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Best Islands to Visit in Croatia

No Croatia vacation would be the same without visiting at least some of its hundreds of islands and islets. Whether you want to spend time on some of the most beautiful beaches, go swimming or snorkeling, immerse yourself in authentic daily life, explore history, or all of the above, there are many outstanding options. This is a country made for island-hopping, with small-ship cruises and ferries that make it easy to explore on your own or as part of an intimate group while traveling on an elegant yacht-like vessel. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but you’ll want to choose based on your particular interests. From the most popular isles to less-visited gems, these are the best islands to visit in Croatia.

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Discovering Croatia’s islands on a small ship cruise offers a unique blend of relaxation and adventure, letting you unwind while effortlessly exploring the country’s top destinations all in one unforgettable journey.

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Michela

Croatia Specialist
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Hvar Town Blog Section Image

Hvar

Sunny Hvar is one of the most popular Croatian islands with world-class dining and nightlife that attracts all sorts of international jet setters from across the globe. Not only can you enjoy sipping cocktails at beach bars, indulging in Michelin-star meals, and dancing the night away in clubs, but exploring spectacular landscapes and historic landmarks. The island features vineyard-covered hills, fragrant lavender fields, and a magnificent coastline with idyllic bays and secluded coves. Old Town Hvar is overlooked by the mid-16th-century Spanjola Fortress and surrounded by 13th-century walls. Here you’ll find Europe’s oldest still active community theater dating to 1612, 17th-century St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and a Benedictine Convent, here since 1644.

Korcula Old Town Blog Section Image

Korcula

Korcula may best be known as the alleged birthplace of international explorer Marco Polo, but its star attraction is arguably Old Town Korcula. Surrounded by walls, towers, and imposing gates, it’s often referred to as a mini-Dubrovnik. The enticing maze of medieval streets is lined with magnificent architecture that reveals significant Venetian influence like St. Mark’s Cathedral with its pair of winged lions. There are tranquil courtyards, romantic balconies, and numerous restaurants from traditional konobas serving authentic Dalmatian cuisine to Michelin-star eateries. The island also boasts picturesque natural scenery with dense forests, olive groves, and beautiful beaches. In Lumbarda at its eastern tip, one can snorkel, swim, and sunbathe in gorgeous coves surrounded by greenery.

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Brac

Brac Island is Dalmatia’s largest, world-famous for its limestone quarries, some of which were used to build Diocletian’s Palace in Split and the White House in Washington, DC. During the summer at the Pucisca Stonemasonry School, visitors can learn about the limestone and how buildings and various works like sculptures are made from it in addition to viewing pieces made by the students. It’s also home to some of the most spectacular Croatia beaches. Zlatni Rat, or the Golden Horn, is frequently named the most beautiful in Croatia and among Europe’s best. Swirling out in the shape of a horn, it juts about a third of a mile into the transparent turquoise sea, providing an idyllic spot for sunbathing and swimming.

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Vis

Vis is the farthest inhabited from mainland Croatia; as it was used as a military base, closed to the public for 40 years, it managed to retain its unspoiled beauty with only minimal tourism development. Today, it’s known as the “Mediterranean as it once was,” providing the chance to go back in time and experience a tranquil atmosphere with stunning scenery and traditional architecture. In Vis Town, you can wander the stone streets and along the waterfront, visit the former fortress of Our Lady’s battery which houses the archeological museum, and sip cocktails while watching a glorious sunset from Fort George. Along the southern coast, you’ll find beautiful coves like Stiniva with a postcard-perfect beach and aquamarine water.

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Mljet

Renowned for its lush, green landscapes, Mljet is carpeted by dense forest with Mljet National Park covering nearly a third of the island. Its breathtaking landscape can be explored on foot or on two wheels with bike rentals available. Scenic paths wind through the woods and along the park’s two saltwater lakes in dazzling shades of emerald and turquoise with small beaches for sunbathing and swimming. Boat rides can bring you to St. Mary Islet in the middle of the larger lake, Veliko jezero, which includes a gift shop, cafe, and the ruins of a 12th-century Benedictine monastery. Kayaking and canoeing (rentals available) are a great way to explore the lakes too.

Dugi Otok Blog Section Image

Dugi Otok

Dugi Otok is often referred to as one of Croatia’s best-kept secrets. Located near Zadar, it’s a place to embrace nature with one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Lying at its northern end is Sakuran Beach which features chalk-white sand that stretches for nearly a half-mile. It’s surrounded by dense pine trees providing shade while edging crystal-clear, calm water. On the opposite end, you’ll find tranquil Telascica Nature Park with peaceful beaches and abundant fauna and flora, including more than 400 different plant species. The bay is ideal for water sports, including snorkeling and diving with outstanding clarity. Archaeological ruins can be seen on the islet of Taljuric, including Illyrian burial mounds and 1st-century Roman buildings.

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Rab

Located off the northern coast, Rab is sometimes called the “island of love,” a moniker that may have been birthed when it served as a romantic retreat for  King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Its long history dates back to at least 360 BC when it was recorded as “Arba” island, or dark and green forested, with over a third of the surface covered in forest. The fertile interior is protected by mountains allowing grapes, olives, and vegetables to thrive. Along the shores, there are more sandy beaches than any other island in the Adriatic, including the naturist lovers’ Sahara Beach for those who want an all-over tan. Plus, hikers and bikers can take advantage of over 100 miles of scenic trails.

Losinj Blog Section Image

Losinj

The locals call Losinj the “island of wellness and vitality.” Located in the Kvarner Gulf region, it offers a relaxed retreat with plenty of opportunities to support wellness, from the fresh, salty sea air and saltwater to medicinal herbs, lemon, and eucalyptus trees that grow here. You’ll find sandy beaches with crystal-clear turquoise water where you might find yourself swimming alongside dolphins that follow ferries in and out of the bay. The cuisine is mouthwatering, featuring lots of fresh seafood and fish, often prepared with island-grown herbs and paired with regional or local wines. Veli Losinj and Mali Losinj are the two main towns and both offer intriguing museums, including the Museum of Losinj and the Museum of Apoxyomenos.

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Krk

Krk Island is also in the Kvarner Gulf, nestled between Dalmatia to the south and the Istrian Peninsula to the north. It’s the largest in the Adriatic, covering 157 miles. Krk Town is great for sightseeing, home to landmarks like the famous 12th-century St. Mary’s Cathedral with a 16th-century bell tower. Overlooking the sea, Frankopan Castle dates to the 12th century and once served as a fortress to protect against invaders. The island’s highest mountain, Obzovi at about 1,900 feet, there is some remarkable flora, including some 1,400 different species of plants like the very rare Barbašova lazarkinja that only grows in Baska lagoon. There are many rare bird species too, from eagles to vultures.

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Cres

Cres is one of Croatia’s least developed islands, inhabited since the Paleolithic era. It sits just across from the town of Opatija in the north on Kvarner Bay, featuring idyllic beaches, forests, caves, dramatic cliffs, charming hilltop towns, and abandoned hamlets. It’s also known for unique wildlife like the griffon – the fortunate might even see one spread its up to 9-foot-long wings. In Cres Town, you’ll notice influences from multiple cultures, including the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and the first independent Croatians. It includes landmarks like Arsan Palace – today, the Renaissance palace just off the harborfront houses the Cres City Museum with a collection that includes weapons, costumes, and remnants of life on the island from prehistoric times to the late Middle Ages.

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