Uncover Croatia's colorful history and culture on this kid-friendly 5-day itinerary focused on Split, Hvar Island, and Dubrovnik. Begin in Split, along the sunny Dalmatian coast, to explore Roman remains and an ancient palace before venturing out into the countryside on a fun ATV tour with the family. Find your way to Hvar to check out the rugged island terrain and kayak out to the nearby rocky Pakleni Islands, ending your adventure in the fortress city of Dubrovnik, a child's stone kingdom.

Highlights

  • Tour the famous Diocletian's Palace in Split, dating back to the 4th century
  • Explore the Dalmatian hinterland on an exciting ATV tour from Split
  • Ride a scooter amid olive groves and lavender fields, past coastal villages on Hvar
  • Peer over the 16th-century walls of Dubrovnik's Lovrijenac and Revelin fortresses
  • Look on as the kids enjoy a horse (or pony) ride at charming Honey Valley

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Split, Explore the City & Famed Diocletian's Palace Split
Day 2 ATV Quad Family Tour (Split Day Trip) Split
Day 3 Split to Hvar, Sea Kayaking the Pakleni Islands Archipelago with the Kids Hvar Town
Day 4 Hvar to Dubrovnik, Horseback Ride & Pet Animals at Honey Valley Dubrovnik
Day 5 Depart Dubrovnik Dubrovnik

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Split, Explore the City & Famed Diocletian's Palace

Split and Marjan Hill in the distance
Split and Marjan Hill in the distance

Welcome to Croatia! From the airport, it's a short (45-minute) drive to the center of Split. Check into your hotel and settle in before taking the rest of the afternoon to explore as your family chooses. A dynamic ancient coastal city, Split was founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian, and today its UNESCO-protected Old Town includes many impressive sites, including Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world. 

Start in Peristyle Square, pointing out the 3,500-year-old sphinxes Diocletian brought back from Egypt to the kids, before exploring the 4th-century Diocletian's Palace. Keeping an eye on the younger family members, wander the palace's exciting labyrinth of alleys and passageways that open up onto bustling squares and lead you to centuries-old buildings where hotels, shops, and restaurants are still in business to this day. It's the ideal place to take intrepid kids to explore, learn, and burn off that excess energy. 

For stunning views over the city and Adriatic, you might like to climb the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus (St. Duje)—considered the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use. Another option for great views and fresh air is to hike or bike to the top of Marjan Hill, just outside the city center. The "lungs of the city," the entire Marjan peninsula is dotted with tiny centuries-old churches, large cypress and black pine trees, and Mediterranean plants and herbs. Here the kids can enjoy the great outdoors, run freely, tumble on the grass, and clamber on the playgrounds if climbing to the high point is too taxing.

Day 2: ATV Quad Family Tour (Split Day Trip)

Discover the Dalmatian hinterland on an ATV tour
Discover the Dalmatian hinterland on an ATV tour

Today is reserved for an exciting half-day (and kid-friendly) ATV tour of the Dalmatian hinterland beyond Split. You'll meet your guide for a brief introductory lesson before setting off to traverse over 25 miles (40 km) of gravel roads, seemingly endless fields along the Cetina river and the zagora. Take in the stunning scenery from the vantage of your personal ATV, stopping for a refreshing swim in the river as the mood strikes. The region is rich with archaeological finds from antiquity up to the Middle Ages providing insight into Croatia's fascinating past.

If there's interest, you can also opt for a traditional BBQ lunch set along the river to further add to a pretty perfect day.

Day 3: Split to Hvar, Sea Kayaking the Pakleni Islands Archipelago with the Kids

Hvar and the Pakleni Islands in the distance
Hvar and the Pakleni Islands in the distance

Catch an early morning ferry to the island of Hvar and check into your accommodation. A Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar is a popular destination with tourists due to its natural setting, mild climate, and its historic port town of the same name. Highlights of Hvar Town include its 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress, and the main square anchored by the Renaissance-era Cathedral.

For some of the best views of the island, Hvar Town, and the nearby Pakleni Islands, take a short walk up to the 16th-century Španjola Fortress. To cover some ground and appreciate the variation in island landscape: from lavender plantations and olive groves to vineyards and pine woods, you may like to join a (wine tasting) cycling or hiking tour. Though the less active might opt to rent a scooter for faster coverage of the local scenery. And not far from your hotel along the southern coast are a number of pebble beaches the children are safe to explore, including Velo ZaraćeDubovica, and Sveta Nedilja.

In the afternoon, you'll switch gears to spend time enjoying the sun and sea from the vantage point of your kayak on a guided tour of the Pakleni Islands archipelago. A collection of 14 wooded and rocky islets, the Pakleni Islands are the most beautiful part of the Hvar Riviera and are a favorite retreat for locals and the rich-and-famous seeking to escape the summer heat.

Slip into your swimwear, grab your towel, and head out to meet your guide at Križna Luka beach, a short walk from Hvar Town's city center, to select your kayak (single or double) and lifejackets. Here you'll also listen to a brief safety talk as well as learn about the sea kayaking basics before paddling out to the islands. You'll get to experience the open sea and unending views of the horizon, relax on pebble beaches, and swim and snorkel the crystal clear waters, where the kids may even be able to spot the fish they saw at one of Croatia's many aquariums.

Ferry time: 1.5-2 hours

Day 4: Hvar to Dubrovnik, Horseback Ride & Pet Animals at Honey Valley

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik

Start the day early and board a morning ferry to Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic," where you'll have the day to explore one of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe. And while there's evidence of settlements as far back as the Byzantine era, this area only came into its own as an important power since the 13th century, due in part to its strategic coastal position. Dubrovnik's long and storied history is told in its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and fountains all found within its towering fortress walls.

After checking into your accommodation, you'll want to get out and explore Old Town—a children's golden fantasy land. Head to the pedestrian-only gleaming Stradun, the city's main street flanked by secretive stairways and elusive alleys which kids can explore, ice cream in hand, past flower-bedecked windows and under old-timey laundry-lines hanging overhead. There's also the imposing 15th- and 16th-century city walls that encircle Dubrovnik and lead to several round forts; kids will love looking down over the city, harbor, and people below. You can buy your tickets near Pile Gate.

Reserve a few hours in the afternoon to escape the bustle of Dubrovnik's crowds and ride the cable car up to Srđ Mountain to make your way to Medena Dolina (Honey Valley), a short walk away. A farm and petting zoo where kids meet horses, donkeys, and sheep, this mini animal paradise offers fresh air and a pretty country scene where you can look on as your children interact with the animals. Pack a lunch to enjoy a picnic in the shade of the cherry orchard trees as your kids roam about freely.

The more active might like to take up the reins and ride a pony or horse for an exciting riding session under the supervision of a professional trainer. And when it's time to return to Dubrovnik, you might like to take in the sunset over the Elafiti Islands before taking the cable car or walking back down the hill.

Ferry time (Hvar to Dubrovnik): 3.5 hours

Day 5: Depart Dubrovnik

The Maritime Museum inside St. John's Fortress
The Maritime Museum inside St. John's Fortress

It's time to say goodbye to Croatia. Savor one more local morning and make sure to visit any corner of the city you may have missed. Keep intrepid kids entertained with a visit to the Maritime Museum, where they can learn about sea exploration through old maps, model ships, steering wheels, and navigators tours, or at the small aquarium inside St. John’s Fortress (part of the wall!), home to eels, octopi, seahorses, and starfish.

Map

Map of Croatia Family Vacation: Split, Hvar, & Dubrovnik - 5 Days
Map of Croatia Family Vacation: Split, Hvar, & Dubrovnik - 5 Days