With a glorious 1,120-mile mainland coast, plus countless pine-scented islands and rocky islets, Croatia is a superb destination for lovers of sea and sunshine. Beaches range from long swathes of fine pebble, complete with sunbeds and watersports facilities, to tiny hidden coves where you can escape the modern world and realign with the elements. The turquoise Adriatic is warm enough for bathing from June through September, and more serious swimmers extend the season from April through October. So roll up your beach towel, pack your sunscreen – and keep an eye out for dolphins.
Banje beach, Dubrovnik: for glamour against a historic backdrop
Croatia’s most Instagrammable seaside venue, Banje beach lies immediately outside Dubrovnik’s magnificent medieval city walls. By day, tanned tourists in designer swimwear sip cocktails below big white parasols or water ski and parasail on the sparkling Adriatic. After dark, when Dubrovnik’s fortifications are bathed in floodlighting and the beach lit by flickering torches, a party mood sets in with DJs and dancing by the water’s edge.
Šunj beach, island of Lopud: for a laid-back island escape
Looking to escape the hustle and bustle? Then hop on a Jadrolinija ferry from Dubrovnik to the tiny car-free islet of Lopud (population 245). A 20-minute hike (or short golf-buggy ride) from Lopud’s palm-lined seafront promenade brings you to Šunj. One of Croatia’s rare sandy beaches, it sits in a sheltered bay with warm shallow sea (you can wade out 100 metres and it’s still only knee-deep), and is backed by several makeshift summer beach bars. Before leaving Lopud, art lovers might look in Your Black Horizon – a pavilion by Olafur Eliasson and David Adjaye, originally exhibited at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
Trstenica beach, Orebić, Pelješac peninsula: for fuss-free, family fun
On Pelješac’s sun-soaked south coast – famed for the steep terraced vineyards that produce velvety red dingač – is the port town of Orebić, a cheerful spot for a low-key beach holiday. East of the town, Trstenica is a half-mile-long fine pebble beach backed by pines and a campsite. Laid-back and unpretentious, Trstenica beach offers jetskis, banana-boat rides and an inflatable green-and-yellow acquapark, as well as views of the island of Korčula – which is just a 10-minute shuttle boat ride away.
Punta Rata, Brela, Makarska Riviera: for old-fashioned charm and relaxation
The 37-mile-long Makarska Riviera offers a succession of lovely beaches. In Brela, a waterside promenade leads to Punta rata, where towering Aleppo pines provide long shadows – so you can lie with your head in the shade, and body in the sun. Behind Brela, the rugged Mount Biokovo is crisscrossed by marked trails for hiking and mountain biking, while the glass-floored cantilevered Biokovo Skywalk (opened in 2020) affords head-spinning views of the Brač and Hvar islands rising into the horizon.
Zlatni Rat, Bol, island of Brač: for windsurfing and adventure sports
Croatia’s most photographed beach, Zlatni Rat is an exceptional natural phenomenon – a 450-metre-long fine pebble spit jutting out into the sea, perpendicular to the coast. Lined by sunbeds and umbrellas, it’s connected to the tiny village of Bol by a handsome pine-shaded waterside promenade. Along the way you’ll pass Borak beach, where Big Blue offers windsurfing courses and scuba-diving. Behind Bol rises Vidova Gora, the highest peak on the Croatian islands; hike or cycle (e-bikes available) to the top for panoramic views over the glistening Adriatic.
Beach Club Hvar, Hvar Town, island of Hvar: for hedonistic luxury and pampering
In trendy Hvar Town, Beach Club Hvar sits in a secluded bay rimmed by a 1920s’ white stone colonnade and wooden decks built over the water, with private cabanas shaded by white chiffon drapes. Here you might indulge in a “summer breeze massage”, or lunch on a “sexy salad” (including lobster, shrimp, crab, avocado and mango). And if you really feel like splashing out, you can even buy chic Croatian-designed beachwear by More (pronounced mor-ray, meaning sea). Booking is essential.
Zrće, Novalja, island of Pag: for party people and music festivals
Attracting tens of thousands of partygoers each summer, Zrće is a sweeping pebble beach with five clubs working day and night. With phenomenal sound and light systems, Kalypso, Euphoria, Nomad, Papaya and Aquarius (proclaimed the 17th best club in the world by DJ Mag in 2021), host electronic music festivals and world-class DJs. The biggest event is the five-day Sonus festival in August. Dance the night away, then see in the new day with a swim as the sun rises over Velebit mountains on the mainland.
Paradise beach, Lopar peninsula, island of Rab: for a sandy surprise
Most Croatian beaches are of pebble and rock, but Rab’s north coast is an exception. Here on Lopar peninsula, Paradise beach is a mile-long sandy crescent, ideal for families, with beach volley, banana-boat rides and Aquagen water slides. In contrast, on the other side of Lopar you’ll find a succession of peaceful sandy coves. Several are reserved for nudists (marked FKK from the German Freikörperkultur), the best known being Sahara. These beaches are without facilities, so bring your own water and a parasol.
Mala Kolombarica, Premantura peninsula, Pula: for romantic views – and adventure
Lying south of Pula, Premantura peninsula is contained within the Kamenjak nature park, concealing fragrant pinewoods and pebble coves. At Cape Kamenjak on the southern tip, an expanse of smooth flat rocks affords wide views over the sea into a seemingly endless horizon. Here you can swim and sunbathe, test your courage by leaping into the sea from rocks of up to 11 metres high, or explore the surrounding coast by sea kayak with Istra Kayak. Whether you spend the day horizontal or have an adrenaline adventure, grab a tropical refreshment at the Safari beach bar, immersed in bamboo and palm fronds.
Discover the true beauty and diversity of Croatia for yourself this summer. To plan your perfect Croatian holiday, head to croatia.hr/en-gb/nature