The Dalmatian Coast: Croatia
Island hopping through the Dalmatian Coast, the smorgasbord of buoyant beauty dotted in the Adriatic sea, and sandwiched between Italy and Croatia, is worth its’ weight in gold (or Kuna, if we’re gonna go with the local currency). Starting in the medieval town of Dubrovnik, with its breathtaking cliffside architecture and rich history, and continuing through the islands of Korcula, Vis, and finally Hvar gives you the perfect range of what the Dalmatian Coast has to offer – spectacular wine country, freshly caught seafood, glorious green space and craggy cliffs, a little nightlife, and of course, the lapping sea right at your feet.
Check in to Villa Dubrovnik, a boutique luxury property nestled into the cliffs, and have the property’s boat jet you to the center of town. Stroll the marble Stradun, taking in the magnitude of your beautiful setting – fortress walls (à la Game of Thrones), local cafes and restaurants line the pedestrian Old Town, and the Lindjo dance group performs folk dancing on an open air stage in the summer. Grab a sundowner at Cafe Buza, where you’ll watch tourists and locals alike cliff jumping into the sea. Dinner at Nautika or Proto are a must for the fresh seafood, view from the terrace, and white truffles they will shave with reckless abandon onto your pasta. Remember, Italy is Croatia’s neighbor, and my goodness, do you feel that in the food. If you’re looking for something more low key (and verrry authentic) for dinner, take a fifteen minute cab to Gverovic-Orsan in Zatan – a family run seaside favorite with the locals. Order the squid ink risotto and wash it down with a glass of Plavac Mali (a full bodied Croatian red wine).
Take a private water taxi or the ferry over to Korcula for a night. Check in to Lesic-Demitri Palace, an 18th century Bishops Palace, and stroll the town of stone houses flanked by medieval walls. A Gothic Renaissance Cathedral rests in the center of town, and the home where Marco Polo was apparently born is close by as well. A sunset drink at Massimo Bar (in a tower, accessible by ladder, which I find to be beyond charming), and then dinner at Adio Mare for some nibbles, as you take in the fresh air from the terrace. Korcula is tiny, so staying here for one night is plenty, unless you just want to read a book and watch the days go by with a glass of local wine.
If you’re looking for off the beaten path, and less developed Adriatic bliss, go to Vis. I absolutely loved the sleepy vibe of this island, which as a previous military zone, wasn’t open to foreigners until 1992. Rent a vacation home or stay at the quaint Hotel San Giorgio. Be prepared to pull your luggage through many cobblestone streets, and then settle in like a local. Nothing about this island is glam, which I happen to adore. If you’re ambitious, or a glutton for punishment, bike the hilly roads to Stončica Beach. Exhausted and aglow, I was thrilled to have an ice cold beer and grilled sardines at Konoba Stončica when I arrived, and then jump into the gorgeous sea. If you rented a car, you’re lucky. If you opted for the bike, see if you can charm a taxi into letting you put your bike in the van, as I did, and head back to the hotel. Dinner at Pojoda just a stone’s throw from the hotel is unmissable. I ate there three times while in Vis, tucking in under the swaying trees and evening breeze in their beautiful courtyard. And go to Stiniva. You must go to Stiniva – the most beautiful hidden cove of a beach – not easy to find or to get to, but worth it.
Talk about a change of pace when you get to Hvar, where yachts line the harbor, and ladies who wear high heels with their bikinis frolic about. And perhaps that’s the beauty of Hvar, you can have it all, as I did. Check in to the Adriana Hotel on the harbor, and take a wine tour for the afternoon, visiting some incredible local producers, such as Tomić and Duboković. End your day laying on a sun bed at Bonj ‘Les Bains’ Beach Club, and having a fantastic dinner at Macondo (grilled squid and seafood pastas). The next day, rent a car and explore the island – Robinson Beach on Markicevic Bay & the very rustic and hidden Zarace Beach are stand outs. Head back to town, and make it to HuluHula Bar for sundowners (please note, this place is a scene, but very fun with awesome music and a lively crowd who sip their cocktails as waves lap onto their Havaianas). Dinner at Luna is a solid choice for local meats and cheeses (order the Pag) followed by gnocchi with truffle sauce and vino. If you’re up for it – go to Carpe Diem to party, and take their late night water taxi to Carpe Diem Beach on the tiny alcove of Stipanska Bay. Just don’t decide to night swim at 4am and then accidentally step on a sea urchin, like someone I know. Oops!
And there are some fabulous finds to make you look très chic and feel über comfortable while you’re jaunting from island to island. From sundresses to shorts, and a couple of my favorite vacation essentials, I’ve got your bases covered…(including some super affordable sunglasses, because you don’t want to lose your fancies on vacation — that’s always such a bummer! Safe travels!)