A sailing holiday in Croatia is arguably something that everyone should experience at least once. Sail Croatia – you won’t regret it!!
However, no one visits Croatia once only – and it’s not by chance – the hidden bays, wonderful beaches and all those small islets only reachable by boat appear to be a true sailing paradise for sailors aged 7 to 77.
There are tons of reasons why everyone should try out boat sailing at the Adriatic. The breathtaking scenery, the olive trees spread almost everywhere around the coast and the islands of the Adriatic are just a few.
The advice you will probably get from experienced sailors while planning your trip is unanimously: Rent a boat in Croatia and enjoy the freedom of exploring the hidden beauties of Dalmatia as you sail Croatia.
Top reasons why you should go sailing in Croatia
Sunshine, sea and sand. Relaxing, exploring and partying. Culture, sunsets and starry skies. There’s no better way to experience all of these than by taking a cruise along the Croatian coast for a week.
By far, one of my all-time favorite trips has been the week I spent sailing the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia with my family and friends. Not only is Croatia an incredibly gorgeous country, but the whole experience of sailing from town to town in a ship filled with some of my best friends made the trip unforgettable.
1. This is not a standard cruise…
Let me just start off by saying: this is not a normal cruise.
When you think of a cruise, one of the first things that probably flashes to your mind is a huge luxury cruise liner with a movie theatre, multiple restaurants and a swimming pool with slides. Yes, cruises like that can be fun, but this is a totally different experience.
Whilst it does depend on the company you book with, many charter companies offer cruises on converted sailboats with enough cabins to fit between 18-40 people. The laid-back atmosphere on-board is complemented by the fact that there’s no dress code; walking around barefoot and in your bathing suit is perfectly acceptable. With no cinema, no live entertainment and no shopping malls on-board; you’ll be forced to do things like: get to know your fellow travelers, read a book, or just appreciate the stunning views of the Croatian coastline.
My point is, even though this is not a standard cruise, it’s going to be one of the best cruises of your life.
2. Sail during the day, party at night
When looking for a Croatian cruise, try to find a company that sails during the day and allows you the luxury of exploring your destinations during the afternoons, evenings and nights. This will mean that you get breakfast and lunch on-board, but have each evening in a new location, giving you plenty of time to explore the city, have a laid-back dinner and then dance the night away at the awesome Croatian clubs and bars. Just make sure you’re back on the boat in time for departure in the morning!
3. You get to explore multiple destinations
One of the best things about these cruises is that you can discover the essence of multiple cities within a short period of time without the stress of being on a normal cruise ship or having to drive between locations–your hotel room sails with you! To begin with, because you’ll be on a small ship, you typically moor up to the pier which is often right in the middle of town, giving you the chance to return to your ship whenever you please as opposed to having to catch a tender boat back and forth between the shore and a cruise liner.
The small size of the ship also means that you can go to smaller towns which the big cruise liners can’t visit. Additionally, as the only time restriction you have is to get back on the boat before it departs in the morning, you’ve got plenty of time in each destination to explore the city centre, visit museums and absorb the sunshine whilst learning about the culture and history of the Croatian town you are visiting.
4. Swim stops in the middle of nowhere are just perfect
Sailing during the day is great! Not only will you be awake to see the gorgeous views of the Croatian coast, but most of the smaller Croatian cruise operators include daily swim breaks where the boat drops anchor for an hour or two in the sky-blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Gather your courage and jump from the railing of the ship into the sea or grab your snorkel and swim with the fish closer to the shore.
5. Meet like-minded people on-board your ship
If you go on one of the cruises catering to younger people (under 35’s), you’re bound to meet like-minded students on-board your ship. There will be people from different countries who speak different languages, but everyone will be bound together by the same love for travel, adventure and fun.
Another option is to organize the trip with a group of friends – both big and small groups can work well on these ships! The afternoons on deck are a perfect time to learn about your new and old friends and their home cultures, swap stories about your travels and connect on Instagram or Facebook to keep in contact once the trip is over (some cruise operators offer WiFi, althoughyou might find your dream Croatian cruise is the perfect place to disconnect for a while).
6. Ice Cream is a staple food (and the other foods are just as wonderful)
When you travel to hot countries, ice cream pretty much becomes a staple food, and it’s perfectly okay to eat it at least once (if not more times) a day. In addition to the many wonderful ice cream parlors scattered around every city, there’s a huge abundance of restaurants where you can grab dinner on shore. In most cruise packages, breakfast and lunch on-board the ship are included in the overall price, but what you eat for dinner is completely up to you! If you like seafood, Croatia is the place for you; the grilled calamari is particularly delicious.
