Exploring the many islands of Croatia is best done by cruise. There are more than thousand islands, so you have to do some research and make a selection. Some islands are also less accessible than others. But when you go on a cruise, everything will be arranged for you. Together with Sail Croatia I visited Hvar, Vis, Korcula, Mljet and Sipan, the best islands to visit along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. On the mainland we also visited Split, Makarska and Dubrovnik. The perfect combination between relaxing and sightseeing. In the next article I’ll tell you all about these islands and the best way to explore them. With a Sail Croatia cruise!
Best islands to visit along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia
Together with Sail Croatia, I sailed along the most beautiful islands of Croatia that are located in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. The wonderful weather, the crystal-clear water, the medieval towns with its interesting history, stunning viewpoints, inland vineyards and amazing food, made me fall in love with this part of Croatia. Being on a Sail Croatia cruise, able to visit secret bays, dive from the boat right into the water, bring your own little cabin from place to place and enjoy the on-board facilities made my experience even better. Enjoy my recommendations of things to do at the most beautiful islands along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.
Hvar island, one of the best islands to visit in Croatia
The first island you get to visit with Sail Croatia is Hvar. And you have the possibility to explore different sides of the island: The famous Hvar town, less visited Stari Grad, the beautiful inland vineyards and the crystal-clear water of the Pakleni islands of Croatia. Hvar is probably the most famous island of the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. And especially Hvar town, that has always been known by the rich and famous and party vibe. But if you are looking for a more quiet place on the island, then you might want to visit Stari Grad or Jelsa. Especially Stari Grad is so pretty and picture perfect! And also the inland lavender fields and vineyards are worth visiting, as the peaceful environment makes you not want to leave anymore.
Hvar town is the most popular town of the island, something immediately visible when you arrive. There are gigantic yachts located in the harbour and all kinds of tourists strolling around the promenade. And that is for a reason. Hvar is magnificent and there is more than just party in this town. The 13th century city walls, the hilltop fortress, gothic palaces and medieval streets make you feel the history of the island.
You can stroll around the small winding streets that run up the mountain, have a look at the St Stephens cathedral and square, wich is (with 4500 sq meters) one of the largest old squares at the Dalmatian coast of Croatia and visit the Benedictine and Franciscan monasteries.
One of the highlights is a visit to the large 16th century fortress, which is located high above the town. You have to hike a bit up but is it a nice walk and the views are rewarding: Stunning views of the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Especially around sunset, when the sky turns orange, pink and purple at the same time.
Restaurant tips Hvar
Hvar is full of bars and restaurants. In the streets around the square there are many options but also the promenade offers hotspots. The popular Hula Hula beach bar is the perfect place for a sunset cocktail. And don’t forget to try the local wines! An absolute must visit is the wine bar Teraca on the right at the top of the square ,up the stairs. Another recommendation is restaurant Passarola where you can enjoy the traditional fish stew Gregada.
Hvar town is part of the Sail Croatia cruise itinerary. A watertaxi will bring you from the Sail Croatia cruise to town in the afternoon, and you will have all time to discover this pretty town.
Pakleni islands of Croatia
The Pakleni Islands along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia are a small archipelago that stretches out in front of Hvar island, with hidden beaches, lagoons and crystal-clear waters. The good thing about being on a Sail Croatia cruise, is that you have the possibility to visjt these idyllic places all within your itinerary. Before visiting Hvar, the Sail Croatia Almissa boat moars in the bay of the Pakleni islands. And you just jump in the water and swim to one of the beaches or hip Carpe diem. Carpe Diem is a chic beach club during the day, where you come for a lunch or to relax on a beach bed. In the evening after 00.00H this place turns into a lively after party place.
Tip for sunset driks and a little dance: Want to visit Carpe Diem at night? Special boats depart in the evening, from the club Carpe Diem that is located in Hvar town. Yes, there are two Carpe Diem clubs, one is open in the evening, the other one after midnight. Within 15 minutes you will be across the water and in the Carpe Diem afterparty club at the other side of the water.
