Open water swimming in Croatia - Cres

Open Water Swimming in Croatia

John Clayton is a UK citizen who has been living in the coastal city of Rijeka for 15 years. Following on from his previous post about enjoying an Outdoor Easter in Rijeka, John talks here about open water swimming in Croatia – in particular the best beaches in and around Rijeka to seek out for this activity.

Croatia made me become a swimmer. As a mountain sports kind of person, swimming had always just been a pleasant way to cool down in the summer. Swimming involved expending a lot of energy to go nowhere, and I was fine with that. However Croatia, with over 1200 islands, 6000 kilometres of coast, and crystal clear, mirror-smooth water, gave me no choice but to change my swimming from “not drowning” to actually moving forward.

Open water swimming in Croatia - Cres
Swimming past the tip of Cres

After many hours on YouTube and a lot of ineffective splashing at my local beach, I am now able to swim a mile, with a few breathers. Fortunately, this is just enough to swim the length of the beaches in my part of Rijeka.

Every part of the Croatian coast has amazing and accessible swim options. I’ll share here my tips for my local area, but this is just a tiny area; every part of the Croatian coast has similar opportunities. Better still, very few Croatians swim far from the beach and the tourist boards have yet to realise the potential of promoting swimming – this leaves the sea to us swimmers and the dolphins.

My preference is to swim with a tow, partly for security but also it allows for one-way swims. There is something very special about arriving somewhere from the sea. I’d also strongly suggest wearing a bright swim cap, there are boats in the summer and they don’t expect to see swimmers beyond the beaches.

Uvala Svežanj

The best swimming spots in Rijeka

As mentioned, I live near a string of beaches in Rijeka. As the third biggest city in Croatia, Rijeka is known as an industrial city. However, the southern suburb of Pećine is home to several beautiful beaches. My favourite swim is to start at Grčevo, home of the cute Pajol beach bar. I swim north past the first few small beaches and the tiny marina, then pass Glavanovo and the most famous beach in Rijeka, Sablićevo. Going around the corner, wide enough to avoid the cliff-jumping teenagers, I pass Hotel Jadran and finish at the dog beach by the main port. I usually swim north as there is less glare from the morning sun, but either direction works (in the video we are swimming south).


All of the beaches mentioned have free showers and the water is drinkable. The number 1 bus regularly runs from the city centre along this route making access very easy.

My second recommendation is to cycle, or take the number 10A bus, to Kostrena, just a little further south. Here there is a 3km stretch of white pebbled beaches separated by caves and vertical cliffs. There is a pedestrian path allowing an easy return from a one-way swim. Uvala Svežanj is a picture-perfect location and is the ideal place to start. You can swim either 1.3km north to Žukovo or south as far as you feel like, although I’d suggest stopping before you get to the refinery.

On the other side of the bay, the famous towns of Opatija and Lovran are just a short hop on the number 32 bus and offer another whole range of swim possibilities.

John has also produced an excellent video of the best open water swimming spots in Rijeka – take a look below:

Other Locations for Open Water Swimming in Croatia

And my last suggestion, if you want a truly wild and remote swim adventure and there are at least two of you. I strongly recommend a swim/kayak trip, alternating swimming and paddling. Last year we took camping gear and swam/kayaked around the northern tip of Cres Island for an incredible two days. We’d previously made a similar trip in the Kornati National Park in Dalmatia, perhaps the most spectacular place in the world to swim.

Open water swimmg in Croatia - Kornati islands
Swimming in Kornati National Park