Cost: £ – very reasonable when there
Rating: 10/10 – you’ve got to go
I’ve been to Croatia twice in the last few years and honestly couldn’t recommend it more. The places we visited were: Split, Krka National Park, Trogir, Brac (Bol), Korcula, Dubrovnik, Hvar & Vis – I’ll cover them all below.
*DISCLAIMER* this is not really a mini break – I’d recommend 2 weeks if you’d like to see a couple of the islands (the first time we went for 3 weeks which is how we saw so much!)
Flights (from London to Split) I remember were around £200. Had a quick look on SkyScanner and for next summer they range from £200-£300 without hold luggage.
The first time we went we didn’t actually pre-book anything. Very unlike me but it worked well. Apartment owners would wait for the boats to arrive at the islands and you’d negotiate a price from the pics they showed you. We paid around £15 per night each.
The second time we moved around less so used booking.com. These apartments were slightly more expensive (£20-£25 each per night) but a lot nicer than the ones we stayed in the first time.
Of course, if you’ve got the cash you could stay somewhere a lot more expensive but I’d suggest an apartment / house rather than a hotel. Obviously AirBnb is a winner with booking great places.
The main thing I’d recommend is that you stay walking distance from all the action!
The currency is Croatian Kuna. £1 is around 8.5 Kuna so £10 is about 85 Kuna.
When you’re in Croatia everything is very reasonable (ice creams – the most important thing – are 9 Kuna / just over £1!!)
You can get the bus from directly outside the airport to Split waterfront for the equivalent of about £5. Had a quick look online and you can book private transfers for around £25 if you prefer.
Other than that, we pretty much walked, got boats between islands (super cheap) and the occasional coach for daytrips.
What we did…
1 – Split
We originally thought Split was a base for boat transfers but it’s actually really gorgeous in itself. I didn’t take too many photos which do it justice but it has a beautiful Old Town with plenty of bars and restaurants and it’s very buzzy!
It has a lovely promenade – if you walk the length of it and a little further you’ll find some steps up to a restaurant and lookout point which gives you a great view of the whole of Split.
You HAVE to go to Restaurant Fife!!! This was recommended to us by a local on the day we arrived. The fish is so fresh and it’s incredibly reasonable – 2 whole sea-bass / a mound of calamari is around 70 Kuna / £8.50. Anyone I’ve told about it has absolutely loved it!!!
2 – Krka National Park
This is a must see / do! You can buy day-trip tickets from the kiosks along the waterfront in Split / you can book packages online. It’s roughly the equivalent of £50 per person but definitely worth it.
It’s a 2 hour(ish) drive there but you stop off on the way at a pretty little Croatian town called Trogir which is on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List. It was built on the site of an ancient Greek settlement and is full of history. You get a short guided tour of it included in the price of some packages.
When you finally arrive at the national park you will be stunned. The water is crystal clear, Skradinski Buk waterfall is magnificent and you can swim right by it. The water is shallow and rocky though so as uncool and unInstagrammable as it is, I’d suggest you take some little water shoes for maximum enjoyment.
There are a couple of restaurants and food stands there and you’re given plenty of time (a few hours) to explore, swim and eat before jumping back on the coach to Split.
3 – Brac (Bol)
We got a boat from Split ferry port which took less than an hour and cost next to nothing (online it’s saying 33 Kuna which is less than £4). In high season boats run very regularly – you can check the timetable here.
We then jumped in a taxi from the ferry terminal to Bol. We stayed in 2 different apartments here because we didn’t book in advance and there was limited availability as it’s not a particularly big place. Both had gorgeous views from the balcony.
Bol is most famous for its beach (Zlanti Rat) which sticks out into the sea like a tongue! It’s a pebble beach – no sandy beaches in Croatia I’m afraid – so bring a padded mat to sunbathe on (they sell them in Croatian supermarkets if you can’t fit in your suitcase).
There are lots of swanky bars / restaurants along the beach which have chilled beach party vibes all day.
Away from the beach we went to an outdoor bar called Varadero which became very lively / clubby as the night went on. Click for other TimeOut suggested bars / clubs in the area.
4 – Korcula
There weren’t direct boats from Brac so we went back to Split (1 hour) then from Split to Korcula (3 hours) – 80 Kuna / £9.50. Looking online it seems we didn’t think through the order we visited the islands (as the Korcula boat goes via Hvar) but I think it’s because we were meeting others in the last week who didn’t want to island hop so much.
As you can see, Korcula Town is stunning. It’s called ‘Little Dubrovnik’ because of the medieval squares, churches and houses, and a little fun fact – it’s the birthplace of Marco Polo!
It’s full of restaurants / cafes & the food is fresh, delicious and reasonably priced. There are lots of restaurants along the waterfront – we tried a few and all were very good.
Whilst there are no beaches by Korcula town itself, there is one just a short bus ride away. I can’t remember exact details but it would’ve only been the equivalent of a couple of pounds & you can ask for details in the information kiosk.
5 – Dubrovnik
A lot of people head straight to Dubrovnik when visiting Croatia as it’s famous (especially since Game of Thrones was filmed there), but it was probably my least favourite place. Perhaps that’s because we only went on a day-trip from Korcula so didn’t get a chance to properly explore. I can’t find the day trip we went on online but it was organised by the travel kiosk in Korcula and would have cost no more than £30 per person for the return coach and ferry to Dubrovnik.
