For such a picturesque and unspoilt country, Croatia is really well set-up to invite holidaymakers, with both the people and the culture embracing all ages. What most families come to Croatia for are the beaches and the history. One minute you can be paddling in the clear water looking out to a smattering of islands, and the next you’ll be in awe of an ancient fortress or amphitheatre so well-preserved it’s been given UNESCO status.
You might prefer to stay in a large resort with everything on hand, or your idea of holiday heaven could be staying on a car-free island that your family will have virtually to yourselves. Both options are possible in Croatia and much more in between.
Take a look at our guide to find out about the most family-friendly destinations in Croatia. We also cover what there is to see and do, from waterparks to palaces and boat trips to caves.
The best places to stay in Croatia for families
Although you could take your pick of resorts along Croatia’s nearly 1800-kilometre-long Adriatic coast, there are some tried and tested areas that we know families love.
Istria is a large peninsula in northern Croatia that has excellent family facilities and attractions including two waterparks. If there are any history-buffs in the family, they’ll appreciate Pula, Porec and Rovinj – three of the most ancient and picturesque towns in the Mediterranean, that lie on Istria’s western shores.
Both Porec and Rovinj have old towns that jut out into the sea and are looked over by a magnificent church. Pula is the largest town in Istria though and has some of the best examples of historical structures in the whole of Croatia, most notably, Pula Arena.
Porec’s Pical Beach can be reached in 10 minutes on the tourist train that heads south towards Spaidic. Stop off and stay to enjoy the kids’ playground with a wooden ship and sand pit, hire watersports equipment and refresh at one of its bars or restaurants. Or for more space, stay on the train and head to the resort of Zelena Laguna, which has many bays and small peninsulas over 10-kilometres of coastline.
Rovinj comes complete with a series of small pebbly coves that lead south from the town, the closest being Lone Bay, which is a 15-minute walk. There aren’t many facilities here but the views back to Rovinj old town are very attractive.
Things to do in Istria
Among the six largest amphitheatres in the world, Pula Arena is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre with four staircase towers and much of the walls still standing. Not bad as it was built over 2000 years ago. Staying true to its roots, the arena still hosts theatre productions, sports events and concerts, but even when nothing’s on the kids can try out the incredible acoustics by shouting their hearts out from the centre.
Aside from taking in history, families will love the choice of waterparks in Istria. Aquapark Aquacolors Porec is the largest in Croatia, with 12 giant water slides totalling over a kilometre in length and the longest lazy river in Southern Europe. The kids have their own pool with small slides and loads of play areas out of the water. Or try Aquapark Istralandia for 20 different slides, the largest wave pool in this part of Europe and a pirate’s castle and mini slides.
Just south of Porec in Funtana, Dinopark is a theme and show park for those who love all things Jurassic. As well as moving dinos, rides and play areas, there are regular circus and acrobatic shows. Or to get out of the sun for a bit, head underground to the Baredine Grotto, nine minutes’ drive from Porec. You can take a 40-minute tour through the rock formations and spot albino lizards.
2. The Makarska Riviera
Location is everything in the Makarska Riviera, which is located in the centre of Croatia’s coast, within easy reach of both Dubrovnik and Split. As well as having some of the best beaches in the country, the islands off the coast here up the ante with world-leading shores, and the kids will love the boat trips to get there.
Brela is a peaceful spot to make your base with pretty coves of white sand bordered by huge boulders for climbing over. As well as seaside activities and wandering through town there’s an interesting mix of old architecture, from 16th-century houses to a fortified tower. Or stay at the pretty, marina town of Tucepi for a laid-back pace and traditional Croatian lifestyle.
Brela’s main beach, Punta Rata, although pebbly, has sand at the water’s edge. There are plenty of activities going on, like tube rides and beach volleyball, as well as a good number of cafes and restaurants. Or stroll away from town and stop at any one of the small coves along the way for solitary beach time.
Over in the centre of Split, the sandy Bacvice Beach is popular with families as it’s equipped with games, restaurants and bars. Or stroll a little further to Ovcice beach with a kids’ playground and trampoline.
But for arguably the most stunning of all Croatian beaches you should head to the island of Brac and specifically Zlatni Rat Beach. Regularly topping most beautiful beach in the world lists, this triangular shaped spit of sand has trees in between where you’ll come across the remnants of a Roman villa rustica – a large old countryside estate.
Things to do in Makarska Riviera
Many of the things to do are based around nature in this part of Croatia. One of Brela’s most intriguing attractions is the Biokovo exhibition at the Natural Park Presentation Centre, which tells of Croatia’s history through displays of zoology, botany, geology and fossils.
With a series of underground streams and springs around Brela, it’s no wonder that there are some large caves here. Down in the Mervidina cave you might even be lucky enough to see an endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.
And for a mix of the old and new, explore the 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace in Split, which was built for a Roman Emperor as a retirement home and parts of which now house shops and restaurants.
Perhaps the first place that springs to mind when we think of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a worthy destination for your family holiday, or an easy trip from your base in the Makarska Riviera. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, as you walk along its fortified walls, it’s easy to see why with so many beautiful ancient buildings still intact.
Banje is Dubrovnik’s city beach, which is a fairly small area of sand and pebbles where you can dip your toes between sightseeing, but it has some inflatables to keep the kids happy. The best beach in this area of Croatia or families can be reached on the number six bus in 10 minutes. Lapad Beach has shallow waters and lots of facilities including showers, as well as a bouncy play area.
Things to do in Dubrovnik
Among Dubrovnik’s ancient buildings in shades of white and terracotta are five forts and 16 castle towers that the kids will love playing knights and princesses in, and you can give them a history lesson too.
A sure hit for all the family is a cable car trip rising 700 metres into the hills, with immense views across Dubrovnik and the surrounding islands. When you head back there are lots of charming restaurants to eat at with seats on rock plateaus outside the city walls right by the water.
Many boat trips are available from Dubrovnik but that car-free island we mentioned earlier is a fine choice for a day trip – that is if you’re not actually staying on the island. Kolocep Island only has around 165 inhabitants in its two villages so wandering around its hidden beach coves or staying in a hotel here is a peaceful pleasure.
Grand Hotel Park
Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik and Islands, Croatia
Sensimar Adriatic Beach
Makarska Riviera, Dalmation Coast and Islands, Croatia
Which resort have you stayed in with your family in Croatia, or which is your favourite from our guide? Let us know below.