1. The Budget and holiday expectations
Your holiday would probably mostly depend on your budget and your holiday expectations. Once you decide when is best time to take a sailing trip, you will probably need a reliable yacht. There are two types of yachts for rental in Croatia that are optimal for a week-long tour:
Basically, sailboat is more genuine and offers more sailing pleasures, while catamaran provides extra comfort, stability and more space aboard.
2. Bareboat, skippered or fully crewed yacht charter?
Bareboat yacht rental in Croatia is the most affordable option. The only condition is, that your party already has a skipper with corresponding boat license. The second, also favorable option is skippered yacht charter.
If you don't own a valid boat license and a VHF station certificate, then this is the most hassle-free vacation with completely flexible itinerary and in fact the best option for a relaxing and genuine sailing trip. When you hire skippered/crewed yacht charter, local skipper already comes as inventory on your boat. Not only he knows best sailing areas, bays and top restaurants. He is also a pure treasury of useful internal tips. High rollers can go for luxury yacht charter, with fully catered exclusive on board services including the captain, stewardes and chef.
3. Choosing the perfect destination
With 3000 miles of impressive coastline from Istria in the north to Dubrovnik in the far south, you got a handful of places to explore. Over 1300 islands and 8 national marine wildlife parks surrounded with sparkling Adriatic sea is a good enough reason for your vacation in Croatia. You can choose among 4 sailing destinations Pula, Zadar, Split or Dubrovnik, where you can hire a yacht. A 7-day sailing trip is perfect to explore one of them.
Pula archipelago and western part of Istrian peninsula are highly concentrated with charming Venetian towns (Vrsar, Rovinj, Poreč) where you can almost everywhere feel the Italian influence. Western part of Istria is extremely rich in cultural and historical heritage, amazing architecture based on traditionally built narrow streets and epic stone-walled epic buildings.
Not to mention the top-notch cuisine, which is, together with the finest wine selection in Croatia a good reason to for your sailing retreat. A complete contrast to the buzzing streets of Pula, Rab or Pag, is the pristine Kvarner bay with its unspoiled islands and emerald coves. A true Meka for the sailors, searching calm and peaceful surroundings. Here, you will get an excellent opportunity to relax in beautiful sunsets enjoying in a glass of local Malvazija wine. Hire a sailboat or catamaran at yacht charter in Pula, Veruda or Pomer.
More to the south, there is Zadar - Sibenik region with impressive Kornati islands and their lunar landscapes. Central Dalmatia is probably the most colourful region in Croatia. With abundance of natural parks, countless coves, vibrant towns and a unique philosophy of local people, Zadar is probably the most rewarding sailing destination in Croatia. Numerous charming small islands, revealing the genuine heartbeat of Mediterranean are perfect for a family sailing holidays
Zadar archipelago is the densest island area in the Mediterranean and a cradle of over 500 mostly uninhabited islands. Moderate Meastral wind guarantees the idyllic sailing conditions between well protected islands its secluded coves and charming towns.
Be sure to make some stops in vibrant towns like Zadar, Vodice or Primošten and have a cocktail in a beach bar. If you sail up river passing Šibenik town, you will reach one of the Croatian wonders - 7 majestic waterfalls of Krka national park. You can find a safe berth in Skradin, the centre of province gastronomy. Grilled bream, sea mussels, octopus or a veal under the bell is a must-try. Hire your private sailboat in Zadar, Sukošan, Biograd or Murter.
Split archipelago is definitively a heart of Dalmatia. Famous islands Hvar, Brač, Vis and Šolta are quite likely the most frequently mentioned destinations in every tourist guidebook. This region has some of the most attractive marinas where you can hire a yacht.
The island Hvar is world-known as one of the sunniest places in Europe and the same-named town as being the busiest and the most hedonistic of all the island villages in Croatia. It is only 3 hour sail from your starting marina in Split or Trogir. Here, you can get the best of both worlds - pure nature, secluded coves and anchorages, buzzing harbors and vibrant villages. Split is very popular Mediterranean honeymoon destination and a great vacation idea for couples.
The "green island" Šolta is often off the tourist maps. That is why its deserted bays, stony villages and culinary highlights are still waiting to be discovered. Small towns of Brač are known for their laid-back charm, architecture and unique philosophy of the islanders. Sailing to the mystical - until recently - forbidden island Vis, only to discover its spectacular cavity and rich military heritage, should be on every sailor's bucket list. Numbers say, that in the last 30 years this small island community mainly prospers on the account of maritime tourism.
