Croatia’s coastline runs more than 1,100 miles; add the shorelines on 1,185 islands plus its inland lakes, rivers, lagoons, and waterfalls, and it’s clear that the country is a paradise for watersports enthusiasts.

From Dubrovnik to Zagreb, Croatia is a popular destination for all kinds of activities based around the water. You can sail among the 1,185 islands, kayak the inland rivers and lakes, snorkel or scuba off the 1,100 miles of Adriatic coastline or kitesurf, fish, even bungee jump during a vacation in Croatia.

Sailing is a popular way to see all the islands 

Sailing and Yachting

The ideal way to see the Croatian Coast and its islands is by boat, whether you are a seasoned sailor or a landlubber. The winds are perfect from late April to early November; the sea is warm and almost current-free; freedom from crowds and ferry schedules is liberating; and the ability to set your own timeline for island hopping is priceless and sometimes more economical than paying for a hotel and land travel costs at each destination.  

With almost 150 charter companies and 3,000 seaworthy vessels for rent, booking a sailboat, catamaran, gullet, or motor yacht in Croatia is simple, provided you reserve in advance especially during July and August.

If you are an experienced sailor, you can captain your own bareboat charter as long as you have a valid recreational boat license and a radio certificate. You must also make sure to file and certify a crew list with the Port Authority.

Whether you opt for a bareboat or a skippered boat, there is a wide range of options and prices. For example, a weeklong itinerary with captain and crew leaving from Dubrovnik and sailing to nearby islands including Hvar and Korcula  can range from roughly $4,000 per week for 6 people to $440,000 per week for 12, depending on the amenities. Bareboat charters have similar price ranges.

Whether you choose a 30-foot boat and do the cooking and cleanup yourself for the week or a 100-foot luxury yacht with chef, nanny, and bartender, the freedom to set your own schedule for exploring the Adriatic and its islands is always the best part of the deal.

For more information on regulations go to: http://www.croatia-yacht-charter.com/marine-regulations.asp

Expert tip: If you plan to do any diving or fishing from your chartered craft, you will need separate permits for sports diving and fishing.

Swimmers at a beach in Hvar

Swimming and Snorkeling

Swimming and sunbathing are a part of Croatian life. The ideal conditions of the Adriatic Sea, free of strong currents, no sharks, and it being one of the cleanest bodies of water in the Meditteranean make Croatia a snorkelers paradise. 

Any beach or cove on the Adriatic is a good place to jump in, but these are a few standouts.

  • Grab your snorkel gear and float in the waters around the uninhabited islands of Kornati National Park. Get a fish eye view of the abundant marine life surrounding these islands.
  • Drop anchor off a secluded cove of Hvar – or any island – and swim in the clear turquoise water. The water is so clear you'll be able to see the fish swimming 30 feet below. 
  • Become part of Zlatni Rat’s hip beach scene on Brač. Try to count the number of foreign languages you hear spoken while you splash around in the water.
  • Kayak in the waters around Mjlet National Park.  Then go ashore to soak your sore muscles in the island’s warm salt lakes, which are said to have healing powers. While you soak, imagine what Ulysses did on Mjlet for the seven years the nymph Calypso kept him captive there.
  • Wade along Brela’s pine-rimmed sandy seashore near Makarska. Sandy beaches are rare in Croatia, and this one was named one of the world’s 20 best by Forbes magazine.
  • Swim off gorgeous Stiniva Beach on Vis. Stiniva is a tiny cove flanked by towering rock walls. It is accessible only by boat or a long walk down a steep hill. Just remember: If you walk down to it, you have to walk back up. Ditto for the secluded beach at Lubenice on Cres Island. Lubenice is a former Roman settlement that sits on a cliff 1,240 feet above sea level.
  • Swim down the Krka River and play in its waterfalls.

Expert tip: For a change of pace, try splashing around in a thermal-spring-fed pool in Opatija in the Kvarner region. Opatija has been a center of spas and wellness vacations for more than a century.

