Island Hop Croatia: Best Croatian Islands To Visit In 2019
Croatia is not just about holidays in Dubrovnik and city breaks in Zagreb – far from it! The country is also home to many beautiful and unspoiled islands, most of which are very easy to get to, and can either be used as a base for a holiday or as island hopping destinations.
With claim to over 5,835 kilometers of spectacular Adriatic coastline and more than 1,000 Croatian islands, isles and inlets (not all of which are inhabited), all with shimmering blue seas, Croatia is tempting you at every turn.
With so much on offer, choosing where to go island hopping along the Adriatic Coast can be tough. Maybe you want gastronomic delights, perhaps you want to party all night long? Or it is that you simply want a sandy beach? The various and varied Croatia islands offer culture, nightlife, history and of course relaxation. Find out which one is perfect for you in this Croatian islands guide.
Islands line the entire coast of Croatia, beginning in Istria and running south all the way to Dubrovnik through the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Because there are so many islands in Croatia, you might not have a clue where to start, but luckily for you, we’ve compiled a handy list to help you get started.
2019 Croatian Island Hopping Guide
Best For Nature Lovers And Views
Brač is a large island, and very easily accessible from Split. The island is characterized by its rolling hills and fig trees, but the towns of Bol and Supetar have generous accommodation and restaurants to keep you occupied.
Blaca Hermitage in the south of the island is a must-visit, as well as Vidova Gora Mountain, which is the highest peak on the island, offering you stunning views across the Adriatic and to neighboring islands on a clear day. Brač is also where you’ll find the famous Zlatni Rat Beach, one of the absolute best Croatia beaches (and even in all of Europe) and a wonderful place to spend a day. This all makes Brač one of the best islands near Split, a perfect day trip from Croatia’s second-largest city.
Best For Natural History Lovers
This archipelago may be just from minutes from the mainland, but it is a living timeline of natural history. For that reason, it is a protected area. Out of the sixteen islands, you can only visit two of them. Over 5,000 years of natural and human history is on display here, including prehistoric times too.
The safari park is also home to countless animals to check out, and overall the landscapes are lush, green, and typically Mediterranean.
Best For Families
The tiny, relatively unknown island of Susak is filled with iconic dusty yellow sand. I’m quite sure that this island won’t stay unknown for long, though. This is an island in Croatia that’s perfect for the true connoisseur of Mediterranean getaways. It is predominantly made up of sand, ochre-colored cliffs covered in ferns, wild fennel and tall bamboo-like grass. The island has no roads, no nightclubs, and few tourist facilities. Instead, this mysterious island consists of only one village, dusty hiking trails, vast fields filled with oregano plants and sandy beaches.
It is easy to explore and is quite popular among passionate kite flyers. An annual Air and Kite Festival takes place here each year. Susak lies in the Kvarner Bay, to the southeast of Istria. It’s one of the islands furthest from the Croatian mainland.
Fun Fact: Susak Island has the shortest national costume in Croatia.
Best For Cycling Fans
Cres is the largest Croatian island by size, and it is also rather hilly. For that reason, the landscapes are perfect for those who like to jump on a bike and explore Croatia! The island is becoming increasingly known for cycling, and there are many routes on offer, as well as many hiking routes if you would prefer to go by foot.
Beach enthusiasts will want to focus on the many pebbly beaches in the north. One hint: make sure you try the seafood, it’s deliciously fresh!
Best For Relaxation
One of my personal favorite islands off Croatia is Dugi Otok. This is an unspoiled and stunningly beautiful island to enjoy, perfect for chilling out in peace and quiet.
There are many picturesque villages to explore, and the beaches are always far from crowded. If you like walking, the lush vegetation and cliffs are ideal, while if you like to do some underwater exploration, there are many scuba diving and fishing opportunities, too. Additionally, Dugi Otok is home to one of Croatia’s best sandy beaches, Sakarun, which some compare to the beaches of the Caribbean.
Best For Everything!
One of the most popular islands in Croatia, Hvar is well known for being the main party island in Croatia. The nightlife is mostly concentrated in Hvar Town, but the island has two sides, and the other side of it is ideal for a family break.
In Hvar Town you won’t struggle to find a nightclub and you may even spot a celebrity or two, but the rest of the island is quite traditional and laid-back. Recently, Stari Grad celebrated its 2,400th year and is home to the UNESCO Listed Stari Grad Plain. The towns of Jelsa and Vrboska are two idyllic Dalmatian towns that should not be missed.
