How to have a great time in Croatia

You’ve got your flights and accommodation booked, you’ve got your bikini sorted and you’re busy Googling how to pronounce “Hvar”*. Almost everything’s planned for your upcoming trip but the one thing you may not have thought about is – how to have a great time in Croatia. That’s where the advice on this page comes in!

* It’s pronounced var with an h sound in front. Not Hu-var or Ha-var or anything with two syllables. Hvar. Got it? Good, there you go!

how to have a great time in Croatia

1. Make sure you’ve planned for your destination

Which sounds obvious enough, right? It’s not like you’ll be pulling your ski jacket out of the attic to go on a two-week summer holiday to Croatia. But what I mean is, make sure you’ve got all that you’ll need for your holiday to make sure it all goes smoothly. Take a look at our Croatia Holiday Essentials 2024 guide for some top tips on what to pack and remember to bring.

Yes, of course, you can buy things in Croatia. But you don’t want to be traipsing around supermarkets at 2pm on a hot day trying to find some sun cream. Pack it all in so your holiday can start from day 1!

2. Get out onto the Adriatic sea

If you’ve booked yourself onto a sailing holiday in Croatia, well – you lucky, lucky thing!

If not, I would still heartily recommend spending at least a little bit of time on the gorgeous Adriatic. You won’t regret it one bit, and there’s something absolutely magical about spending a bit of time on a boat on the sea.

There are many ways you can do this. Perhaps you’re already doing a bit of island hopping via public ferries and catamarans so you’ve got this covered already. If you can, I would recommend trying to use a ferry as part of your itinerary. Although the catamarans are certainly faster, the slower pace of the boats and the expanse of the deck for you to sit on makes watching the islands sailing by a great experience.

If you’re staying on an island, why not take a taxi boat to one of the smaller islands nearby. For example, if you’re vacationing in Hvar Town, head down to the harbour to get a taxi boat over to one of the divine Pakleni islands.

You might find there’s a local boat that for short hops up or down the coast that you can use instead of a bus. For example, travelling from Trogir to Split (with Bura Line) or from Cavtat to Dubrovnik (with Adriana Boat Tours).

Otherwise, book yourself onto a day trip that includes a good few hours on a boat.

How to have a great time in Croatia - The Adriatic Sea
The gorgeous Adriatic, sailing into Split

3. Take a day off

Go on, you deserve it. Make sure you take a day off on your holiday which is you taking some time off from your normal life.

Wait, what? What I mean by this is – don’t overplan. Whilst there’s so much to see and do in Croatia (which of course you already know about having ready through the Visit Croatia website fully…I am sure), don’t try and do it all. And, in fact, spend one day simply doing nothing. No day trips, no activities, no rushing to get the 7am bus to the next town…

Instead, have a leisurely coffee or two with breakfast, head down to the pool or beach with your holiday reading book, enjoy a long lunch with a few glasses of cola/pivo/wino (delete as appropriate) and repeat until bed.


4. Enjoy the summer festivals

Almost everywhere along the coast – and in some inland towns and cities too – hosts some kind of summer festival during July and August, but in some cases in June and September too. The most famous and prestigious of these is the Dubrovnik Summer Festival which takes place each year from 10th July to 25th August. The Festival is really a series of different kinds of entertainment events, from live music to theatre, dance, folk performances and more. Most events are ticketed but some are free – and just walking around Dubrovnik you will notice assorted goings-on that are related to the festival.

How to have a great time in Croatia - Attend a summer festival, such as the Dubrovnik Summer Festival
The Dubrovnik Summer Festival

On a smaller scale, other towns will also have festivals that include music, live entertainment, kids’ events and more. Check locally to see what’s on, or simply stroll about town and join in!

Take a look at our Events in Croatia section to see details of events taking place all over the country. Perhaps you’ll discover an event that’s taking place when you’re in Croatia?

5. Do something unexpected

Okay, I know I’ve mentioned being properly planned for your holiday so everything goes off with a hitch.

