I always wanted to visit Croatia but my trip this summer wasn’t quite what I expected. While I really liked Croatia, especially my visit to Zagreb, I just didn’t fall in love with Croatia the same way so many other travelers do. Still, there’s no doubt that it’s a gorgeous country and there’s a lot to do in Croatia!
You might want to know the following information before you visit Croatia – I wish I had!
Croatia Lacks Sandy Beaches
If you’re envisioning sandy white beaches in Croatia, you’re in for a letdown! The coastline stuns with dreamlike vistas and clear blue water. The only downside is that the majority of these gorgeous shores are full of pebbles. Still, the beaches in Croatia are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Fortunately, it’s still possible to comfortably soak up some rays. Full-service cabanas or loungers are widely available and many beachside bars offer plush seating options for visitors. Waterfront seating is generally complimentary if you order a certain amount of food or drinks.
You can still find sandy beaches in Croatia, you just need to scout them out! If you’re not a fan of pebble beaches, consult this list of the best sandy beaches in Croatia.
Enter the Adriatic Sea At Your Own Risk
Since the beaches are rocky, it’s common for travelers in Croatia to scrape their feet on rocks or jagged edges while taking a dip. This happened to my friend and the paramedics told us it was a fairly common thing in Hvar.
Even worse, you could end up stepping on a sea urchin – the beaches in Croatia are full of them! Not only is this incredibly painful, but removing the spines takes forever and hurts like heck! It can take weeks for a spine to dissolve and can become infected if you try to remove it yourself.
Prevent any mishaps by investing in a pair of aqua socks or waterproof shoes before your visit. If you buy a pair in Croatia, you’ll be way overcharged.
Don’t Forget Sunscreen and Aloe!
It’s a safe assumption that if you visit Croatia, you will spend a lot of time in the sun!
Be smart, and always wear sunscreen! Other than stepping on a sea urchin, I can’t think of a bigger buzzkill than spending your vacation nursing a painful sunburn.
Not surprisingly, shops in tourist areas will try to rip you off. Avoid being price gauged, and come prepared with your own supply – you will be thankful you did!
Rent a Car or Stick to Ferries!
If you want to island hop or cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, check ferry and bus schedules before planning your trip. My friend and I made the mistake of not doing so, and had to take a long bus ride before taking a ferry to Hvar. If we had waited two more days for summer ferry service, we could have taken a direct ferry!
Aside from taking in some nice scenery, the bus ride was pretty rough! The roads were bumpy and winding, the driver stopped frequently for a smoke or to pick up some produce from a street vendor. Only select bus routes go on the highway, so our ride was winding and full of potholes. I rarely experience motion sickness, but the bus ride in Croatia was one of my most nausea-inducing experiences to date. The awesome views were a consolation, though!
Fortunately, ferries and water taxis offers faster, more comfortable access across Croatia’s port cities and islands. Though we decided against renting a car, I wish we had. Not only would this have saved us a lot of time in transit, but it would have allowed us to steer away from the standard tourist trail.
Driving rules are easy to follow, and the highways are generally in good condition. This Croatia guide has more information on renting a car in Croatia.
Seek Out Locals
Tourism in Croatia has skyrocketed over the last several years. This has led to a slightly oversaturated national tourism industry, and some overwhelmed hospitality workers.
My friend and I stayed mostly in local guesthouses or Airbnb apartments, which we enjoyed more than the night or two we stayed in larger hotels. In all of the smaller establishments, we were usually treated to wine, olive oil or another Croatian delicacy! Not sure what to do in Croatia? Your host can help with that! Our Croatian host made us feel welcome instantly, with offbeat local suggestions, and a constant offering of appetizers drenched in Croatian olive oil.
Be Prepared For Lots of
One of the reasons Croatia has such stunning views is because of the country’s rolling hills, particularly in the Istria region! The harder the climb, the better the view rings true in Croatia. If you’re looking for breathtaking views, you’re going to have to work for it here!
Though invigorating at first, these steep uphill climbs can get old, especially if you’re trying to make it back to your accommodation with a bottle of wine or groceries in tow.
If you’re not physically up for this, I recommend researching your destination and accommodation carefully. Don’t forget comfy walking shoes! Trust me, trekking up rocky hills in flip flops is no fun!
Dubrovnik is Almost Always Packed
Even in early May before the official tourist season started, Dubrovnik was filled to the brim with the tourists and cruise ships. Dubrovnik has always been a popular tourist spot, but more people are visiting than ever thanks to Game of Thrones. Since the show started filming here, it seems like everyone and their mom wants to visit Croatia.
If you hate crowds or aren’t a die-hard GOT fan, you may want to consider skipping Dubrovnik all together. Is Dubrovnik worth visiting? Of course it is! However, I personally hate crowds, so this kind of killed the vibe for me. I enjoyed Hvar and Split more and would have rather spent more time there.
If scheduling isn’t an issue you might want to consider visiting Dubrovnik in September or October. During this time of year, the weather is much more bearable and less cruise ships are at port. Hotel prices, and package deals are much cheaper outside the summer months as well.
If you can’t swing an off-season visit, try to avoid the major tourist attractions during midday. The city walls, for example, are most crowded around 3 PM.
If you’ve been to Croatia, do you think it’s worth the hype? What do you wish you had known before visiting? If not, do you want to visit Croatia? I’m hoping to go back soon and give it another shot!