Is sailing in Croatia on your bucket list? Then you’ve come to the right place! Sailing in Croatia is one of those experiences you’ll remember forever. Seriously, I believe every traveler should sail in Croatia at least once in their lives – no matter what age you are. A week or so on the Adriatic Sea is an awe-inspiring adventure that will leave you yearning to return to the pristine waters and the surrounding leafy islands.
In the summer of 2022, I spent seven blissful days sailing along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia with Girls Love Travel, hopping from island to island and traversing the endless natural wonders of this Mediterranean country. Living on a sailboat was an adventure in itself, one that resulted in new friendships, new skills, and even a few life lessons. There are a few steps to prepare for your sailing adventure in Croatia. That’s why I created this ultimate guide to help you prepare and understand what to expect.
Before we begin, I want to mention that while learning Croatian might not be mandatory, it can greatly enrich your experience. The locals truly appreciate it when visitors make an effort to communicate in their language, and even knowing a few basic phrases can make a significant difference. Besides, learning a new language while on vacation is always exciting!
Want to read more about Croatia? You’re in luck! This post is a part of the Croatia series. Here is the complete 15-part series:
Krka National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Krka National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice vs Krka – Krka vs Plitvice National Park: Which One Should You Visit?
Mljet National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Mljet National Park, Croatia
Sailing in Croatia: Know Before You Go
When is the best time to go sailing in Croatia?
Croatia is a year-round sailing destination, but the best time to sail is from May to October when the weather is warm, and the sea is calm. July and August are the busiest months when boat operators are most active. Yacht Week is a famous summer festival organized by a company called The Yacht Week that happens in six different locations across the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, with Croatia being the original route. Yacht week in Croatia typically happens from May to August, with July being the peak month. The week’s festivities include sailing, partying, and mingling with new friends.
Here is a breakdown of the seasons in Croatia and how that affects sailing in the country:
Spring (March to May):
Spring is a wonderful time to visit Croatia. You’ll encounter mild temperatures and blooming nature. The weather can be unpredictable, with occasional rain showers, but the days are generally pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 50-68°F. It’s a great time to visit if you want to avoid crowds and enjoy the natural beauty of Croatia.
Summer (June to August):
Summer is the peak tourist season in Croatia, with warm temperatures and long, sunny days. The temperatures range from 77-86°F, and the sea temperature is warm and inviting. This is the best time for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying water sports. However, the crowds can be overwhelming, and prices tend to be higher than in the other seasons.
Fall (September to November):
During the fall in Croatia, the temperatures are mild, and the hordes of summer tourists have disappeared. The temperatures range from 50-68°F, and the sea is still warm enough for swimming. This is also a great time for hiking and exploring the national parks. However, the weather can be unpredictable, and some tourist facilities may be closed.
Winter (December to February):
Winter in Croatia is relatively mild, with temperatures ranging from 32-50°F. The coastal areas are generally warmer than the inland regions, and some coastal towns still offer a range of activities and events during the winter months. You can go skiing in the mountains and visit the popular Christmas. The main downside of visiting during the winter is the chilly and wet weather.
What are the best sailing routes?
Croatia has over 1,000 islands, so you have quite many routes to choose from. There are two main sailing routes: north and south. For instance, you can start in Split and return to Split or start in Dubrovnik and return to Dubrovnik. The sailing route I took started and ended in Split. Tour companies normally take you sailing down the Dalmatian Coast in Southern Croatia and up the Istrian Coast in Northern Croatia.
Dalmatian Coast (Southern Croatia)
The Dalmatian Coast is located along the eastern Adriatic Sea, stretching from Zadar in the north to Dubrovnik in the south, and it’s home to over 1,000 islands and islets. The coast is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, secluded coves, charming fishing villages, and historic towns.
Sailing along the Dalmatian Coast, you can explore various destinations, from the bustling cities of Split and Dubrovnik to the quiet and picturesque islands of Hvar, Mljet, and Korčula. You can anchor in secluded bays, swim in turquoise waters, and enjoy the stunning scenery of the rugged coastline.