But what about taking one day to do something totally unexpected? Here are some ideas:

  • If you’re staying on an island, what about taking a local bus over to the next town? In Hvar Town? Get a bus up to Stari Grad. In Bol on the island of Brac? See what Supetar is like instead.
  • Rent some bikes for the day, pick up a cycling trails map at the local tourist office and see what can explore on two wheels. (You could rent a moped instead if you feel comfortable doing so.)
  • Instead of (or as well as) exploring Dubrovnik by walking the Town Walls, join an organised kayaking tour and see the Old Town from the sea.
  • Head to the bus station in the town you’re staying in and see what destinations you can reach within an hour or two for an unexpected day trip. Bonus points to you if you can get over the border to (for example) Slovenia or Italy (from Istria), Bosnia (from Split or Dubrovnik) or Montenegro (from Dubrovnik).
  • Have your own wheels? Head for a drive inland (assuming you are on the coast!) and see what little village or town you can uncover. You might find a small winery or olive oil produce to enjoy too.
  • If sunbathing all day long is your cup of tea, why not do something totally bonkers such as zipline or a white water rafting adventure (see below)?
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6. Enjoy Croatia’s stunning nature

Croatia is of course home to eight stunning national parks and twelve intriguing nature parks. Whilst Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park (rightfully) get all the attention, there is so much more fantastic nature to enjoy. Croatia’s nature parks in particular are less well known so why not head to somewhere such as the Lastovo Islands Nature Park, Telascica on the island of Dugi Otok or Vransko Lake Nature Park to really experience Croatian nature and wildlife.

Vransko Lake Nature Park
Vransko Lake Nature Park

If you are in the region of southern Istria, Cape Kamenjak is a wonderful place to spend a day.

7. Indulge in the cuisine

Croatian cuisine doesn’t perhaps have the best rep and those who haven’t tried Croatian wine may not think it’s anything worth bothering with. But that’s a shame on both counts!

Certainly, as befitting a coastal nation, there are a number of excellent fish and seafood dishes as well as hearty meat meals to try. Dishes such as brodet or gregada (fish stew), squid ink risotto, handcrafted pasta dishes (such as fuzi), pasticada (beef stew), peka (meat or fish slow cooked under a bell-shaped lid)…the list goes on. Be sure to sample local cheeses and prsut (local prosciutto).

Do also head to local food markets to see the impressive range of fresh fruit, veg and other products for sale. Markets are also a great place to pick up a quick and cheap – but super tasty – bite to eat such as a piece of burek or cevapcici.

The traditional Croatian dish, peka
The traditional Croatian dish, peka

As for wine – there are many options from wineries all along Dalmatia and Istria.

And let’s not forget a small glass or two of a local liqueur such as orahovac, travarica, sljivovica and the like. If it’s homemade (rather than produced by a drinks company), even better!

8. Climb high

Not necessarily related to mountain climbing – unless that’s your kind of thing. Personally, rough terrain, hiking boots and slight danger aren’t my idea of “a great time”. (But they may well be yours.)

By climbing high I mean climb up a bell tower. There are some excellent climbs to be had in places such as Split, Rovinj and Zadar. You will rewarded by truly fantastic views over the town or city you’re in, as well as out to sea and over to the local islands. You may even be able to spot another country (such as Italy) depending on where you are if the day is clear!

Split Photos - View
View from the belltower in Split

9. Pick up a bit of the language

Sure, learning a spot of the Croatian language before you go may help you have a great time in Croatia. But there’s no denying it’s a tricky language to master, particularly with some sounds and pronunciations that are difficult for English speakers.

So simple equip yourself with a hvala (thank you) and a molim (please) and you’re pretty much good to do. Because who doesn’t like a please and thank you said to them in their own language.

And then you can move on to dobar dan (Good day, said as a greeting) or a simple bok (hi and bye) and that’s practically a whole conversation! Well done you.