Best beaches in Croatia: our faves from over 2500 miles of coastline and more than a thousand islands

Aerial photograph of famous Zlatni Rat beach in Bol, Brac Island
Zlatni Rat is the most famous beach in Croatia © Simone Simone / Getty Images

That enviably long coastline that nips in and out of the Adriatic is one of Croatia’s chief beauties. Add to this more than 1000 islands and you have an extraordinary choice for a beach holiday. You’ll find sweeping stretches of fine pebbles, tiny rocky coves and big sandy expanses to go with grassy riverbanks converted to family beaches and pretty much everything in between.

Like surfing, kite-surfing and windsurfing? There’s a beach for all of these things, not to mention some of the most throbbing waterside nightclubs in the Mediterranean.

Croatians are adept at turning anything near water into somewhere to swim; hence all those rough-hewn steps and railings cut into rocks you’ll see in countless Adriatic coastal villages. But if you want sophistication, you’ll find it in swanky beach clubs and upmarket beachfront hotels. Just don’t forget to bring some swimming shoes – most Croatian beaches are pebbly or rocky, not sandy.


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Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape), Bol

Best beach for your Instagram status

That sinuous V of fine white pebbles topped with pine trees and flanked by turquoise waters is one of the most enduring images of Croatia’s Adriatic coast. Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape) dangles from Brač’s southern coast, constantly changing its shape in tune with the currents and winds. It’s this wind that makes it one of Croatia’s top spots for windsurfing. Just follow the shaded path past the inflatable aquapark along to Bol next door to get yourself kitted out. Or hang around Zlatni Rat’s endearing combination of swish cocktail bars and rustic beach shacks.

Turquoise sea of Hvar island, Franciscian monastery view in Dalmatia, Croatia
The turquoise sea provides a welcome respite from the hedonistic diversions of Hvar island © xbrchx / Shutterstock

Dubovica, Hvar

Best beach for a respite between drinks

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. Daytime is recovery time, and our favorite spot for lazy days is Dubovica, a tiny cove of dazzling white pebbles and iridescent waters 6 miles (10km) east of town. It’s reached by a stony path leading down from the highway, or you can catch a taxi boat from Hvar Town.

Sveti Jakov, Dubrovnik

Best beach to escape busy Dubrovnik

You’ll have at least a 20-minute walk from the Old Town and a hike down – and back up – 160 stone steps, but Sveti Jakov gives you some breathing space from the busyness of Dubrovnik’s main beach. And you get sublime views of the walled Old Town, which are even more spectacular as the sun goes down. Secluded it might be, but you can still rent sunbeds and umbrellas and grab a bite at the beachside bar.

Aerial view of Stiniva Beach, Croatia
Stiniva's setting is like something from a smuggler's tale © SimonSkafar / Getty Images

Stiniva, Vis

Best beach for boaters

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.

Plaža Ušće (Delta Beach), Neretva Delta

Best for kitesurfing and windsurfing

Kitesurfers and windsurfers – you’ve found one of the best beaches in Croatia to fly across the sands and waves of Plaža Ušće. Delta Beach, as it’s known in English, is the wide sandy expanse that hugs the delta of the Neretva River as it empties into the Adriatic. Gaze at the beautiful mountains of the Pelješac peninsula in front of you as you flop on the sands and order a cold drink in the simple little beach bar.

Partying at Hideout Festival on Zrće Beach
Partying at Hideout Festival on Zrće Beach © Hideout Festival

Zrće Beach, Pag

Best beach for clubbers

Zrće Beach is large, easy to access, amped up and offers little shade. If you’re under 30 and ready to party, 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.

Šunj, Lopud

Best for a car-free step back in time

One of Croatia’s loveliest sandy beaches is a dreamy day trip from Dubrovnik by boat to this chilled-out island in the Elaphiti archipelago. Once you set foot on Lopud, you’ll understand why Renaissance nobles from Dubrovnik built their summer palaces on this car-free island. Walk from the main port through the pine woods to the wide sandy beach at Šunj, where you can set yourself up for the day on the soft sands or on a shaded sunbed. There’s a simple restaurant too, and if you can’t face the 25-minute walk from the harbor, hire one of the golf cart taxis to take you there.

Stračinska, Šolta

Best for quiet swimming and snorkeling

Šolta is so close to Split, but it seems to slip under people’s radar in the headlong rush to reach Hvar and Brač. But this wonderfully laid-back island has a deeply indented coastline sheltering tiny beaches, including the pebbly cove at Stračinska Bay. It’s a peaceful spot, lined with fragrant pine trees rocky shores – and that’s about it. No bar, just sparkling blue-green waters perfect for lazy swims and snorkeling.

Rocky cove on Cape Kamenjak
One of Cape Kamenjak's rocky coves © jlazouphoto / Getty Images

Cape Kamenjak, Istria

Best beach for nature

The wild Cape Kamenjak 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.

Sahara Beach, Rab Island

Best beach for naturists

Naturism has a long and venerable history in Croatia. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson famously stripped down 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 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 in it for hours.

Families enjoy the dappled sunshine on Punta Rata
Families enjoy the dappled sunshine on Punta Rata © Jorg Greuel / Getty Images

Punta Rata, Brela

Best beach for relaxing in the shade

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 1000-ft (300m) stretch is popular with local families, the trees providing a welcome respite from the scorching summer sun.

Baška Voda, Makarska

Best for families

It’s hard to beat the impressive backdrop of the Biokovo mountains looming over the beaches at Baška Voda on the Makarska Riviera. Start with the long stretch of pebbles covering Blue Flag Nikolina Beach before heading to the smaller Oseka Beach further south, where there’s a children’s playground. If you’re in the mood for something livelier, carry on down to Makarska where Buba Bar on Biloševac Beach keeps the party going all day and night.

Lubenice Beach, Croatia
It's a pleasant walk down to Lubenice Beach, but getting back up is another matter © GoranStimac / Getty Images

Lubenice, Cres

Best beach for seclusion and a post-swim workout

Lubenice is a stony hamlet perched 1240 feet (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, however, is rather less enjoyable.

Čikat Bay, Lošinj

Best for lush green vegetation

You’ll feel a delicious headiness in Lošinj as you drink in the scents of the incredible profusion of wild herbs growing on this island in the Kvarner Gulf. Walk or cycle along the footpaths lining Čikat Bay and you’ll immediately see why Habsburg emperors came here to get healthy. Take your pick from all of the pebbly beaches, big and small, tucked into this deeply indented bay fringed with pine trees and lined with smart hotels and nicely scruffy beach bars. 

This article was first published on August 15, 2017 and updated on May 26, 2022

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