Windsurfing outside of Split

Kitesurfing and Windsurfing

The perfect sea conditions in Croatia also make it an ideal place to kite and windsurf. There are a few popular spots to go windsurfing in Croatia such as Premantura on the southern tip of Istria, Viganj on the Pelješac Peninsula, Bol on Brač Island, Baška on Krk Island, and Zadar. Each of these locations has just the right wind conditions for six months a year, with windsurfing schools that have internationally certified instructors, and excellent equipment rentals.

Back on dry land, each of these spots also has plenty of attractions to explore in between the water adventures.

  • Premantura is a picturesque village just south of Pula and its Roman ruins.
  • Viganj is within easy reach of Korčula and Orebič.
  • Bol on Brac island has a booming food and wine industry and many upscale resorts.
  • Baška is home to one of the largest beaches in Croatia.
  • Zadar has shopping, Roman and medieval churches and ruins, and a thriving art scene.

Expert tip: Windsurfing in Croatia isn’t just a water sport or a nature experience: Traces of the ancient cultures that lived there millennia ago are everywhere, even underwater. You’ll be surfing above Roman ruins or a sunken ship, and because of Croatia’s clear water, you may be able to see them from your board.

Kayakng around Dubrovnik

Kayaking and Rafting

Sea and river kayaking are all the rage in Croatia, both on the Adriatic Sea and on inland rivers.

Sea Kayaking: The waters around Dubrovnik and the Elafitis islands are full of kayakers in the summer. Each of the main islands, Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan has its own personality and each invites land-based exploring.

River Kayaking and Rafting:  Floating down Croatia’s rivers is best in spring when the water runs high, the rivers are fastest and rushing rapids deliver a thrilling white water ride.

  • The Cetina River, which spills out of the Dinaric Alps and empties into the Adriatic at Omiš, is popular for both sports with its class 2 and 3 rapids. Active Holidays offers great adventure excursions and itineraries including rafting, kayaking, ziplining and many more.  
  • Karlovac is the site where four rivers (the Dobra, Mreznica, Korana, and Kupa) converge. Each river offers a unique scenic adventure: The Kupa is the largest of the four rivers; the Dobra flows between the walls of a canyon; the Mreznica is made up of lakes linked by waterfalls; and the Korana’s water flows from Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Expert tip: Karlovac is just 35 miles south of Dubrovnik and home to the Karlovačko brewery, which is a great spot to apres after kayaking.

Sport Fishing

Big fish, small fish, red fish, blue fish – Croatia has them all. Whether you are after big game fish like Bluefin tuna or swordfish from the Adriatic around Kornati or trout and carp from the backwaters of Kopacki Rit National Park, Croatia is rich with opportunities to cast your line. The locations below are a small sampling of good “fishing holes” in Croatia.

  • Kornati National Park: The richest area for landing a big fish is in the waters around the Kornati Archipelago. The National Park’s waters are teeming with several varieties of tuna and shark, amberjack, dorado, and other varieties of fish. The fishing season is year ‘round there.
  • Drava River: Fishing the Drava where it flows into the Danube is an excellent spot for catfish, pike, and carp. The Danube River which flows through Croatia’s eastern border, contains the largest population of freshwater fish in Central Europe. Among the species there are sturgeon and bream.
  • Licka Jesenica: There is no fishing allowed in Plitvice National Park, but nearby Licka Jesenica, a scenic little lake near the park, has nothing but trout swimming in its pristine water. It is a good spot for fly fishing.

Expert tip: Fishing licenses are required for both sea and fresh-water fishing in Croatia.

Try bungee jumping in Croatia!

Bungee Jumping

Bungee jumping may be stretching the concept of water sports, but the 130-foot jump off the Šibenik Bridge is one heck of a dive that ends up in the Krka River. Bungee jumping season at Šibenik is July 1-August 31 from 10am to 8pm weekdays and from 10am to 3pm Sundays. Jumpers must be 16 years old or have parental consent. All must sign a voluntary-consent-to-jump statement and provide ID. No experience necessary.

Expert tip: The bungee season at Zadar’s Maslenica Bridge is longer than Sibenik’s – from May to September. The jump over the Adriatic there is from a considerably higher height – 183 feet – the highest bungee jump in Croatia!