Stari Grad town
The town Stari Grad is less known and visited than Hvar town, wich is makes it even more charming. Stari Grad means old town and was founded by the Greek in 384 BC. I truly fell in love with Stari Grad! The town is so pretty and it is the perfect place to take pictures. You stroll around alleys, little squares and everywhere you look, you see flowers. There are many little shops, such as the gourmet deli Za Pod Zub with local specialties and art spaces to discover. You can also visit the St Stephen’s Church and Tvrdalj, the former home and castle with a lovely courtyard, of writer Petar Hektorovic, from the 16th century.
If you feel like being a bit more active, you can hike within 20 minutes all the way up to the Glavica hill, the highest point of Stari Grad. Here is a large cross with a chapel, offering beautiful views over the Adriatic Sea and Stari Grad. Along the way you see butterflies, hear lots of crickets and maybe observe a snake flashing by. So pay attention!
Stari Grad is included in your Sail Croatia cruise itinerary, with the possibility to visit the nearby vineyards, organised by your Sail Croatia tourguide. You’ll arrive in the afternoon and have enough time to explore town and visit the viewpoint.
Restaurant tip: Looking for a nice restaurant in Stari Grad? Antica, located in a small alley is known for its good cuisine and delicious wines. You also have the opportunity to enjoy a captains dinner on the Sail Croatia Explorer cruise, where the crew prepares a delicious BBQ for you.
Wine tasting and vineyards at Hora Stari Grad
The area round Stari Grad is known for its vineyards and good wines. And Sail Croatia offers a great excursion to go on a wine tasting. Hora Stari Grad is a vineyard that was once built by the Greek colonists and is still in use. It is even on the Unesco World Heritage List, because of the ancient Greek farming system.
The vineyard is a short minute drive from Stari Grad town. There are fields of grapes, olives and lavender from which the most delicious olive oils, wines and aromatic oils are made. During the wine tasting you are introduced to four wines, two white wines, one rose and one red. And these are accompanied by tasty snacks consisting of cheeses, olives, meat and fish, all from the nearby region. Between wines, you have the time to walk through the fields, visit a small museum or enjoy the views while listening to a concert of crickets. And in the lavender season, you’ll find the beautiful purple colors of the lavender.
Vis island has a long history. It was colonized by the Greek, became part of the Roman empire, was sold to Venice and fell under control of Austria, France, UK and Italy. Vis also used to be a Yugoslav military base and was closed to visitors until 1989. Vis is still less visited than other islands along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, but it looks like that is about to change. Especially the movie Mamma Mia, that was filmed here, made the island become more well-known. And it is still possible to watch the movie in the Vis open air cinema on a weekly base.
You will visit Vis island with Sail Croatia during the one-week itinerary from Split to Dubrovik or vice versa. Check out a detailed day by day breakdown and itinerary of the Sail Croatia cruise here.
The main town of Vis is called Vis town and has its own unique charm and relaxed atmosphere. The center consists of two parts, the 19th century Luka area (the port) and the medieval Kut, separated by a promenade.
An absolute must, is a visit to Fort George, located on a mountain just outside the center. It is not an ideal hiking route because you walk on the road but the views along the way are stunning. Within about half an hour from the center you reach the fort. You can enjoy the views and have a drink in the fortress restaurant while gazing out over the sea! The best time to do this is of course during sunset.
If you are interested in history, it is worth to go on an island tour and visit several secret military installations, abandoned by the Yugoslav National Army in 1992. You’ll see former storage places of weapons, a submarine base, nuclear shelters and bunkers. Your Sail Croatia tourguide can help you organize a tour.
Restaurant tip: Don’t forget to have an ice cream at Pa Ti Odoli, one of the best Ice Cream stores on the island with numerous distinct flavors.
