Croatian Islands

Early morning on south Croatian island
Early morning on the Croatian island

The Best Croatian Islands to Visit on your Croatia Trip

White pebbly beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. Interesting harbours in ancient seaside villages. Medieval towns and sailing boats. Welcome to the Croatian Islands! No Croatia trip is complete with a few days of island hopping – but how do you choose the right island for you? Read on for the best Croatian Islands to visit on your next holiday, how to get there and what to do.

With over 1000 islands off the Croatia coast (1245 to be exact), it can be overwhelming to choose the perfect one for your island getaway. Although only about 50 of these are permanently inhabited. It limits the number of islands you could potentially add to your itinerary, but 50 is still a huge number to choose from.

The Croatian islands have a lot to offer – for sunbathers, cyclist, walkers and hikers, history and architecture buffs, sailing and scuba diving enthusiasts. There is at least one island for everyone. Each one has its own special character.

Overview of Croatian Islands

Most Croatian islands are part of the specific archipelagos but there are many more islands dotted all around the mainland of Croatia that doesn’t belong to any. Here are some of the archipelago groups that are good to know to distinguish:

  • Pula & Brijuni archipelago
  • Kvarner Archipelago – includes Krk, Cres, Rab, Losinj, and Susak islands
  • Zadar Archipelago – Dugi Otok, Ugljan, Silba, Pasman just to mention a few
  • Kornati archipelago – numerous mostly uninhabited islands and islets
  • Sibenik Archipelago – Zlarin, Kaprije, Zirje, Krapanj – all clustered in a compact group
  • Split Archipelago – Brac, Hvar island and Vis are the main ones in this group
  • Dubrovnik Archipelago – Elafiti, Lopud, Mljet, Korcula and Lastovo is a scattered archipelago part of Dubrovnik’s group.

How to Choose the best Croatian Islands for your Itinerary

When you start planning your trip to Croatia, one of your first decisions will be about the duration of your trip. Do you have 3 days, a whole week or two? Start with putting together your list of must-sees around the country – do you want to see the inland or focus on the coasts? Or both?

If you decide to fly to the north of the country, perhaps islands in Kvarner are the best suited. If your must-see visit is to Dubrovnik, then the islands in Split and Dubrovnik archipelagos are the right ones for you.

If you only have a few days, focus on the islands that are fairly near your main transport hub. Bear in mind the distances. To visit all the coast, from Istria to Dubrovnik, you will need at least 2 full weeks. Finding the right island is about making smart choices to get the most out of your time.

Map of Croatian Islands

Above map: click to enlarge

Before deciding on the itinerary for a Croatian island ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much time do you have? The larger the island, the more time you will need to see its top attractions and there are more things to do.
  • What do you want to do? Do you want to just swim and sunbath, explore local food, architecture and culture, enjoy sea and landscapes – or perhaps all of it?
  • What is your mode of transport? While most of the islands are easy to reach by ferries, buses on the islands can be infrequent particularly in winter months. Cycling is also the option as well as scooter rental on the islands. Renting your own car will offer the boast flexibility but car ferry routes are not always ideal. Getting around as foot passenger is sometimes more suitable.

The best Croatian Islands to Visit

Starting from the North to the South, here is my recommendation for the 13 best islands to visit in Croatia:

Brijuni

Prehistoric Roman ruins in Verige bay, Brijuni islands
Prehistoric Roman ruins in Verige bay, Brijuni islands (Photo: Sergio Gobbo)

This small archipelago, that is also Croatian National Park is just 20 minutes away from the Istrian mainland. It consists of 16 islets, the main being Veliki & Mali Brijun and Vanga islets. Here, you can see prehistoric ruins, a safari park and a theatre too. Best island for theatre and history buffs. Ideal to visit as a part of the island-hopping from Pula trip.

Getting to Brijuni

  • For foot passengers: Daily ferry boat from Fazana or private tour from numerous Istrian places.
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: car-free zone

Rab

The landscape of Rab Island
The landscape of Rab Island (Photo: I. Pervan)

Rab is one of the rare Croatian islands that features a large, 2 km long sandy beach, situated close to Lopar village. Popular with families with small children, the island also features the lovely coastal town of Rab, with its medieval core and four church towers. Best island for families and architecture buffs. Ideal to visit as a part of the island hopping from Rijeka trip.

