Croatia sailing holidays: guide for first timers

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 16.05.2022

Given that Croatia's idyllic Adriatic coast offers over 200km of azure waters speckled with more than 1000 islands, it'll come as no surprise that it's one of Europe’s most popular sailing destinations.

Beautiful bays backed by sleek resorts; lush olive groves rising over ancient fishing villages; sheltered harbours, and scatterings of Roman ruins — these Adriatic attractions were among the reasons you voted Croatia one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Adapted from The Rough Guide to Croatia, read on for an insider's guide to enjoying your first sailing holiday in Croatia.

Where to go on Croatia sailing holidays and for how long

The southern Dalmatian islands are ideal for first-time sailing holidays. Most routes here involve round trips from Split or Dubrovnik, so you'll need at least a week. In fact, it's advisable to allow at least eight days for a one-way trip from Split to Dubrovnik (or vice versa).

Not sure where to start? Read our feature on Split or Dubrovnik - where to go first? Alternatively, take all the hassle out of planning by booking a tailor-made Dalmatia sailing trip.

Dubovica, Hvar, Croatia © Shutterstock

Dubovica, Hvar, Croatia © Shutterstock

As for which islands to focus on, here's a run-down of what to expect from some of the country's finest during your Croatia sailing holidays. You might also want to dive into our overview of top Croatian island getaways.

Sail to: Hvar Island

Boasting plenty of secluded coves you won’t have to share, stylish bars, a glamorous marina, and exceptional island-produced wine and olives, there’s a reason Hvar has been crowned Queen of the Dalmatian Islands.

Hvar’s food scene is outstanding, from fresh seafood and exquisite cheeses to pasta dishes that give Italy a run for its money. Into food? Find out more about eating and drinking in Croatia, and discover Croatia's top foodie experiences.

While Hvar is the perfect sailing stop-off for foodie couples, the island is also great for families, with safe bays to swim in, and affordable accommodation options alongside all the luxury villas.

If you're into history, you're in luck, too — Hvar's Stari Grad Plain and Start Grad historic centre are UNESCO World Heritage sites, while Hvar Town is a medieval charmer. Think winding pedestrianized alleys overlooked by stone houses — the perfect backdrop to al fresco eating experiences.

Where to stay: explore apartments and hotels in handsome Hvar.


Hvar Harbour — a stunning spot to stop off in during Croatia sailing holidays © Ikonya/Shutterstock

Sail to: Brač Island

One of Brač's beauties is that it can deliver the bliss of a back-to-nature break alongside the liveliness of local bars. That said. even at it's liveliest, Brač — Croatia's third-largest island — retains a laidback vibe.

Supetar, the island's largest town, is an attractive former fishing village with shallow pebbly beaches. With a modest Old Town around its curved harbour, Supetar oozes understated elegance.

On the opposite side of the island, Bol boasts spectacular Zlatni rat beach, with a mild-breeze climate that makes it a top spot for windsurfing. Zlatni rat also earned a spot in our overview of the best beaches in Croatia, along with Lovrečina Bay.

Meanwhile, Brač's interior isn't short of beauty, either. Scrub-covered karst uplands are dotted with fertile depressions of vines, olive groves and orange trees that provide an idyillic backdrop for romantic walks.

Talking of which, if you're in the mood for love — and maybe a spot of hedonism — Hvar features in our round-up of Croatia's best honeymoon destinations.

Where to stay: from luxury villas, to gorgeous guest houses, take a look at Brač's accommodation bounties.

Small coastal restaurant on beach in Bol town, Brac island, Croatia © Shutterstock

A bar in Bol, Brač, Croatia — not a bad place to relax during Croatian sailing holidays © Shutterstock

Sail to: Šolta

One of Croatia's more secluded and sleepy islands, Šolta might be close to Split, but it remains off most tourist maps. It's a place to unwind while enjoying walks and cycling trips at your own pace.

The village of Stomorska has limited moorings for visiting boats, while the picturesque harbour of Maslinica offers a satisfying mix of unspoiled village and yachting chic, making it Šolta's best-kept secret.

To explore lesser-travelled trails, you'll want to take to Šolta's unspoiled interior, where tiny, ancient villages of stone houses speckle the hilly landscape.

After docking in Rogac, follow a steep hill to Grohote, the island's largest settlement, where a maze of stone alleys, secret courtyards and medieval charm awaits.

Where to stay: though secluded, Šolta isn't short of a range of stunning places to stay.

