With 1,244 islands strewn all along Croatia’s long Adriatic coast, it can be hard to choose just one for a holiday. Admittedly, only 48 are inhabited, but even that’s a huge choice to start with.
Here are a few suggestions that might help to narrow it down.
Best for sandy beaches: Rab
In country where sandy beaches are quite rare, little Rab, tucked into the Kvarner Gulf near Istria, manages to snaffle about 30 of them. The Lopar peninsula has some of Rab’s most popular beaches, including Rajska and its smaller neighbour Livacina, as well as Sahara naturist beach. Don’t miss beautiful Rab Town, with its narrow medieval streets and pine-sheltered town beaches.
Where to stay: The stately four-star Imperial Hotel in Rab Town has doubles from €158 per night, B&B.
Best for wine lovers: Korcula
It’s not easy to get Croatian wine beyond its borders, which is an excellent reason to come to Korcula and try varieties that are found nowhere else. Head to Lumbarda and take a tour of Zure, Bire and Popic wineries that produce grk, a gorgeously dry white wine that’s not grown anywhere else in the world. And check out the sandy beaches around Lumbarda while you’re at it. Korcula Town is like a laid-back mini Dubrovnik, with a delightful old town built in a fishbone-shaped grid.
Where to stay: Lumbarda Resorts has apartments in Lumbarda, with sea views and a pool, from €720 for six nights’ self-catering.
Best for going off grid: Kornati Islands
There’s a surreal beauty to the 89 islands that make up the Kornati National Park. They’re barren, seriously rustic – no mains water or electricity – and have more sheep than people. But if you’re looking for a peaceful place to hike through olive groves and swim in impossibly clear water, this is it. Vrulje on Kornat is the biggest settlement, where you can find a few simple restaurants in high season and private houses to rent. If you’re not in your own boat, book an excursion from the nearby island of Murter.
Where to stay: The Cute Fisherman’s House sleeps four and has a five-night minimum rental for €139 per night, including transfer and the use of a boat.
Best for greenery: Mljet
It’s hard to find a more forested island in the Adriatic than green, serene Mljet – which includes another of Croatia’s national parks. Day-trippers from Dubrovnik barely scratch the surface, as they tend to stick to the national park at the western end. But that’s a very good place to start, with two saltwater lakes and loads of hiking and cycling trails to explore. Venture east to the sandy beaches at Saplunara and Limuni, stopping at the Odysseus grotto along the way.
Where to stay: Villa Mirosa is a short walk from Saplunara and has a pool and doubles from €108, B&B.
Best for easy access: Krk
Rijeka airport is actually on the Kvarner island of Krk, making it Croatia’s only island airport that serves UK airlines. So no fuss with ferries, leaving you more time to stroll around the Venetian marble streets of Krk Town and dive into its clean beaches. There’s more beach action further south at Baska, with a mile-long Blue Flag beach. If you have time, pop into the hilltop village of Vrbnik and seek out its unique vrbnicka zlahtina white wine.
Where to stay: Valamar Koralj in Krk Town faces its own swimming bay and has half-board doubles from €169 per night.
Best for active holidays: Brac
Mention Croatian beaches and Zlatni Rat usually springs to mind. This sun-bleached V-shaped beach that hangs off the southern coast of Brac at Bol is one of the country’s most distinctive images – and it has some fabulous windsurfing too. Thanks to the bura wind that blasts through the Adriatic, windsurfers and kitesurfers are in for an adventure in watersports hot spots including Povlja, Sutivan, Murvica and Sumartin. Hikers and mountain bikers can follow the trails up to the Adriatic’s highest point, Vidova Gora, at 778m, and soak up some sublime views.
Where to stay: Stylish boutique Hotel Bol has a pool and doubles from €108, B&B.
Best for relaxation: Losinj
Maybe it’s the profusion of soothing wild herbs smothering this island in the Kvarner Gulf, but Losinj instantly puts you in a mellow mood. Forested trails curve around much of the island, inviting lazy strolls and bike rides from beach to beach. From its main port, Mali Losinj, you can join equally leisurely boat trips offering seafood picnics. From Veli Losinj you can join excursions to spot the island’s colony of bottlenose dolphins.
Where to stay: Villa Diana in a prime spot in front of Čikat Bay has half-board doubles from €177 a night.
Best for romance: Sveti Klement
While everyone else heads to Hvar and makes a busy island even busier, just 10 minutes away by boat is sleepy Sveti Klement. This car-free island has a wonderfully bohemian feel to it, especially thanks to the botanical gardens planted more than a century ago by botanist Eugen Meneghello at Palmizana. Soon bungalows and restaurants appeared in the grounds, which are still run by the Meneghello family. There’s little else to do but swim, eat, hike, snorkel and pootle around the island in a little boat. Perfect.
Where to stay: Palmizana Meneghello has bungalows with gardens from €140 a night, B&B.
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