Croatia’s summer playground: The best Makarska Riviera beaches

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Punta Rata Beach in Brela, Croatia

Punta Rata Beach in Brela, Croatia

Sunshine, boat rides, long walks along the waterfront and ice cream cones are summer staples, and you’ll find all of these at the Makarska Riviera beaches. The postcard-perfect region nestled along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is blessed with long stretches of craggy coastline framed by aquamarine water, orange-topped villas precipitously tucked into the lush hillsides, and the imposing backdrop of towering Biokovo Mountain peppered with thick groves of pine trees.

Vrulja Beach in Makarska Riviera, Croatia

Vrulja Beach

Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia, the Makarska Riviera is a popular vacation spot stretching about 60 km long between the seaside towns of Brela and Gradac overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Most sun-seekers base themselves at holiday homes or resorts in Makarska, Baska Voda, Tucepi, Podgora, Gradac or Brela, then take day trips to the surrounding beaches and islands.

You won’t find many white sand beaches here, but the stunning scenery and jewel-toned water makes up for the hassle of picking your way over pebbles to find a spot to lay down your towel. Some are wild and nearly impossible to get to, which makes your time there even more special and well worth the effort. From secluded coves to family-friendly stretches of sand, here are some of the best Makarska Riviera beaches.

Brela, Makarska Riviera, Croatia itinerary

Brela, Croatia

Brela, Makarska Rivijera

Polished white boats bob in the harbour of this pretty resort town which has a bustling marina, plenty of cafes and restaurants, water sports and resorts. Brela is one of the best places to stay in the Makarska Riviera, since its laid-back vibe makes it a great place to unwind yet there are still enough activities to keep the whole family happy. There’s also easy access to the nearby islands, with boats regularly heading over to Hvar and Bol.

Brela, Croatia itinerary

Brela, Croatia

A popular Brela beach is called Podrače beach, which is found on the north side of town and is one of the most photographed stretches of sand in the whole country. This brilliant blue cove is a stunner, and sheltered by groves of trees.

Podrače beach in Croatia

Podrače beach

Not too much further along the boardwalk you’ll find one of the most famous landmarks in Croatia: the Brela Stone (Kamen Brela). Pines jut out of the massive rock, which is nestled in a protected, serene cove just off the shoreline.

The Brela Stone in the Makarska Riviera, Croatia

The Brela Stone

Punta Rata Beach

To see the Brela Stone, head to Punta Rata Beach which was once billed by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The pretty turquoise water is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day, and it’s edged by a pine forest and boardwalk that winds along the coastline. Keep in mind that it’s pebbly like most Makarska Riviera beaches, so you’ll want to bring along a beach chair and water shoes to be more comfortable.

Punta Rata beach in Croatia

Punta Rata

Vrulja Beach

Spending a sun-soaked day at Vrulja Beach is unforgettable, starting with the adventure of actually getting to this wild, dazzlingly-beautiful cove. Huddled at the base of steep, unforgiving rocky cliffs, it’s nearly impossible to see from the highway which is why most people end up zipping right past it, which makes this the true definition of a hidden gem.

Vrulja Beach in the Makarska Riviera, Croatia

Overlooking Vrulja Beach

To get here on foot, you’ll have to drive for about 10 minutes from Brela towards Jakirusa, and park in the roadside pullout at the top of the dusty trail. It takes about 30 minutes to scramble down the hillside which is covered in loose rocks and thick brush–a journey that’s not for the faint of heart, especially in the midday heat. A much easier, safer way to get to Vrulja Beach is by chartering a boat for the day.

Vrulja Beach in the Makarska Riviera, Croatia

Vrulja Beach

The fact that Vrulja Beach is so far off the beaten path means there’s a good chance you’ll have this gorgeous, remote spot to yourself when you finally arrive, and can spend the day swimming in the clear water or getting rid of your tan lines…yup, this is also a naturist beach!

Vrulja Beach in the Makarska Riviera, Croatia

Vrulja Beach

Vrulja Beach in the Makarska Riviera, Croatia

Vrulja Beach

There are absolutely no facilities here, so be sure to bring plenty of food and water, as well as some sort of umbrella for shade.