Best For Exploration
Korcula Island (pronounced KOR-chu-la), also known as the Emerald Isle, is one of the absolute best islands near Dubrovnik. Located in southern Dalmatia, this small, 279-square-kilometer island is a favorite among travelers. A place of culture, history, beauty, and charm, the island of Korcula offers a variety of activities and unique traditions all surrounded by the stunning Adriatic sea and excellent Korcula weather.
If you ask the locals, they will tell you that Marco Polo was born there. Aside from that, Korcula is ideal for heading off on foot and exploring. The main town is also called Korcula, but Vela Luka is a town to enjoy, and this is also where you get the ferry.
Best For Marine Life
The Kornati Islands are ideal for anyone who wants to explore what lies beneath the surface of the Adriatic. This dense cluster of islands is home to numerous small coves, beaches and bays where you can stop and just take a swim, or enjoy the pristine environment all within close proximity of each other.
Kornati National Park, protecting 89 of the islands, is perfect for those looking to experience unique natural landscapes, soaring cliffs and barren, rocky, mostly uninhabited islands. The Adriatic is at her glorious best in this national park, and with the backdrop of the Kornati Islands, you will be stunned at the natural beauty of the area.
Also, if you love sailing, this is the ideal spot for some superb slalom sailing. However, you will need a permit/ticket to do so. There are countless diving and snorkeling opportunities, and many diving schools to help you out.
Best For A Day Trip From Zadar
Mali Iź, pronounced as ‘mar-lee eesh,’ is one-half of the island of Iź, which is just a short ferry ride from Zadar. It is located between the island of Dugi Otok and Ugljan, both of which make for great day trips from the Zadar.
Mali is the Croatian word for small, and while the island may be small, she has a big heart and its full of centuries-old history. You will also definitely get drawn to its crystal-clear waters where you will surely just want to dip your toes into the inviting Adriatic Sea.
Best For Walking And Wildlife
Krk is a large island and it has many towns and villages to explore, as well as fun campgrounds and resorts to stay at. Connected to the Croatian mainland by a bridge, this is a very accessible island. Krk has varying landscapes, with an arid feel to the north, a lush green side to the south, full of bays and beaches, and the interior is hilly and rocky. If you want to enjoy wildlife then head into the woods on one of the many walking trails and see what you can spot!
Best For Architecture And Nature
Easily reached from both Split and Dubrovnik, Lastovo is packed with 15th- and 16th-century architecture, including countless churches in different styles. The island is rich in history, and the main town is full of the various types of architecture, including beautiful Renaissance houses. Lastovo and its surrounding islands is Croatia’s newest Nature Park.
The island doesn’t get many tourists and has therefore remained somewhat of an untouched paradise. Lastovo is renowned for its annual carnival, a celebration in which all residents participate by wearing elaborate folk costumes. Another notable attraction on the island is the unique cylindrical Lastovo chimneys, which look like mini-minarets (although no Turkish or Arab influences have ever reached the islands).
Best For Relaxation And Health
Lošinj is known as the island of vitality and has a long history in health tourism. This is primarily due to its mild Mediterranean climate. The island has a number of spas to pamper you, loads of hiking and cycling trails through woods, and plentiful clean beaches for you to relax on.
Mali Lošinj is full of interesting history and culture, so be sure to visit the Apoxymenos Museum and see the Bronze Apoxymenos found in the sea off the coast of Lošinj.
Best For Seclusion And Freedom
Despite Zlarin’s small size and relative obscurity, it is certainly an island with dazzling beauty. It is known locally as the ‘Golden Island,’ because it’s really that eye-wateringly gorgeous! This small island is just off the mainland, separated by the Sibenik Channel and is mostly famous for its history of coral harvesting; there is even a Coral Museum where you can learn more about it.
Aside from coral, there is a lot of history in Zlarin, dating back to the 13th century. If however, you’re more about beaches and beauty, then Zlarin has it covered, and then some! The long sandy beach is ideal for families who want to run free and explore, and the green background gives you that ‘castaway’ feel. You won’t find a lot of hotels on the island, though. Instead, there is wonderful private accommodation, which helps you get that home-away-from-home vibe to your break.
Best For Couples
Mljet is a relaxing and stunningly beautiful island, which makes it ideal for a romantic break for two! This gorgeous island is easily reached from Dubrovnik, perhaps as a day trip, and has numerous walk and cycle trails which lead you to romantic bays to enjoy.
About a third of Mljet is a national park, and its here you can find two salt water lakes one of which has a little islet with a former Benedictine Monastery, which is now a cafe. Rent a kayak and spend the afternoon on the islet Melita for a wonderful afternoon.
