Characterized by a rocky (and scenic) coastline along the sparkling blue Adriatic sea, Croatia is rapidly climbing the bucket list rankings of modern wanderlusters, and we were no exception. Typically we plan our vacations and activities to the extent that you'd expect from a "type A" duo, but with a last minute schedule opening and a serious case of not wanting to be productive adults, we booked a flight to Croatia 24 hours before departure. So as the cool kids say, YOLO!
Wait, is that still a thing?
In recent years Croatia's popularity has skyrocketed among millennials in their board shorts and bikinis, especially with the hosting of events like Yatch Week and EDM fest Ultra. We arrived for a Summer weekend nestled between those two major attractions, and were interested to see what this relatively young (just shy of 15 years old) country had to offer. A couple of minutes with Google informed us that Croatia has over 1,200 islands, some of which with amazing attractions! A few clicks and a glass of wine later and we had big plans for a day of Croatian island cruising.
Our first of Croatian Island adventure took us to Biševo, a 90 minute speedboat ride through the Adriatic from Split. Here we visited the Blue Cave, a gorgeous glowing sea cave with waters 10 meters deep. The Blue Cave is only accessible by a petite rowboat, using a 1.5 by 2.5 meters man made arched entrance constructed in 1884. Prior to 1884 the only way to access the cave was through a small opening in the ceiling- even if that was still the case, I wasn't going to be deterred from seeing the light hit the waters just right (go between late morning to early noon during warm seasons) to create this natural phenomenon. Sunlight enters from the cave ceiling, hits the white limestone cave floor, and springs through the waters to create a beautiful effect that can only be described as a glow. Receiving around 10k visitors per year, the Blue Cave is rapidly growing in popularity along with Croatia, but the extra effort it takes to reach it weeds out enough tourists to keep entrance lines relatively lower than that of many other major landmarks. While you wait for your spot in the rowboat there is a cafe, shaded tables, and a (semi gross) restroom to help you pass the time.
At the Green Cave located on the Island of Ravnik, you will find enchanting shades of emerald and jade across limestone walls. I did find the intensity of the glow to be slightly less than the Blue Cave, but the Green Cave outranks it greatly in terms of accessibility. Another plus, the bay is often filled with anchored boats, sunbathing bodies, snorkeling enthusiasts, and cliff jumpers.
One of Croatia's most popular islands is Hvar. Located off the Dalmatian coast between Brač, Vis and Korčula, Hvar is just shy of 70 kilometers long with surprisingly fertile land perfect for grapes, olives, citrus, and lavender. Tourism has suited Hvar well, with a crop of hotels, restaurants, and entertaining water activities. Ferries make frequent drop offs at Hvar from major cities like Split, making it an easy day trip addition to your agenda in the Adriatic. Though the island doesn't look over developed, it has long been inhabited- first by Neolithic tribes then by ancient Greeks when they established Paros (modern day Stari Grad) back in 384 BC. Hvar served as an important Naval base for the Venetian Empire, being just across the Adriatic from Italy.
Of course with occupancy dating back to 2,000 BC's Neolithic residents, Croatia has seen it's fair share of $h!t. Croatia declared their independence in 1991, after the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (along with the USSR) imploded. The following decade was tumultuous, as unresolved issues led into the particularly brutal and horrific Yugoslav Wars, violence and ethnic cleansing becoming common practice. Basking in the brilliance of the stunning coastline, it was surreal to imagine that not so many years ago, this slice of Europe was all too familiar with unspeakable acts. It's important to understand where this country (entire region!) has been in order to truly appreciate what it is now.
“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”
In between cave hopping and riding the waves, we paused for a few swim stops near the islands of Ravnik and Budikovac. The water was the most clear I have seen, a far cry from the waters of the lakes and Texas Gulf Coast that I am accustomed to. #upgrade! Snorkeling through the crystal waters gave us a close encounter with fish, sea urchin, and starfish, a new appreciation for the beautiful Adriatic Sea, and a good reminder that swimming is a killer workout! As for getting around between the islands, there are many day trip and tours you can book from major cities on the mainland of Croatia, as well as RHIB (rigid hulled inflatable boat) rentals from vendors so you can blaze your own trailway... or waterway...whatever.
Whether you're splashing, fishing, sipping cocktails, or catching air in a speedboat (true story), one of Croatia's 1,200 islands will surely satisfy your needs. What more can you ask for than warm weather against a radiant aqua backdrop of the Adriatic? Grab your snorkel, channel your inner adventure lover, and for the love of God, don't forget the sunscreen...
BON VOYAGE, BABES! xoxo