From Dubrovnik to the Islands, celebrity hot spots to idyllic Istria, Plitvice Lakes to Pula, I’ve got the best places to stay in Croatia for couples, families and groups.
The entire western coastline of Croatia, stretching for 1,800km, is hugged by the Adriatic Sea and contains an impressive 1,246 islands. I was fortunate to visit Croatia on a few occasions and fell in love with its historic cities, pretty harbours and villages, and its secluded beaches. But when it comes to the best places to stay in Croatia, I think it’s best that I divide the country into four separate regions.
Dubrovnik is generally the most popular destination in Croatia, but did you know there are also direct flights from Ireland to Pula, Split, Zadar and Zagreb? This post will take you on a journey from south to north. Firstly, covering the region of Dalmatia where you’ll find the medieval city of Dubrovnik, the small town of Cavtat and many of the larger islands that are popular with tourists.
Then heading further north to central Croatia, the city of Zadar and the spectacular Plitvice Lakes National Park, before finally making our way up to the region of Istria, home to the towns of Poreč and Rovinj.
I’m aware that I’ve mentioned the views a lot throughout this blog, but I would be doing Croatia an injustice not to. From any balcony, rooftop restaurant or infinity pool, you are treated to incredible panoramic views of historical landmarks, old city walls and lush green islands. It’s not difficult to see why Croatia was chosen as the setting for so many locations in Game of Thrones.
Whether you’re a couple, family, or group of friends thinking of Croatia, let me take you on a trip through the most popular cities, towns, and islands, to give you a taste for this incredible country. I’ve also hand-picked the best places to stay in Croatia and have some great accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets.
The best places to stay in Croatia – Dubrovnik and surrounding area
Located on Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast, Dubrovnik is known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. The Old Town with its cobbled streets and medieval city walls is steeped in history and famous throughout the world. I visited Dubrovnik a few years ago and it was every bit as magical as I had hoped it would be. It can be very busy during the summer, particularly when cruise ships arrive, so make sure you read my top tips to make the most of your time there.Search flights here
5-star Rixos Premium Dubrovnik
The stunning pictures speak for themselves at Rixos Premium Dubrovnik. Set into the cliffs, the panoramic sea views will take your breath away. The hotel is contemporary in design and offers seven types of modern rooms and suites, my favourite is the gorgeous sea view spa suite!
If the TripAdvisor reviews are anything to go by, the food and service from the choice of three restaurants and bars is exceptional. The incredible setting and attention to detail has also seen the Rixos Dubrovnik gain popularity as a fairy tale wedding venue. If you can manage to tear yourself away from all this luxury, just a 15-minute walk will take you to the city walls of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. This is arguably one of the best places to stay in Dubrovnik.
4-star Hotel Lapad
One of my favourite things about the location of the Hotel Lapad is the opportunity to see all the cruise ships pass by to dock at Gruz Port. The hotel is situated on the popular Lapad peninsula, an ideal location if you prefer to base yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Town.
Set on the waterfront, the hotel offers several rooms with views of the marina. There is also an á-la-carte restaurant, a bar serving cocktails by their award-winning bartender, and live music is generally a feature in the evening during the summer months.
Once the cruise ships depart, you’re just 3km into the Old Town by taxi or local bus. There is also a beach on the opposite side of the peninsula which is a 15-minute stroll away. If you’re looking for a laidback, great value Dubrovnik option, the beautiful historical Hotel Lapad is one to consider.
Villa Juliet Dubrovnik
Location, location, location! The highlight at Villa Juliet must be the terrace with small pool, which offers amazing views out over Dubrovnik’s Old Town and the island of Lokrum. A five-minute walk will take you to the city walls and an abundance of restaurants.
But for evenings where you just want to sit back and enjoy these breath-taking views, there is a barbecue available for guests. The three-bedroom apartments in Villa Juliet sleep up to six and are fully equipped with a kitchen, living room and air conditioning.
This really is a hidden gem, tucked away from the busy cobbled streets of the Old Town, and is one of the best places to stay in Croatia for a family holiday or a getaway with a group of friends.
The best places to stay in Cavtat
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Located only 5km from Dubrovnik Airport, Cavtat is a charming fishing village where you’ll find a relaxed atmosphere 20km away from the bustle of Dubrovnik city. The Old Town can be reached by bus or water taxi, which we took on a few occasions. We also enjoyed a day trip to Montenegro from here, as it is ideally located close to the border.
The village of Cavtat is gorgeous, and has some great restaurants and cafés for you to enjoy along the harbour, giving you a chance to check out the many yachts docked at the port.
5-star Hotel Croatia
For as long as I can remember, Irish holidaymakers have found the Hotel Croatia in Cavtat to be one of the best places to stay in Croatia. Customers are particularly drawn to the location which is quiet and laid back, yet within easy distance of reaching Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
This, in addition to the incredible value it offers for a five-star property, has seen its popularity grow. Sitting proudly on the peninsula in Cavtat, surrounded by pine forests, you shouldn’t consider anything less than a sea view room to enjoy the spectacular views of the bay.
