Sea caves, hidden coves, and midieval architecture are only a few of the highlights Southern Westeros—ahem—Croatia’s pristine beaches have to offer.
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There’s a reason why Game of Thrones—which, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is just as well-known for its epic backdrops as it is for its plot lines—has chosen Croatia as a filming location (for our ultimate GOT travel guide, click here). This diverse country has all the medieval charm that other temperate, European hotspots like Spain has to offer, but the real appeal is the country’s remarkable beaches: long coastlines, hidden coves, and islands surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. But with a country so full of strikingly beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, how does one choose which to visit? We’ve done the work for you, and rounded up the best beaches Croatia has to offer. Read on for our top picks, below. (And if you’re interested in learning more about traveling to the country, read here for a first hand account of a Croatian road trip.)
Zlatni Rat, Brač
This spit of land is often referred to as the Golden Cape and essentially forms one large beach, with a lush pine grove in the middle. Inside this grove you’ll find the remains of a Roman rustic villa, which makes for a nice, shady excursion. Regularly referred to as one of the top beaches in the world, Zlatni Rat forms a unique V shape and extends into the Adriatic Sea’s Hvar Channel. Nude sunbathing is allowed, so it’s a great option for those looking to get a taste of the real European style of beaching—or those who want to avoid tanlines. How to get there? Opt for a scenic ferry ride, which departs from many oft-frequented cities, like Split. While the island may sound remote, you can actually rent beach beds and umbrellas, and there are also low-key eateries and showers nearby. In case you needed another reason to go, there are a variety of water sports offered, which include jet skiing, wind surfing, kayaking, and more.
Kamenjak National Park, Premantura
South of the popular beachfront city of Pula lies the stunning Kamenjak National Park, which features a multitude of gorgeous beaches that make up this coastal playground. The idyllic park has an 18-mile shoreline full of hidden caves, coves, islands and inlets, all of which possess their own distinct charm. Most of the beaches are a short walk from one another and are unnamed, which basically makes the park one giant beach. But the real appeal here is the rocky cliffs that overlook the crystal clear waters, which are perfect for cliff jumping—a favored pastime for visitors to Kamenjak. Here, you can engage in other water activities such as kayaking and windsurfing, or just sit back, bathe in the sun, and even spot some otters. And yes, there are great places to eat; check out the bohemian Safari Bar, where you’ll find other tourists enjoying fresh seafood and cold drinks.
Banje Beach, Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik’s most popular beach—which draws in so many tourists due to its proximity to the Old Town—made it onto our list thanks to its scenic views of the city’s walls, variety of water sports and beach activities, as well as the abundance of dining and drinking options. At some point, most visitors are likely to wind up at Banje Beach Restaurant, Lounge, and Club—which can get quite touristy (it even turns into a night club after dark)—but remains a consistent option for good food, tasty cocktails, and a killer view. If you’re looking for something a little more formal—or a little less crowded. head to nearby Restaurant Horizont, which turns out fresh, first-rate Croatian fare in a quaint, medieval setting.
Lubenice Beach, Lubenice
On the island of Cres, which is one of the largest that makes up Kvarner Gulf, lies an ancient, fortified city called Lubenice. It’s home to some of the oldest standing structures in Croatia (Lubenice was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and was founded approximately 3,000 years ago). While the medieval towers, churches, and stone houses perched upon the city’s famous hilltop are the primary factors that draw in tourists, Lubenice beach (known to locals as Sveti Ivan) is just as picturesque. Like most of Croatia’s beaches, Lubenice boasts pristine white shores and aqua waters, but the real highlight here is the nearby Blue Cave, which is reachable by swimming along the beach’s half moon bay. As the beach is only accessible by a long walk from the hilltop, you’ll get a taste of both the history and the island vibes that Croatia has to offer.
Betina Cave, Dubrovnik
This seaside access-only beach—which is set under a natural cave—offers privacy, serenity, and shelter from the sun. Tourists can rent kayaks or take water taxis to reach this secluded oasis, which has no dining options, but makes the perfect setting for a sandy picnic. Stop by the famous Gruž Market on Obala Stjepana Radića to stock up on fruit, meat, and fresh goat’s cheese before enjoying the crystal clear waters and (hopefully) unoccupied surroundings.
Dubovica Beach, Hvar
Located in a tranquil, secluded coveonly accessible through an unmarked trail—Dubovica beach, or Dubovica bay, is the perfect escape for solo travelers and couples looking for some peace and isolation. You won’t find any noisy bars or eateries here, but you will find a stunning view of Villa Benedeta, a private 19th-century home that belongs to the Kolumbić family. The Villa is available for group rentals of up to ten people, and is within walking distance of Dubovica bay—so go ahead, bring the whole family, and make this your basecamp for all that the stunning island of Hvar has to offer.
Saharun Beach, Dugi Island (Dugi Otok)
You may have never seen clearer waters than those that lie along the shores of Saharun (or Sakarun) beach on Croatia’s Dugi Island. This family-friendly beach is enshrouded by pine trees, which provide a welcome relief from the glaring sun, and features calm, shallow waters, so the little ones can wade in as far as they want. The beach does offer eating and drinking options, but most are seasonal—so be sure to check hours out online before you go. As for where to stay? We recommend renting one of many beachside Airbnbs, which are plentiful on the island of Dugi Otok.
Divna Beach, Dalmatia
If you’re looking to get a taste of the true, laid-back Croatian spirit and witness some of the most exquisite natural scenery of your life (royal blue waters, rolling green valleys, secluded coves), head to the peninsula of Pelješac, located in Southern Dalmatia. Here, you’ll want to go straight to Divna beach, in the town to Trpanj. Divna, which literally translates to beautiful, is just that. While the shore is mostly made up of small, white pebbles, past visitors have noted that they’re extremely soft and feel more like sand (but be careful; due to the reflection of the white pebbles, the sun at this beach is extremely strong—so be sure to bring your best SPF). There are no eating, drinking, or shopping spots at this remote beach (hence, the tranquility), so pack a picnic. While many visitors opt to camp out at the nearby auto camp facility, Pelješac is home to a variety of gorgeous lodging options, like Hotel Indijan, a charming little property perched right on the beach, with sweeping views of the Adriatic Sea.
Beach Mali Bok, Cres Island
This hidden beach, like some of the others on this list, is only accessible by walking down a very rocky hilltop (you can, however, park your car at the top). The incredible view from above makes the walk worth it, and once you’ve made it down to the shore, you’ll find yourself in paradise: think jade-like waters, a cove surrounded by rugged cliffs, and quite often, a completely deserted spot. A few must-pack items? An umbrella, beach towels, a picnic, and a durable pair of shoes for the rocky walk.