It’s hard to not fall in love with Croatia’s coastline and its captivating turquoise water and quaint terracotta-roof towns. But with over 1000 islands dotting the coast, it can be difficult to map out an itinerary. While some larger islands are accessible from the mainland by ferry, the more remote, smaller ones require a rental so that you can see these beautiful flecks of land whenever you please—a boat rental, to be clear.
We hear you, chartering a yacht might sound extravagant, but it turns out that boat rental in Croatia is more affordable than you might think. In fact, a week spent on a sailboat can actually cost you less than staying at a hotel, and depending on your booking, you can choose to include food, a skipper, and more. Plus, you’ll also have a chance to see way more destinations and do so at your own pace. Here, we’ve outlined the ultimate island-hopping itinerary featuring six must-see destinations, each with their own charm and unique appeal. Set your out of office: It's smooth sailing from here.
You’ve probably heard of Hvar before and for good reason—it is one of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic Sea with a rich history, great restaurants, and party spots known around the world. Use Hvar as an easy launch point for your trip and book a week with sailing companies such as Hvar Adventure or Hvar Boat Rent who can easily tailor your tour to your heart’s desire. Before you set sail, make sure to enjoy Hvar’s beauty and vibrant nightlife for a full 24 hours. Spend the afternoon at exclusive beach club Bonj Les Bains, which has chic all-white décor and exudes tranquil luxury. Enjoy dinner at modern Croatian restaurant Passarola, and then head out to the party place in Hvar, Carpe Diem. This island nightlife destination is only accessible by boat and attracts jet-setters around the world who dance until the sun comes up.
The Pakleni Islands are a very short sail away from Hvar making them a great next stop after what may have been a long night in Hvar. Out of the 15 pine-tree-covered, cove-filled islands, we love the boho chic village of Palmižana on Saint Klement Island. Whether you want to sunbathe, eat, or have cocktails, beach club Laganini has it all. Its mojito is made with local Dalmatian mint and is a tasty cocktail to sip while you’re overlooking the turquoise bay Vinogradišće.
Go almost off the grid when you head to Vis, the farthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland. Crystal-clear blue water and beautiful historical sites with few(er) tourists await you. Request to have your boat moored in Kut Bay, which is quieter than Vis but still within walking distance to the city center. Once on land, explore the history and architecture of this former military base island. The area is lined with beautiful historic palaces, old churches, and winding staircases. Head to dinner at legendary outdoor restaurant Pojoda, which serves up delicious fresh-caught grilled fish and seafood stews. Pair your meal with some of the delicious local wines and make your nightcap a Travarica, an herbaceous grappa-like liqueur.
Wake up early after your night spent in Vis to set sail and admire an incredible natural wonder—the blue cave on Biševo Island. You will need to enter on a small boat, which can be your own dinghy, or you can hire a ride locally. Once you enter, you will be astounded by an intense blue, almost ethereal, glow that encapsulates the entire cave. The light is best between 11 a.m. and noon when the sun is at its peak to illuminate the limestone floor of the cave.
Make the island Korčula the most culturally immersive stop on your sailing adventure. Korcula features multiple cathedrals and museums that should pique your interest. St. Mark’s Cathedral is a stunning feat of Dalmatian architecture featuring Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque styles that took three centuries to build. Explorer Marco Polo was rumored to have been born on Korcula, and there is a multimedia museum devoted to his life and travels. After getting your fill of history, head to dinner at Maksimilijan Garden where you can enjoy a cold beer and small dishes like beef tartare and caprese salad overlooking the Adriatic.
The lush green landscape of Mljet is a nature lover’s dream. Stroll through olive groves, dense forests, and vineyards on this sparsely populated island. If you want a change of scenery from the beach, there are also salt-water lakes Veliko and Malo Jezero that are ideal for taking a midday dip. Mljet is sparse when it comes to dining and nightlife, although there is one bar, Caffe Bar Komarac (aka The Mosquito) that serves coffee and drinks once the sun goes down. It’s a great place to enjoy Croatian island tranquility before you head back home.
Have you been to Croatia? Tell us which island was your favorite.