The five-star spa boasts an indoor pool, Finnish sauna, steam bath and an extensive treatment menu. The seafront and town are reached in 10 minutes by steep steps but fear not, the hotel offers a golf buggy service to take you there. When you return, there are five restaurants and two bars waiting for you, and regular live music is a feature during the summer months.
I would also recommend you check out the cost for half board when you’re booking, the supplement is generally quite reasonable, especially if you are likely to dine in for most of your stay.
3-star Hotel Cavtat
For a three-star property, the Hotel Cavtat certainly punches above its weight. The location, service and cleanliness are all highly commended on their TripAdvisor reviews, and you will need to book well in advance to secure a room.
Sitting in the centre of the town, the hotel offers stylish, modern facilities including the rooftop infinity pool which boasts incredible sunsets and panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea. The hotel also has its own private sunbathing platform on the adjacent shingle beach, and in addition to the main restaurant, there is Bistro Cenzura which is situated on a terrace next to the sea.
The massages at their Beauty Centre Lavanda are frequently complimented and having looked at the price list it has to be said they are great value too – 60-minute Anti-Stress Body Massage for €41 and head massages from €13. When considering room types, I would recommend booking a sea view room with balcony to ensure you get the full benefit of Hotel Cavtat’s scenic location.
I’ve found a fabulous option for a family or a group of friends on the lookout for a trip to Croatia, staying right in the historic heart of Cavtat. Apartments Kralj1 has 2 bedrooms, a living room, private pool, and a gorgeous terrace. The reviews are outstanding, with an almost full house of 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor and a 9.9 rating on Booking.com.
Particular mention is continuously given to the fine restaurants, shops, the promenade, and the harbour where you catch the boat across the bay to Dubrovnik.
The best islands to visit in Croatia
After Greece, Croatia is one of the most popular European destination for island hopping. With an abundance of islands off the coast, a question I’m often asked is which are the best islands to visit in Croatia?
A multi-centre holiday in Croatia is a popular option, even taking in just one island along with the mainland is a great combination. These are the four most popular of the islands in Croatia.
Mljet: 3-star Hotel Odisej
Mljet is the perfect option for anyone who loves to get out into nature – the Mljet National Park covers the entire northwest of the island. The Odisej is the only hotel on the island of Mljet and it is beautifully set within the National Park.
Without a doubt, the best way to see the island is on bicycle with lots of cycle paths to guide you through the lush forests and around the two saltwater lakes. In the middle of one of the lakes is a tiny island, home to a former Benedictine Monastery which is now a café/restaurant.
Park up the bikes and catch the boat over to the island for some well-deserved refreshments. Returning to the hotel after a day of exploring, the Odisej will offer the perfect retreat with stunning views from the terrace at Restaurant Odisej or the Vista Mare Beach located next to Pomena Pier.
Mljet can be reached by ferry from Dubrovnik.
Korcula: 4-star Hotel Korsal
The unspoilt island of Korcula is rich in culture and heritage that is celebrated with a range of cultural and folklore events throughout the summer. Lots of small villages are dotted around the island but it is the main resort of Korcula Town with its medieval squares, churches and palaces that has earned itself the nickname ‘Little Dubrovnik’.
The Hotel Korsal sits in a privileged pedestrianised location on the waterfront, a five-minute walk from the Old Town and a short stroll from the marina where you arrive on the ferry from Split.
Enjoy stunning views from the restaurant terrace overlooking the beach promenade, and the sea views from the balcony suites are breath-taking. But for a quirky option, check out the sea view suites with glass loggia which offer a beautiful combination of traditional charm with a modern twist.
Korcula can be reached by catamaran or ferry from either Dubrovnik or Split.
Hvar: 4-star Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort
It is not unheard of for Hvar to grab headlines following a visit from an A-List celebrity! The island is a popular getaway for the rich and somewhat famous and it’s pretty easy to see the attraction.
The medieval cobbled streets, secluded beaches, crystal clear waters, vineyards, lavender fields, exceptional restaurants, and the title of sunniest spot in Croatia (2760 hours of sun annually), are just some of the reasons why Hvar is one of the best places to stay in Croatia.
Although the whole island is incredibly picturesque, I’ve chosen an option in the heart of it all in the town of Hvar. The views from Amfora Hvar are the resorts main talking point, especially from the rooftop restaurant.
Located in a sheltered bay, a picturesque ten-minute walk from the lively town centre. The hotel boasts a multi-level cascading pool, a swim-to bar, and is also a great option for families with a kid’s cub available for 4-14 years.
Hvar can be reached by catamaran from Split.
Brac: 4-star Boutique Hotel Bol
The island of Brac is the largest of the Dalmatian group of islands and the third largest island in Croatia. Given how close it is to Split, less than an hour by ferry, it is popular as a day trip from the mainland. However, Brac certainly offers enough to combine a stay for a few nights.
