With over a thousand islands and a thousand miles of coastline, Croatia is one of the best places in the world to go sailing. You’ll spend a week island hopping, swimming and snorkeling in the blue Adriatic sea, and visit ancient Greek and Roman towns where you can enjoy a cycling, wine tasting or sea kayaking tour.

Highlights

  • Explore Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, famous for its array of beautiful islands
  • Marvel at ancient Greek, Roman, and Venetian architecture
  • Visit the villages and culture of the Istrian peninsula, perfect for families
  • Stop in beautiful coves and towns that you wouldn’t otherwise see
  • Swim in the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea during the heat of summer
  • Plan each day on the spot with the help of an experienced skipper
  • Stop by the fortified Venetian town of Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo

Overview

Croatia is one of the best sailing destinations in the world for a number of reasons: the islands are close together so you don’t have long distances to cross (meaning it’s safer), the winds are generally much calmer compared to other destinations, and the islands and coastline are lined with ancient historical ruins.

Planning your trip

If you're planning to visit Croatia during the summer months (June to August), it’s crucial to book your trip months in advance to ensure you have the best boat for what you're looking for. Hotels also book out quite quickly for this time. Ideally, you'd have everything reserved by the beginning of March for this time. If you're planning to visit outside of these months, you shouldn't have a problem with boat and accommodation availability. 

Checking flight dates and timings is also wise once you know your approximate dates. If you're traveling from outside of Europe, you will likely fly into Split, Dubrovnik or Zagreb via a connecting flight in Europe. To make the most of your time, note that all sailing charters run on a set schedule from Saturday (5 pm) to Saturday (9 am), for a minimum of 7 days.

Most sailing trips start and end in the same place, but you can also pay a one-way fee if you want to go from Split to Dubrovnik, for example. Given most people book fly in and out of the same city, few people opt for the one-way option.

Sailing regions

Dalmatian Coast (Southern Croatia)

Korcula town and Peljeski Channel
The marble islands of the Peljeski Channel from Korcula town in Dalmatia

Starting from Split or Dubrovnik, this is Croatia’s most popular sailing region for first-time visitors. The Dalmatian Coast is famous for its beautiful islands and old city palaces, buildings, and forts. It's also the best region to enjoy the nightlife along with a wide selection of local restaurants.

Most itineraries will spend a week hopping between islands such as Hvar, Korcula, Vis, and Brac — all easily accessible within a half day's sail of each other. The Dalmatian Coast is great for all ages given the variety of activities and places to see, and often attracts a younger crowd given its nightlife and popular, established routes. Keep in mind that during July and August numerous cruise ship dock each day at Dubrovnik and Split, making it quite packed during this time. 

Istria (Northern Croatia)

The idyllic coastline of Istria, lined with small towns and rocky beaches
The idyllic coastline of Istria, lined with small towns and rocky beaches

Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, situated along the northern coast of Croatia. It was formerly part of Italy from 1919-1947 and is still largely influenced by Italian cuisine, language, and culture. Coastal towns like Pula, Rovinj, and Porec are popular stops for travelers and can be quite crowded during the summer months. However, if you move inland of Istria you will discover amazing towns and villages that few people visit. 

What Istria may lack in terms of nightlife and hotel selection, it makes up for in remote beauty and local culture. You'll visit small towns, eat farm-fresh meals, and explore the inland country on great day tours, such as wine tasting and cycling tours. Istria is a great option for families or groups looking to experience the natural beauty of Croatia.

Choosing your boat

There is a wide variety of boats to choose from. Deciding which boat to go with will come down to your budget, group size, and preferred style of sailing. Boats range from basic sailboats (monohulls) to luxury motor yachts and can be chartered independently or with a fully-staffed crew.

No matter what kind of boat you choose, be sure to inquire about its age. After five years (with around 140 days at sea each year), boats tend to get worn out, especially if they weren’t well-maintained. Newer boats are also noticeably more spacious and comfortable, while older boats will tend to cost less.

Sailboat
Sailboat
Catamaran
Catamaran sailboat
Gulet
Gulet, a traditional Turkish boat
Motor yacht
Luxury motor yacht

Sailboat ($2000-$5000 per week)

2-8 people. The most common type of boat, great for active travelers and couples. Sailboats offer the classic sailing experience and vary from 30-50 feet.

Catamaran ($5000-$12,000 per week)

2-8 people. More stable and smooth-sailing than a conventional sailboat, catamarans are great for larger groups and families and range from 38-62 feet, with the average being 40 ft. at around $8000/week.

Gulet ($5000-$20,000 per week)

8-20 people. Large, wooden Turkish sailboats that are perfect for larger groups. Most boats have six cabins and come with four crew members. Lengths range from 60-100 feet.

Motor yacht ($5000-$20,000 per week)

12-25 people. For a more luxurious experience, you can charter a motor yacht. Motor yachts have up to four cabins depending on their length and range from 30-50 feet. The most expensive boats can be up to $30-60K per week.

Additional costs

Besides the price of the boat charter, there are a few additional costs to keep in mind:

  • Skipper fees
  • Crew (hostess and/or chef)
  • Docking fees ($110 USD per night) (marinas are often full in July and August)
  • Boat cleaning fee (often included in the price)
  • One-way transfer fee
  • Fuel
  • Security deposit (varying from $1500-$5000 USD)

Day activities

Besides the sailing, we highly recommend arranging a few activities on the islands you'll be visiting. This is a great way to get some exercise, explore the islands, and experience a variety of activities. Here are a few activities that we suggest:

  • Sea kayaking around the island coves
  • Cycling and mountain biking on the islands
  • Wine tasting tours by foot or bicycle
  • Cultural tours of historical old towns
  • Paddle boarding, snorkeling, and scuba diving

Sleeping & meals

Most people sleep on the boat each night, where you'll be docking in the local marinas or anchoring in one of the coves of the island. Where you spend each night largely depends on the local knowledge and negotiating skills of your skipper, given the marinas and coves are in high demand! 

Breakfast and lunch are usually had on the boat which makes everything logistically easy, while dinners are often had on land at a great local restaurant. You'll be bale to buy snacks and drinks at local markets to take with you, as well, during your trip, and you'll be able to replenish your supplies along the way. 

When to go

Busy season (June to Septemeber)

The main sailing season, when temperatures are high and the water is warm. Around the end of July and early August, daytime temperatures can reach 40 degrees celsius so it's best to start your days early to avoid the heat. During these months, the marinas, cities, and some of the islands often are packed with travelers, many coming in by cruise ship. As mentioned earlier, if you’re looking to travel during this time it's best to book well in advance.

Shoulder season (April, May, and October)

The official sailing season is from April to October, and we highly recommend considering planning your trip during these shoulder months. The weather is still ideal (just not quite as hot), yet there are little crowds and the busy cruise ship season has yet to start. As a result, you’ll have a better overall experience, have the opportunity to interact with more locals, and get a better deal on prices.

Day trips

If you’re short on time but still want to go sailing in Croatia, there are day sailing trips starting out of Split and Zadar. You’ll visit nearby islands, go swimming, visit historic towns and then return back to the port in the evening. This is a great option to include if you’re doing a land-based itinerary.