It seems like Croatia has gotten a lot of attention this summer, from making it to the world cup finals, to the shooting locale for the much atticipated movie, Mama Mia 2 (loved it). My family got to visit this beautiful country last month and really fell in love with this place. The people of Croatia are kind and welcoming, so much so, that you almost forget you are a long way from the US. There are few difficulties in planning a trip here, like say laungage or being able to find information online. We stayed in Opatija, which is in northwest Croaita. It has the most stunning landscapes and quaint old streets, overlooking the Adriatic sea. It's a fairly well-known tourist area for most Europeans, but Americans might be surprised how lovely and affordable it is to visit.
Where to Stay?
The Airbnb we rented, a two story Mediterranean style home overlooking the Adriatic. We rented this lovely house for $92 USD per night. It was the perfect accomodations for our group; with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an additional living room/sleeping area and kitchen. Probably the best part of the house was the balcony and view. While there is always some risk when you go with a vacation rental, there are ways to avoid mishaps. Here's what to watch out for when looking for your perfect vacation rental:
- Location location location! Consider your mode of transportation and what you will be doing during your stay. For us, we had no plans of piling in the car to drive to the beach or the city center, we enjoyed a 10 minute walk down to the water each day. This was a little more effort walking back up the hill but we all agreed the extra exercise didn't hurt.
- Size matters. Don't be tempted to squeeze into a rental which has a 3 person capacity if you are a party of 4 or 5 to save a few dollars. The owner wants you to be comfortable and will always list a max number of guests for a reason.
- Amenities. Always check if you are renting an entire space or shared space. Either are fine but you must feel comfortable sharing a bathroom, kitchen and common areas with complete strangers. Keep in mind that a fully functional kitchen means different things in various parts of the world. Our kitchen was cozy, but completely acceptable for what we needed.
- Reviews. The best way to be 100% sure of a property are the online guest reviews. If a property has several years of consistent positive reviews, you should feel quite confident in booking. Even if you find several poor reviews on a property, keep in mind that most rental websites allow guests to give reviews even in the case that their deposit has been garnished for damages to the property. These guests most always leave bad reviews, a drawback of person to person rentals.
If a vacation rental is not your speed, there are many lovely hotels and resorts right on the water but you will pay more for these, and in our case, it would've meant two rooms and no common area to hang out - part of the fun of family travel! We were a family of 5 on this trip because my mom, a.k.a. grandma joined us, which made it extra special!
Things To Do
There is no shortage of things to do during your trip, from swimming and water sports, to hiking, shopping or sight-seeing. My family was all about swimming in the clear beautiful aqua blue water of the Adriatic. The Opatija promenade spans 12 kilometers long and is filled with shops, restaurants, hotels, beaches and beach clubs. There are many public access areas to bring your own towel and hangout without renting a lounge chair or beach service but we happened on the Angiolina Beach Club (pictured above) and we were hooked. This place is the nicest, most accommodating place to enjoy the Opatija riviera. For around $20 USD per day, you get a very comfortable lounge chair, unlimited towels, nice deck with stairs to swim, and full wait staff for food and beverage. The menu was filled with healthy options like the tuna salad, but also offered hamburgers and fries. It was all delicious! Not to mention the very cute Croatian towel boys, that did not go unnoticed by my daughters...We loved this place so much, we went back for another day.
What to eat?
Croatia is as much the place for meat eaters as seafood lovers, like myself. We dined on mussels, calamari, scallops, and this area is especially known for the prawns. My family members enjoyed the Croatian dish cevapcici, a ground spiced meat on a skewer, as well as ribs, steaks, and sausages. All the food was fresh and delicious. Just on our walk from the house down to the water, we passed by grape vines, kiwi vines and garden after garden of vegetables. Opatija is known for it's very lovely mild climate, which is great for growing most everything. Our very helpful Airbnb host, Mojca, recommended the restaurant Roco. This restaurant far surpassed our expectations and is perfect for a family because of the long menu and variety. It's so popular, there's actually Roko 1 and Roko 2 right next door to each other..same restaurant, just needed more space. You will not have trouble finding good food at a reasonable price in Croatia. Yelp is not so popular there, so be sure to ask your host or a local.
I highly recommend Croatia for your next exotic getaway. Whether it's just you, you're looking for a romantic trip for couples, or you have a big family - this country checks every box. This trip to the Opatija riviera was one of our all time favorites, we miss it and already want to go back!
So, how do you get to Croatia affordably? My next blog will cover discount airlines (specifically WOW airlines) and "the good, bad, and ugly of budget travel".