: Dubovica
Zrće attracts the clubby crowd, but Hvar Town, on the island of the same name, has a long-held reputation as Croatia’s fun-loving party town. Sundowners by the beach quickly transition into boozy, dance-on-table evenings in tightly-packed bars in the elegant old town centre. Daytime is recovery time and our favourite spot for lazy days is Dubovica, a tiny cove of dazzling white pebbles and iridescent waters 10km east of town. It’s reached by a stony path leading down from the highway, or you can catch a taxi boat here from Hvar Town.
Best for nature: Cape Kamenjak
This wild peninsula stretches out from the southern tip of Istria, Croatia’s northernmost region. Mediterranean shrubs, fragrant herbs, fruit trees and wildflowers blanket the low hills, while all around its perimeter are rocky shelves stepping down to the water. There are few beaches per se, but part of the appeal is finding a secluded perch to call your own.
Best for naturists: Sahara Beach
Naturism has a long and venerable history in Croatia; Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson famously got their kit off on Rab Island in 1936 while Edward was still the British king. There are clothing-optional beaches all over Croatia, many on rocky headlands abutting popular beaches. Sahara Beach on Rab has the advantage of being quite lovely in its own right. This large sandy horseshoe is a half-hour hike from Lopar, giving it a degree of isolation while still being easily accessible. The major disadvantage is that the entire bay is extremely shallow; you’ll walk for what seems like an eternity to cover even your knees, let alone anything else. On the bright side, the shallow water warms up quickly and you could easily lie about in it for hours.
Best for shady pines: Punta Rata
The coastline around Brela, on the stretch of the Dalmatian mainland known as the Makarska Riviera, is comprised of a succession of pretty, pebbly beaches backed by pine forests. This 300m stretch is popular with local families, the trees providing a welcome respite from the scorching summer sun.
Best for seclusion and a post-swim workout: Lubenice
Lubenice is a stony hamlet perched 378m up a ridge in a remote section of the island of Cres. At its base is a pebbly beach, accessible by a path from the village. The 45-minute walk down to the water is a breeze and, once you get there, the often-deserted beach is a delight; the walk back to the top, rather less enjoyable.
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