Sub-tropical climate of Dubrovnik province and the surrounding islands attracts masses of tourists recently. That is why it is recommended to visit this stunning Dalmatian pearl in off season. Old town's citadel is beset with impressive fortified walls from the 15. Century. Narrow paved streets and houses, all made of shiny white marble, reflect this town's unique charm. You will find more peace and quiet anchoring in secluded bays of Elafiti islands, just 2 hour sailing north from buzzing Dubrovnik.
Densely forested island Mljet should be on your must-visit list together with the charming Lastovo island, surrounded by a unique flora and fauna. Both islands are wildlife reserves. Explore Mljet's saltwater lakes and coves, rugged landscape of Lastovo and snorkel in the crystal-clear water far away from the civilization. Here you will find some of the best local family-run restaurants. Freshly caught John Dorry or Scorpio fish is always on the menu.
The capital of these islands is vibrant Korčula town also known as the birthplace of the merchant Marco Polo. Influenced by Venetian Renaissance, here you will find more history and cultural heritage, then anywhere else in this archipelago.
Korčula island is filled with pine forests, vineyards, villages and olive groves, providing a stunning backdrop while you take advantage of the clear water. Be sure to taste some of the best wines in Croatia that originate from the vineyards of Pelješac.
Please read about the best sailing destinations in Croatia. if you don't want to miss out.
Generally, if your dates are flexible, take a sailing trip in June or September. Prices are lower, there is less traffic and crowds on the streets. Yacht rental prices are lowest in shoulder season (April, May, October). The chance of variable weather is slightly higher in Fall, when the weather systems are moving faster over Europe. But it usually stays warm and pleasant until November. Including the sea that stays around 20o (68F).
Spring time in Croatia is glorious with pleasant weather and warmer air temperatures. Despite the low sea temperatures reaching 20o (68F) from middle May, sailing is a pure pleasure until mid. June.
High summer, starting from the last weeks of June, might be busy, but the weather is near perfect with fair winds and air temperatures often over 30o (86F). If you like summer heat, then book your sailing vacation in July or August. Yacht charter prices in peak season months July and August are highest, butyou can always get a fair deal.
In August, most of the popular marinas are overcrowded with Italians crossing over and occupying the marinas until the evening. So it is better to play it safe with an early bird and catch your mooring early in the afternoon.
There is also the weather that can affect your decision. The sun is shining 315 days a year at the Croatian coast, and you can consider yourself unlucky if you have a single rainy day within a 2-week vacation.
If you compare the prices in general, Croatia is still good value compared with Greece, Italy and Turkey. Charter prices are at their peak from mid. July till mid. August and most marinas add 10 to mooring fees. In June and September, expect 20-30% lower price that you pay in the peak season. In April, May or October, the rental prices can be even 50% lower.
A Sailboat or a catamaran?
It is also important what type of a yacht you rent. You need to be realistic about your expectation. There are numerous yachts for rental down the coast that provide several levels of comfort. From economy line sailboats to high-end luxury catamarans.
Your final decision depends on how far your budget can reach. Best option for a first-time sailor in is to book a yacht with skipper, while the high rollers can go for a crewed yacht charter.
Luxury yachts already include the hostess, chef, skipper and a full board service. The vessels are equipped with en-suite bedrooms, power, cooking gas, usually ample kitchen space, comfortable cabins and plenty of room on deck to socialise or bask. Skipper's fee depends on what type and size of the yacht he runs and lie between 120 and 170€ a day and should be paid at embarkation.
4 destinations and 50 Marinas along the Adriatic coast
Pula region in the north
Zadar region and northern Dalmatia
Split archipelago with islands Hvar, Vis and Brač
Dubrovnik and southern Dalmatia with islands Mljet, Korčula and Lastovo
All main marinas are close by to the international airports in Pula, Dubrovnik Split, Zadar and island Krk to the north.
It is difficult to explore everything within a week, so focus your 7-day tour on a single region and try to explore most of the area's highlights. Or simply reward yourself with a 2-week yacht holiday to easier cover 2 destinations (Split & Zadar). Here's a tip for best Croatia sailing tour itinerary.
Written by Susan Dempsey, Dublin IR