Probably Croatia's most popular island, Hvar has long been the poster child for the idyllic island escape on the Adriatic. With a high flying crowd coming in annually on luxury yachts, Hvar Town is all glitz and glamour, with exclusive restaurants, bars and clubs where the party never stops. For those wanting something different from hedonistic pleasures, beyond Hvar Town you will find peaceful beaches & coves, inland villages full of old world charm and a coastline that retains a secluded fishing village atmosphere.
Settled in ancient times by the Greeks, Korcula is famous for its crisp white wine and dense dark forests inland. The island has a large population spread through quiet hamlets and fishing villages. Often dubbed 'Little Dubrovnik' for its medieval walls and beautiful architecture and cathedral, Korcula is a good place for a rest with lots to explore and a good balance of festive atmosphere in the summer and a laid-back vibe. Locals claim that Marco Polo was born here (Venetians dispute this) and the gallery makes fascinating sightseeing, while a good day trip is to Proizd, an islet perfect for sunbathing. Lay your towel down on the sloping slabs of grey rock that glide into the turquoise sea to catch some rays and if you stay into the evening, you'll see Proizd's rock turning soft gold, as the sun slowly descends.
Pag is an island of rocky topography covered in green fields, lush valleys, olive groves and vineyards. With the longest coastline of any Croatian island, there are many beautiful bays, coves, capes and beaches to explore. Zrce Beach is the most popular on the island and for independent travellers, there are many campsites along the coast and nestled in small bays.
Vis is a foodie heaven with unspoiled natural beauty to boot. With the richest fisheries on the Adriatic it's no surprise that the fish is delicious and fresh, while the lobster is famous. Rustic restaurants serve old school roasts and traditional stews, while every bakery has a variation of the traditional anchovy pastry, the perfect snack for those on the go. Add to this the incredible natural surrounds, the highlight of which is the Blue Cave of Bisevo and the beautiful coastline and you have a veritable holiday paradise.
For the festival lovers amongst us, Murter is the place to spend your summer. Since The Garden opened in 2012, many festivals are held annually at this location including, The Garden Festival, Love International, Electric Elephant and Soundwave. The island has still managed to maintain its laidback air despite the summer long festivities and there are plenty of quiet ports to enjoy the gorgeous nature, with olive groves inland.
For a completely opposite experience, try the slow paced Silba. With no cars or large commercial hotels, and even no bicycles mid-July to August, the island is full of country lanes and untamed beaches.
An easy ferry ride from Split, Brac is full of rolling hills, isolated bays, crystal waters, pine & fig trees and olive groves. Vidara Gora Mountain is the highest on the islands and is a wonderful hike, while kite surfing, windsurfing and diving are popular pursuits. Zlatni Rat beach is famous but there are many other less populated pebble beaches and coves to explore. Make sure to sample some of the locally produced olive oil as it is richer than on other Croatian islands and is delicious drizzled on local bread.
Home of the deepest freshwater lake in Eastern Europe, Cres is also one of the largest islands on the Adriatic Sea. Inland is hilly, while the coast is dotted with pebbly beaches and bays making the island ideal for watersports, scuba diving and hiking. The northern hills are populated by thick oak forests while majestic cliffs edge the coast and crumbling hill top towns add a sense of romance to the landscape. There is also a large population of griffon vultures on the island and with their impressive wingspan, seeing them cut a silhouette in the sky only adds to the whimsical feel of this island.
Mljet Island off Dubrovnik is often visited as a day trip and while it makes a wonderful day, the island has a lot to offer those who stay for longer. Dominated by two large salt lakes, Mljet is verdant green with forests and there is an expansive variety of sealife off the island's coastline. Village homestays in relaxed towns, bike riding through the forests and kayaking along the shores are highlights, while there are many nature walks to experience and wildlife to spot. The Benedictine Monastery on an island in the middle of Malo Jezero salt lake is picturesque and the lake has many family friendly swimming spots. Myth claims that Odysseus spent seven years here with the nymph Calypso - after one visit, you'll be able to see why.
Krk is the easiest island to get to as it is connected to the mainland via a bridge (but this takes away the fun of island hopping!). Known as the Golden Island, the north is sunburned and arid while the southern coast is punctuated by gentle bays. Inland are rocky hills and fertile fields (try the local wine) while there is a large range of accommodation from camping to superior hotels given its popularity among local tourists. Enjoy scuba diving, jet skiing, water skiing and paragliding here.
Notable for its golden sand beaches rather than the usual pebbles, Rab stretches 22kms long into the Adriatic. With more than 300 freshwater springs snaking the island, it is very green and has an abundance of wildlife and wide array of botanical life. Komrcar Park is home to many of these plants and also a 100 year old agave tree. The island has a calm and rustic vibe and is very family friendly, while the more secluded uncommercialised northern shores have naturist friendly beaches. The most famous of these is Sahara bay but there are many beautiful surrounding coves for those who want to keep their kit on. Inland is mountainous and good for walking, while towns are a patchwork of terracotta roofs, church towers and friendly locals.