One of the highlights of sailing the Dalmatian Coast is the opportunity to experience the local cuisine and culture. You can sample fresh seafood, olive oil, and local wines and explore charming fishing villages and historic towns, such as Trogir, Korčula, and Hvar. You can also participate in water activities like snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
Istria (Northern Croatia)
Sailing in Istria is a wonderful way to explore this beautiful region in the northwestern part of Croatia. Istria is known for its picturesque coastal towns, clear waters, and unspoiled natural beauty.
The region has several marinas and harbors, starting points for sailing trips. Some popular sailing destinations in Istria include Pula, Rovinj, and Poreč. These towns are not only beautiful but also have an abundance of facilities for sailing, including marinas, boat rentals, and yacht clubs.
Sailing along the Istrian coast, you can explore the pristine coastline, dotted with secluded coves, bays, and beaches. The waters are crystal clear, and ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Some must-visit destinations include the Brijuni Islands, Lim Fjord, and Kamenjak National Park.
One of the highlights of sailing in Istria is the chance to sample the local cuisine renowned for its seafood, truffles, and olive oil. You can dock at one of the fishing villages or harbors and enjoy some delicious food in a local restaurant.
Like the rest of Croatia, the climate in Istria is Mediterranean, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine throughout the sailing season, which runs from May to October. The winds are generally light and ideal for comfortable cruising.
How do you rent a sailboat?
You can rent a sailboat, catamaran, or motorboat from one of the many charter companies in Croatia. During my sailing adventure in Croatia, I went with a sailboat company called Katarina, which had the most incredible staff and delicious food. Because I booked my trip through Girls Love Travel, I didn’t have actually to book the sailboat. I just had to show up and enjoy the journey. That’s why I recommend booking your Croatian adventure through Girls Love Travel or another tour operator, so they can take care of the boat chartering for you. If you do choose to charter a boat on your own, here is a breakdown of the popular charter companies in Croatia that you can choose from.
The Katarina Line was Girls Love Travel’s cruise company chartered for our 7-day sailing adventure along the Dalmatian Coast. Founded in 1992, it is one of the leading cruise companies in Croatia. It offers boats from April to October, departing from Split, Dubrovnik, and Opatija port cities. With a fleet of more than 60 ships in six different categories, the cruise line caters to all ages and budgets, offering boats for every type of group, from corporate executives to young travelers.
Based on my experience, I can say that the Katarina Line lives up to its reputation. I enjoyed getting to know the crew on our boat, who were so friendly and welcoming. I also liked the food and the route. The only downside I can think of is the living quarters. I wish they were a little bigger on our sailboat.
Based in Split, Marinero Sailing is run by a group of passionate sailors traversing the Croatian coast for pleasure and work. They offer organized daily trips with a sailing boat to experience the best Dalmatia offers. They have skippers with years of experience that will make you feel safe and relaxed.
Sail Croatia offers signature Navigator Cruises for 18 – 39-year-olds looking for the ultimate party cruise experience. As part of this adventure, cruising around Dubrovnik is a highlight. You can island hop your way along the Croatian coastline on board some of the liveliest boats on the Adriatic Sea for seven days.
During the sailing adventure, you’ll swim in secluded bays, explore historic towns, watch incredible sunsets, and party until dawn at some of Europe’s most famous nightlife spots.
Skipper City offers bareboat, crewed, and skippered yacht charters across Croatia with access to 6,000 vessels. Among these is every type of boat you care to imagine, from catamarans and traditional wooden gullets to sailboats, motorboats, and state-of-the-art superyachts.
Described by Conde Nast Traveller magazine as “the Airbnb of boats and yachts,” Sailo is a global boat rental and yacht charter marketplace that connects boat owners, charter companies, and renters on a secure and easy-to-use platform.
You can browse and compare thousands of verified boats based on date, location, price, size, and user reviews, and you can even customize the search by creating your preferred trip directly in the booking process.
What to pack for your sailing adventure in Croatia?
Before setting sail, make sure to stock up on provisions, including food, water, and fuel. You can find grocery stores and marinas along the coast, but bringing everything you need from the mainland is best.
