Exploring the Adriatic: 5 Beautiful Islands in Croatia

Like many other popular destinations in Southern Europe, Croatia’s magnetism radiates from the sea. And with thousands of miles of Adriatic Sea coastline, it’s hardly surprising that the beautiful islands in Croatia are among the country’s biggest draws for tourists.

Tuck yourself into the sun-kissed shores of Hvar. This island, adorned with lavender fields and historic towns, invites you to explore its ancient heritage and vibrant nightlife. Nature lovers can enjoy a hiking or cycling adventure through lush forests on Mljet. Or explore Korčula’s beautiful greenery before ending the day in the island’s namesake town.

With over a thousand islands within Croatia’s borders, knowing where to explore can be tough. Start your journey with this quick guide to the most beautiful Croatian islands!

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Krk Island

Connected to the mainland by a bridge just south of Rijeka, Krk Island is the largest and most accessible of the Croatian islands. Krk may not be the unspoiled paradise it once was. But despite its summer crowds and, by Croatian standards, blatant commercialism, Krk Island is a pleasant place to while away a couple of days on a Croatian road trip.

Panorama of Krk Island, Croatia

The main town of Krk is a picturesque ancient port with a rich and varied history. Roman and Venetian influences surface throughout the medieval center, including the Frankopan Castle and the city walls. As its transport hub for the island, you’ll inevitably spend at least a few minutes in Krk Town, even if venturing further afoot.

Baška, at the island’s southern tip, is Krk Island’s most popular travel destination. It’s famed in Croatia for its long pebble beach and superb views.

While most head straight to the waterfront for a dip, hikers will find refuge from the crowds just minutes from Old Town. Baška is surrounded by barren crags. The town provides excellent hiking opportunities in nearly every direction. Head into the hills to marvel at spectacular views of the sea and mountains at every turn.

Best of all, with the multitude of hiking trails around Baška, you don’t have to share your views with anyone—except, of course, for the odd wandering mountain goat!

Rab Island

A mere hour from Baška by ferry or three hours by bus from Rijeka lies Rab Island, one of Croatia’s most alluring islands. Like Krk, Rab Island possesses a rich ancient history. See it in all its glory in Rab Town, the cultural center of the island.

Summer at Rab Island, Croatia

Rab’s Old Town is one of the country’s most distinctive and is a must-see for any serious Croatia trip itinerary. Rab is packed onto a tiny peninsula, jetting into the Adriatic Sea. Replete with a host of beautiful churches and steep, narrow alleyways, Rab Town is a pleasant place to wander around and is the best place to stay while visiting the island.

Among the northern Croatian islands, Rab Island is also one of the greenest. Hundreds of kilometers of hiking and cycling trails crisscross the island; it’s undoubtedly an incredible feat for an island only 22 kilometers long and 11 kilometers wide!

With its mountainous terrain, Rab Island is sheltered from some of the harsher climates that face other Adriatic islands, making it an ideal destination for active travelers.

Hvar Island

Located off of the southern coast, about an hour away from Split by boat, Hvar Island is gaining ground among the well-to-do as Croatia’s answer to the Côte d’Azur. 

Hvar Island is a picturesque escape from the mainland. The island is beautifully populated with endless fields of lavender, ancient olive groves, and family vineyards. 

Hvar Island, Croatia

Although you can visit Hvar on a day trip from Split, you’ll better appreciate Hvar Island at a leisurely pace. Experiencing the island’s finest moments rarely happens in a hurry.

Hvar Island’s historical heart, Stari Grad is Croatia’s oldest town. It’s also one of the two main sea entry points to the island. Brimming with historical architecture, the narrow & atmospheric streets of Stari Grad offer a picture-perfect glimpse into Hvar’s Dalmatian past.

Playing Hyde to Stari Grad’s Jekyll, Hvar Town, the island’s other gateway. Hvar Town is (in)famous for its legendary nightlife, often to the chagrin of Croatians who reminisce about quieter, less rambunctious times. (And its proximity to the Pakleni Islands, Croatia’s nudist nirvana, hardly helps its cause.)

No less rich in architecture than Stari Grad (maybe even better!), Hvar Town is not just the most popular overnight destination on the island; it’s one of the best places to visit in Croatia. With its excellent transport links, it remains the most popular place to stay in Hvar to experience the breadth of the island.

Korčula Island

About an hour and a half south of Hvar and three hours from Split, stunning Korčula Island is replete with all the trappings of Dalmatian Croatia. The walled Korčula Town at the island’s northeastern tip possesses a passing similarity to Dubrovnik with smaller crowds.

Korcula Island, Croatia

Its vibe, like its mainland coastal brethren, is unmistakably Venetian. It’s not a surprise: For some four centuries, Korčula chilled out within the Republic of Venice.

Like Hvar Island to the north, Korčula Island lies upon fertile ground. Vineyards and olive trees cover much of the island. Both are still used today to make fine local wines and high-quality cooking oils.

With Korčula’s bays and coves set amid beautiful wilderness, travelers won’t find it difficult to get off the beaten path. Saddle in and find a pristine slice of nature to call your own.

Mljet Island

Croatia shows off its serene side on Mljet Island. It’s the greenest island on the Adriatic and one of the most interesting for nature lovers. Almost three-quarters of Mljet Island is covered in dense forests, with Mljet National Park covering about a third of the island’s entire area.

Mljet Island, Croatia

Hiking and cycling opportunities abound on the island. The most popular hike plies between Pomena or Polače and Veliko Jezero, the salt lake situated in the middle of the national park.

Nature is Mljet Island’s main drawcard, but its most compelling attraction might be the St Mary’s Benedictine Monastery. Situated on its own small island on Veliko Jezero, the monastery dates back to the late 12th century.

Reaching Mljet Island from other islands and the mainland isn’t so difficult. You can check it out on a (long) day trip from Korčula or Dubrovnik. Should you wish to linger, though, accommodation is available in Pomena and Polače.

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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