After spending several weeks staying in cities, my friend and I were ready to relax by the beach so we headed to Split in Croatia. Split is the new hot spot for Mediterranean beaches and was becoming very popular at the time of our visit. We headed this way hoping to still be able to find some great deals. Below are the things we found to do, buy, and eat and where to stay and how to get there.
Things to Do:
Beaches. There are several beaches around Split, but the one popular with tourists and a younger crowd is Bacvice Beach. This is the one we went to as it was also the closest one to where we were staying. It was crowded, but we could always find a spot to place our towels. On the days we arrived before noon, we were able to find lounge chairs and umbrellas to rent. We paid a set price to rent chairs for the day so getting there earlier allowed us to make the most of our money anyways. There are nearby bars, public bathrooms, and cafes. Beach goers can basically get anything they might need nearby, although they should avoid buying towels here. The ones sold in town are four times cheaper. We had forgotten ours and had to pay the high prices here. There is not much actual beach left here, but the water is nice and the location is convenient. This is not a beach for snorkeling or surfing. This is a beach for sunbathing and swimming or floating in the water.
Island hopping. The best thing to do in Split is take boat tours to the different islands. Tour companies have booths lined up all along the main waterfront. Prices and packages are pretty similar across the companies although there might be some slight differences in destinations. The main difference will likely be in the boat. We did the blue cave and six island tour, which is one of the more popular tours. Unfortunately, the day we went the cave was closed because the water was too choppy so the company substituted with other sites and provided us with some money back (the fee for the cave). The company also gave us the opportunity to re-book before the tour started. Tours will know about any closures the morning of. Unfortunately, tours were also boycotting the green cave when we were there so no one was going to that one. We could not re-book for another day so we ended up going on the modified tour, and it was great. We booked our tour through the company with the fastest boat (so ask around to find this one). The captains for this tour were great drivers and kept everyone entertained. Everyone on the tour had a blast going so fast. We all got splashed with water from the huge waves created by our boat and others. And parts of the ride felt a bit like a roller coaster. I would highly recommend seeking out this company for the six island tour. We also took a three island tour that included the blue lagoon and Hvar. This was different islands than the ones for the six island tour. We booked this tour through a different company that also had a booth on the pier. The boat for this tour is not a speed boat but more of a party boat that sold beer and other drinks and had an upper deck that allowed people to lay out and get sun. However, there was only limited space up top so we needed to board first to get a spot. This was another great tour with stunning sights. Both of the tours were full day packages, and both were highlights of our trip.
Hvar. We went to this island as part of the three island tour and spent a couple of hours here, but we could have easily come here and spent the day. Boats come to and from here multiple times a day so visitors can easily make a day trip here. This is one of the larger and more developed islands that has hiking, shopping, restaurants, and bars.
Diocletian’s Palace. These are ancient Roman ruins located in the city center. They are surrounded by lots of the restaurants and shops. These are not the most impressive ruins, especially in comparison to Italy and Greece, but still worth a look around since they are in a central location and not out of the way. There is also the option to take a walking tour of these ruins. However, we opted not to take one. We also opted not to wait in line to climb up the bell tower. We knew we were going to see lots of ruins and better ones in other countries. For those not planning to visit more ruins, it may be worthwhile to take a tour and to pay to go up the tower. Plan to spend 30-45 minutes just walking around.
For me, beach towns are not really the place to shop for gifts and souvenirs. The extent of my shopping in these places is usually for vacation items that may need replaced or were forgotten, such as flip flops, towels, swimsuits. There are lots of shops in Split. And popular items on sale included wooden toys and art and lavender. As I have said in a previous post, I do not find wooden toys to be a particularly useful gift. Lavender items could be appreciated as a gift to those who like the scent.
What to Eat:
While there are not necessarily must eat dishes in Split, we did find a few standout places to eat. The best quick and cheap place to eat is Sexy Cow. This place has great wraps and some of the best fries. It also has shakes and homemade lemonade. I recommend splitting a wrap with someone and getting your own fries. The best place for breakfast/brunch is Bepa!. This place serves tasty and healthy breakfast foods as well as homemade drinks. It also has a nice selection of salads and is located in the city center. I ate here a couple of times before going to the beaches. Normally, I do not worry about eating healthy but being at the beach and being in a bikini everyday does inspire the desire for some slimmer lunch options. Upcafe has a good selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. The cheese burrito here was my favorite. It also serves espresso and coffee drinks. And of course, seafood is very good here and a great dinner option. There are many seafood restaurants that range from mid level to very pricey. We ate at a couple of mid level priced places and were not disappointed. The seafood was always fresh and well cooked.
As mentioned in previous posts, I also enjoy trying local wines. Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar has a great selection of Croatian wines, meats, and cheeses. This bar offers glasses of wine at a reasonable price and even offers half glasses, which allows visitors to taste even more varieties. It also offers mixed boards so visitors can try a variety of meats and cheeses. Try to grab a seat upstairs for better views.
Split has a lot of bars as well, but there were a couple that stood out. The Academia Ghetto Club is one that has a relaxed and bohemian vibe. It is located inside the ruins and has an open feeling. Be careful though because it is difficult to find. We got lost going there and leaving, and we were not the only ones! Sanctuary is more of a traditional cocktail and beer pub. It looks more like a sports bar minus the sports, but this is a good place to go to get good deals on drinks. And the deals do bring in the crowds. The crowd here is younger but not too young, and the vibe is relaxed. We came here a couple of times.
Where to Stay:
We chose to stay in an Airbnb, which was cheaper than the hotels. Unfortunately, we did not book until a couple of weeks before our stay, and many of the Airbnbs were booked. This place is very popular in the summer so book early. Our place was about a 25 minute walk to the the historic part of town and about a 40 minute walk to the closest beach. I would recommend staying within walking distance to the historic part of town (close to the pier and Diocletian’s palace). Otherwise, a car will be needed to get around. The historic center will be in walking distance to the pier, beaches, restaurants and bars.
We arrived to Split from Budapest by bus (staying a night in Zagreb to break up the trip). The direct bus from Budapest to Zagreb is about 5 hours and from Zagreb to Split is another 5 hours. We chose to take a bus because there are no trains that stop in Split, and we did not book in time to get a good deal on a flight. The Split bus station is located near the pier. And there is an area nearby for taxi or Uber pickups. There are local buses, but they do not run everywhere and are not linked to Google maps. We chose to walk most places, and when we could not walk we took an Uber. To get to the islands we booked boat tours at the booths on the pier, and meeting points for the tours were also located on the pier. When we departed Split for Zagreb, we again took a bus. There are several companies that run multiple buses a day between the two cities, and prices are very cheap. The bus station in Split is very small and there is not a main board for bus information, but the buses are all lined up outside. We looked for our bus company among the buses and then asked the driver to confirm which one was our bus.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Split. However, it was not quite as cheap as we had hoped it would be. As the new hot spot it was definitely crowded, and the prices reflected the popularity. We were here in August so we enjoyed great beach weather, but this was also probably one of the more popular times to go. This is a good place to go for travelers who want to be near the Mediterranean but do not want to pay the higher prices of private islands and countries on the Euro.