Best For Music Festivals
Tisno on the island of Murter is one of the two major electronic music festival locations in Croatia. Over the summer months people flock to Tisno to attend such festivals as Suncebeat, Electric Elephant and Love International festivals. Aside from music, Murter is strikingly beautiful and you can easily do a day trip to the Kornati Islands from Murter.
Best For Partying
Zrce Beach on the island of Pag, is without a doubt one of the best Croatia party islands. Over summer, you have numerous festivals such as Hideout, Spring Break Europe and Sonus where tens of thousands of people from around the world descend on Zrce to see the worlds best DJs perform.
Of course, the island is not all about Zrce. Pag Town itself has a more cultural, slow vibe and is certainly worth exploring. Be sure to try the award-winning Paški cheese while visiting the island. You can easily reach Pag from Zadar, as it is connected by a bridge.
Best For Beaches
Most of Croatia’s beaches are pebbly or rocky, but Rab is one of the few islands that has golden sandy beaches to enjoy. The most famous beach is Rajska or Paradise Beach, and this is where you will find the most visitors during the summer months, as well as families. On the other hand, the mountainous interior of the island is ideal for walking and exploring the landscapes. The beaches, however, are the main pull.
Europe’s Best Beach
In 2016, Stiniva beach on the island of Vis was named the best beach in Europe. One of the top beaches in Croatia, Stiniva is well hidden from the sea and not the easiest beach to access. It’s either a hike down to the beach or access by small boat, but a spectacular view will reward you for your effort. Although, Vis has never really had large tourists numbers, it has become a popular stop for those sailing the Croatian islands.
Silba is a small island in the Zadar region with an area of 15km2. It is located southeast of the island of Mali Lošinj. The highest peak on the island is Varh (80m).
There are boats and ferries that sail every day to the island and it takes about 1.5 hours to arrive by catamaran from Zadar. Silba has Mediterranean vegetation and many aromatic herbs, a perfect location to spend a vacation in untouched nature with a peaceful vibe.
There are no roads for motorcycles or cars on the island; in fact, there is only one small car on the island that is used by the locals to transport things. If you after peace and quiet it doesn’t get much better than this!
What To Do On Silba
- Beach Day: Spend a day on one of many beautiful small beaches and bays, including pebble and sand beaches. Beaches to check out are Pocukmarak (the biggest beach on the south side, which also happens to contain a stone sarcophagus and two covers in the water that are around 1500 years old), Tratica, Carpusina and Sotorisce (the biggest and the most popular beach on Silba).
- Explore the Bays: Visit interesting bays, such as, Pernastica bay, which is the most beautiful Silba bay, Porat of Sv. Ante bay, the bay of Dobre Vode and the Nozdre bay.
- Sports and Recreation: There are many sport and recreation activities, including running in the woods, walking along the bays, and team sports such as volleyball, basketball, soccer or handball on Sotorišce beach. Additionally, visit the complex Mirta to try out table tennis or rent a small boat. For the more adventurous type, Silba is a great place for windsurfing.
- Gallery of Marija Ujević-Galetović: Visit the gallery of Marija Ujević-Galetović located in the center of Silba, designed as a park consisting of open original sculptures from different periods.
- View the History: Visit many historical monuments and churches, including the impressing 19th century Toreta tower, which is known as the tower of love. When you climb up the tower you will be able to observe stunning views of the sea and the nearby islands of Olib and Premuda.
Vela Luka, Korcula
Vela Luka is a small town located in a wide bay on the island of Korčula. The town is rich with many coves to discover, vineyards, olive groves, fig trees, and pine trees. Vela Luka is the biggest village on the island and has one of the largest nautical harbors in the area. It also has some of the best stone beaches in Croatia!
Vela Luka is the largest town on the island of Korčula. It has a deep sheltered bay with tranquil inlets and tiny islets. Vela Luka has 2.671 sunshine hours, which is the highest for the whole of the Adriatic and the warmest temperature on the Mediterranean – even higher than Hvar, Dubrovnik, Nice, and Naples.
And if all that great beach friendly environment doesn’t lure you in, maybe the history will – the life and culture of the Mediterranean region can be traced through archaeological finds from Vela Špilja.
What to Do in Vela Luka
Visit the Vela Špilja: Visit the Vela Špilja – the Large Cave). This cave is an important prehistoric archaeological site in Europe.
