Croatia has over 1000 islands and is widely known as a popular travel destination. Many come to Croatia in the summer months for sailing or family holidays, but we focus on the best swimming locations in Croatia. The water temperatures in the Adriatic sea, lakes and rivers reach up to 25C in the summer and this offers several opportunities for swimming.
Criteria for best swimming locations in Croatia
We have a long history of running our guided swimming holidays and we have researched and tested several of the best swimming locations in Croatia from south to north. During the summer months from June to September, several bays, ports and coastlines become significantly busier with boat traffic which puts swimmers at higher risk when in the water. Despite Croatia being under EU maritime laws, we hear that boat accidents happen every year.
Before getting into any water for a swim, we recommend you know your limits and take appropriate safety precautions. Check the weather before-hand, stay close to the shore, be aware of boat traffic and other hazards, wear bright hats and use a tow float for extra visibility to boats. For optimum safety and peace of mind, join an organised Croatia swimming holiday.
We have used the following criteria when putting together below the best swimming areas in Croatia
– Access: how can you get to these locations, – Boat traffic: how busy the area is and what potential hazards you could face there,
– Swimming options (coastline, bays, island hopping): where can you swim and are there any wind-sheltered options, tides,
– Self-supported swimming option: can you swim there on your own or do you need an escort (boat, kayak, sup).
– Facilities: What facilities are there, any hotels, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions, boat, kayak or SUP rentals.
– Cost: most areas are free of charge while others require an entry fee (National parks).
Best swimming locations in Croatia
We have chosen to rank our locations from Southern Dalmatia to Northern Dalmatia and Istria. The reason for this is that there is a lot less boat traffic in the south compared to the north. Many visitors to Croatia come from mainland Europe and they are also the main boat users in the northern part. As well as that, more Croatians live in the upper part of the country.
1. Sipan island – Elaphiti Islands near Dubrovnik
Sipan is about 15km away from Dubrovnik and easily accessible by daily ferry boats (1hr 15min). Numerous swimming spots are available for coastal and island-hopping swimming. Access: easy. Boat traffic: low. Swimming options: all options. Self-supported: escort advised. Facilities: mid-range (apartments, one aparthotel, restaurants, beach). Cost: free of charge.
2. Mljet National Park – large and small saltwater lake
Part of Mljet island is a national park with a daily ferry connection from Dubrovnik and Korcula island. On the north-west side, there are two saltwater lakes. Small lake (Malo Jezero and Big lake (Veliko Jezero). Both have idyllic locations for safe and great lake swimming. Big lake has its own Melita island with a Benedictine Monastery on it.
Entry points are via Pomena or Polace ferry ports and then you can walk to the lakes. Entry to the national park is paid.
Access: easy by ferry or private boat. Boat traffic: low. Swimming options: all options. Self-supported: escort advised. Facilities: mid-range (apartments, a few smaller hotels, restaurants, beach, bar). Cost: 125 Kuna (16 Euro) per person.
3. Lastovo Archipelago National Park
Lastovo archipelago is the youngest national park in Croatia. The area contains 46 islands, rocks, reefs and cliffs and it is the southernmost Croatian populated island. It takes about 4 hr to get there by ferry from Split. Due to its remote location, the whole area is never too busy with boat traffic and it is safe to swim at several places. The most important factors to consider before swimming out are winds and currents. We recommend to base yourself in the southern part of Lastovo island at Skrivena Luka. This area is well protected from strong winds and rough sea providing the best venue for a safe swimming environment.
Access: by boat only. Boat traffic: low-level at all times. Swimming options: island-hopping, bay and coastal. Self-supported: you can swim in the bay or coastal on your own (mornings, evenings), but we recommend an escort for any other swims and always check the weather forecast. Facilities: low-range (apartments, one hotel, restaurants, beach). Cost: no entry fee if arriving without a boat. The part service only charges boats for each day on location.
4. Hvar – Pakleni islands archipelago
Hvar island is a popular destination in Croatia for sailors, yachts and daily visitors from Split. Several ferry boats depart daily from Split and you can also go on a daily trip. The island is long and you can also rent a car and stay there for weeks. On the north-western side, there is a group of Pakleni islands stretching over 10 km. You need to head south from Stari Grad town (the main port destination) and take a short boat ride across to reach these islands from the main Hvar island. There are boat rental services available, kayaks and Sup board.
Access: easy by ferry or private boat. Boat traffic: middle. Swimming options: all options. Self-supported: escort advised or you can swim coastal on your own away from boats (morning, evening). Facilities: mid-range (apartments, a few smaller hotels, restaurants, beach, bars). Cost: free of charge.
5. Sibenik Archipelago and Grebastica Peninsula
Sibenik town is easily accessible from Split and Zadar airports, as well as from the main motorway A1. We have been running organized swimming holidays for 10 years from car-free Krapanj island and this is one of the best gateways for this area. Several islands around this area offer numerous swimming options for either island-hopping or coastal and bay swimming: Krapanj, Drvenik, Zlarin, Oblik, Krbela and Grebastica peninsula. There is usually very low or no boat traffic in the mornings and evenings, so all options are available for swims. During the main summer season boats cross from Sibenik towards the south, so you need to be careful or have an escort with you.
