Croatia has a short and intense high season. All prices cited here are valid for stays from mid-June to late August. Note that rates drop dramatically – sometimes by up to 50% – out of season. Beaches are rare in rocky Croatia, so these top 10 picks book out far in advance.
Hotel Solitudo, Lastovo
Lastovo is arguably the most remote of Croatia’s islands, accessible via catamaran from Split and Dubrovnik (although from the latter only during summer). Actually a cluster of 46 islets, Lastovo is home to just 800 permanent residents. Little wonder that its only hotel is the aptly named Solitudo, perched on the corner of two splendid bays. Most of the hotel’s simple rooms face the sea and possess their own terrace, surrounded by fragrant pine and wildflowers. Loungers are arranged on the hotel’s rocky private beach opposite. Rent kayaks from across the street (around £10 per day) and explore the archipelago’s pristine shores. Or explore Lastovo’s tumbledown Old Town, which is hidden in the island’s interior – an ancient protective measure against pirates.
• hotel-solitudo.com, +385 20 802 100, doubles from €97 including breakfast
La Villa, Lopud
Lopud is the Elafiti archipelago’s second-largest island, although there’s hardly more than a few square miles to explore. Cars are banned, beaches are sandy and the ferry from Dubrovnik takes just under an hour. With a seafront location and eight airy rooms, La Villa is the island’s choice spot to bed down. Snorkel from the rocky beach 10 seconds away, or read under the giant magnolia tree out back, which opens on to a tiny botanical garden. Follow up with an organic lunch or dinner in La Villa’s brand-new terrace restaurant. Best of all, as the sun sets, day-tripping tourists disappear to the mainland and you’ll have lovely Lopud all to yourself.
• lavilla.com.hr, +385 91 322 0126, doubles from €100, including breakfast
Hotel Odisej, Mljet
Just over an hour’s catamaran ride west of Dubrovnik, Mljet’s green shores are the stuff of legend: it was here that the siren Calypso is said to have kept Odysseus captive for seven years. Lucky guy. Today around a third of the island is a pristine national park, crisscrossed with hiking and cycling trails, and lapped by two saltwater lakes. Hotel Odisej sits at the heart of this protected parkland on the island’s western tip. Guestrooms are a little dated, so it’s worth spending a bit extra for a terraced room overlooking the pretty port (and fabulous seafood restaurants) of Pomena. Or stretch out on the hotel’s "beach", a simple stone affair dotted with sunloungers alongside the island’s crystal-clear waters.
• adriaticluxuryhotels.com, +385 20 430 830, doubles from €75 including breakfast
Hotel Mimbelli, Orebić
Orebić is tucked into the underside of the 40-mile Pelješac peninsula. The town’s far more famous neighbour, Korčula – the alleged island birthplace of Marco Polo – floats opposite, just a 15-minute ferry ride across a narrow channel. Orebić’s 16th-century stone homes and courtyard gardens make it easy to see why the town has long been a locals’ summer getaway. On Orebić’s seaside promenade, the new Hotel Mimbelli’s five contemporary rooms, one with a pretty olive tree mural, have exposed stone walls and antique tiles. There’s also a top Dalmatian restaurant on site, serving local wines. The town’s shallow public beach – which runs the length of Orebić – is across the promenade from the hotel.
• hotel-mimbelli.com, +385 20 713 636, doubles from €100 including breakfast
Villa Rosmarinus, Hvar
Hvar is the hippest of Croatia’s islands. International A-listers from Beyoncé to Prince Harry flock to these alluring shores. Accommodation rates normally skyrocket in high season. Not so at Villa Rosmarinus. This petite villa houses just three double bedrooms – each with its own spacious, south-facing terrace and unobstructed seascape views over the Pakleni archipelago – and three apartments. Pebbly Plava Laguna beach is just down a set of steps, a couple of minutes from the villa. Note that Villa Rosmarinus is around a 15-minute walk north of Hvar’s Old Town – ideal for escaping the crowds that congregate here in July and August.
