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Beach holidays in Croatia: Idyllic islands and turquoise waters

Croatia has become a tourist hotspot over the last few years and it’s not hard to see why. Endless beaches, bays and islands along with crystal clear waters make it a perfect place for a holiday relaxing on the beach. Fresh seafood and bustling cities like Dubrovnik to explore are the icing on the cake.

The Croatian coast hugs the Adriatic sea and flows from Istria in the North all the way down to Dubrovnik in the South. The Dalmatian coast, which takes in popular destinations like Split and Zadar, is a tourist hotspot and has many beautiful beaches. July and August are the busiest months but June and September have great weather and you can avoid the crowds a little.

The Croatian coast: where to go & what to do

If it’s sun and sand you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with most parts of Croatia. Starting in the North is Istria. You’ll find old Roman towns and ruins in many of the area’s towns and villages, like Poreč and Pula, the largest city in the area. The coast of Istria is 540km long and has a number of beaches and small hidden coves.

We love the Hawaiian beach Verudela, which has plenty of restaurants and sporting activities. The stone beach is easily reached by car or bus from Pula. A family favourite is Sipar. The turquoise water is some of the clearest in the area and it's particularly family friendly. Set in the quieter Moscenice Draga region on the east coast, Sipar does get busier in July and August, but at 600m long retains a relaxed feel. 

Despite the beauty of Istria, it’s Dalmatia that most tourists head to. Zadar is the region’s largest city and has hundreds of islands just off the coast. One of the most popular is Pag. Known for its beautiful beaches, like Ručica and Babe, Pag is also a hotspot for partygoers, so it’s perhaps not the best destination if you have kids with you.

Split is the second largest city in the region and its Roman architecture is worth a trip itself. But if it’s the ocean you’re looking for then Makarska Riviera or Brač island are popular choices. The beautiful town of Hvar can be reached by boat from Split. There’s plenty to do, with artistic and cultural events taking place throughout the summer. There are also plenty of beautiful, mostly pebbled beaches a short drive away. Malo Zarace, Dubovica and Pokonji dol beach are just some of the nearby options.

The coast of Istria
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A family on pedal boats in the sea near Dubrovnik
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Dubrovnik is without doubt the most popular destination in Croatia. Dubrovnik is perhaps best known as a city break destination but there are also plenty of nearby beaches and islands for relaxing. Adventurers and families are attracted to the beaches near Dubrovnik thanks to the heaps of activities on offer. Kayaking, diving and snorkelling are all possible here for both beginners and experts. From deserted coves to large stretches of coastline, you’ll find it all closeby. 

Flights from the UK head to Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik and many budget airlines serve these destinations. Prices will go up in the high season, but you can definitely get a bargain if you don't fly in peak season. All of these places make a great base but you'll obviously need to take a boat to reach the islands. But with many beaches nearby or next to the towns, you shouldn't struggle getting around. Taxis are affordable, while there are usually many buses that stop of at popular beaches. If you rent a car, the drive along the Dalmatian coast makes for a beautiful and excellent adventure itself. 

Most spots are easily accessible and have shallow water, meaning Croatia is a great beach destination for families with kids. Just make sure to avoid the party destinations, like Pag and Zadar. Accommodation ranges from hotels and villas to camping sites that are often located right nearby. If you have a car, you can save money by renting somewhere outside of the centre of the towns. 

Croatia's location makes it a wonderful base to discover countries in the Mediterranean, the Balkans or even central Europe. The northern border is with Slovenia, while there are also borders with Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. You could even take a boat across to the east coast of Italy and explore Puglia or fly to Greece for more Mediterranean delights

The most beautiful beaches in Croatia

Still not sure which part of Croatia to travel to for your vacation by the sea? Maybe our list of the best swimming spots in Croatia will help. Below we’ve listed our picks for the country’s most beautiful beaches near Split and Dubrovnik, as well as a select few with sand instead of pebbles.

6 of the best sandy beaches in Croatia

Aerial shot of Lopud island in Croatia
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1. Sunj, Lopud

West of Dubrovnik is the island of Lopud and Sunj beach. The sand stretches for about 1km and shallow water extends a long way. The serenity of the beach extends across Lopud thanks to the island being traffic free. Bikes and electric vehicles can take you to there and back on this oasis island of calm.

2. Prapratno, Prapratno Bay

Close to the small town of Ston is the Prapratno beach and bay. Olive and pine trees surround the bay, which can easily be reached by bus. The white sand, green trees and crystal clear water provide an idyllic view. If you fancy something a bit different in terms of accommodation there’s a campsite nearby. If you’re staying in Dubrovnik, Prapratno is about an hour’s drive away.