7. There are so many epic activities to try
Once you’ve pulled into port in the afternoon, there are so many activities you can try. If you’re into adventure, consider trying canyon walking, jet skiing, cliff jumping, white-water rafting, sea kayaking, cycling, or scuba diving. If you prefer culture and history, make sure you walk the city walls of Dubrovnik and climb to the top of the bell tower in Split.
Whilst almost all of these excursions will cost extra, it’s definitely worth trying at least a few of them. Look into what special packages the cruise company offers; you may be surprised at what fun activities they provide special deals for! If you do decide to plan an adventurous excursion, make sure you talk to your cruise organizer and plan a few days in advance, as often there are logistics that would be impossible to arrange the day you arrive.
Make sure you bring your camera to Croatia; not only are the blue seas of the Adriatic perfect for photographing, but you’re bound to see some stunning sunsets during your week of traveling the coast.
8. The nights are unforgettable
If you enjoy going out to dance the night away, Croatia has a varied nightlife which will definitely make for some experiences to remember. Each night you’ll be in a new destination and have the opportunity to try out a different nightclub, and as long as you make it back onto the boat in time for departure in the morning, there’s nothing stopping you from having a wild night surrounded by the friends you made on the ship.
If you stop for a night at Makarska, make sure you visit the Deep Nightclub where you can party in a cave just a few metres from where the sand and the sea meet. Another unique club is the Carpe Diem Beach, situated on an island accessible only by taxi boat, where you can watch the sun set over the city of Hvar before partying under the palm trees and a sky full of stars.
If you’re not into clubbing or you’re at a destination without a nightclub, consider going for a night stroll along a beach, watching the stars from the top deck of your boat or maybe even going to a concert or performance in town.
9. It’s not actually that expensive
Unlike the luxury cruise liners, which are usually too expensive for a student budget, if you book with the right company, sailing down the coast of Croatia doesn’t actually have to be that expensive. It’s almost like staying in a floating hostel; you’re not paying much, so don’t expect much from the sleeping arrangements.
You’ll most probably be sharing a cabin with at least one other person, and will definitely be sharing bathrooms and showers. But it’s not like sleeping arrangements matter too much because, let’s be honest, how much time are you actually going to spend sleeping?
Prices vary depending on which company you sail with, which dates you go and which type of room you’re looking at getting, but often it’s possible to get tickets for under €550 ($600) for 7-nights including breakfast and lunch every day whilst cruising. Obviously things begin to get a little more expensive when you start adding on all of the fun extras, so make sure you look into what packages your cruise company offers with regards to adventures during the day and parties at night.
So, yes, maybe this won’t be the luxury cruise you’ve always been imagined going on, but the laid back nature of a small-ship Croatian cruise, the places you go and the people you’ll meet will all make your vacation down the coast of Croatia one that you’ll never forget.
Sail Croatia by yourself
For travelers looking for a self-guided and self-determined adventure throughout Croatia’s many Islands; utilizing the ferry services is easy and affordable. Boat travel in Croatia is often a very safe endeavor minus the small hiccup above with only my friend and the boat receiving small, none life-threatening scratches. It was one of the most hilarious boating experiences of my life and a great story to share to family and friends back home. For me boats are a way of life and I’ve always enjoyed spending time out in the ocean and accessing islands and beaches that you can’t just pull up to in a car.
Ferries run daily through the summer peak season to most major Island and Mainland Ports. You can pre-book tickets online or show up at the Ferry’s agency on the day for a “walk on/deck” ticket up to 30 minutes prior departure. To get to Islands that are off the beaten path there are ferry/catamaran services which are more limited. If you’re headed to Vis it is easiest to travel from Hvar and booking in advance is advised. Please note that outside peak season (starting Sept 1st) the numbers of ferries on all routes are reduced drastically and planning out your itinerary in advance to match the limited schedules is a very good idea.
It’s more budget-friendly
Travelling on a budget is easy in Croatia especially when you are travelling by ferry. On board you can always find a drink and snacks in the bar at an affordable price. Longer ferry trips such as the one starting in Dubrovnik heading all the way up north to Rijeka (stopping off along the way) will often have an on board cafeteria and/or restaurant. For those on a serious budget you are able to take food and beverages on board; so head to your local Spar and stock up for your journey. This is the same for all long ferry journeys I have experienced throughout Europe.
If you are worried that travelling through Croatia on your own rather than taking a Sail Croatia Tour will dampen your experience or will inhibit your exploration of smaller islands think again. In Dubrovnik I went on a one day boat tour provided by my hostel at a very modest price (there’s also other boat tours like this one to consider). This took us all around the islands visiting the Blue Cave, Green Cave and other various islands wrapping up at a beach side restaurant and a little cliff diving.