• villa-rosmarinus.com, +385 99 7368 316, doubles from €75, minimum stay three days
Hotel Maestral, Prvić
Off the west coast of Šibenik, Hotel Maestral overlooks Prvić Luka’s main square. The Horvat family spent more than a decade renovating this former island schoolhouse, transforming it from a holiday home into a hotel. Today, rooms offer parquet floors and views over the sheltered bay. Splash in the crystal clear waters, either at one of the small rocky beaches next to the hotel, or on the lovely large-pebble beach that’s a 10-minute stroll away. Alternatively, open-water swimmers favour the doable distances between Prvić and its surrounding islets. Cap off the day on the terrace of the hotel’s Restaurant Val, where traditional octopus or lamb peka (roasted in a domed pan under ashes) are the house specialties.
• hotelmaestral.com, +385 22 448 300, doubles from €90 including breakfast
Camping Simuni, Pag
Rated one of Croatia’s premier campgrounds, Simuni is nestled along two sheltered bays on the western shores of Pag island. Pitches, bungalows and apartments tumble down to the sea. Up to an incredible 4,500 guests bed down in the bustling grounds each day during summertime, lured by the campground’s themed evenings and firework displays – not to mention each Wednesday’s complimentary roast pork and beer dinners. This strip of coast is also renowned for its shallow waters and constant winds, ideal for windsurfing. Take an introductory course (six hours over three days, €100) or rent your own equipment (€15) and hit the water. Too taxing? Award-winning cheesemaker Sirana Gligora is a 10-minute drive away. Cheese- and wine-tastings, paired with a factory visit, start at €6 a head.
• camping-simuni.hr, +385 23 697 441, camping from €6/adult, €4.30/child six-11 years old, €3.60/child three-five, free for under-twos, plus pitch from €10; three-person bungalows from €72
Villa Hotel Barbat, Rab
An idyllic isle south-east of Istria, Rab is best-known for its hugely popular Rabska Fjera, or medieval carnival (late July). Yet Rab’s picturesque Old Town, friendly residents and deserted beaches – many requiring a hike to access – make the island appealing any time. Villa Hotel Barbat is midway between the Old Town (an hour’s walk via a seafront promenade) and the hip Santos Beach Club. Fourteen guestrooms face the island of Dolin opposite. There’s a trampoline for kids, and direct access to the small, sandy public beach. The hotel’s excellent gourmet restaurant presses its own olive oil, and air-dries its own octopus (a local speciality). Half-board is à la carte, and may be taken at lunch or dinner.
• hotel-barbat.com, +385 51 721 858, half-board €75pp
Located on the Istrian coastline south of Pula, the Oasi has just nine elegant rooms. This hotel is the only one in this top 10 costing more than £100 a night B&B, as there are few budget options if you want to stay near the beach here. But there’s an outdoor swimming pool and a small spa, as well as a gastronomic restaurant that’s worth a detour alone. The latter dishes up local specialities that may include beef carpaccio with Istrian truffles, Adriatic grilled squid or homemade prawn and squid-ink ravioli. It’s three miles from the hotel to Pula’s impressive Roman amphitheatre and Austro-Viennese Old Town. The coastline’s myriad beaches – from pale and pebbly to smooth flat rocks perfect for basking in the sun – are around a five-minute stroll away.
• oasi.hr, +385 52 397 910, doubles from €123 including breakfast
Campsite Porto Sole, Vrsar
Sitting at the mouth of the Lim Fjord – adored by the likes of Casanova for its oysters – Campsite Porto Sole hugs two pine-trimmed bays. The grounds are scattered with a dozen tennis courts, two swimming pools, a diving centre and a mile of sun-dappled beach. Pick of the pitches are the remote (read tranquil) spots in the campsite’s shady cypress groves, set back from the seafront. Porto Sole is also an easy 10-minute walk to the fresh-off-the-boat seafood restaurants in the nearby fishing village of Vsrar. Want to ditch the bikinis and Bermudas? The bold may opt to bed down among the wild olive orchards next door at Koversada, Croatia’s oldest naturist campsite (from €8/adult, €14/pitch).
• campingrovinjvrsar.com, camping from €7.20/adult, €4.10/child five-11, free for children four and under, plus pitch from €12.20