If you plan to sail in Croatia, it’s important to pack wisely and bring the right gear and clothing for the trip. Here are some essential items to pack:
Sun Protection: Croatia can get very sunny, especially during summer. Make sure to pack sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, a hat, and a lightweight long-sleeved shirt to protect your skin from the sun.
Swimsuit: Bring at least two swimsuits, as you’ll spend much time in the water. A rash guard can also be helpful for water sports or sun protection.
Lightweight Clothing: Pack comfortable and lightweight clothing, such as shorts, t-shirts, and sundresses. Also, bring a few long-sleeved shirts or a light sweater for cooler evenings or windy days.
Deck Shoes: Non-slip deck shoes are a must for sailing. They should be comfortable and provide a good grip to avoid slipping on a wet deck.
Waterproof Bag: Bring a waterproof bag to dry your belongings on board. A dry bag protects your phone, camera, and other electronics.
Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes can be a problem in some areas of Croatia, especially in the evenings. Pack insect repellent to avoid bites and irritation.
First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit can be useful for minor injuries, such as cuts and bruises.
Snorkeling Gear: If you plan to snorkel, bring your mask and snorkel. Some boats provide equipment, but it’s always better to have your own for hygiene and comfort.
Travel Documents: Don’t forget to bring your passport or ID, boat rental documents, and any necessary visas or travel insurance.
Cash and Credit Card: Bring enough cash and a credit card to cover expenses, such as food, drinks, and any activities or excursions.
Pack only the essentials, as you’ll be on a boat, and space may be limited. Make sure to check the weather forecast before packing and adjust your clothing accordingly.
What to expect onboard a sailboat?
As I mentioned at the beginning, living on a sailboat is an adventure in itself. It takes a little adapting initially if you’ve never spent much time at sea like me. That said, you’ll quickly get used to sleeping, eating, and socializing on the boat, and you may actually miss it a little when it’s time to get back on land. Here’s what you can expect during a typical day living on a Croatia sailboat.
You wake up in your bunk bed in your small quarters. You’ll likely share a room if you opt for a standard sailboat. Other luxury sailboats offer bigger space and single rooms. My experience was sharing a bunk bed with my sister. I slept at the top bunk, climbing up and down each day without the help of ladders. That was the case for the Katarina Line sailboat that I was on. I can’t say it would be the same for other sailboat companies.
After waking up, you can either brush and shower in the small bathroom within your room or head to the bigger common bathroom on the boat. I chose the former. The toilet and shower are merged, so you’ll likely get the whole place wet when you shower.
Breakfast is served starting at around 8 am every morning. You can choose from an assortment of meats like ham and fruit like apples and pears. Cereal, bread, butter, and jam are staples for every breakfast, but the main course changes daily.
By the afternoon, the sailboat will dock at the harbors of an island or port city. It may also anchor in the Adriatic Sea while you and your sailing mates take a small boat to your next destination for a day of exploration.
You may have lunch on the sailboat before departing for your next destination or have lunch at the destination.
Another scenario during the afternoon, especially the early afternoon, could be lounging on the main deck while sunbathing or reading. With the sunny skies and beautiful scenery, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible on the main deck. Even better, you could have a flotilla party, which Croatia is famous for. This means the boat will anchor at sea while you and your buddies jump into the sea and sit on floaties while enjoying drinks and listening to music. I had a flotilla party experience during my sailing adventure in Croatia, and it was one of the trip’s highlights. Even though I couldn’t swim, I had so much fun!
You’ll return to the boat by the evening after a day of exploration. You may have dinner on the boat if you didn’t already eat at your destination. Depending on where you dock, evenings on the boat can be lively or quiet. For instance, when we docked on the party island of Hvar, there was music blasting everywhere at the harbor. On the other hand, when we docked at the Mljet harbor, it was relatively peaceful.
Evenings on the boat are a lot of fun. The bar in the dining room opens, and people are ready to have a good time. On the Katarina Line, we had a chef who doubled as a DJ, playing top 40 songs while we danced well into the night. You can also play card games, drink games, or do whatever activities you like in the evenings. Just be sure to go to bed early enough to get some sleep if you have an early morning departure to your next destination.
