The Beauty and Magic of Croatian Beaches
(part 2) / (read part 1)
In part one, I talked about what makes Croatian beaches so unique, and what I love about them.
In this blog, I’ll be diving into what to expect, and give you some useful tips for your next holiday in Dalmatia.
Croatia’s beaches are not not for everyone.
I’ve seen blogs about why “Croatia sucks” because of expectations that exist in the minds of those who may be better off in a place like Daytona beach, Florida during spring break. The main complaint: Lack of open, expansive sandy beaches to play on.
This, to me, is like complaining that a ski resort has black runs when you prefer a vast, open, “family friendly” network consisting almost exclusively of green runs… or that a mountain “sucks” because is too steep or doesn’t have the kind of trees you like, there is no bridge for that creek crossing, those pesky lightning storms shorten your hikes and there is no place to buy beer and pizza at the top.
Beaches are natural features. They are highly diverse. In fact, every single beach in the world is geologically and biologically unique, with its own ecosystem.
Croatia does still have it’s “party zones” (and even sandy beaches) but even some of these places are starting to suffer from the damage that some groups of partygoers and tourists bring during the peak seasons in July and August.
It is sad is that some places in Europe are actually responding to “demands” for classic sandy beaches, without regards for any kind of consequence. There are two perspectives about changing the landscape to suit the whims of tourists. Spain, for example, decided to import sand from North Africa to “enhance” its own beaches. This has caused some of its native marine life to die off, which caused damage to its eco system and fishing industry.
Beaches are a wonderful gift of nature. When they are regarded as little more than a setting for a college party town reality show, nobody really wins in the long run.
Expectations on your Croatian holiday “na moru” (on the sea)
It’s not about lowering expectations, in my opinion, but being open to something new. I had NO idea just how COOL Croatian beaches were. If you are willing to discover a piece of heaven that you had no idea existed until that day you stumbled on that special alcove or stretch of beach watching the boats glide by.. (maybe on the advice of a local over coffee) then you are in for a treat. You MAY have to look for it, or go during off season, which of course makes sense.
Realities and Tips
Of course, no place is perfect. Here are some realities, to help manage expectations, relax, and have an overall positive experience:
• Those rocks. Ouch. I’m not used to them. Don’t skimp on shoes. They are totally and completely worth it, till you get your “Dalmatian feet.”
• Early rising tourists who take over the best spots on the beach early in the morning. For this reason, I prefer to avoid touristy-areas during the peak months. (Spring and fall are fantastic times to visit Dalmatia.) Other than that, one can only “go with the flow” and not let it ruin a good holiday. I would also ask where the locals swim. It could be worth the trip.
• Parking can be tricky in some areas. At PaPe, there is plenty of parking, so you don’t have to worry about it.
• Trash. The beaches and water is almost freakishly clean and clear, but you do see some occasional trash. I had thought about bringing a trash bag with me on one of my evening walks so that I could give something back to this beautiful place. Still, it’s not as much of a problem as almost any other beach I have been to in the U.S. or Europe. Tip: Be a good guest and leave no trace.
• Obnoxious partiers. I’m not bashing Millenials, or partying. I’ve been there, done that. But some of the crowds and drunken debauchery is starting to affect Croatia in a negative way, turning what was once a wonderful place into a bad experience for tourists and residents alike. Steps are being taken to address this problem, (which is taking a toll on Hvar) but it’s still not an issue on Čiovo.
• Jet skis and reckless boat drivers. It’s not a huge problem in most areas, but they can be loud, and in a few places, accidents have made the news. Most beaches have protected areas designated for swimming only. In Hvar, the only sounds I heard were the sounds of boats in the distance, (and church bells) which I found to be soothing. Čiovo is also peaceful and relaxing.
• Expensive food and drink. This is to be expected on a beach, especially in more remote areas. You can pack your own food (or stay at PaPe, which only a short walk to the sea)
• Nudist beaches: It’s a thing here (only on designated beaches) and there is certain etiquette to follow. I’ve seen topless swimmers both here and in Italy and it doesn’t bother me a at all, but for some, it may be good to know.
There are as many ways to enjoy the sea her as there are visitors. Croatia to me feels like the perfect place for an introvert like me to relax, while the more extroverted partygoers can still have their special islands or beach to go to.
Oh wait.. I lied. There really is something for everyone here!
Julie Odler is an American writer, digital marketing consultant for T&W marketing, and a former acupuncturist living in the Split/Trogir and Belgrade.