This complete 15-day family vacation covers Croatia's highlights from the dynamic capital of Zagreb to the fortressed city of Dubrovnik with an exciting focus on activities sure to keep the children entertained. From one end of the country to the next, you'll explore the charming hilltop towns and Venetian-influenced cities of the Istrian peninsula, travel down the length of the sunny Dalmatian coast with two nights spent on Hvar Island, and discover the delights of the hinterland beyond the ancient city of Split. You'll spend two relaxing nights at Hotel Amarin—a haven for families, work together as a team to solve puzzles and clues to "escape" a room in Split, and kayak the Adriatic Sea to the Pakleni Islands archipelago.

Highlights

  • Hunt for mushrooms alongside truffle-sniffing dogs in Istria
  • Explore the Dalmatian hinterland on an exciting ATV tour from Split
  • Splash in the emerald-green lagoon of Krka National Park's waterfalls
  • Kayak with the family from Hvar Town to the wooded Pakleni Islands
  • 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 Zagreb, Croatia's Child-Friendly Capital Zagreb
Day 2 Bike Tour of Zagreb Zagreb
Day 3 Zagreb to Motovun, Truffle Hunting Family Fun in Motovun Forest Motovun
Day 4 Motovun to Rovinj's Family Hotel Amarin, Stopping in Pula Rovinj
Days 5-6 A Day at Family Hotel Amarin to Relax & Explore Rovinj
Day 7 Family Hotel Amarin to Split via Zadar Split
Day 8 ATV Quad Family Tour (Split Day Trip) Split
Day 9 Solve an Escape Room Mystery in Split Split
Day 10 Krka National Park with the Family (Split Day Trip) Split
Day 11 Ferry the Family from Split to Hvar Island Hvar Town
Day 12 Sea Kayaking the Pakleni Islands Archipelago with the Kids Hvar Town
Day 13 Ferry from Hvar to Dubrovnik: A Child's Stone Kingdom Dubrovnik
Day 14 Horseback Ride & Pet Animals at Honey Valley Dubrovnik
Day 15 Depart Dubrovnik Dubrovnik

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Zagreb, Croatia's Child-Friendly Capital

Looking out over Zagreb, Croatia's capital
Looking out over Zagreb, Croatia's capital

Start your adventure from energetic Zagreb. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll transfer to your hotel to settle in where you'll have the rest of the day to spend as your family likes. The city center is easily walkable with children in tow and the streets and parks are easy to navigate by foot. All the main attractions and restaurants are within walking distance perfect for families with strollers and smaller children. The capital, too, is a perfect balance of just enough people traffic to give it a good vibe, but not too many to make traveling with the little ones difficult.

Head to Ban Jelačić Square at the heart of the city and wander the bustling open-air markets—a bounty of local produce, flowers, jams, and honey. There's also an entire area of vendors selling an array of handcrafted cheeses, cured meats, pastries, and other locally-made products—the right place to pick up snacks.

Opt for a guided walking tour that will take you through the history of the city, sharing the stories, legends, and pivotal events of its past. You will learn about the history of Zagreb since the Middle Ages as you traipse the cobblestone streets of Gornji Grad and over to the Cathedral and Kaptol, the religious core. If the children are small, you'll likely want to take the funicular for a fun ride down from and up to Gornji Grad.

Alternatively, you may wish to explore the city's neighborhoods. There's the car-free pedestrian zone between Trg Jelacic and Flower Square in Donji Grad. Head to Spica for a strip of cafés and an excellent spot to people watch and take in the local scene. And when it's time for a proper meal, choose from one of the many great restaurants Zagreb has to offer.

Day 2: Bike Tour of Zagreb

13th-century Kamenita Vrata and equestrian statue of St. George and the Dragon
13th-century Kamenita Vrata and equestrian statue of St. George and the Dragon

Today you'll spend a few hours on an entertaining bicycle tour through Zagreb—a convenient way to see many of the major sights (with the added option to ride an e-bike!). You'll meet your guide and then venture through the winding network of small streets through the oldest part of Zagreb, Gornji Grad (Upper Town), an area that stretches between two hills: Kaptol and Gradec. You'll stop to visit Parliament and the Government House, the Kamenita Vrata (Stone Gate), as well as learn why the Grič cannon fires from the Lotrščak Tower every day at noon and why a street in the heart of Zagreb is referred to as Krvavi Most or "Bloody Bridge."

You'll then work your way down to Donji Grad (Lower Town), an area made up of spacious parks and boulevards, like the impressively grand Lenuci Horseshoe (or Green Horseshoe), capped by the neo-baroque Croatian National Theater. Your local guide can also let you know where to go for the best restaurants and shopping, as well as the most popular places to grab a coffee, beer, or rakija brandy.