Velika Duba Bay

This secluded, serene spot between the villages of Zivogosce Mala Duba and Zivogosce Blato is rightfully popular with both locals and tourists, and features calm waters and a pebble shoreline.

Nugal Makarska

Another beach frequented by naturists, Nugal Makarska is located two kilometres east of Makarska and has a 10 metre high waterfall that gushes down from Biokovo Mountain during the rainy season. This is another one you’ll have to work for a bit to get to, as access is only via boat or on foot through a forest.

Nugal Makarska

Nugal Makarska

Near the Makarska Riviera: Jelsa, Hvar

A fun day trip from Brela is to do some Croatia island hopping, and you can easily book a boat excursion from the harbour that includes stops at two of Croatia’s best known beach spots: Hvar and Brač.

The boat ride out to Hvar and Brac from Brela, Croatia

The boat ride out to Hvar and Brac

Makarska Riviera beaches

Jelsa, Hvar

Tours typically cost around $40 per person, and leave first thing in the morning to sail over to Hvar, a ritzy island best known for luxe events like Yacht Week. Wander around the charming town of Jelsa, which is much more relaxed than its busy neighbour Hvar Town, and known for things like lavender production and its peaceful waterfront promenade

Makarska Riviera beaches

Jelsa

Zlatni Rat Beach on Brač, Bol

A fresh seafood lunch is served back on board en route to the island of Brač, where you’ll find Zlatni Rat in Bol. Nicknamed the ‘Golden Cape,’ this stunning spot is found on the tip of the island and constantly changes shape due to ever-shifting winds, waves and sea currents.

The surrounding waters are a brilliant kaleidoscope of cerulean shades, making it a popular spot for kite surfers and sun seekers alike. There’s also a kids water park and facilities like washrooms and food stalls, which makes this a great option for families.

Zlatni Rat in Croatia

Zlatni Rat

Brac, Bol, Croatia

It takes about half an hour to walk between Bol harbour and Zlatni Rat, so if you’re tight on time you can grab a water taxi for the transfer or take the little tourist train. If you want to spend a full day on the island, hop on the ferry which sails between Makarska and Brac a few times each day, or book this fun 4×4 tour to explore the island. Click to book

Where to stay near the Makarska Riviera beaches

There’s a wide range of accommodation options throughout the Makarska Riviera, from small family-run villas to swanky resorts. It’s worth noting that most aren’t beachfront, and if you’re staying in a guesthouse expect to have a bit of an uphill climb home each day.

  • The Maritimo Hotel: This top-ranked hotel in Makarska has easy beach access, and balconies with gorgeous sea views. Guests rave about the friendly, helpful staff. Click to book
  • Hotel Ani: A sleek pool area and gorgeous modern rooms make this one of the most high-end, boutique hotels in Makarska. The property is a short walk from the beach, and there’s on site parking. Click to book
  • Bluesun Hotel Soline– This sprawling resort is part of the Bluesun chain which is popular in the area, and its location can’t be beat as it’s right on the waterfront and close to the centre of Brela. Rooms are modern, and there’s also an outdoor pool and lounge area. Click here to book
  • Villa Bose– This budget-friendly Brela accommodation option serves up fabulous sea views thanks to its hillside perch, and guests love the attentive owners and private balconies. Click here to book
Villa Bose in Brela, Croatia

Villa Bose in Brela

Book a tour around the Makarska Riviera

 

How to get to the Makarska Riviera

If you’re arriving by plane, the closest airport is in Split which is a one hour drive away. It takes about 2 ½ hours to drive from Dubrovnik to Makarska or Brela, and it’s also possible to visit from Mostar, Bosnia since the drive takes less than two hours (not including the time it takes to cross the border.) There are also buses that connect the beach towns with Split, as well as a ferry service from Brac and a summer catamaran connecting Bol, Makarska, Korcula, Split, Mljet and Dubrovnik.

If you’re arriving via Split, make sure you drive along the coast on D8 instead of taking highway E65–the views are breathtaking!

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