Croatia is easily one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, thanks in large part to its spectacular location along the Adriatic Sea. With 1,104 miles of coastline -- plus more than 1,200 islands and islets -- there are plenty of beaches to visit, from large stretches of sand situated next to ancient walled cities to hidden pebbly gems that require a boat or hiking path to reach. Speaking of pebbles, Croatia's beaches tend to be on the rockier side. Although often irksome to bare feet, these pebbles actually perform an important task of keeping the bright blue water crystal clear. All this to say, no matter where you travel in Croatia, a fantastic beach is never far away. Read on to discover some of our favorites.
1. Zlatni Rat, Brač
Located on the island of Brač, near the city of Split, Zlatni Rat is one of Croatia's most sought-after beaches. Called Golden Cape or Golden Horn, this stunning peninsula juts out from the sea and is constantly changing shape due to prevailing winds and sea currents. While the interior is loaded with pine trees, the beach is created by deposits of fine pebbles from an underwater reef. Choose your side: The windy side is more suitable for water sports like surfing and kiteboarding, while the other end is much calmer for relaxed swims in the shallow waters. The latter unsurprisingly attracts the bulk of tourists. To get here, take a boat from the town of Bol or walk along the sea.
Brač Hotel Pick:
2. Sunj Beach, Lopud
An excellent day trip from Dubrovnik, this secluded, crescent-shaped beach on the car-free island of Lopud is reachable only by ferry from the mainland (less than an hour). Upon arriving, take the hiking path past ruined medieval castles, monasteries, and forts (all worth exploring) until you find Sunj, a beach with soft white sand (a rarity) and blue-green waters that beckon on a hot day. Bring snacks along for the adventure, or visit the few casual restaurants; sun loungers and umbrellas are also available to rent.
Lopud Hotel Pick:
3. Mali Bok, Cres Island
The island of Cres is known for its idyllic hidden beaches that are accessible only by foot -- and this protected area is no exception. Outside the village of Orlec, you'll find this small pebble beach, which is made even more photogenic by limestone cliffs and stunning blue water -- not to mention rare bird species who like to nest here. Make sure to wear some solid walking shoes: Due to the remote location, there's a steep, rocky descent to the beach. Once there, you'll find a cool crowd of locals, in-the-know travelers, snorkelers, and scuba divers (the sea gets deep quickly). Get there early for more peace and quiet, as boats tend to arrive and drop anchor in the afternoons during the summer. Also keep in mind that this forest-free beach offers no shade, nor facilities, so you'll want to bring everything you need for the day.
4. Punta Rata, Brela
An hour south of Split by car, the Makarska Riviera is home to some of the country's best pebble beaches. Punta Rata is a gentle cape loaded with pine trees, making it a family-friendly option with ample shade, lapping waves, and a range of facilities such as sun loungers, toilets, and showers. Visitors can also rent and ride bikes along the beach paths, which have views of Croatia’s second-highest mountain range (Biokovo). Tip: Make sure to snag a photo of the Brela Stone, an iconic symbol that's planted in the sea.
5. Cape Kamenjak, Istria
Located at the southernmost tip of Istria on the Prematura peninsula, Cape Kamenjak is a rugged, uninhabited area -- a peaceful respite from the crowded towns farther north. Taking a drive or bike ride through this protected national park is an excellent way to spend the day. There are numerous coves, caves, and beaches to explore, plus water sports, cliff jumping, marine life like dolphins and seals, and rare plants like tropical flowers, fruit trees, and wild herbs. Simply walk between the numerous beaches, then pick a spot to throw down your towel. Since there's a fee to enter the park, expect facilities and a few cafes for lunch.
Istria Hotel Pick:
6. Nugal Beach, Makarska Riviera
If the aforementioned Punta Rata on the Markarska Riviera is suited for families, this nearby beach between Makarska and Tučepi is an adult-themed alternative. In fact, this area of Croatia has numerous all-nude beaches and this is arguably one of the best. Situated at the bottom of a cliff, this spot can only be reached by walking about a half-hour on a stony path in a forest -- simply follow the hand-painted signs. If you’re comfortable wearing your birthday suit, this is the place to do it. If you’re shy, don’t worry, as the beach is surrounded by steep cliffs and pine forests offering plenty of shade and privacy. It's a peaceful, respectable environment. There are no restaurants or bars in the area, so bring your own food and drinks.
Makarska Hotel Pick:
7. Oprna Beach, Krk Island
Krk, one of the largest islands in Croatia, provides numerous beach options. In fact, there are more Blue Flag beaches on Krk than any other island in the country. It doesn't take long to find a spot to swim and sunbathe, but Oprna Beach, near the village of Baska, is undoubtedly one of the best as well as one of the hardest to access. The calm, clear, and shallow water here makes it a mecca for snorkelers and divers. Plus, its remote location means the beach remains quiet and relaxing throughout the peak summer months. Like many of the secluded beaches of Croatia, reaching Oprna requires traversing a narrow path, though that's part of the fun. If driving around the area, consider a boat trip to the 16th-century Franciscan monastery on Košljun, a minuscule island nearby.
Krk Hotel Pick:
8. Sveti Jakov Beach, Dubrovnik
"Game of Thrones" fans will want to put this beach on their list. Attracting mostly locals, this pebble beach is tucked away on the eastern part of Dubrovnik near the walls of King's Landing. What you'll get here is a quiet cove with pine trees for shade and calm waves for snorkeling and kayaking. To arrive, simply walk 30 minutes from city's Old Town or take the number 5 bus. Look for the Sv. Jakov church on top of the cliff, and just around the corner lies a staircase that leads to the shore. Down below is a restaurant and beach bar as well as umbrellas, kayak rentals, and -- most notably -- distant views of Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik Hotel Pick:
9. Sakarun Beach, Dugi Otok
Located on Dugi Otok island, Sakarun is one Croatia's loveliest, yet least-known, beaches. Getting here requires a boat trip from nearby Zadar. Upon arriving, you'll find golden sand and clear turquoise water with a roped-off swimming area, making it a solid family-friendly option. Wade in the shallow waters or walk around this sparsely inhabited island and explore one of the nearby villages on foot. There are also numerous pine forests, hidden bays, and coves worth exploring. During the summer months, Sakarun offers two beach bars that rent sun loungers and umbrellas.
10. Stiniva Beach, Vis
Another gloriously hidden beach on Vis island, Stiniva Beach can be reached with a boat ride from Rukavac or a walk down a narrow trail frequented by goats. What you'll find is a small white-pebble cove sheltered by towering cliffs. Inaccessibility is the key here. Vis is the farthest inhabited island from Croatia's mainland, and the small opening in the bay prevents large watercrafts from entering. Come early to snag space on the shore and see why this spot is often listed among the best beaches in Europe.
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