The Old Town is really beautiful – an UNESCO world heritage site with massive 16th Century stone walls surrounding it (one of the top attractions is to walk along the city walls).
It’s pedestrian only and full of cute little side streets and walk ways with shops / restaurants inside. The cost to eat / drink in Dubrovnik is considerably more than the other places we visited and I would imagine acommodation would be far more expensive too.
6 – Hvar
Hvar is definitely the party place in Croatia and the island we spent most time on. You can get the ferry from Korcula to Hvar (1 hour 15 long) for around 90 Kuna (£11) / if you’re going straight to Hvar from the airport you can get the Split to Hvar ferry (1 hour long) for 60 Kuna (£7).
In Hvar make sure you’re staying near all the action as you’ll want to walk everywhere – getting taxis would be a pain!
Hula Hula beach bar
It’s the place to be both during the day and into the evening. Comfy sunbeds are built into the rocks and you can have one for the day for around 100 Kuna (£12) – it’s worth it but make sure you don’t arrive too late in the day or else you’ll struggle to get sunbeds next to each other.
Music plays all day and it has a really chilled, young, beach party feel.
Sunset parties at Hula Hula are the best! Staying in your bikini and beach dress is fine as it’s super casual and everyone looks salty and sun kissed! You see an amazing sunset and dance into the night.
*TOP TIP* – drinks and food are expensive in comparison to the majority of places you’ll be used to in Croatia. There is a place which sells pizza by the slice and beer for half the price just a 1 minute walk away so stock up! OR buy gin / vodka and tonic / lemonade from the supermarket (it’s ridiculously cheap) and put in water bottles. As long as it’s clear, the staff will think it’s water and you can get drunk for a quarter of the cost!
Other places to sunbathe
As mentioned, Croatia isn’t particularly beachy so if you’re not at Hula Hula you have to find a spot to sunbathe. There are lots of little areas by the water / if you walk along the front you’ll get to a mini beach which is opposite a little island with a house on it. This is perfect if you don’t want to pay for a sun-bed everyday and there are some delicious, cheap restaurants behind the beach. We actually stayed in apartments in the hills close by.
The water really is stunning and crystal clear wherever you go but watch out for sea urchins!!!
There are lots of small islands near to Hvar which you can make your way to but I would recommend a trip over driving yourself. We thought it was a good idea to hire the cheapest boat we could find for the day – it wasn’t! If you’re hiring a boat, pay the extra. Make sure it has an engine capable of beating the waves and double check it has enough life jackets onboard for all of you!
After a 15 minute walk up the hillside you reach a stunning view point.
Croatia honestly has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Everything is so fresh and there are so many places to choose from as everywhere seems to be good.
The 2 top places I’d suggest in Hvar are:
Dalmatio – I still dream about the prawn and truffle gnocchi I ate there. You have to book in advance as it’s very popular and only tiny (down a little side street).
San Marco Terrace at the Palace Hotel – a little more upmarket but on a gorgeous terrace with beautiful views. The fish platter / risotto is amazing and not too expensive considering what you’re getting.
If you’re on a budget and have a kitchen in your apartment, grab some ingredients from a supermarket, cook up a storm and enjoy.
We usually bought breakfast (fruit / yogurt / bread / Nutella) & lunch from supermarkets to keep our costs down.
Hvar is great for going out! Other than Hula Hula, I would recommend going to Carpe Diem which really gets going at about 10pm and after midnight boats take you to Carpe Diem the island which is a 10 min boat ride. It is incredible – literally a party island! Best to go on a Fri / Sat when it’s busiest. Drinks are quite expensive so make sure you pre-drink and you’ll be good to party all night.
7 – Vis
It was less than an hour ferry from Hvar to Vis & 40 Kuna (£5) but they only run once a day at around 4.30pm (getting you to Vis in the early evening). We found this to be a slight problem as we were relying on people with apartments to be waiting for us when we got off the boat… but there weren’t & we had to walk from place to place to see if there was any room at the inn. 4 of us shared a bed on the first night!! The next day we were told Komiza on the other side of the island was the best place to stay.
We went to an absolutely incredible beach party at Aquarius Club which ended up being an unexpected highlight of the holiday!
Other than that, we didn’t have too much time to spend exploring Vis but from what we saw it’s really beautiful and definitely worth a visit if you have the time.
2 other things…
The ice cream is unbelievable and you should eat as much of it as possible!
Make sure you get to the top of the ferry when you’re travelling between islands because that’s when you’ll be able to take in some of the most beautiful views – especially if you’re travelling at sunset.
I can’t really do a round up of costs but Croatia is cheap. You can get accomodation for £15 a night but if you want somewhere nicer you could pay considerably more. If you’re just drinking / eating in the nicest places then it will cost you a bit, but if you’re happy pre-drinking and getting breakfast / lunch from supermarkets then you’ll save yourself a lot!
As I think you can see, Croatia is incredible!!! It doesn’t feel too touristy at all – a hidden gem which you should visit. I would definitely recommend it and will certainly go back one day.