From Vis island it is possible to visit the green and blue cave. And the stunning blue cave, located on the island Biševo, should not be missed. However, you should prepare yourself a little bit for this because it is crazy busy. You will have the chance to discover the blue cave during your Sail Croatia cruise and the crew knows exactly how to avoid the big crowds. We left so early that we arrived at the cave around 7:30 am. We were able to buy a ticket at 8 am, and therefore only had to wait about 15 minutes.
In a small rubber boat (max 10 people) you sail to the entrance of the Blue cave. And inside, it is just beautiful. The underground light fall that creates the special color blue is fascinating. Unfortunately, a visit is short but definitely worth it.
In Korcula town, you will feel like traveling back in times. The city is surrounded by a former city wall and you feel its medieval history throughout the entire center. Korcula was built in the shape of a fishbone, designed in a way that the western streets were open to refreshing summer breezes and the eastern part of town was protected from cold winter winds.
You will enter Korcula town through the former entrance gate. From there on, the best thing to do is to just walk around and explore the many lovely alleys and squares. Make sure to climb to the top of the St Marks bell tower to enjoy beautiful views of Dalmatian coast of Croatia. If you are interested in history and discoveries, you can visit the Marco Polo museum. There is a lot of discussion about it, but according to many people, Korcula was the birthplace of this famous explorer.
Restaurant tips: The seafront promenade is full with nice restaurants and bars but one of the top places is Massimo cocktail bar, located on the city wall. Especially during sunset it is the perfect place.
Another town you want to visit in Korcula is Lumbarda, famous for its pine woods, olive groves and vineyards. I went on a wine tasting at Vitis and absolutely loved the setting.
Mljet Island, one of the best islands to visit in Croatia for nature
Mljet is an island in Croatia with the most beautiful national park of the Dalmatian coast of Croatia: Mljet National Park, covering the North-West of the island. And it is a nice to also discover some nature during your trip around the Islands of the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Most boats, including the Sail Croatia cruise arrive in Pomena town. From here it is possible to rent a bike, one of the best ways to explore the park. It is also possible to go for a combined experience, where you go both cycling and hiking during your visit.
One of the most beautiful hikes is a hike around the Malo Jezero (small lake) and it is just a little bike ride away from Pomena. You just leave the bike at the starting point and pick it up later. The hike takes about an hour and the views are breathtaking from every single corner.
The Veliko Jezero (large lake) is best explored by bike. Along the way you can stop and hike to a viewpoint, take a dip in the azure water, rent a kayak or take a boat trip to the former monastery on St Mary’s Island. You’ll also pass a number of small villages where you can have a drink. It is an area where I could stay for days. A place to definitely come back to!
Sail Croatia visits Mljet island in its one week itinerary and the guides will help you rent a bike and explain more about the island.
Elafati islands – Sipan
A surprise during our Sail Croatia cruise was a quick visit to Sipan, wich is part of the Elafiti islands along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, located northwest of Dubrovnik. Not because there is so much to see or so. In the small town, with only a few hundred inhabitants, it seems as if time has stood still. And that is what makes it so unique. There is a small church with surrounding olive, fig and citrus plantations. Along the boulevard there are some nice restaurants. Other islands part of the Elafati include Lopud and Kolocep. Lopud has many beautiful beaches, a 15th century monastery, an immense sea wall and a 30 meters high bell tower.
Sipan was our last night on the Sail Croatia explorer cruise, before arriving to Dubrovnik, the final destination of our Croatia itinerary. Therefore a big farewell dinner and party took place on the boat.
Places to visit at the mainland along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia
Makarska a pretty town at the foot of the Biokovo Mountain range. It is part of the Makarska Riviera, a stunning coastline along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Makarska is famous for its beaches, lovely city center and many outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking. During your tour with Sail Croatia you’ll arrive at the end of the afternoon, as it’s your first day of sailing coming from Split. You have all evening to explore the town because the departure time is not until the next morning.
