With over 1,000 isles dotted off the mainland, Croatia is an island-aficionado’s haven. Dive into turquoise sea, hide in secluded bays and discover the best islands in Croatia for tranquility, nature, adventure and glamour. I’ve rounded up the top six, all easily accessible from Split or Dubrovnik, from car-free Croatia islands to those with glitzy terrace bars.
And what’s more, Croatia is now on the UK green list.
The Best Islands in Croatia for Hiking, Nightlife & Glamour
Hvar is the Croatia island with the jetset crowd, party-goers and adventure-seekers. If showcasing your Versace bag and Gucci sunglasses are your top priority, (you probably aren’t reading this blog to be honest!), then head to Hvar town. Its glamorous promanade, upmarket hotels and pricy restaurants make it the best island in Croatia for the well-heeled and superyacht elite.
Clubbers can dance the night away in Hvar town’s bars and clubs (once fully open again – currently bars are outdoors only until midnight). Then nurse hangovers on the nearby beaches. In normal non-covid times, it’s one of the busiest islands of Croatia, but if you travel there out of season (May, Sept, Oct) you’ll have a much quieter experience.
If you feel like a granny in a nightclub or the glitz and glam isn’t your scene, head to Stari Grad, Jelsa or Vrboska. These towns on Havr island have a laid back vibe, far more modest prices and cute stone lanes to explore.
For hikers, cyclists and adventurists, Hvar island is made for you. It’s one of the best islands in Croatia for outdoor pursuits from kayaking to biking. It has myriad trails to explore (best done outside mid-June to end-Aug as the temperatures are scorching hot).
Read more from my blog: Hiking Hvar
Read more from my blog: Discover Hvar Island
Best Croatia Islands for Culture Vultures & Boutique Shoppers
Nestled within the stone alleys of Korčula’s old town are beautiful boutiques and artists’ ateliers. Handmade jewellery, swimwear and luxury bags decorate the lanes with their kalediscopic colours. Beyond the independent shops is the striking backdrop of the mountains on the mainland, only a 30-minutes ferry trip away.
With a 6,000-year-old underwater town and questionnable links to Marco Polo, Korčula island will keep history buffs entertained. Tiny Korčula old town has two (not great) Marco Polo museums that state, erroneously, he was born there. (He was Venetian but may have been imprisoned in Korčula.) For archaeological enthusiasts, you can find out about the very recent 4,500BC undersea settlement discovery in Korčula museum, found May 2021, off the Croatia island’s east side.
Just east of Korčula old town are several small Croatia islands with clear blue sea and rocky bays, accessible by ferry taxi. For 100 kuna (£11.50 / €12.50) you can spend the day island hopping between Korčula-Badija-Vrnik-Stupe-Lumbarda. Walk around all of Badija with its 600-year-old monastery; snorkel off Stupe and find a hidden bay to sunbathe in on Vrnik.
Just a few miles from Dubrovnik lie six islands known collectively as the Elafiti Islands. Easily reachable on the Jadrolina ferry line, they make perfect day excursions from the city.
Here are two of them.
The Best Islands in Croatia for Tranquility
Sleepy Koločep with a population of 300, can be circumnavigated on foot in a few hours, taking in expansive ocean views towards Italy and the Croatian mainland. Enjoy the solitude on this car-free and calm island as you pass by rocky bays, picturesque churches and tiny hamlets. Refuel in the restaurant at Koločep village before catching the onward ferry to Lopud or back to Dubrovnik.
The Best Islands in Croatia Best for Sandy Beaches
Croatia isn’t know for its sandy beaches which makes the one at Sunj Bay a real temptation. Officially it’s a nudist beach but everyone was respectable when I was there. (There are nudist beaches everywhere in Croatia denoted by the letters FKK.) There was a fair bit of plastic washed up at the far end of this Croatia island’s beach but this might be removed once tourism picks up. This was true of all the islands of Croatia I saw except beaches on Mljet.
You can walk the paths around Lopud, relax in the park on the main drag and hike up to the fortress for views of the island. Like neighbouring Koločep, Lopud is devoid of vehicles so locals, all 200 of them, get their deliveries via golf buggies. There is a collection of little shops/a bar/cafes where the Jadrolina ferry arrives while at the end of the promenade stands a 15th century monastery. It has just been converted into a posh hotel, ‘Lopud 1483’ opening this season. Apparently, it’s Game of Thrones-esque but as I’ve never watched it, I wouldn’t know.
The Best Islands in Croatia for Nature Lovers & Swimmers
Mljet National Park Island
Lush foligae, inland sea lakes and wildlife make Mljet National Park my personal favourite of the Croatia islands. With 120 bird species, wetlands and 52.87-square kilometres of protected land, it’s a nature-lover’s paradise. What’s more, it attracts far fewer tourists than its neighbours which means solitude is just round the corner.
Mljet’s two stunning inland sea lakes are its top drawer. The water temperatures are typically 4 degrees higher than the coastal sea, making it one of the best islands in Croatia for swimming. The breathtaking views get even better in April and May as the vibrant orchids come into bloom around the national park. And if cycling the islands of Croatia is your thing, Mljet has ultra quiet roads to bike along.
Read more from my blog: Indiana Jones Island – Mljet National Park
Mljet can be reached by Krilo catamaran from Split, Korcula or Dubrovnik once a day.
The Best Islands in Croatia for Affluent Folk
The adorable little town of Bol is where the rich folk come to holiday. It’s located on the south of Brač island, with views across to nearby Hvar. A clincally clean and brilliant white promanade runs down from Bol to Croatia’s best marketing fabrication: Golden Horn beach, AKA Zlatni Rat. You’d believe it was one of the best islands in Croatia for pure white sand from the photoshopped aerial photos. In reality, it’s a stone beach that’s only 470m metres long and in summer packed with tourists. I wasn’t impressed, but that said, the beach bar on Golden Horn is a cute hangout with chillout music, comfy beanbags, friendly staff and London-priced drinks. (There’s even a 500kn / £55 / €60 cocktail!)
You can get the Jadrolina catamaran from Jelsa (Hvar) to Bol (Brac). Or arrive at Supetar on Brac island from Split.
The islands of Croatia are a real treat. They have less tourists than Greece, are currently on the UK green list (but for how long we don’t know) and they offer far more than just crystal blue sea and secluded bays. Summer temperatures can be sizzling; 33 degrees by mid-June, peaking at 40 degrees in mid-August. Hiking and biking should therefore be done outside the main summer months.
Croatia and Covid Restrictions
Croatia and its islands are welcoming tourists back. You need one of the following to ensure entry to Croatia:
- a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival;
- or a negative rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival;
- or a vaccination certificate showing you’ve had both jabs*;
- or proof via a PCR test that in the last 180 days (up to 11 days before your arrival) you already had covid.
- Plus proof of paid accommodation and a completed Enter Croatia form.
For more info, read these Q&A by the Croatia Tourism Board.