Other great small clusters of islands to explore on your own are those off Hvar Town. Here grab yourself some new found friends from your hostel and rent one of the small boats from the Harbour (4-6 people per boat). With no boat license required it makes for a fun adventurous day out. Just don’t forget food and drinks as many of these small islands have no occupation. Another great thing about renting these boats is you can often barter your price down and many will include snorkel gear for the day!
Recommended spots to stop along the Croatian coast
If you are a first-timer in Croatia, you will probably be wondering what are the things and places you shouldn’t miss. As most of the tourists visit the well-known islands of Hvar, Krk, Brac and Korcula, we suggest a bit more adventurous trip, well, at least for a start.
Start in Dubrovnik
Starting from Dubrovnik or a little norther – the area of Makarska and the port of Ploce – just a few miles below Makarska, you can easily reach the peninsula of Peljesac, a spot that goes off the beaten track and can be truly admiring, especially for wind surfers, fishermen, and also for those who want a more relaxing start of their sailing trip around the Adriatic.
The old and not so famous, but still wonderful town of Trpanj is as relaxed as it can be. The multiple bays (a healing mud bay among them, as well), the pebbly beaches, plenty of olive trees spread around most of the beaches will take your breath away.
Just below this old town known for the world-famous wines and ancient buildings, you will find Orebic, the most famous spot on this peninsula – famous for its churches and monasteries that are worth seeing.
Once you get there, a 30-minute boat trip will take you to the wonderful island of Korcula, the home of the famous Marko Polo and a holiday spot for the true hedonists.
If you ask some experienced travelers or the locals – the must see spot in Korcula is the touristy Vela Luka – set on the western part of the island, Lumbarda at the opposite end of the island and of course – the old town of Korcula – the pearl of the island that naturally comes to be a little more crowded during the high season. When in Korcula, don’t miss the numerous cafes and restaurants where you can just sit down, enjoy some local wine or a summer cocktail, while you enjoy your surroundings and decide about your next sailing route.
Just remember: no matter what you choose, Croatia will most definitely leave an imprint on your heart and will easily become a lovely unforgettable memory.
Things to note when sailing in Croatia
To discover Croatia, its mountainous coastline and Mediterranean chic islands, sailing the Adriatic Sea is a great option.
The beauty of crossing the crystal clear blue water and pulling into ancient ports after hours at sea is peaceful and accomplishing both at the same time.
It is an impressionable experience that will create lasting memories.
But there are some things to note when considering this type of holiday
Aboard the Yacht
As spacious as it might seem, things get a little crowded with 8 to 10 people on board not including luggage and whatever else is bought along the way. So keep in mind that your personal space will be invaded daily.
It is recommended to find a group of friends that might be interested in joining you on this holiday and therefore, filling the yacht with people you know well. This will help since you already understand each others personalities and travel agendas. Also, plan on roughing it a bit. But aside from that, you will meet some great people and possibly become lifelong friends.
Remember you are at sea, embrace the experience and forget about luxury — you are going to be salty, have dirty feet and might have to sleep on the deck of the yacht when its hot inside the cabins, but that is part of the joy of sailing.
A sailing holiday is a fabulous way to feel at peace while traveling. The wide-open waters become your home and catching the wind in your sails is a daily calming experience.
While you have the opportunity to learn a lot about sailing when on this type of holiday, there is no pressure to do so since the skippers, who are very knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating, are your captains for the week. But if you want to help out, beginners can learn the basics while intermediate sailors can brush up on their skills.
It’s important to remember that the sea can’t be controlled, so at times during the sailing holiday the waters might be a little rocky and at other times, there might be no wind to raise the sails. But no matter what, being at sea for a week is in itself a holiday.
Around the Islands
This sailing holiday is yours so make the most of it when you dock at the islands’ ports. But remember to budget and bring some extra money with you so that you can experience all the activities and sights that each island has to offer.
Once you dock, ask your skippers for suggestions about fun activities, good places to eat around the islands’ towns and which sights are recommended must-see, or be sure to do some prior research about each island since the free time while docked is yours to explore and discover all that Croatia has to offer.
At some of the islands, there are discounted activities or rentals, but no matter what, most of the activities tend to cost additional money (aside from what you already paid to go on the holiday). This also includes transportation around the island. But there are also many free activities for those on a budget.
An account of boat life in Croatia…
I’m clinging on for dear life. Well not my life but for my friends who is precariously positioned on the rock our captain skillfully steered us straight onto.
The boat begins to tip further with water almost breaching the side. With the initial shock passing it is nearly impossible to not find the whole situation hilarious even clinging here onto a rail. Soon our Captain dives into the water and joins my friend and begins to push. My grip loosens as I am consumed with giggles.
Now I am seriously in danger of dropping down on top of my friend who also is consumed in uncontrollable laughter as she helps push the boat back into the water. With success and a horrible scraping noise the boat is right side up. The deck is covered in sangria making it look like a scene from a thriller.