3. Saplunara, Mljet

A national park covers almost one third of the island of Mljet and is great for hiking. But on the south side you’ll find one of Croatia’s most stunning sand beaches, Saplunara beach. It's almost 2km long and is shaped like a half moon. Take a day trip to Mljet from Dubrovnik which takes under 2 hours from the Gruž port.

4. Sakarun, Dugi Otok

A picture perfect cove and pure white sand, Sakarun looks straight out of the Caribbean. It’s located on the island of Dugi Otok which is close to Zadar, 1.5 hours away by boat. The sea is turquoise and the 800m stretch of sand is particularly popular with families. 

5. Mlaska, Hvar

Hvar has many stunning beaches and this might be its best sandy one. Situated on the north of the island and next to a pine forest, this is as idyllic as they come. The bay also has a camping ground for those who want to stay outdoors. The water is shallow for hundreds of metres and there are water sports available, so this is a great place for all!  

6. Jagodna, Sveta Nedalja

Another one located on Hvar is Jagodna. It's much less known and much smaller however! In fact, it's really a small cove and it is tricky to reach. Head there in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset at the dramatic backdrop of orange cliffs and sloping forest.

The best beaches in Dubrovnik

Sveti Jakov beach in Croatia
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Sveti Jakov

Just a short bus ride - take the number 5 or 8 - or even a 20 minute walk away from the centre of Dubrovnik is Sveti Jakov. The spot is relatively quiet despite its proximity to the city. Locals like to gather here and enjoy the view of Dubrovnik old town in the background. There’s a restaurant and bar so it’s easy to stay the whole day. And we totally recommend doing so! Sunsets are particularly magnificent here. There are a number of stairs to climb up and down to reach the shore. If this is a problem, there are boats that depart from the old town.

Aerial shot of Banje beach in Dubrovnik
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Banje 

Banje might not be Dubrovnik’s most beautiful beach but it is its most popular one. That’s because it’s right next to the Old Town. The location means it gets busy but it’s so practical that we had to include it on our list. The central location also means there’s plenty of food and activities available. There are multiple restaurants, a bar and other refreshment options. The ground is pebbled and great for any occasion, even if you just want to relax.

Lapad 

Lapad is our pick for families. There are showers, the water is shallow and there are even lifeguards keeping an eye on things. That allows the parents to take it easy. There are nearby resorts and Lapad is easily accessible.

Pasjača 

Pasjača was recently voted the best beach in Europe. It’s small, but the location outside of town means it doesn’t get too busy. The pebbles back up onto dramatic cliffs creating a wonderful setting. There are no real amenities, so bring supplies and enjoy a swim in this unique scenery. 

Sulic 

Sulic is a must visit for Game of Thrones fans as it is outside the Lovrjenac fort which was used to portray King’s Landing. The small beach is pebble and just 5 minutes away from the Old Town. It is much quieter than Banje though, which makes it a great choice. Grab a drink from the bar and enjoy the beautiful water and view.

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The best beaches in Split

An aerial view of the Zlatni Rat beach
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Zlatni Rat

Zlatni Rat is not technically in Split at all but we had to include it in our list. A short ferry ride away from Split is the island of Brač and Zlatni Rat. The beautiful white pebbles are so soft that they look and feel just like sand. Zlatni Rat translates as golden horn and describes the distinctive shape of the beach, which sticks out into the Adriatic Sea. The water is clear and usually cool and a westerly wind that usually appears in the afternoon often brings windsurfers. There's a pine grove behind while there are some small coves on the west side. But be warned - clothing is optional at these spots! Zlatni Rat is easily accessible by the nearby town of Bol but you can also get a taxi from the ferry port on the island. From Split, take the ferry either to Supetar or Sumartin. 

Kasjuni beach in Split
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Kašjuni

About 2.5km from the centre of Split is Kašjuni. The location on the Marjan peninsula means there’s plenty of lush green forests surrounding the shore which gives it a bit more privacy than the more central ones in Split. It’s also not as busy as other swimming spots in the area. There’s a restaurant and shower but we’d recommend bringing an umbrella, as spots under the natural shade of the trees is limited. There are a number of lush beach spots on the Marjan coast. Kaštelet is anther popular spot while Bene is a hidden gem that comes out of the pine forest on the northwestern side. 

Bacvice beach

Not necessarly the most beautiful spot, Bacvice is still the most visited beach in Split as it is right next to the Old Town. The bars are lively and the shore is sandy. Bacvice gets packed in the summer, especially at night, when there are music playing and cocktails served from the many bars. 

Ovcice beach

A family-friendly option that’s also still very close to town, Ovcice is a little further east than Bacvice. There’s a small bar and restaurant while you can park nearby in the forest. The water is clear and the ground pebbled, while there’s an activities area for kids. 

Jezinac Bay

A pebble and rock beach with three small coves, Jezinac is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the calm waters. It’s rarely busy here, especially compared to the other beaches on our list.