My trip to Croatia earlier this Summer was not quite what I expected. After hearing rave reviews about this new tourist hotspot, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.
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 Croatia is a beautiful country with lots to offer tourists.
Despite encountering a lot of hiccups in Croatia, including the deportation of our American tour guide, I still enjoyed my short visit to the Adriatic coast.
After having some time to reflect on my trip, I wish I had known the following before boarding my flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik…
Croatia Lacks Sand Beaches
If you’re envisioning sandy white beaches in Croatia, you’re in for a minor letdown! The coastline stuns with dreamlike vistas and clear blue water. The only downside is that the majority of these gorgeous shores are pebble beaches.
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.
Oceanfront seating is generally complimentary if you order a certain amount of food or drinks.
If you get bored of lounging, many establishments offer kayaks, snorkel gear, and stand up paddle boards for hire!
However, there are still some sandy beaches, you just need to scout them out! If only a sandy beach will do, consult this list of Croatia’s best sand beaches.
Enter the Adriatic Sea At Your Own Risk
Since the beaches are rocky, it’s common for travelers to scrape their feet on rocks or jagged edges while taking a dip.
Even worse, you could end up stepping on a sea urchin! Not only is this incredibly painful, but removing the spines is an arduous and time-consuming process. It can take weeks for a spine to dissolve or infection could result from removal – completely ruining your vacation!
Prevent any mishaps by investing in a pair of aqua socks or waterproof shoes before your visit. Should you decide to purchase them in Croatia, you’ll encounter steep price markups.
Don’t Forget Sunscreen and Aloe!
It’s a safe assumption that if you will be visiting Croatia, you are planning on spending 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.
Thanks to basic economic theory, sun protection is insanely expensive in most tourist areas. Avoid being price gauged, and come prepared with your own supply – you will be thankful you did!
Transportation: Rent a Car or Stick to Ferries!
If you have ambitious island-hopping plans or want to cover a lot of ground in a short timeframe, consult ferry and bus schedules before planning your trip.
My friend and I neglected to realize our visit to Dubrovnik was only a day or two before regular ferry service began to Split and Zadar. This resulted in us losing almost two days out of our trip to bus transit.
Aside from taking in some nice scenery, the long-haul bus rides in Croatia weren’t as nice as completing the trip by ferry.The roads were bumpy and winding, the driver stopped frequently for a smoke or to pick up some produce. Only select bus routes utilize the national highway system, so the ride can be winding and full of potholes. I rarely experience motion sickness, but my bus journeys in Croatia were two of the most nausea-inducing experiences to date. However, we did to get to take in some nice views!
Fortunately, ferry services 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 in Croatia are easy to follow, and the highways are generally in good condition. For more information on renting a car in Croatia, click here.
Seek Out Locals
Tourism in Croatia has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels over the last several years. Understandably, 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 Aibnbs, 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! 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!
Though invigorating at first, these steep uphill climbs can get a bit old once you start doing them every day, 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 daily uphill hikes, I recommend researching your destination and accommodation carefully.
Don’t forget comfy walking shoes, making the ascent to your hotel in flip flops isn’t fun!
Dubrovnik is Almost Always Packed
Even in May before the official tourist season started, Dubrovnik was filled to the brim with tourists. Dubrovnik has always been a popular tourist spot, but tourism has increased dramatically after Game of Thrones shot on location here.
If you hate crowds or aren’t a die-hard GOT fan, you may want to consider skipping Dubrovnik all together. This isn’t to say Dubrovnik isn’t worth visiting, it absolutely is! However, I enjoyed Hvar and Split far more than Dubrovnik and would have rather allotted 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 than the scorching summers, 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?