Guest Post: The Islands of Croatia

I am having so much fun having Beth be a guest poster.  She shares what she learned and then I promptly research my future in Croatia.  Sounds like she made a gem of a discovery here…read on to find out more.   Thank you Beth for sharing!

I am known as a pretty decisive person.  Whether it is buying a house, selecting a restaurant, or planning an itinerary, I consider my choices and I choose.  However, I was completely stymied by the islands of Croatia.  We didn’t have time for a full 7 day cruise down the coast (although I will absolutely consider it in the future), but we did have a full day and night that we could spend relaxing on a beach, boating, snorkeling (a favorite vacation pastime), or exploring local caves and quaint towns.  So, I started my research.

Croatia’s archipelago features over 1,000 islands, although only about 50 are inhabited.  It is very easy to reach many of the more popular islands (Brac, Vis, Bisevo, Hvar, Korkula, Budihovac) from Split.  Ferries, private companies, and now Uber-boats are readily available from the harbor.  So, we could get there; I just needed to choose an island.

Brac was a natural choice.  It is the largest, the closest, known for being family friendly, and has a wide variety of activities to choose from.  Zlatni Rat Beach is located there, which is consistently rated among the top 10 beaches in the world.  It has a unique shape (known as the Golden Horn) and the white pebble beaches shift with the tides and the currents.  There are Roman ruins, mountains for hiking, and the town of Bol to explore.

But there were so many other options! Bisevo is home to the Blue Cave and I had already watched a YouTube video of its amazing beauty and really didn’t want to miss that.  Hvar is known as the playground of the rich (one of the folks we met was a yacht designer—really—and he compared Hvar to a miniature, more approachable, Monaco); it is full of history, shops, bars, a fabulous foodie scene, and yes, yachts.  I simply could not choose. Waterworld Croatia to the rescue!

IMG_2219Highly rated on TripAdvisor (for good reason), Waterworld Croatia featured a 6-island tour that met all of our needs.  The €135 cost per person included entrance into the Blue Cave (protected by the Croatian government), lunch, and a winetasting.  I made the reservation online and they asked that a deposit be wired to their bank (kind of a pain, I thought).  I got busy and completely forgot.

A day before we were to leave I reached out to the company to tell them I forgot and they told me “just tell us you are 100% committed and simply pay the captain when you get there.”  Done.  What amazing customer service!  For the 10 hours we spent with the Captain, his crew, and his three boats (of about 10 each), the price was well worth it.  We didn’t quite hit 6 islands, but every minute of the trip was breathtaking.  (Waterworld reserves the right to adjust the itinerary based on lots of criteria like weather, crowds, and their amazing knowledge of the area.)

IMG_2193If you haven’t heard of the Blue Cave, google it now.  The color of the water comes from the natural sunlight that pours in from under the cave’s low openings.  You must disembark from the tour boat on the island and queue up for a smaller boat that can enter the cave (duck your heads)! Our guides made this our first stop while the crowds were still small.  The entire stop took less than 45 minutes—efficiency!  (The line was twice as long when we pulled out of the harbor).  Watching and listening to the young men who operate the boats inside the cave was almost as much fun as the cave itself.  I sat back, closed my eyes, and listened to they chatted away in Croatian while navigating the narrow passages.  It was a magical experience.

IMG_2209After a trip to another cave (also magical), we headed to Budihovac for swimming and lunch.  The boat pulled up in a beautiful little lagoon and we disembarked onto the shore where there was a small farm and outdoor restaurant.  The guide told us we would have about 20 minutes to explore, then lunch, followed by about an hour or so to swim.  We started up a small hill, surrounded by a vegetable garden, a small vineyard, and the local livestock.  As we climbed, we were surrounded by the scent of the wild rosemary which lined our path. When we crested the ridge, the blue from the lagoon on the back side of the island nearly blinded us.  We have been to many islands in the Caribbean and I thought I knew what blue water looked like.  I was mistaken.

We couldn’t wait to swim, but first we lunched.  Our choices were pasta with fresh vegetables from the garden or what they caught today—my kind of menu.  Along with the pitcher of white wine, we dined on very, very, very fresh blue fish which we were told to eat with our hands.  It was picturesque, delicious, and perfect.  Then we swam.  I may have just been swept up in the moment, but I swear the Adriatic Sea made my skin soft and my hair manageable.

On our way to Hvartown, one of the guides caught a glimpse of a giant sea turtle swimming near the surface.  He signaled the other boats and we all were able to watch as the huge turtle surfaced a few times before swimming off.  This happened again with a pod of dolphins later in the day.

IMG_2256In Hvartown we had another hour to ourselves to explore.  There is a fortress at the top of the hill overlooking the harbor that has a history dating from 500 BC when it was the site of an ancient Illyrian settlement.  The Byzantines built a citadel there in the 6th century, and construction began on the present fortress in 1282.  It was pretty hot, so we opted for a walk around town, a cold beverage (it was, after all, almost happy hour at this point) and some yacht watching.

Our final stop was on the island of Brac for some local history and a private wine and olive oil tasting.  By then it was only a short hop back to the harbor in Split (about 20 minutes or so) and a short walk back to our flat to download photos and recap the day.
IMG_2232It was hard to believe the trip was 10 hours as it flew by.  The pacing, the diversity of activities, and our fellow boat mates (UK, Australia, Canada, France, Italy) seemed to come straight out of central casting and what I imagined a perfect day on the Adriatic Sea would be like. I was so happy that my inability to choose one island led us to this wonderful adventure.  The island-smorgasbord was the right decision.

Next up….Nature and Nurture in Croatia

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