Getting to Rab

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Rijeka (just under 2 hrs)
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Ferry from Stinica to Misnjak (15 minutes ferry ride) and Valbiska to Lopar (1hr 30 min ferry ride)

Losinj

Harbour in Mali Losinj @ Losinj Island
Harbour in Mali Losinj @ Losinj Island

Popular island in Kvarner archipelago, Losinj is a good choice for people who would like to enjoy beach, culture and outdoors. Lovely Cikat bay near Mali Losinj with its sandy and pebble beach surrounded with pine trees can be combined with a visit to Museum of Apoxyomenos (Apoksiomen) featuring a large bronze athlete statue dating from the 1st century BC (2000-year-old!). Diving, snorkeling and hiking are the main outdoor activities here. A day trip to Susak island (see below) is a must. Best island for culture and diving enthusiasts.

Getting to Losinj

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Rijeka (3 hrs) and from Pula (3.5 hrs)
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Ferry from Brestova to Porozina or Valbiska to Merag and drive to Losinj.

Susak

susak island
Susak island (Photo: dnevnik.hr )

Susak is a small and less popular island situated just off the coast of Losinj. Well known for its sandy beaches and landscapes with the cliff-like coastline, the island is a perfect escape for people who are looking for peace and quiet even in the middle of the summer months. Best island to visit if you are also visiting Venice and Pula.

Getting to Susak

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Rijeka (3.5 hrs), from Pula (2.5 hrs) and Zadar (3.5 hrs)
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: No car ferries to the island, it is a car-free zone

Dugi Otok

Telascica nature park on Dugi Otok Island
Telascica nature park on Dugi Otok Island

Dugi Otok Island is a tranquil large island that features Telascica Nature Park. Unspoiled nature, mighty rocky coastline, south-facing cliffs, and numerous swimming spots and well known Skarun sandy beach (children loves it!). Dozens of small villages dotted around the island.

Best island for outdoor enthusiasts, scuba divers, walkers and fishing fans. Ideal to visit as a part of the island hopping from Zadar trip.

Getting to Dugi Otok

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Zadar to several ferry ports on the island. Private boat tours are also available.
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Ferry from Zadar to Brbinj (1hr 40 min ferry ride)

Kornati

Kornati Landscape (Photo: I. Pervan)
Kornati Landscape (Photo: I. Pervan)

The Kornati Islands are also a Croatian national park that features 90+ small islands and islets (above photo) that are densely clustered very close to each other. The islands are unpopulated with numerous small bays and beaches. Ideal for sailing, diving and snorkeling fans and generally people who love to spend time along the coast. Best island for sailing and marine life enthusiasts.

Getting to Kornati

  • For foot passengers: No public transport is available. Use your own vessel or book a private trip from Zadar, Sibenik or other nearby places.
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: car-free zone

Brac

Brac Island and Zlatni Rat beach near Bol village
Brač Island and Zlatni Rat beach near Bol village (Photo: Boris Kragic)

The large and compact island just an hour by ferry from Split, Brač features popular Zlatni Rat Beach (above photo) considered to be among the most attractive in Croatia. Vidova Gora hill and Blaca, the hermit monastery built to a cliff are popular destinations for hikers and walkers offering breathtaking views over nearby Dalmatian islands all the way to the Italian coast. Best island for the beach, windsurfing and hiking enthusiasts.

Getting to Brac

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Split to several ferry ports on the island as well as from Hvar, Mljet, Korcula and Dubrovnik April to October. Private boat tours for day trips are available too.
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Ferry from Split to Supetar (50 minutes) or Makarska to Sumartin (1 hour)

Hvar

The coastline of Hvar Island - detail
The coastline of Hvar Island – detail

Well known for Hvar Town, its scenic harbour, the nightlife and nearby Pakleni beaches, Hvar island is definitely the most popular island in Croatia. Party atmosphere and all night long clubbing culture fans are focused on the Town while the rest of the island is a good escape route for people who are after peace and quiet (see best beaches on the island). Easily accessible from Split and Dubrovnik, this island is probably a must for any island hopping itinerary. Best island for clubbing and hiking among lavender fields.

