Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is dotted with seaside towns, inlets, and lagoons all the way from the shore to its many islands. Makarska, located on the mainland between Split and Dubrovnik is one such gem.
Makarska is such a focal point in Croatia’s tourism that it even has its own Riviera. This is my favorite part of the coast because you can never run out of things to do in Makarska.
The town is divided by a large peninsula separating the marina and the downtown areas on one side, and the seemingly endless sprawl of pebble beaches on the other. Towering high above, the face of Mt. Biokovo wraps its stony walls from the east to the west of Makarska, creating a cocoon of good vibes down beneath.
Nowhere else in Croatia can you see the relationship between sea and mountains more vividly than here.
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Where to Stay in Makarska
We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in various Croatian cities. You can discover the best hotels in Dubrovnik Old Town as well a. But, for now, we recommend checking out Booking.com or, if you’re in a rush, read about our favorite places down here.
Here are our top suggestions for where to stay in Makarska. In most cases, budget means hotel stays for around $45 a night, mid-range is from about $50 to $80 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.
Insanely Fun Things to Do in Makarska
In no particular order, these are some of the main bucket list ideas for you to spend a fantastic time in Makarska, Croatia
So Many Beaches So Little Time
There seems to be a place to swim everywhere in Makarska. The most popular and widely used is the city’s main beach. A sprawling 2 kilometers of pebbled shoreline that can accommodate over 10,000 people. By the peninsular rocks, beach bums can enjoy a spectacular view of the entire city from the shore.
The adventurous can take a dip in their birthday suits at the FKK or nude beach, on the other side of St. Peters lighthouse. I’ve even seen groups of people tanning and swimming on the wave breakers in the city harbor. Where there’s a spot to take a dip there’s always a way!
Dinner With A View
The good thing about being nestled underneath a giant mountain is that you get some pretty breathtaking views. So why not enjoy a five-star meal while you soak in the Dalmatian sunset at Grill Panorama. Located 450 m above the city, Panorama offers a delightful blend of Mediterranean and continental cuisine with ample portions guaranteed to satisfy any palate.
Panorama also offers shuttle busses to and from the restaurant so you can sip a glass of wine after dinner as you roll back down the Biokovo foothills into town.
Two Words: Rave Cave
Croatia has gained a global reputation for its nightlife. If dancing until the sunrise is your idea of a party, then Club Deep is where you need to be. Located on the edge of town, this natural cave has been turned into a music mecca. Boasting an array of homegrown talent and international DJs, Deep has been a staple in Makarska’s club scene for over two decades.
Playing an array of electronic and contemporary beats, the pulsating lights hanging from the ceiling guide you deeper into the dance floor. Like pretty much anywhere else in town, your sunrise view will make you forget how tired your legs are once 6 am hits.
Reimagining the ‘Old Town of Europe’
Makarska’s historic district is a panoply of Venetian architecture turned into modern establishments. The focal point is Andrija Kačić Miošić Square – named after the famous Croatian friar and boasting a statue of him erected in 1890 during Croatia’s national awakening.
Early in the morning, local farmers lay out their organic goodies in the open-air fruit and vegetable market – a tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years. Kačić is also dotted with little cafes and wine bars that are perfect for the mid-day espresso as well as for a glass of pinot.
At night, the square comes alive with concerts ranging from a very convicting Aerosmith cover band to traditional Klapa quartets and even live concertos and opera.
You can also visit St. Mark’s Church, built from 1700-1766 by Nikola and Stjepan Blašković. There is an old Venetian drinking fountain just to the right of the church that I have filled my water bottle at many a scorching summer day.
Dance the Day Away at Buba Beach
When you go on vacation you need a beach bar. Makarska has Buba. On the outskirts of town, it’s a non-stop day party complete with live DJs, loud music, and an endless supply of cocktails, offering – the perfect mix of sunbathing and sangria (or 5L beer towers).
At night, Buba has been known to throw sunrise sets boasting talent like Silicon Soul and Solomun, who have spun their decks into the early morning hours amid a throng of dancing disciples.
Adriatic Seafood Experience at Restaurant Ivo
Ivo has been delighting pescatarians since 1979 with their authentic Adriatic cuisine and seafood. The restaurant is a homegrown staple and every local has eaten there at least once. In 2015, Ivo was recognized among Croatia’s top 100 restaurants – and for some good reasons.
Always fresh, you can enjoy a classic platter of grilled scampi or dive right into the John Dory or scorpionfish – prepared with traditional Dalmatian gusto and always paired with a glass of wine.