Explore the islands:
Croatia has some of the most beautiful islands in the world, and sailing is the best way to explore them. Make sure to stop at some of the popular islands like Brač, Hvar, and Korčula. During my next sailing adventure in Croatia, I plan to also take the time to explore some of the lesser-known islands, especially in the north. The Dalmatian Coast may be stunning, but I’m curious to see what the northern islands look like.
Suggested 7-Day Sailing Itinerary
This is the seven-day sailing itinerary I embarked on during my sailing adventure with Girls Love Travel. It’s the perfect itinerary for exploring the Dalmatian Coast for the first time. If you go sailing with a tour company, your trip will likely cover most or all of these destinations.
Kick off your sailing adventure in the port city of Split, where you can explore the 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace. This palace is the oldest continuously-inhabited Roman residence in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site has uniquely merged with the Old Town of Split, blending in with restaurants, cafes, museums, and old residential quarters. Take a guided tour of Diocletian’s Palace to appreciate the structure’s history and significance better. If you have more time to spare, check out my 3-day Split itinerary for a full breakdown of all the amazing things to do in this port city.
I like to say that Hvar is to Croatia what Ibiza is to Spain. This party island is known as a haven for young and rich 20-somethings. It is where people come to celebrate in Croatia; think yacht parties and upscale beach clubs. Even if partying isn’t your thing, there’s still quite a lot to do here, like exploring the Spanish Fortress or eating the best black risotto of your life.
Mljet (pronounced Mill-yet) isn’t exactly a secret for Europeans visiting Croatia. Most Americans, though, have never heard of it. I think that’s a shame because Mljet has an otherworldly beauty! I didn’t know this gorgeous place existed until I saw it on my sailing adventure in Croatia with the Girls Love Travel itinerary.
Home to the sprawling and pristine Mljet National Park, this island is a nature lover’s paradise. I went kayaking for the first time in my life on the turquoise lakes. You can also go cycling, boating, and swimming here. You’re in for a treat if you like water sports.
You can’t visit Croatia without stopping at this iconic city, dubbed “The Pearl of the Adriatic.” Beyond the Game of Thrones filming locations, Dubrovnik has attractions that will keep you occupied for weeks. From climbing the walls of the Old Town to taking in the panoramic views from Mount Srd, you are bound to create memories you’ll never forget. Dubrovnik has a storied past and a fascinating future, which you can explore through a self-guided walking tour of Dubrovnik or a guided walking tour with a local expert.
Korčula (pronounced Kor-chu-lah) is my favorite of all the Croatian islands I’ve visited and the most scenic, but I might be biased. The entire island looks like something out of a painting, and I spent hours just meandering through the long streets of the Old Town, taking hundreds of photos and admiring the beautiful flowers lined against the ancient walls. Korčula felt somewhat like a smaller, more picturesque version of Dubrovnik but with fewer crowds. One of the best things about Korčula is that it’s home to the best wineries in Croatia. Discover how to go wine-tasting in Korčula and sample some of Croatia’s best wines in the beautiful countryside of Lumbarda.
Like Mljet, Makarska is another destination in Croatia that doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves. This port city is located on the Makarska Riviera on the southern Dalmatian Coast. It is surrounded by the Biokovo mountain range and crystal-clear waters, making it a popular tourist destination among locals and Europeans. Americans are still catching on.
Brač (pronounced Bratch) is the beach capital of Croatia, located in Central Dalmatia. At over 150 square miles, it is the largest island on the Dalmatian Coast. In virtually any port town or city in Croatia, particularly Split and Dubrovnik, tour companies advertise Brac getaways. This island has long been a famous holiday spot for Europeans due to its pristine pebble beaches and miles of coastline along the Adriatic Sea. Brač is also home to Croatia’s most famous beach, known as Golden Horn Beach or Zlatni Rat. But is this beach worth the hype? Find out if Golden Horn Beach in Brač is worth visiting.
