Croatia is made up of the mainland and islands giving travelers a lot to choose from therefore deciding where to fly in (Dubrovnik or Split are the two most common options) and which islands to visit are important for planning a trip to Croatia. There are so many reasons why I love Croatia (I’ve traveled there for two separate summer trips so far), which I’ll make a separate “get inspired” post for but first, here are my tips and tricks for traveling Croatia, including route and timeline.
I recommend flying into Dubrovnik and starting your trip here because it’s the perfect place to ease into your trip and adjust to the new timezone (if you’re coming from farther away). There are restaurants all over (especially Old Town), and you can just walk-in without a reservation, which is perfect to just wake up and go after a jet lag nap without having to pre-plan it. Also, I personally don't feeling my best self after being on an airplane, and Dubrovnik is a lovely place to stroll around. You can have a long lunch, get drinks overlooking the ocean, browse the small shops, and get gelato of course! In my opinion, the Croatian beaches only get better as you get to the islands, so I waited until the island parts of my trip to go to the beach.
For my trip, I landed Saturday morning and took a 7am ferry on Monday to the island of Bol (4.5 hour ride). There’s a later option (two options a day), but I was excited to get to the beaches. Ferry is a great method to island hop in Croatia, but there are a few things to remember: arrive earlier for your ferry if you’re visiting during high season (at least 25 minutes), buy your tickets online beforehand to avoid it selling out (the day before worked for me), and bring Croatian Kunas (local currency) on the ferry as they don’t accept card. They offer coffee/tea, sandwiches, croissants which are pretty good but sell out early!).
Note: Uber was very dependable in Dubrovnik & credit card was widely accepted.
I recommend a calmer island for a few nights in the first half of the week, so Bol is the island I visited. I loved having the first half of the week to relax on a beach chair and sip cocktails while overlooking the ocean, as I try to plan trips with a “wholesome” part and a weekend part. The ferry route from Dubrovnik to Bol also stopped at Korčula in between. A lot of people got off the ferry here, so it’s on my list for when I return to Croatia!
Uber did not exist in Bol when I visited (summer 2021), however, there were many cabs at the ferry arrival port. I didn’t need to cab except when I had my luggage, as the town, restaurants, and beach area were within walking distance of where I stayed.
Note: Credit card was widely accepted.
For my trip, I arrived midday on Monday and took a noon ferry on Thursday to my next destination: Hvar (less than one hour ride). There is one later ferry (two options a day), but I booked my best stay in Hvar and wanted to get there earlier.
This island is a more lively island: more people, restaurants, nightlife, yachts, resorts, etc. I recommend saving it for the weekend after you’ve spent the first half of the week in serenity.
I highly recommend booking a hotel that offers luggage services from the ferry arrival port. The Hvar Town streets are closed to cars in the summer, so cabs/Uber are not an option from the ferry port. Many hotels will have luggage services waiting at the arrival port without you having to pre-notify of your arrival (as most guests arrive by ferry anyways). I was able to easily walk everywhere in Hvar Town, and I was able to request a cab to my hotel to visit an area across the island.
Kunas (local currency) was most-needed on Hvar in my experience. I was surprised as Hvar is a more populated island, but I found that credit card was not as widely accepted as in the other locations.
For my trip, I arrived midday Thursday and took a late afternoon ferry on Sunday to Split (less than one hour) for my departure flight. There are way more options for this ferry leg (10+ a day). If you have a later flight, I recommend getting a hotel that has a great pool so you can checkout but still take advantage of the pool and make the most of your time on Hvar.
I did not stay in Split during my 2021 trip (only because I spent time in Split during my 2019 trip), but I do recommend staying in Split if you have time as it is different from Dubrovnik. If you’re coming from an island closer to Split, it’s more convenient to fly out of the Split airport instead of taking a four-hour return ferry south to Dubrovnik.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever need advice for traveling in Croatia! It’s a beautiful destination and although moving around locations takes a little more planning, it's totally worth it. There's something special about each location!