The findings in this cave prove the existence of several prehistoric communities from the early Stone Age (about 20 000 BC), Iron Age and Copper Age. The findings indicate long cultural, social, spiritual and economic history of the relations between the inhabitants of Vela Špilja and other parts of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean.
- Bike, Hike, Trek: Adventure seekers will enjoy the many cycling routes in the area (there are 4 circular cities in Vela Luka, which stretch along the island). There are also four trekking and hiking routes.
- Visit Local Monuments: En-route visit local monuments, such as the chapel of Sv. Juraj, an old fortress called Hum and an abandoned village called Dub. All the trails are very well marked.
- Town Centre Museum: Visit the Museum in the town center of Vela Luka, it has many archaeological and art collections, including two Henry Moores, works of contemporary Croatian Artists, and finds from the Vela Špilja.
- Islets of Proizd and Ošjak: Visit the islets of Proizd (a famous beach in the area) and Ošjak – two of the most visited destinations in the area. Proizd is a small island that can be reached by a small excursion boat featuring three beautiful beaches with turquoise waters, several walking trails and a small restaurant and cafe. A day trip to this island is highly recommended. Ošjak is known as the Love island because of its beautiful nature, peaceful surrounding, and tranquillity. Enjoy swimming in unspoiled waters, walking through a dense pine forest and exploring an interesting cave.
- Take a Day Trip: While in Vela Luka you can enjoy many day trips and excursions to Dubrovnik, Hvar, Town of Korčula, Split and other bays, coves, and islets located within the vicinity.
Island of Šolta
Šolta is an island in the Split region. It is located south of Split and west of Brač Island. The economy is based on tourism, fishing, olive growing and vineyard cultivation. The settlement of Rogač has the main port, while the main tourist centers are Nečujam and Maslinica.
What To Do On Šolta
- Hike: Take a hike from the coastal villages of Maslinica, Stomorska, Nečujem or Rogač. Explore the inland villages of Grohote, Gornje Selo, Srednje Selo or Donje Selo.
- Vela Straža: Visit the highest peak on the island Vela Straža. Enjoy the sights of old stone houses, olive groves, lively town centers, old churches. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the local taverns and treat yourself to some great local cuisine and excellent Dalmatian wine.
- Bike: There are numerous bike paths on the island to explore. The mapped paths (asphalt and unpaved trails) connect the island towns and villages.
- Sea Kayaking: Try sea kayaking. Kayak rental is available in the towns of Nečujam and Maslinica.
- Scuba Dive: For the adventurous types explore the deep waters of the island by scuba diving. Visit sites of sunken ships, hidden caves, and unique species.
- See the Island by Scooter: If you are just visiting for a day, rent a scooter and visit many beaches, taverns, and cafes on the island.
Local Tip: from the main port make Stomorska your first spot and visit a cafe called Africa, enjoy refreshing cocktails and swimming in the crystal clear waters in front of the cafe.
Croatian Islands Map
Planning Your 2019 Croatia Island Hopping Holiday
There is a network of ferries that conveniently runs between all of these top islands in Croatia to visit. These ships are certainly not glamorous sailboats, to say the least, but they do get you to the islands at a very affordable rate, allowing you more time (and money) to actually to explore the islands! It is not easy to see them all (like we said), but here is one idea for a week-long vacay.
You can start your Croatian islands vacation in Split and head to Vis for just under $8USD per person on a Jadrolinija ferry.
The Jadrolinija fleet includes car ferries, classic passenger ships, and catamarans. They connect the mainland to the Croatian islands, provide service between the islands, and even transport passengers between Croatia and Italy. They really do make planning your Croatia island hopping itinerary super-easy.
Local Tip: If you want to bring a car on board the ferry, the price will obviously be higher. It is also important to note that the car ferries do not operate on all routes. Additionally, you will need to book early in peak season.
When it’s time to leave Vis, we suggest the high-speed catamaran to the Island of Hvar. This costs less than $6 per person for the 50-minute ride.
Local Tip: You can only book tickets one day in advance at the local ticket office, if you want to be sure to reserve your spot. And you should because these journeys can and do sell out.
You can then jump aboard the Kapetan Luka to get to the island of Korčula. The ride is just over an hour and will cost less than $12 per person. Hvar or Korcula should really be the cornerstone of your itinerary. They’re arguably the two coolest islands to visit Croatia.
Local Tip: Again, tickets must be purchased one day in advance from the ticket office located right near where the boat docks in the harbor.
You can book your own ferries easily here.
So, which of the Croatian islands will you choose for 2019?
Main Photo: Tim Ertl