Visit the National Parks:
Croatia has eight national parks; sailing is a great way to explore them. Some of the most popular national parks include the Plitvice National Park, Krka National Park, and Mljet National Park. I visited all three national parks during my sailing adventure in Croatia. Plitvice and Krka National Parks are located on the mainland of Croatia, so you’ll need to leave the sailboat and head inland. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect at each park.
Plitvice National Park
Plitvice National Park is a breathtaking natural reserve in Croatia known for its cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and diverse wildlife. The park covers an area of over 184 square miles and is the largest national park in Croatia.
The park features 16 interconnected lakes, which are separated by natural dams made of travertine, a type of limestone. These dams create a series of cascading waterfalls that flow into the lakes, creating a beautiful and tranquil landscape. You can explore its many hiking trails, which offer stunning views of the lakes and waterfalls.
Plitvice National Park is also home to a variety of flora and fauna, including over 1,000 plant species, 321 bird species, and a variety of mammal species, including bears, wolves, and deer. The park’s unique ecosystem and diverse wildlife make it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and ecotourists.
One of the park’s most famous attractions is the Plitvice Lakes Boardwalk, a wooden walkway that winds through the park’s lakes and waterfalls, offering visitors an up-close look at the park’s natural beauty. The park also features several panoramic viewpoints, which offer stunning views of the lakes and surrounding forests.
Krka National Park
Krka National Park is a beautiful and unique natural reserve located in Croatia. It covers an area of over 88 square miles and is named after the Krka River, which runs through the park. The park is famous for its many waterfalls, including the Skradinski Buk and Roški Slap, which are among Europe’s most famous and impressive.
In addition to its waterfalls, the park also features a diverse array of flora and fauna, including over 800 species of plants and a variety of bird and animal species. You can explore its many hiking trails, take a boat tour along the Krka River, or swim in the park’s crystal-clear waters.
Mljet National Park
Mljet National Park is known for its lush forests, crystal-clear lakes, and stunning coastline. A narrow channel connects the two lakes within the park, Veliko and Malo Jezero, and are popular spots for swimming and kayaking. Visitors to the park can also explore the island’s many hiking trails, which offer stunning views of the park’s natural beauty.
One of the most unique attractions here is the ancient Benedictine monastery on the island of St. Mary in Veliko Jezero. The monastery was built in the 12th century and is one of Croatia’s oldest and best-preserved monasteries. You can explore the monastery’s beautiful architecture and learn about its rich history.
The park is also home to various flora and fauna, including over 150 species of birds, a variety of fish, and several rare and endangered plant species. The park’s unique ecosystem and diverse wildlife make it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and ecotourists.
Enjoy the local cuisine:
Croatian cuisine is delicious and diverse, and you can enjoy it in the many restaurants and cafes along the coast. Some of the must-try dishes include seafood, grilled meats, and local wines. Check out my list of 10 must-try Croatian dishes to find out what food to order at the local restaurants.
Anchor in a secluded bay:
One of the best things about sailing in Croatia is the opportunity to anchor in a secluded bay and enjoy the stunning scenery. Our captain was anchored by some remote islands a few times, allowing us to take in the beautiful surroundings and get some epic photos.
Relax, unwind, and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime. I promise you that sailing in Croatia will be among the most enjoyable travel experiences you’ll ever have in your entire life. It certainly was the case for me.
By following this ultimate guide, you can ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip. Pack the right items, go prepared, and take lots of photos. Feel free to customize this guide to suit your exact interests. These are suggestions based on my experience, so I want you to create your own experience.
Frequently asked questions:
What is the best month to sail in Croatia?
The best month to sail in Croatia depends on your personal preferences and what you want to experience on your sailing trip. The sailing season in Croatia typically runs from April to October, with the peak season from June to August.
May and September are generally considered the best months for sailing in Croatia as the weather is pleasant with fewer crowds. During these months, the temperatures are mild, the sea is warm enough for swimming, and the winds are ideal for sailing. Plus, boat rentals and accommodations prices are generally lower than during the peak season.
Is sailing in Croatia easy?
