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Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is a dream destination with over 1200 islands dotting the crystal clear azure waters of the Adriatic Sea. The hidden coves, small fishing villages, medieval-style cities, calm blue waters and beautiful sunsets make it one of Europe’s most sought after summer destinations. 

The best way to explore these stunning islands and appreciate the incredible beauty of Croatia’s coast is to take your time visiting many of the islands on your trip. Island hopping Croatia has become one of the best things to do in the country and a completely relaxing way to discover this beautiful part of the country.

After spending two weeks sailing along the Dalmatian coast, we have put together this Croatia island hopping guide. It will help you plan your perfect trip to the Dalmatian coast and provide some summer travel inspiration. 

island hopping in croatia

Why go to Croatia’s coast

Croatia’s coast is its biggest drawcard. Its stunning medieval coastal cities like Dubrovnik and countless islands surrounded by clear blue water, make it the ultimate European summer escape. Croatia’s coast sees millions of tourists every year, with Dubrovnik, Split and islands like Hvar, soaring in popularity in recent years. 

However, despite the crowds, Croatia’s coastline is still worth a visit, especially, if you plan on taking a sailing trip. Most people can’t help but fall in love with Croatia after exploring some of its Adriatic islands. 

How to island-hop in Croatia

Depending on your budget, travel style and time constraints, there’s an island-hopping Croatia itinerary and mode of transport for everyone. From the local ferry system to chartering a private boat, you can tailor a Croatia island hopping holiday to suit your own style and needs.

island hopping in croatia

By ferry

The ferry system in Croatia is surprisingly easy to navigate and quite affordable. You can buy tickets as foot passengers or it’s also possible to take a car with you to some of the islands. This is a particularly good idea if you’ve rented a car in Croatia and plan on visiting the larger islands. 

The ferries are generally very comfortable, with free Wi-Fi, a bar and even a restaurant available on larger services. Ferry services double and even triple from June until the end of August to cater for the greater demand in the summer. You can even purchase tickets on the same day that you plan on traveling, but it’s best to check schedules and routes on companies’ websites beforehand. Jadrolinija is one of the most popular and larger companies servicing the Croatia islands, but there are many other options too.

On a tour

Croatia island hopping tours are extremely popular. They generally follow a standard Croatia island-hopping itinerary starting in Split, although there are also options starting in Dubrovnik. The most popular trips are generally a 7-day Croatian island hopping tour that stops in popular islands like Hvar and Korcula. But there are also alternative tours available stopping in lesser-known spots with up to 2 weeks of sailing time if you prefer.

Deciding on a Croatia island tour really depends on your budget as well as your travel style. 

There are catamaran or yacht cruises that cater to a younger, backpacking crowd and are usually more party tours for people aged up to 35. Medsailors and Contiki are some of the most popular Croatia sailing companies that offer these types of tours. 

There are also mid-sized cruises and catamarans that can cater to all different travelers. Companies often match like-minded people in the same tour groups and have designated tour itineraries catering for different travel styles and budgets. Sail Croatia is one of the most popular Croatia island hopping tour operators and they have a variety of options.

Rent or charter your own boat  

If you’d prefer to have more control over your Croatian island tour, then you can rent or charter your own boat. There is a range of different options from small to large sailboats, catamarans and yachts. You can also choose to either have a captain and crew or not, depending on your sailing experience.

Prices can vary depending on the boat and whether you decide to have a crew. Most prices are also quoted just for the boat, and you have to ensure you factor in food, port fees and captain and crew tips.

Best time to go

The best time to island hop in Croatia is in the warmer summer months. Although you can technically visit the coastline all year round, it’s only between May and September that the sea warms up and the ferry services are more frequent. 

The most popular months to visit the islands off of Croatia are July and August. This is the typical high season, meaning it can be an extremely busy and crowded time. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, it’s best to visit either side of these months such as in June or September.

Many restaurants, bars and clubs on islands in Croatia do close past September, so we do not recommend a Croatia island hopper trip in the fall. 

island hopping in croatia

Best Islands in Croatia

It’s hard to decide on the best islands to visit in Croatia. There are over 1200 to choose from. However, there are certainly more popular islands that see most of the visitors such as Hvar and Brac, with many of the Croatia island tours heading to the same few places. However, they are popular for good reason, as they are generally some of the most lively and beautiful of the islands.

There are also some lesser-known spots that are worth your time if you have a flexible itinerary. 

These are the best Croatian islands to visit

Brac

Brac is the third largest of Croatia’s islands and a popular day trip destination from Split. It’s a great idea to hire a car or scooter on Brac, as it makes it easier to move around and explore the sights. Although it’s close to the mainland, it still feels less tourist-oriented than Hvar and makes for a nice alternative for a day trip or first stop on your Split to Dubrovnik island hopping trip.

island hopping in croatia
Zlatni Rat Beach, Brac, Croatia

Main attractions on the island:

  • Visit the famous Zlatni Rat Beach known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia
  • On the other side of the island, explore Pucisca, a beautiful coastal village
  • The main town of Bol is worth your time with some of the best restaurants on the island

Mljet

The magical island of Mljet is not far off the coast from Dubrovnik and is best known for its natural beauty. A large part of the island is made up of the Mljet National Park, which has plenty of trails that you can walk and cycle along. It’s often visited as a day trip from Dubrovnik or a brief stop on the island hopping Croatia route. 

island hopping in croatia

Main attractions on the island:

  • Hike down to the Odysseus Cave, an incredibly beautiful spot and one of our favorite things to do in Croatia
  • Visit the Veliko and Malo Jezero salt lakes, one of which has a 12th century monastery in the middle

Korcula

Korcula is one of the larger islands in Croatia. However, it’s more relaxed and feels much less crowded than more popular, Hvar and Brac. It’s often one of the people’s favourite islands, with its charming old town and laid back attitude. It’s famous for being the birthplace of Marco Polo, although the evidence of this is very questionable!