Bol is the most popular town for tourists to stay in, and is also the oldest settlement on the island. This is where the famous Zlatni Rat beach can be found, a 1km length of golden sandy beach that stretches out to the shape of a cone. The island also boasts and abundance of activities including scuba diving, kiteboarding, windsurfing, mountain biking, fishing, and hiking.
The Boutique Hotel Bol is a short stroll from the centre of town and 1.5km from Zlatni Rat beach, although the hotel also offers a free shuttle bus. The hotel receives excellent reviews on TripAdvisor for its exceptional service.
Where to stay in Central Croatia – Zadar, Plitvice Lakes
With more flights operating in recent years to Zadar Airport, this part of Croatia is becoming increasingly more popular. The city of Zadar combines the old and the new with medieval churches next to cosmopolitan cafés. It is also the closest airport to visit the outstanding beauty of the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Zadar Region: Zaton Holiday Resort
Zaton Holiday Resort has become one of the most popular places to stay in Croatia for families looking to venture a little further afield than France, Spain, or Italy for a camping holiday.
However, the resort has the added advantage of offering apartments in addition to mobile homes traditionally found on a camping resort. So, for those of you nervous to try a ‘camping holiday’, look no further! Accommodation ranges from studios, one-bedroom Apartments and two-bedroom apartments with various standards within each category.
However, it is the onsite facilities that gains attention at Zaton. The resort has a village feel with all the facilities you would need at your fingertips. There is a 1.5km long beach with all the watersports you could imagine, several swimming pools, a spray park, water slides, an outdoor amphitheatre, three restaurants and a cocktail bar. I really could go on and on, but you get the picture.
The little ones are well taken care of with the kid’s clubs and various activities organised by the animation team. You will find little reason to leave the resort, but if you want to explore for a day, the closest town of Nin is 2km and the city of Zadar 15km. Zaton is a fantastic option for a family holiday to Croatia.
Plitvice National Park: 4-star Plitvice Holiday Resort
Rather than trying to fit Plitvice Lakes National Park on a day trip, why not include a night or two stay at the Plitvice Holiday Resort. The unique accommodation options on offer will be difficult to choose from. There are Tipi tents in the Indian Village that have electricity and sleep up to four, Mobile Homes with their own terrace set around a swimming pool, Lake Houses sitting on the edge of the resort’s lake, and my personal favourite – the Tree Houses.
Sitting high among the pine trees, the Tree Houses sleep up to five, have two separate bedrooms, a kitchen, and a terrace – they must be one of the best places to stay in Croatia if you are looking for a unique experience.
The resort is 8km from the National Park and can organise an array of activities in the area from zip lining to archery, and hiking to horse riding. This is definitely one to consider for an active family holiday to Croatia.
Where to stay in Istria – Pula, Porec, Rovinj
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While visiting the Istrian region of Croatia, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were in Italy. The Italian influence can be found in both the architecture and the cuisine. In fact, it is possible to visit Venice from many towns along the coast of this region by ferry. The journey takes an average of three hours.
Rovinj: 5-star Grand Park Hotel
The views from Grand Park Hotel across the bay to the old town of Rovinj are nothing short of spectacular. Nestled in the woodlands, the contemporary hotel is a ten-minute walk from the town centre and just a short stroll from the beach.
The wellness area is also pretty outstanding, spread over 3,800 square metres across two floors, it includes three outdoor pools located on the top floor of the hotel, with more of the stunning panoramic views that you can enjoy from the loungers or oversized bean bags.
There are four restaurants to choose from and two bars, each with a stylish design that takes full advantage of the views. Various levels of rooms and suites are available, all spacious with walk-in rain showers, espresso machines and large balcony or terrace. For a special occasion, the Grand Park Hotel is sure to impress, and must be one of the best places to stay in Croatia.
Porec: 4-star Valamar Parentino Hotel
One of the many popular Valamar Hotels you will find throughout Croatia, the Parentino certainly lives up to the brand name. Offering great value on a half board basis, the hotel has a range of amenities to suit everyone including a full Stay Fit programme during the summer months.
The hotel recently underwent a refurbishment which included the introduction of a new restaurant, a new pool area with slides, and a revamp of all the public areas.
Although popular with couples, the hotel caters particularly well families offering day and evening activities, a new outdoor playground, spacious family rooms and free soft drinks with dinner. A short ten-minute stroll will take you to Poreč Old Town, and the closest beach is just five minutes away.
Fazana / Pula : 3-star Bi Village Campsite
For families looking for the best places to stay in Croatia on a budget, check out the large and lively Bi Village Campsite. Two-bedroom mobile homes will sleep up to six and offer a great base for exploring the area, as well as taking full advantage of all the onsite facilities.
Direct access to the beach offers the opportunity for an array of water sports. There are also three onsite pools, waterslides, a selection of restaurants and bars, and an entertainment programme. The campsite is located next to the small village of Fazana and a fifteen-minute drive from the city of Pula.
So know that you know the best places to stay in Croatia, the only question is which region will you choose?