One of the best things to do in Makarska is to stroll around the waterfront promenade, explore the streets of the center, and visit the little church of Katedrala St. Marko. The center is a maze of streets with restaurants and bars, that it is hard to choose from. It is also recommended to go for a short walk to the St Peter monument. It is located on the other side of the bay. Especially in the evening, as you have a beautiful view of Makarska, with hundreds of lights.
More days to spend in Makarska
If you have more days to spend in Makarska, make sure to visit the Biokovo Nature Park, offering hiking and cycling possibilities. But even if you don’t feel like hiking, you can drive all the way up to the Biokovo skywalk. A glass-floored, viewing deck on the edge of a mountain, with incredible views. You won’t find a better place to take pictures of the Dalmatian coast and islands of Croatia! The closest beach to town is the 1500-meter-long city beach, situated in Donja Luka Bay, about 10 minutes walking. Another beach you shouldn’t miss is located in The Osejava Forest Park, named Nugal. You’ll find high rocks and pine forests, only accessible by foot.
Looking for a place to drink and party in a unique location? Club Deep is a club in an open cave on the beach. Even if you don’t like going out, it’s definitely worth having a drink here.
Splits is Croatia’s second largest city and you’ll find a nice mix of modernity and history. As a visitor you want to make sure to visit the Diocletian’s palace. This is a Roman monument and part of the Unesco World Heritage site list. The palace includes ancient alleys and streets, squares, churches, bars and restaurants. One of the most impressive places is the little square in front of Split’s cathedral, from the 4th century. It is one of the most busy spots in town and there is live music in the evening. If you want to take a great picture, make sure to be there at least at 7AM and you have the whole place to yourself. Split was the starting point of the Sail Croatia Explorer one week cruise.
Dubrovnik is probably one of the most busy places around the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. It is a city you want to discover because of its ancient city walls, baroque buildings, limestone streets and views of the Adriatic sea. But be prepared, as it can be extremely crowded in high season.
Did you know that Dubrovnik was the setting for the popular HBO series Game of Thrones? Sail Croatia offers some fun tours where you visit the coolest movie locations. A great thing to do if you are a connoisseur and enthusiast!
Things to do in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik’s old town, can be accessed by the Pile Gate. This was the main entrance, built in the 15th century, with a stone bridge over a former moat. Next to the gate you’ll find the entrance to the city walls. Here it is possible to walk 1940 meter over the walls, while enjoying views of town and sea. One of the most famous things to do in Dubrovnik. But for the most amazing views, you have to take the cable car to the top of the Mt. Srd mountain.
Other than that, just stroll through the center and try to find an alley without any people. You eventually will find them, especially when you go up the hills. Or just embrace the crowds and setlle down in one of the many bars and restaurants. Some of the beaches around Dubrovnik include Banje Beach, Danče Beach, Sveti Jakov Beach, and Lapad, where I stayed myself after the Sail Croatia island cruise.
The last destination of my Sail Croatia island cruise was Dubrovnik. We arrived in the harbour of Gruz, a fifteen minute drive from the old town, to spend our last night on the boat. Some Sail Croatia cruises start in Dubrovnik and finishes in Split.
Pin Discover the island of Croatia with Sail Croatia for later
More about the best islands to visit with Sail Croatia
I had never been on a cruise but discovering the islands of the Dalmatian Coast with a Sail Croatia cruise was one of the best choices I could have made. The Sail Croatia explorer cruise is a small boutique ship cruising along the beautiful islands. You spend the mornings and early afternoon on the boat enjoying views, eating and drinking and swimming in bays. And at the end of the afternoon you have the time to discover the islands and towns of the Dalmatian coast of Croatia! Do you want to read more about cruising in Croatia? Check out my article with the a detailed day by day breakdown of the Sail Croatia itinerary and a review with everything you want to know about a Sail Croatia cruise.
This article may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something using one of our links, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you, which helps us keep this blog alive. Thank you for your support! Please see our disclosures for more information.