Main attractions on the island:

  • Explore the historic Old Town on the northeastern tip of the island
  • Pupnatska Luka is widely considered the best beach on the island located on the south side
  • Known for its quality white wine, it’s worth taking a wine tour or at least visiting some local wineries to sample the region’s best

Hvar

Hvar is one of the most popular and well-known islands of the Adriatic Sea. Despite its popularity, you should still add Hvar to any Croatia island-hop itinerary. It’s a large island with a number of towns to explore, beautiful beaches and very lively nightlife. 

Island Hopping in Croatia
Hvar, Croatia

Main attractions on the island:

  • Hang out in Hvar Town, the main town on the island and the most fun place to be at night
  • Hvar fortress is a must-visit with incredible views over the town and sea
  • Visit the beaches of Dubovica and Pokonji Dol, both a short distance from Hvar Town
  • Take a day to explore the Pakleni Islands, a short water taxi away

Vis

Vis has a much more remote vibe and is a great island to visit on your Croatians island tour. It’s the farthest inhabited island from the mainland and was closed to tourists until 1989, as it was used as a former Yugoslav military base. It’s far less developed than some of the other built-up islands, but this is kind of its charm.

island hopping in croatia

Main attractions on the island:

  • Stay the night in the charming fishing village of Komiza
  • Visit Stiniva beach, regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe
  • Take a trip to the Green and Blue sea caves off the coast of Vis

Pag

Pag is one of the largest islands in Croatia and is accessible by a motorable bridge, making it a popular place to visit on a day trip. It’s located north of Zadar and can be reached by less than an hour drive from the city. The island is most famous for its party and nightlife and there are often festivals taking place on the island in summer.

island hopping in croatia
Pag, Croatia

Main attractions on the island:

  • Zrce beach is the best known party beach and often hosts summer festivals
  • The main town also known as Pag is worth spending some time for its delicious food

Rab

Rab is located just north of Pag island and is just a short ferry ride across the water. It is known for its sandy beaches and pine forests in the southwest, which are contrasted by the windswept and barren northeast coast. Although it still sees a number of visitors in summer, exploring the island still feels like a real discovery.

island hopping in croatia
Rab, Croatia

Main attractions on the island:

  • Rajska Beach is considered the nicest beach on the island
  • Check out the Old Town which is dominated by four church bell towers high above the roof line

Krk

Krk is the largest Croatian island located in the northern Adriatic sea. It’s also one of the most accessible with a toll bridge connecting it to the mainland. In summer, it’s often extremely busy with Europeans, as it’s the first island when approaching from central Europe. It’s not known for its stunning beauty, but its landscape is quite varied and there are numerous picturesque towns to visit. 

island hopping in croatia
The Krk Bridge

Main attractions on the island:

  • Vrbnik is a charming village on the opposite coast to Krk town that is far less quieter than others
  • The main town of Krk has incredible architectural wonders such as the 5th century cathedral and the Frankopan Castle
  • The southeastern side of the island toward Stara Baska is far less visited and is blessed with rugged terrain but incredibly beautiful beaches 

Other stops:

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is considered the pearl of the Adriatic in the far south of Croatia. Despite being surrounded by a lot of hype, it’s one place that does live up to its reputation. This medieval-style walled city has become famous for being used as a set for some episodes of Game of Thrones and it sees million visitors every year. However, the incredibly picturesque city is worth some of your time, despite the crowds. The UNESCO listed Old Town is full of beautiful architecture and the view from the city walls are some of the best you’ll find on the coast.

Island hopping from Dubrovnik is an alternative option to the common Croatia island-hopping route. Otherwise, most island hopping tours end in Dubrovnik. 

island hopping in croatia

Split

Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and the largest on the Dalmatia Coast. Most people start their Croatia island hopping cruise or tour from Split. However, it’s worth sticking around and spending time in the city itself with plenty to explore. It’s home to the incredibly beautiful Diocletian Palace, one of the most complete architectural wonders in the country. It was by far one of our favourite things to do in Croatia.  

Sibenik

Sibenik is a beautiful coastal city just 1.5 hours north of Split. It’s the third-largest city along the coast and yet it remains fairly unknown amongst most travelers. Sibenik is the main gateway for the Krka National Park, but it’s worth spending some time in the city if you can. It’s the biggest attraction is the Cathedral of St James, a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site. 

Zadar

Zadar, like the other Dalmatian cities, is known for its spectacular old town and city walls with a number of ruins and original architecture dating back to the 9th century. However, Zadar is far less popular than Dubrovnik and Split and can be a great place to explore away from the crowds. 

It’s a good alternative base to start your island-hopping, with great ferry connections to the islands around the central coastal area.

Have you ever been island hopping in Croatia? What is your favourite island?

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