Access: easy by ferry from the mainland. Boat traffic: middle. Swimming options: all options. Self-supported: escort advised or you can swim coastal on your own (mornings, evenings). Facilities: mid-range (apartments, one hotel, restaurants, beach, bars). Cost: free of charge.
6. Krka River National Park
Krka River national park is one of the busiest parks in Croatia hosting thousands of guests every day in the summer. You can swim in the river at Skradinski buk under the waterfalls, however, there is an area marked zone for swimmers which means you can only swim around a little bit with other people. To do a proper longer swimming we recommend heading down the river about 20 min by car to Lake Prokljan. You can base yourself in the town of Bilice or Raslina and swim out in the lake. You will feel the freshwater tiny bit of salt from the river estuary. The summer water temperatures go up to 25C.
Access: easy by car or bus. Boat traffic: busy in the summer. Swimming options: coastal only. Self-supported: you can swim coastal on your own (mornings, evenings), but we do not recommend doing crossings due to boat traffic. Facilities: mid-range (apartments, hotels, restaurants, beach, bars). Cost: free of charge.
7. Kornati National Park
Kornati islands are considered some of the most beautiful sailing areas in the Mediterranean and only accessible by boat. An archipelago consists of over 140 islands and islets covering a large area of over 30 km. There are two access points: Vrata od Opata and Velika Proversa strait. Due to its remote access, not many daily boats reach this area from the mainland which makes a special place for adventure swimming and exploring.
The best way to explore the range of islands is by boat where you can liveaboard there for several days as you navigate through. You can swim more or less anywhere between the islands or coast, considering the boat traffic and anchorage bays. We advise having an escort with you as there aren’t many facilities around. You need to pay an entry fee per day for either a boat or individually. Fees are from 125 Hrk (15 Euro) to 600 Hrk (80 Eur) per day.
Access: by boat only. Boat traffic: mid-level in the summer, otherwise low. Swimming options: island-hopping, bays and coastal. Self-supported: you can swim in bays or coastal on your own (mornings, evenings), but we recommend an escort for any other swims. Facilities: low-range (apartments, hotels, restaurants, beach, bars). Cost: see above.
8. Telascica National Park
Telašćica park is located next to Kornati islands on Dugi island in the north-west and sailors often describe this park as the safest natural harbour for anchoring. We recommend swimming inside the Telašćica bay area where it is usually very sheltered from any wind conditions. However, if you want to swim along the steepest white Adriatic cliffs then you will need to head outside of the bay in the open Adriatic sea. This only is recommended when the sea conditions are flat and you have a suitable boat escort with you.
Access: by boat only. Boat traffic: mid-level in the summer. Swimming options: bay and coastal. Self-catering: you can swim in the bay or coastal on your own (mornings, evenings), however, we recommend an escort for any other swims. Facilities: low-range (apartments, restaurants,). Cost: entry park fees as written above.
9. Brijuni National Park
Brijuni islands are part of the National Park which are located just a few kilometres from the town of Pula in Istra. Istra is known as the largest peninsula within the Adriatic sea in northern Croatia. The whole park has strict rules about what can you do and where can you swim. Bathing and swimming are only allowed in the designated areas, but overall, this offers a wide range of locations in the park. In the summertime, several daily boats come from Pula around 10-11 am and leave in the afternoon. To avoid having other people around, the best time for a proper swim is in the morning or in the afternoon.
Access: by boat only from Pula. Boat traffic: mid-level in the summer. Swimming options: bay and coastal in marked areas. Self-catering: you can swim in bay or coastal on your own (mornings, evenings), but we recommend an escort for any other swims due to boat traffic. Facilities: low-range (only small restaurants). Cost: an entry park fees of 110 Hrk (15 Euro), plus a boat tour to get there. Rent-a boats are widely available in Pula.
10. Kolpa River (Risnjak National Park)
Kolpa river sources in Risnjak National Park and flows all the way into the Sava river. The river forms a natural border between north-west Croatia and south-east Slovenia.
In the summertime, the water temperature reaches up to 26C, so you can enjoy a wetsuit free open water swimming experience. The river flow is very low and therefore is not dangerous to swim up or downriver. There are several river dams and watermills along the way and these spots are usually the best to walk around.
Kupaliste Jurovo near the town of Metlika is one of the best swimming spots with the clearest water on the Kolpa river. Right there is also the confluence of Kolpa and Lahinja rivers which makes it even more adventurous to explore. There is no motorized-boat traffic around, you can swim freely by yourself. You may see other people in kayaks, canoes or small boats paddling around. We operate a 4-day river swimming holiday on the Kolpa river in the summer.
Access: By car from Jurovski Brod. Boat traffic: low-level and only by human-power. Swimming options: up and down the river. Self-catering: you can swim by yourself safely. For a longer swim, we recommend having a kayaker with you. Facilities: mid-range (restaurants, campsites, apartments). Cost: free of charge.
Best swimming locations in Croatia
We hope this helps a bit to find your own best swimming location in Croatia! In general, wherever you go, there will be some beach, bay or hidden spot where you will be able to find your swimming gem! Enjoy the Adriatic and swim safely!