The road that climbs out of Rab to the north makes its way down the island’s broad central valley. After passing the sprawling settlement of Supetarska Draga, the main road reaches a T-junction at the neck of the Lopar peninsula. The left turn leads to the village of LOPAR, a handful of houses spread around a muddy bay. The right turn leads to San Marino, 1km south, s a largely modern village which nevertheless lays claim to being the birthplace of St Marin, a fourth-century stonemason who fled persecution by crossing the seas to Italy, founding the town that subsequently became the republic of San Marino. San Marino stretches around a vast expanse of sand known as Veli mel (mel being an archaic word for “beach”, although it’s also referred to hereabouts as Rajska plaža – “Paradise Beach” – or simply “Copacabana”), backed by cafés and restaurants and packed with families from June to September. The bay on which Veli mel is situated is unusually shallow, and you can paddle almost all the way to an islet about 1km offshore. There’s a sequence of smaller, progressively less crowded sandy beaches beyond the headlands to the north, beginning with Livačina Bay, followed by the predominantly naturist Kaštelina Bay slightly further up.