Sailing in Croatia can be easy or challenging depending on your experience level, the type of boat you’re sailing, and the weather conditions. If you have experience sailing in coastal waters, you should find sailing in Croatia relatively easy and enjoyable.
Croatia offers a mix of calm waters, light winds, and open sea sailing, making it an ideal destination for sailors of all levels. However, the weather can be unpredictable at times, and strong winds and storms can occur, especially during the peak summer months.
If you’re an inexperienced sailor, it’s recommended that you hire a skipper or join a flotilla for your trip. A skipper can provide local knowledge, help with navigating, and care for the boat, leaving you to enjoy the sailing and the scenery. A flotilla offers the added benefit of sailing in a group with other boats, providing a sense of safety and support.
It’s also important to note that the coastline of Croatia is quite indented, with many islands, islets, and rocks, so it’s essential to have good navigation skills and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Do you need a license to sail in Croatia?
According to the law, if you plan to operate a sailboat in Croatia, you must have a valid Nautical (skipper’s) and VHF license. In addition to that, you must be over 18 years old and have all the necessary sailing experience. In Croatia, skipper and VHF licenses are issued by the port authorities.
What do you need to sail in Croatia?
A valid sailing license: If you plan to rent a bareboat or skipper a boat in Croatia, you’ll need a valid sailing license. Croatian authorities must recognize the license, and the skipper must have experience navigating similar-sized boats.
Boat rental contract: If you’re renting a boat, you must sign a rental contract with the boat rental company. The contract will outline the terms and conditions of the rental and include information about the boat’s equipment, insurance, and maintenance.
Navigation charts: Navigation charts are essential for sailing in Croatia. They provide information on the depth of the sea, the location of ports and marinas, and any hazards to navigation. You can purchase charts online or at local marinas.
Radio license: If you plan to use a VHF radio on board, you must have a valid radio license. The Croatian Ministry of Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure issues the license.
Personal documents: You’ll need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times while sailing in Croatia. A copy of your boat rental contract and any insurance documents is also good.
Safety equipment: All boats in Croatia must have a safety equipment kit on board, including life jackets, a life raft, a fire extinguisher, flares, and a first aid kit.
Nautical clothing: It’s essential to have the right clothing for sailing, including non-slip deck shoes, a sun hat, sunglasses, and lightweight, comfortable clothing. It’s also a good idea to bring a waterproof jacket, pants, and warm clothing for cooler evenings.
Provisioning: You must stock up on food and water for your sailing trip. Most marinas in Croatia have supermarkets nearby where you can purchase provisions. You can also pre-order food and supplies from some boat rental companies.
Travel Essentials I Can’t Live Without
The CabinZero 36L Backpack
The CabinZero 36L Backpack – this trusty backpack has been my go-to luggage for domestic and international trips since 2018. I’ve used dozens of backpacks over the years and keep returning to this one. I almost never check-in luggage, so I need a carry-on bag that is spacious, sturdy, and comfortable, with a laptop compartment. The Cabin Zero 36 L fits the bill. The size makes it small enough for a weekend getaway and big enough for a month of backpacking in Europe. The bag also comes with a tracker in case it gets lost. How convenient! Check out my complete review of the backpack.
Travel-wifi Portable Hotspot Device
Travel WiFI Pocket WIFI Device – With portable WiFi, you can say goodbye to ridiculous roaming charges and SIM cards for good. I’ve been using the Travel WiFi Portable Hotspot device for years and love the peace of mind it gives me. The device provides 3G-4G WiFi for at least 6 hours and works in 100+ countries. In my experience, it lasts 9 hours. It also works in a variety of landscapes and terrains. I even filmed a Facebook Live from a boat in the Atlantic Ocean using my device. I can also use Google Maps, request an Uber, call my mom, and do many other things I couldn’t do before. A quick tip: turn off the device when you’re not using it so the battery can last longer.
Booking.com – Booking.com is my go-to website for booking discounted accommodations worldwide. What I love most about Booking.com is the variety of properties you can find, from luxury apartments to treehouses to university housing. It’s hard to beat the insanely low prices. The website also has a flexible cancellation policy, which is great if things come up or you change your mind.