Satisfy Your Inner Thrill-Seeker at a Local Dive Spot
As little kids, we used to tempt fate and fling ourselves off the limestone cliffs near Makarska’s harbor. The two main spots are located at the farthest edge of town near Osejava, and also at St. Peter’s peninsula, facing into town. There is a convenient platform you can use where the old club Grotto used to be, with a 5 m drop-off.
Risk takers and local 12 years old’s (not kidding) will jump from ‘The Path’ roughly 15 m above the water looking over the Grotto point.
More dangerous and for experienced jumpers only, Osejava offers as high as 20 m, but be careful getting out – there is no platform and the waves will throw you on the rocks if you don’t time it properly!
Book a Day Excursion to Biokovo National Park
A UNESCO heritage site, the Biokovo Mountain range is part of the Dalmatian hinterland with an endless supply of photo opportunities and cultural experiences.
Take a guided tour up the mountain from town and climb atop the two highest points – St. Juraj (1762m) and Vosac (1422 m). On a clear day, you can see Italy’s Rimini coast from the peak!
Exploro Travel is a local agency that offers half-day trips to the various peaks, alongside other excursions, and airport VIP shuttles.
The winding road behind the mountain face is home to rustic Dalmatian stone houses, wild mountain goats, and also a very active bee-keeping community – you can even purchase homemade honey while you hike.
Also, part of the experience, the Kotisina botanical garden, located around 500 m above Makarska, is an amazing location full of endemic flora. You can reach the place on foot or by car.
Sip an Espresso and Enjoy a Decadent Dessert at Café Romana
Croatians live for coffee time but they also have a sweet tooth. If you want to know what it feels like to be a real Dalmatian, then you should try one of Romana’s many homemade desserts and have a coffee while enjoying a blissful view of the marina.
Located in the heart of downtown, along Makarska’s busy Riviera district, Romana offers dozens of pastries, cakes, and freshly squeezed juices alongside lattes and espressos. I recommend the cremeschnitte – a delicious puff pastry with a creamy custard filling topped with icing sugar.
Start your Pub Crawl at Ivana Cocktail Bar
There’s a long-standing joke that every local had their first legal drink at Ivana Bar. The place is located smack dab in the middle of the main city beach and you can get a liter cocktail of your choice, or 10 vodka red-bull for just $20.
There is always a live DJ, and during the peak season, you can see groups of people dancing along the walkway right beside the bar. This place goes bonkers during world cup season, so if you’re vacationing around then, you will see it on full display.
Stargaze at the Astronomical Observatory
Opened in 2017, the immersive experience boasts a monument to the Partisan victory after WWII which is surrounded by an Astro Park.
During the day you can cross the perimeter and find iron castings of different stars and planets scattered along the grounds. At night, the observatory offers spectacular views of the heavens and stars.
Sea Shells by the Sea Shore
Makarska’s Malacological Museum of Shells boasts over 3,000 different species on display for the curious – all housed inside the cellar of the old Franciscan Monastery in town.
While some of the shells are only 1 cm big, others are the size of a full-grown adult. The tour is an inexpensive visit, costing less than €5.
Nugal – The Beach No One Told You About
Located on the easternmost point of the town, past Osejava along the coastline towards Tucepi, Nugal is a destination most tourists don’t know about. The wild beach requires a bit of a hike (around 30 minutes), but you can ask a local guide for directions if you don’t feel comfortable going alone.
Primarily a nude beach (hence the name), it offers peace and quietness away from the hustle and bustle of the city. But at night, especially during August, the water comes alive with rare fluorescent algae and you can pick up starfish as big as your head.
Because of its isolation, there is virtually no light pollution and it offers the best view of the Milky Way Galaxy I have ever seen with the naked eye.
Go Island Hopping For the Day
Makarska has the benefit of facing two of Croatia’s most popular island destinations: Brac and Hvar. For around $30 per person, you can take one of the locally guided tourist cruises to the islands. I’ve gone on these every time I’ve been to Makarska because you get to see two different islands, three different beaches – including Croatia’s most famous Bol beach – all the while being back in time for supper
Your choice of chicken or fish and seemingly endless amounts of wine put you at ease as you slowly cruise from the mainland towards another adventure. If you’d rather visit one island at a time, then check this Brac boat trip, which offers excellent value for money.