Day 3: Zagreb to Motovun, Truffle Hunting Family Fun in Motovun Forest

Medieval Motovun
Medieval Motovun

Following breakfast, you'll set out from your hotel in Zagreb to make the scenic drive west into the romantic Istrian peninsula and to the charming hilltop town of Motovun, an ancient sleepy town that sits atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. The scenery on the drive is spectacular, as you pass rolling hills, fertile valleys, and lowland Mediterranean forest abounding with oak, elm, and ash trees.

Drop off your luggage and meet your English-speaking guide who will lead you on the day's primary activity: hunting for wild truffles. A great way to keep your children entertained as you seek out the hidden treasures (fungi) while at the same time learning about a local practice. You'll transfer to a nearby country house of a seasoned professional who has 40 years of experience hunting for wild truffles in the Mediterranean forests of the area. He'll introduce you to dogs trained specially to hunt the delicacy, and after an aperitif, you'll venture into the forest to begin the search.

The tour takes about three hours total. However, the initial truffle hunt takes just 45 minutes, at which point you'll spend the remainder of the time at the country house relaxing and learning how to prepare a meal with truffles as the star ingredient. The friendly hosts will serve you local wine, cheese, truffle-flavored honey, and other delicacies as you work, which you can also buy at the estate.

The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore Motovun. If the kids need to burn off energy you might consider climbing the 1,052 steps of the peninsula's longest staircase. Leading from Motovun's Venetian-inspired town square up to the top of the hill, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the vineyards and forests (you had a chance to explore) that lie outside the village walls. The vineyards produce Croatia's famed Teran and Malvasia, so when it's time for dinner be sure to sample a glass.

Driving time (Zagreb to Motovun): 3 hours

Day 4: Motovun to Rovinj's Family Hotel Amarin, Stopping in Pula

Pula's Roman Arena
Pula's Roman Arena

You'll leave Motovun this morning and transfer to Pula, one of the most stunning towns of the Istrian region. Its strategic location on the end of the peninsula means it has been occupied many times throughout the centuries by everyone from the Romans to the Allied Forces in WWII. While Pula is known for its beaches and harbor, it's most famous for its Roman amphitheater, the Pula Arena, which dates back to the first century.

Take your time to explore the city. You'll no doubt want to make a beeline for the arena, which is one of the 10 largest colosseums the Romans ever built. Stand in the tunnels and corridors where warriors and lions were kept before entertaining crowds of up to 25,000. But that isn't all—there are many other ruins you can visit here. These include the Arch of the Sergii—an ancient Roman arch dating to 29 BCE—and the Temple of Augustus, a Roman temple built in 2 BCE.

When you're ready, you'll say farewell to Pula and make your way along the coast toward Rovinj where you'll settle into your rooms at the Family Hotel Amarin. Take the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore the resort and its amenities, seemingly perfectly crafted to suit your family's needs. And if you're up for a short venture, head into Rovinj to discover what the small jewel of Istria's west coast has on offer. 

Driving time (Motovun to Pula): 1 hour
Driving time (Pula to Rovinj): 45 minutes

Days 5-6: A Day at Family Hotel Amarin to Relax & Explore

A father and daughter duo ride the forest-lined trails of Park šuma Zlatni Rt
A father and daughter duo ride the forest-lined trails of Park šuma Zlatni Rt

Spend the day discovering the wonderful amenities of the strikingly modern Family Hotel Amarin. Conveniently located 2.5 miles (4 km) outside the bars and restaurants of Rovinj's town center, the resort is about a minute's walk away to the nearest beach along the Adriatic Sea and only 3 miles (5 km) to popular Park šuma Zlatni Rt’s seaside forest. There are four restaurants, each with special menus for children,  an outdoor swimming complex comprised of four swimming pools catering to both adults and children, infants too.

Your family will also have access to playgrounds, a variety of sports activities for all age groups, and a kids' club—enough entertainment to satisfy everyone's needs as you enjoy the hotel's wellness spa and other conveniences.

If you'd like to get out and explore the area, you can make a quick trip to nearby Rovinj. Though this gem of a coastal city remains an active fishing port today, it wasn't until 1763 that it became a part of the mainland. As such, its restricted access resulted in the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets you see today. Wander Old Town and marvel at the centuries-old Venetian influenced architecture as you pass under archways, through alleyways, and up stone stairwells. Navigate your way to Balbi's Arch and the 12th-century Town Clock, noting Rovinj's skyline dominated by the baroque Church of St. Euphemia.