Getting to Hvar

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Split to several ferry ports on the island. Also from Mljet, Korcula and Dubrovnik from April to October. Private boat tours and day trips are also available.
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Ferry from Split to Stari Grad (2 hours) or Drvenik to Sucuraj (1/2 hour)

Vis

Vis island, Komiza harbour
Vis island, Komiza harbour

Among the remotest of all the islands, Vis was closed to foreign visitors for many, many years as it used to be a military base in communist times. The remains of numerous military buildings, bunkers and tunnels are still there. Also features numerous walking routes along the hills and Stiniva, one of the most popular beaches in Croatia. Blue Cave on nearby Bisevo is also a must. Best island for hiking and military history enthusiasts.

Getting to Vis

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferry from Split to Vis town (1.5 hrs). No other connections but your own vessel or private boat tours for a day trip – see more details.
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Slow car ferry from Split to Vis (2.5 hours)

Biševo

Me in Blue Cave on Bisevo
Me while visiting Blue Cave on Bisevo

One of the remotest Croatian islands, with a population of just a dozen of permanent inhabitants, Bisevo is popular for a well known Blue Cave (map). Good for a day trip from Vis island, which is just 30 minutes ferry ride from there. Best island for snorkelling and speleology enthusiasts. Ideal to visit as a part of the island hopping from Split trip.

Getting to Biševo

  • For foot passengers: Daily slow ferry boat from Komiza on Vis island
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Car-free zone
  • Private tours from Split, Brac and Hvar – see prices here

Korcula

Medieval Korcula Old Town
Medieval Korcula Old Town

Another popular Croatian island, Korcula is all about history, culture, wine and unique traditions. Marco Polo was born there. The unique sword dance Moreska is regularly performed. Numerous walking and cycling trails are dotted around the island passing among the vineyards. Ideal to spend a few days exploring the island or, if in a hurry, to see the highlights of medieval walled Korcula Old Town in just one day or few hours. Best island for culture, history, wine and outdoors. Ideal to visit as a part of the island hopping from Split to Dubrovnik itinerary.

Getting to Korcula

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Split and Hvar. From Dubrovnik, Mljet and Brac daily service from April to October.
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Car ferry from Orebic to Korcula (15 minutes) or Split to Vela Luka (3 hrs)
  • Private tours from Brac, Hvar, Mljet and Dubrovnik – see what is available

Lastovo

Walking above Lastovo village
Walking above Lastovo village

One of the remotest and most unspoilt Croatian islands, Lastovo is also a protected Nature Park. This off the beaten track island features some amazing landscapes, crystal clear waters and sleepy villages with attractive cylindrical Lastovo chimneys. Best island for hiking, chilling and sailing. Ideal to visit as a part of the island hopping from Split itinerary.

Getting to Lastovo

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Split, Hvar and Korcula. From Dubrovnik and Mljet two times a week service in July and August (3.5 hrs)
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Car ferry from Split and Korcula (Vela Luka) (4.5 hrs)
  • Some private tours on offer – here

Mljet

Two salted lakes on Mljet island
Two salted lakes on Mljet island (Photo: Romulic & Stojcic)

Well known for its two salted lakes, Mljet is also a Croatian National Park. Along with its 135 km long coastline, numerous coves, bays and stretches of coast form a variety of beaches and swimming spots. Best for nature lovers, scuba diving, snorkeling and hiking. Ideal to visit as a part of the island hopping from Split or Dubrovnik trip.

Getting to Mljet

  • For foot passengers: Daily fast ferries from Split and Dubrovnik
  • For cars, campers and cyclists: Ferry from Prapratno to Sobra (Mljet)
  • Organised tours are also available – check here

Playlist of  videos that I took around Croatian islands

Articles about islands in Croatia

Map of all island locations covered by this website: