Discover Croatia’s Hidden Islands, Banana Gold Beaches, and Blue Grotto

From its sparkling southern harbors to its banana gold sand beaches, Croatia forges its way into your memory and lingers long after you leave.

Whether you travel to the cities or the islands, you are sure to return with captivating stories and memories. The cities guarantee adventure and attract tourists in droves, but the Croatian islands offer a rarer adventure.

Although you’ll find plenty to do in the cities, you’ll create your most unforgettable memories on Croatia’s less traveled roads.

Vis Island, Croatia

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The island Vis promises such an adventure. Vis sits 30 miles off the coast but belongs to Croatia’s Central Dalmatian region. According to Pelican Tours, Vis occupies 35 square miles in the Adriatic Sea, a sliver of paradise that almost 4,000 people call home.

Despite its size, Vis dazzles the camera with Tiffany-blue waters that cradle sun-drenched bays and coves along its rugged coastline. Each year, tourists come to the island to tour the magical caves and coves and the town, Komiža.

Komiža, Vis Island, Croatia

The fishing town Komiža hides along the island’s western coast and grows some of the world’s finest olives, carobs, and lemons. Some travelers call Komiža a sanctuary; others, like travel writer Shawn Mitchell, describe the town as a “serene place of white limestone and waves.”

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In this idyllic town, waves crash onto pebble shores as pelicans glide through untroubled skies, then swoop down to scavenge for fish. Each year, tourists snap pictures around the town and sample the grapes and wines from the local vineyards.

Visitors also enjoy the island’s recreation and water sports. So, if you visit Komiža, spend a day diving, water-skiing, or playing boccia with the locals. Then, head to the neighboring towns to tour the fortresses and museums.

Throughout these towns, you’ll find remnants of ancient city walls still towering over parts of the island. You can also tour the town, Vis — named after the island — and visit the Archaeological Museum at the Levaman Fortress.

After the museum, grab your camera and soak up the sun at Stiniva. With its pebble shores and translucent waters, Stiniva Beach enchants tourists from around the world.

Drone Pic / Flickr

Located on the island’s southern tip, Stiniva sits in a cove, hugged by towering cliffs. On sunny days, the crystalline water reveals the seafloor and fish below.

In 2016, the European Best Destinations tourism group voted Stiniva the most beautiful beach in Europe. But tourists call Stiniva one of the most breathtaking beaches in the world.

After Stiniva, jump on a ferry and cruise over to the Blue Grotto. This is one sight you won’t want to miss.

Biševo, Croatia


Drone Pic / Flickr

The Blue Grotto sits on the neighboring island Biševo, Croatia’s most remote inhabited island. Each year, tourists travel to Biševo to enjoy the Elysian beaches, the hidden coves, and the Blue Grotto. Biševo also offers some of the best snorkeling in Croatia, according to the Croatia Spots tourism group.

To get to the Blue Grotto, take a ferry from Vis to Biševo for about an hour. The cave sits east on Biševo at Balun Cove. When you arrive, climb onto a small raft, float toward the entrance, and then duck your head as you drift inside.

Delightful Travelers / YouTube

Once inside, see the grotto aglow. The cave radiates electric blue light, as though lit by an underwater lantern or some mysterious, subterranean source.

Although the light seems to emanate from otherworldly dimensions, it has natural origins: the sun.  The blue glow appears when the sun reflects on the water and the limestone cave floors, experts say. On sunny days, the sun lights the water, illuminating the cave with that cobalt glow.

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Tourists recommend visiting the cave between 11 a.m. and noon on sunny days. Although the raft rides and rough waters frustrate some travelers, most say it’s worth the visit.

Fortunately, ferries travel several times a day between Vis and Biševo, so you can come and go as you like. You can also hire a private boat or an agency that runs tours from Split and Hvar.

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Where to Stay

Although Hotel Biševo is Komiža’s only hotel, Komiža also offers visitors an array of guesthouses and extended-stay apartments.

The Apartments Zambarlin, the Casa Katalina, and the Komiža Provita are a few properties to consider. All three have pools and sit within walking distance of most museums and beaches.

Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try one of these Airbnbs on Vis Island. Otherwise, consider these options.

Hotel Biševo

Tucked behind pine trees on a pebble beach, the Hotel Biševo promises serenity at a reasonable price. The hotel offers 124 double rooms, two single rooms, and several miniature suites equipped with family rooms.