Croatia, group of kayaks in the Adriatic sea

Kayaking Croatia's Adriatic sea © Shutterstock

Sail to: Sveti Klement Island

Car-free Sveti Klement is the largest of Croatia's wooded Pakleni Islands. Fun fact — these islands are often known as Hell's Islands as a result of pakao being the Croatian word for hell. But in actual fact, the name comes from a kind of pine resin — paklina — that used to be harvested here. And it has to be said that these islands are more heaven than hell.

Located to the south of Hvar, and easily reached from Hvar Town — in fact, you can see it from town — Sveti Klement has just three sleepy settlements on its 5 sq km.

Set on a beautiful horseshoe bay, Palmižana boasts a bustling marina, restaurants and a bijou sandy beach.

Where to stay: chances are, you'll visit Sveti Klement on a day trip, so check out hotels in Hvar.

Things not to miss: Old harbor at Adriatic sea. Hvar island, Croatia.

Hvar's old harbour is a stunning base from which to visit Sveti Klement © Shutterstock

Sail to: Vis Island

The furthest flung of the Southern Dalmatian Islands, Vis was cut off from tourists until the early 1990s due to military activity, which means it's unsullied by over-tourism, and famously unspoiled.

Vis is something of a magnet for independent travellers and foodies. The surrounding waters offer up some of the Adriatic’s finest fish and lobster. The island even has its own fast-food, pogača od srdele, an anchovy pasty and local bakery staple.

Home to the magnificent Blue Cave, you'll want to visit Vis in summer when sunlight bathes its interior in aquamarine light.

Where to stay: take your pick from elegant apartments and villas on Vis.

Croatian food squid © Shutterstock

Vis is renowned for its seadfood, like this tasty squid dish © Shutterstock

Sail to: Korčula Island

With soft sand bays and quiet coves on its southern coast, Korčula is a great place for travellers with kids to stop-off on during Croatian sailing holidays — the Adriatic here is especially clear and calm.

With plenty to satisfy history buffs, beach-lovers and foodies, the medieval walled city of Korčula Town preserves a beauty that has few equals in the Adriatic. It has a magnificently atmospheric centre, lovely out-of-town-beaches, and a clutch of excellent restaurants and bakeries.

Cloaked in vineyards, olive groves and Aleppo pines, Korčula is also one of the greenest Adriatic islands. Thanks to its soil and climate, Korčula is famed for its dry whites. Grk, for example, only grows in Lumbarda, while Pošip, cultivated around Smokvica and Čara, is more widespread, but just as tasty.

On the subject of food, alongside serving top-notch seafood, Korčula excels in lamb and goat, which tend be be served goulash-style with Žrnovski makaruni, a succulent, hand-rolled, cigar-shaped local pasta. 

Where to stay: explore Korčula's family-friendly hotels and quaint accommodation options.

Proizd beach near dalmatian Island of Korcula, Croatia © eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock

Proizd Island beach near Korcula, Croatia © eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock

Sail to: Mljet Island

One of the largest Southern Dalmatian Islands, verdant Mljet is popular as a day trip from Dubrovnik, especially with nature-lovers who are drawn to Mljet National Park.

Unspoiled and serene, Mljet really does justify a longer stay, with stunning nature walks, quiet bays, beautiful lakes, and awe-inspiring quaint places to stay offering jaw-dropping views of forests and sea. Adding to Mljet's romantic aura, legend has it Odysseus and Calypso holed up here for seven years.

Mljet is also known for its white and red wines, olives, and goat's cheese, all of which can be gorged on in the island's main settlement, Pomena.

Where to stay: these Mljet accommodation options come with magnificent views.

Island Mljet, Prozurska luka, Croatia © Simun Ascic/Shutterstock

Majestic Mljet Island, Croatia © Simun Ascic/Shutterstock

When to go on Croatia sailing holidays

High summer in Croatia is busy, but the weather’s glorious. Expect averages of 26–27°C in July and August, with similar sea temperatures. All of which means you can experience excellent snorkelling and swimming in the clear, balmy Adriatic.

Croatia's sailing season runs from May to the end of September, and it's worth being mindful of these dates. Temperatures drop to 15°C in October and many businesses shut up shop for the year in autumn. So, if you're tempted by start or end of season deals, you might not get the Croatian sailing holiday you envisaged.

Find out more about when to go to Croatia.