Then there's Park šuma Zlatni Rt (Golden Cape). Surrounded by the blue-green waters of the Adriatic, the park is home to grassy picnic areas, trails lined with tall cedar and cypress trees, and pebbled bathing spots suitable for children and families. You'll want to check out the popular Lone Bay with its snack bar and centuries-old trees mere steps away from the shore. Consider renting a paddleboat or hiring bikes to explore the cape. 

And if you'd like to indulge in a kid-free evening, take advantage of Hotel Amarin's babysitting services and head to either an onsite restaurant or find your way to one of Rovinj's many excellent options.

Day 7: Family Hotel Amarin to Split via Zadar

Silhouettes of people on Zadar's Monument to the Sun
Silhouettes of people on Zadar's Monument to the Sun

Getting an early start to the day, you'll venture south along the Dalmatian coast to Split. Along the way, you'll break up the trip with a stop to explore Zadar, a historic town of Roman ruins, medieval churches, cosmopolitan cafés, and quality museums. An intriguing city not overly crowded, it's famous for its picturesque coastline full of islands and vibrant blue waters, fresh seafood, and unforgettable sunsets, as well as two unique attractions, the Monument to the Sun and the Sea Organ.

For a great way to entertain even the youngest of family members, head to the northwest tip of Zadar's peninsula. Here you can listen to the Sea Organ play its unending melody, fueled by the ebb and flow of the Adriatic Sea's current and dance around artist Nikola Basic's solar-paneled Monument to the Sun. The 72-foot (22 m) disc absorbs the sun's rays during the day, emitting colorful patterns of light as the evening approaches.

From Zadar, you'll continue your journey further south to the Roman city of Split to check into your accommodation in the late afternoon. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you choose. A dynamic ancient coastal city, Split was founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian, and today its UNESCO-protected Old Town includes a number of impressive sites, including Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world and an ideal place to take intrepid kids to explore, learn, and burn off excess energy. 

You might like to start at Pjaca Square for pretty views of white marble tiles, the Iron Gate (the western entrance to Diocletian's Palace), a Romanesque clock tower with the remains of a medieval sundial, and the 15th-century Town Hall. Meanwhile, you can enjoy Renaissance architecture, influenced during Split's Venetian era at Voćni trg (Fruit Square) and for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat head to Marmont Street, though you'll want to make your way to the waterfront to catch the sunset.

Driving time (Rovinj to Zadar): 4.5 hours
Driving time (Zadar to Split): 2 hours

Day 8: 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 9: Solve an Escape Room Mystery in Split

Solve puzzles and answer riddles to escape
Solve puzzles and answer riddles to escape

Today you'll have the fun of participating in an immersive Escape Room activity - perfect for all family members! Escape Room is a real-life game that takes place in a specially designed room for a limited amount of time, during which you have to solve the mystery in order to escape in time.

Gather your team and head to Split's Escape Room. You'll select the themed mystery that appeals to your group before being locked in the room where your mission to solve the game begins. You'll have to work together and use your creativity to locate hidden objects and decipher clues. Your team has to solve a series of puzzles and riddles using the elements found inside the room to escape within the given 75-minute time limit. Let the game begin!

Leading up to or following the Escape Room, you might like to explore more of Split. Let the kids seek out the 3,500-year-old sphinxes Emperor Diocletian brought back from Egypt. Or climb the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus (St. Duje)—considered the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use—for stunning views over the city and Adriatic. Another option is to hike or bike to the top of Marjan Hill. 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.

In addition to the stunning vistas, you'll be rewarded with attractions less visited: the Jewish cemetery and 13th and 15th-century churches, St. Nicholas and St. Jerome. Though if it's the beach you're after, head to Bačvice beach to relax on the sand warmed by the morning sun. You can explore the coast and find any number of suitable beaches where most near Split are popular with families that have little ones as they're easily accessible and shallow.

Day 10: 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 11: Ferry the Family from Split to Hvar Island

Hvar Town and the Pakleni Islands at sunset
Hvar Town and the Pakleni Islands at sunset

After an easy morning in Split, catch the 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 Zaraće, Dubovica, and Sveta Nedilja.

Ferry time: 1.5-2 hours

Day 12: Sea Kayaking the Pakleni Islands Archipelago with the Kids

Sea kayaking on the Adriatic
Sea kayaking on the Adriatic

Today you'll spend the day enjoying the sun and sea from the vantage point of your kayaks 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.

Day 13: 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 14: 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 15: 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: Zagreb, Rovinj, Split, Hvar, & Dubrovnik - 15 Days
Map of Croatia Family Vacation: Zagreb, Rovinj, Split, Hvar, & Dubrovnik - 15 Days