Guest rooms are adorned with festive island décor and come with air conditioning, satellite TV, a telephone, and a refrigerator.

After you check in, relax on your balcony and enjoy the ocean view. In the morning, wake up as the ocean breeze sweeps through your bedroom window. Then, grab some sunscreen and head to the pool to soak up the island sun.

Hotel San Giorgio

Wikimedia Commons

If the Hotel Biševo isn’t your style, head to the Hotel San Giorgio instead. This family-owned hotel hides behind lemon trees in the historic district of the town Vis and sits within waking distance of most beaches.

The San Giorgio prioritizes guests’ comfort and safety and offers contact-free check-in and check-out. All guest rooms also come with queen-sized beds and free Wi-Fi, ensuring that you’ll feel safe and comfortable.

But before you leave, stop by the in-house restaurant to enjoy the savory Mediterranean and seafood dishes topped with home-grown spices.

The Hotel San Giorgio has received 9.6 stars on TripAdvisor, and travelers have rated it the top hotel in Vis.

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Bella Vista Suites

If San Giorgio is booked, head to the Bella Vista Suites, located within walking distance from most beaches. The hotel also sits less than a mile from Beach Vagan, five miles from Zaglav Beach, and six miles from Srebrna Bay. Split International Airport is the closest, located 34 miles from the hotel via ferry.

Bella Vista also offers a swimming pool, air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms, flat screens and free parking and Wi-Fi.

Travelers on Booking.com rate Bella Vista Suites 9.1 stars.

Dining

After sightseeing, you will have worked up an appetite, but you won’t lack for dining options. You’ll find oodles of restaurants that serve savory seafood, Mediterranean, Croatian, veggie, and vegan dishes.

So, here are a few restaurants to try.

Fort George

Fort George Restaurant / Flickr

Head to Fort George for a Croatian culinary adventure. Tucked away in a fortress, Fort George offers an assorted menu of seafood, veggie, Mediterranean, and Croatian specialties. Order the grilled asparagus, monkfish medallions, seasoned octopus, and then splurge on chocolate cake and ice cream.

Or order the avocado and quinoa salad, the roasted beef tomato, or the onion soup and bruschetta from the vegetarian menu. Meanwhile, relax outdoors and take in the island and ocean views.

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Frutarija Vis

TripAdvisor travelers rate Frutarija the top restaurant in Vis. This island restaurant offers a diverse menu with regional, vegan, and vegetarian options. And tourists rave about the fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies. So, sip a mango smoothie while you sit on the terrace, listen to the local bands, and soak up the sea breeze.

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Konoba Stončica

Another local favorite, Konoba Stončica, offers an eclectic menu of fresh seafood, tangy barbecue, Mediterranean cuisine, and gluten-free and vegetarian dishes. Try the grilled calamari or the Mediterranean shrimp salad topped with olives plucked from the backyard.

Not only is the food divine, but travelers also rave about the friendly staff and service. Prices range from about $20 to $70 per dinner. The restaurant now offers takeout and in-dining.

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Vis Island: Weather

So, now that you’re planning your trip, you probably wonder what to pack. Well, prepare for sunshine because the island enjoys pleasant temperatures year-round.

The Mediterranean climate produces warm summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures surge above 75 degrees (24 C), but winter temperatures drop below 50 (6 C). Vis receives less than 31 inches (800 mm) of rain each year, according to the Vis Island tourism group.

Croatia: COVID-19 Travel Update

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Although you’ll enjoy plenty of sunshine, you’ll also need to take precautions while traveling. According to the Reuters COVID-19 Tracker, Croatia reports 364,491 total COVID-19 cases and 8,270 deaths, with a daily average of 180 new infections since the pandemic began.

On July 3, 2021, the U.S. State Department issued a Level-3 Travel Advisory, urging tourists to delay travel. However, COVID-19 is ever-evolving, so check back for updates. See the Croatian government’s COVID-19 website to learn more.

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Croatia: Safe Travels

Wherever you travel in Croatia, you’re sure to find an adventure, but head to the islands if you want to disconnect and escape from the world. However, you’ll also want to stay safe while traveling, so check the State Department’s website for travel updates. You may want to plan your trip now but delay travel.

Also, see these posts on Iceland and Malta for more travel inspiration.