Party like a Local on Fisherman’s Night
Between June and September (almost) every Thursday is locals celebrate fisherman’s night. The entire downtown turns into a massive outdoor food and music festival complete with all the trappings of a traditional Adriatic gathering: prosciutto, wine, fish, and of course the harmonica.
You can also participate in some classic games like tug of war or more traditional Croatian ones, like balancing on a beam and trying to reach the giant prosciutto leg hanging at the end. Make sure you watch your step because the beam is suspended over the water, so if you plan on participating, bring a change of clothes!
It’s a very community-oriented event with hundreds of picnic tables along the entire Riviera. You can smell the grilled calamari and mackerel from the beach. Anyone coming to Makarska for the first time should participate in at least one of these events.
Try Some Water Sports When You Need a Break From Tanning
If you get bored of lounging around all day you can try some of the many marine activities Makarska has to offer. From jet skis to parasailing, and even several aqua parks for the little ones, there’s no shortage of adrenaline-pumping pass-times along the beachfront. In 2018, some local entrepreneurs even added the first fly-board, so now you can hover around and learn to do some areal flips and tricks.
A favorite among tourists (and locals) is the pedaling boats. You paddle and steer yourself and there is a slide above you. Paddling way out and facing shore will offer the most complete view of the entire city from east to west and a full picture of just how grand Biokovo is.
Break a Sweat at the Local Street Park
Workout parks are fairly common throughout Europe, but having one right on the beach 50 feet from the water is a different story. You can get your morning workout in or maybe do some calisthenics at sunset then go for a quick dip right after.
There’s a community of locals who you can find defying gravity there pretty much every day. If you’re in town craving a workout, then don’t worry, everyone is welcome.
What to Pack for Croatia
We have an entire Croatia packing list, but make sure you don’t leave these items behind!
A Guidebook – While travel blogs are great, we also definitely see the benefit of having a good paper guidebook in hand to refer to in your on-the-ground travel. We recommend the Lonely Planet Croatia book.
Mosquito repellent: Mosquitos in the summer can be nasty! You can bring ones with DEET or without DEET, or I love having some of these mosquito repellent wipes that I can keep in my bag in case I suddenly start to get swarmed and don’t have my regular repellent with me.
Sunscreen: You can buy sunscreen in Croatia, but it’s likely cheaper at home or bought online in advance. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen. Who doesn’t love a good solid for liquid swap? Great to keep in your bag without worrying about sunscreen explosions.
Water shoes: Pebble beaches in Croatia are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the pebble seafloor is what creates that gorgeous deep turquoise-colored water that is hard to beat, as the lack of sand means you have incredibly clear water. However, on the other hand, pebble beaches and rocky shores can be downright painful!
Our friend recently cut his foot on a rocky beach in Croatia; had he been wearing water shoes, he’d have avoided such unpleasantness! We suggest these unisex water shoes. They’re not sexy, but they will make your trips to the beach far more pleasant!
A secure backpack: We both carry the CitySafe backpack by PacSafe not only on our travels but in our day-to-day lives. It’s cute, it’s functional, it’s comfortable, and it’s secure. We’re talking about interlocking zippers (which you can then put through a second clasp for two layers of security), slash-proof wire mesh construction, and RFID blockers to keep your data safe.
It’s neutral enough to be unisex, it’s roomy enough to fit a small laptop, a large camera, and tons of odds & ends, and it fits under the plane seat in front of you. We’re obsessed. Check it out for yourself!
Grayl Water Filter: Tap water is generally safe to drink in Croatia, but if you’re not used to drinking tap water from other countries, the typically harmless bacteria found in all water can cause some gut irritation. To both be safe and not buy dozens of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. If you’ll be traveling outside of the major tourist centers, check if the water is potable locally.
Sea bands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Sea bands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Croatia – being on the water! A trip to Croatia isn’t complete without a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!
More Croatia Travel Resources
Headed to Croatia? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Croatia, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Croatia packing list with a detailed section for all seasons.
If you’re still putting together your itinerary, here’s a great list of places to visit in Croatia, our Croatia national parks guide, and the Croatian waterfalls guide to help you choose. We also have a guide to the best day trips from Spit if you’re to be visiting Split as well.
Next, check out our Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Croatia and local tipping customs.
Of course, if you’re coming to Croatia you’ll have lots of opportunities to shop! Read our guide to shopping in Croatia so you know which souvenirs are truly local gems.
If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan bus, road trip, and itinerary guides.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Croatia (or really, any part of the world)! We have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel – especially during the winter! – so it’s better to play it safe.
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