This packed weeklong itinerary is perfect for adventurous families who are short on time. Hit the top highlights with visits to Split and Hvar, where you'll tour ancient Roman ruins, explore the Dalmatian hinterland and rugged island terrain, and kayak the Adriatic sea to nearby islets. End in Dubrovnik to go back in time as the kids stroll the monumental city walls, peer inside fortresses, and discover hidden stairways and elusive alleys leftover from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Highlights

  • Tour the famous Diocletian's Palace in Split, dating back to the 4th century
  • Splash in the emerald-green lagoon of Krka National Park's waterfalls
  • Ride a scooter amid olive groves and lavender fields, past coastal villages on Hvar
  • Let the kids take up the reins and ride a pony at Honey Valley, near Dubrovnik

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 Krka National Park with the Family (Split Day Trip) Split
Day 4 Split to Hvar, Sea Kayaking the Pakleni Islands Archipelago with the Kids Hvar Town
Day 5 Ferry from Hvar to Dubrovnik: A Child's Stone Kingdom Dubrovnik
Day 6 Horseback Ride & Pet Animals at Honey Valley Dubrovnik
Day 7 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: Krka National Park with the Family (Split Day Trip)

A popular waterfall spot for travelers in Krka National Park
A popular waterfall spot for travelers in Krka National Park

Prepare for an unforgettable day trip to nearby Krka National Park, one of Croatia's top-rated parks. You'll make the drive this morning to Skradin at the entrance to the park. With seven waterfalls—the largest and most impressive being Skradinski Buk—Krka National Park is home to a network of striking waterfalls. The Krka River, another highlight of the park, carves through the limestone and creates a spectacular canyon on its 44-mile journey (70 km) from the foothills of the Dinaric Alps to Šibenik.

You can request to have a local private guide take you throughout the park or opt to discover Krka on your own, following the well-marked winding wooden paths. You'll traverse emerald pools and river islands to prime lookout spots in which to view the falls where you'll even have the opportunity to take a dip in one of the lagoons as Krka is the only national park in Croatia where swimming is allowed. You can also visit the Krka Monastery on a boat tour of the Krka River, Visovac Island (home to the centuries-old Franciscan monastery), and Ključica, a huge fortress ruin, all of which will have the imaginations of your children running wild.

Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and Mother Nature saved the best for last. Cascading 78 feet (24 m) down into an emerald lagoon wider than the falls are tall, you'll find restaurants, snack stands, and ice cream shops at the base of this postcard locale to satisfy any food-related cravings, perfect for lunch. Afterward, you'll return to your accommodation in Split.

Driving time (Split to Krka): 1.5 hours

Day 4: 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 5: Ferry from Hvar to Dubrovnik: A Child's Stone Kingdom

Dubrovnik's old city walls
Dubrovnik's old city walls

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.

And for more of a thrill, ride the cable car up to Srđ Mountain to take in the sunset over the nearby Elafiti Islands. Here you can also explore the 19th-century Fort Imperijal before stretching your legs to enjoy unobstructed views of the city as you walk back down the hill.

Ferry time (Hvar to Dubrovnik): 3.5 hours

Day 6: Horseback Ride & Pet Animals at Honey Valley

Little girl fees a pony
Little girl fees a pony

Reserve a few hours today and escape the bustle of Dubrovnik's crowds to Medena Dolina (Honey Valley), a farm and petting zoo where kids meet horses, donkeys, and sheep. Once at the top of Srđ Mountain, it's a short walk away from the cable car ride to this mini animal paradise. Enjoy the fresh air and country scene as your children interact with the animals. You might like to pack a lunch to savor a picnic in the shade of the cherry orchard trees as your kids roam about freely. 

Meanwhile, 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.

Day 7: 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 - 7 Days
Map of Croatia Family Vacation: Split, Hvar, & Dubrovnik - 7 Days