Swimming in shallow waters is fun on Croatia sailing holidays © Eleanor Aldridge

How to find a yacht in Croatia

For first time sailing holidays in Croatia, it’s a good idea to book a skippered yacht. You’ll learn sailing skills while also having the freedom to relax and enjoy the experience.

Expert local skippers really are invaluable on first time sailing holidays. They’re able to recommend routes and adjust them in response to weather changes. What's more, they'll also know the top swimming spots, attractions, restaurants and islands to visit. You could also consider booking someone to take care of cooking and cleaning.

More experienced sailors can opt for a “bareboat” Croatia sailing charter. While requirements for these vary between operators, you will need full certification, such as the ICC (International Certificate of Competence).

Sunset, Hvar

Summer sailing in Croatia almost always means great sunsets © Eleanor Aldridge

What to expect on board your yacht

Not all yachts in Croatia are the same. They vary from cosy set-ups to floating paradigms of luxury. With most companies offering a range of different boats, see what’s available from your chosen operator, and always be realistic about expectations of space and facilities.

At the lower end, you’ll find older, smaller boats, with cramped cabins and shared bathrooms, while modern, high-end catamarans offer an entirely different experience. Often fitted with plush furnishings and en-suites, you'll also enjoy more extensive deck space.

Meanwhile, solo travellers booking a group trip with budget operator may have to share a cabin, or even a double bed. If you are travelling alone, read our tips for surviving solo travel.


Croatia sailing holidays mix sea, beach, forest and mountains © Eleanor Aldridge

Should you sign up for Yacht Week in Croatia?

You might have seen the glamorous promos for Croatia's Yacht Week. But beware — while this mega flotilla trip for moneyed 20-somethings promises the party of a lifetime, it’s far from sustainable, and doesn’t reflect Croatian culture.

In fact, local sailors have voiced safety concerns about inexperienced Yacht Week skippers. In the past, some towns have even refused moorings to the boozy crowds.

What to do before and after your sailing holiday

Sea-based experiences aside, Croatia has something for everyone — from outdoor adventuring, to uncovering history. So, you'd do well to take a few days to explore some of the country either side of your Croatian sailing holiday. Here are a few ideas:

Explore Croatia's capital, Zagreb

Somewhat off most visitor's radars, Zagreb has always been a more arty, quirky and creative place than its tourist-deluged cousins on Croatia’s coast. Home to a thriving alternative music scene and eccentric bars, it's a city that never sleeps, with tonnes of clubs, and a burgeoning food scene.

Captial of Croatia since 1991, find out why Zagreb is also Croatia's capital of cool.


Zagreb's National Theatre © Shutterstock

Discover Dubrovnik Old Town

Backed by rugged mountains, and jutting into the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is one of the world’s best-preserved medieval cities. Its atmospheric Old Town presents itself as a maze of pretty passages, with plenty of boutiques and world-class restaurants. 

If that's sparked your interest in visiting, read up on things to do in Dubrovnik. In the mood for love? The city is one of our best honeymoon destinations in Croatia. In addition, our experts hailed it one of the best places on earth for 2022.

Game of Thrones fans might want to find out how to enjoy a real Game of Thrones adventure in Dubrovnik, while hardcore aficionados could consider taking a Game of Thrones trip.


The red roofs of Dubrovnik's Old Town © Shutterstock

Hike the remarkable Plitvice Lakes

For outdoor action, it doesn’t get better than Plitvice Lakes National Park, a forested Eden of deep blue lakes and rushing, romantic waterfalls. 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts twelve hiking trails through pristine landscapes, plus there's a fantastic network of bike trails on its northern edge.

If all that talk of the great outdoors has got you thinking about switching from a sailing hoilday, you'll find inspiration in our customisable ultimate adventure trip around Croatia.

Things not to miss: Plitvice lakes and waterfalls, Croatia.

Plitvice is a paradise of lakes and waterfalls © Shutterstock

You will find some useful tips for travelling in Croatia in our practical guide to island-hopping in Croatia.

Ready to take the plunge for your first Croatian sailing holiday? If you'd prefer to spend more time enjoying it than planning, take a look at our fully-customisable tailor-made Dalmatia sailing trip.

Prefer to go it alone? Arm yourself with The Rough Guide to Croatia and read our run-down of the best places to visit and best things to do in Croatia.

Looking for practical tips? Find out more about getting to Croatia, and getting around once you're there.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 16.05.2022

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