Love snorkeling almost as much as you love sailing? Taking a peek under the surface on a sailing holiday is one of the most pleasurable activities to do off your charter boat. Rocky outcrops, small caves and sandy sea beds can keep the whole family entertained for hours. Kids will enjoy diving for shells (make sure no one’s living in them!) and working on their snorkeling skills. The pristine waters of Croatia offer much for the avid snorkeler. Although there are not any tropical fish in the Mediterranean, there is plenty to see. Rainbow wrasse and damsel fish, grouper and bream, multi-coloured sponges, shellfish, urchins, crustaceans, moray eel, glass fish; and if you have a good eye, the well-camouflaged scorpion fish, octopus, and the elusive seahorse. With crystal clear water, often cobalt blue and a pleasant water temperature in summer, it’s easy to spend all day exploring the coastlines, islands and rocky outcrops. Snorkeling at night is also a treat, as the nocturnal critters come out to play. Pack an underwater torch and see what comes out when the sun’s long gone. Here are our top places to snorkel in the Adriatic Sea.
Stretching along the southwest coast of the Istrian peninsula, the Brijuni archipelago is one of eight Croatian national parks. Rich in history, the key attraction for snorkelers here is the underwater archeological sites dating from the Roman era. Accessible only by guided tour, these sites can be found in Veriga Bay. In addition, the underwater flora and fauna is flourishing because of the protected status of these beautiful isles. Fishing and other activities are strictly controlled, making this one of our top choices for snorkeling. The Brujini Islands are an idyllic place for a sailing and snorkeling holiday. You may even see dolphins from the boat!
Take a charter boat from Pula and head off for the breathtaking Brujini Islands.
Staying on the Istrian Peninsula in the Northern Adriatic, another top area for snorkeling off your sailboat is Cape Kamenjak. Right at the southern tip of Istria, the water is aquamarine and the caves you’ll find there are just waiting to be explored. Visibility is excellent and there are plenty of swimming holes carved into the rock and cliffs for jumping off. This area can be easily combined with sailing and snorkeling in the Brijuni Islands with a yacht rental from Pula or Rovinj.
Further down the Adriatic coast in Dalmatia are the Paklinski Islands, also known as Pakleni Islands, near Hvar. This stunning, verdant archipelago is a short sail out from Hvar Town. Here amongst the plenty of small islands and islets, you can snorkel and free dive to your hearts content, languish in the lagoons and gaze up into the super blue sky. Lovely coves for anchoring get you close to the incredible limestone coastline. The most remote and natural bay to snorkel is Tarsce, a little cove on Sveti Klement Island. Pure snorkeling pleasure!
Hvar and the Pakleni islands are easily accessible if you rent a chart boat from Split, Trogir or Makarska.
Visually stunning Vis is possibly the best place for snorkeling in Croatia. It is the furthest inhabited island off the Dalmatian coast and is extremely well-preserved. Although well known amongst summer tourists, its charm is undeniable. The most popular snorkeling spots on Vis Island are Stiniva and Srebrna Beach, the Ceska Villa peninsula with its emerald waters and interesting coves and the famous Blue Cave on Bisevo Island and its surrounding waters. Ravnik Island is also spectacular around Green Cave. Perhaps, most interesting of all are the old military sea tunnels that served as war ship shelters and no doubt, are fascinating to explore.
It’s easy to get to Vis once you have spent some time in the Pakleni Islands, combining two of the best snorkeling sites in Croatia on a one-week charter.
If you are sailing from Sibenik, make sure to stop off at Krapanj Island for some sublime snorkeling. Krapanj has a history of free diving and diving for the precious Mediterranean sponges, so it’s very much part of the culture. Snorkel the same seas where the sponge divers plied their trade and stop in at the museum if you’re a history buff.
Also possible to reach from Sibenik and from Zadar, too is Dugi Otok - a long island at the northern end of the Zadar archipelago. This island is home to two well-protected nature parks: the Kornati National Park and the Telascica Nature Park and that makes the fish life plentiful. Some of the most beautiful sandy beaches are also found here.
Lagnici Cliffs by Veli Rat lighthouse is a prime snorkeling spot. There is even a shipwreck here. The Michelle, sunk in 1984, has become a haven for marine life and coral colonies. It is partially above the surface, and so is perfect for a snorkeling adventure. The kids will love it! Watch out for the sometimes strong currents, though - make sure you have flotation devices handy.
Another snorkeling hotspot on Dugi Otok is Brbiscica Cave. Watch the dancing light shimmering against the cave walls and in the water creating a dappled underwater haven.
Telascica Bay at the south end of Dugi Otok shouldn’t be missed. This picturesque bay, enclosed by high cliffs and pine trees has a number of little coves and islets to keep you and the crew entertained for hours. In the bay, you can explore numerous coves and islets and see some of the most diverse submarine life in Croatia.
Mljet Island is the Croatia’s greenest island, and a home to one of its eight national parks. Its status as a protected natural site ensures rich sea life and some of the nicest snorkeling. Fishing is limited off the coastline and so there is much more life in the waters here than in other places.
Popular snorkeling spots on the island include the two inland lakes Veliko Jezero (Big Lake) and Malo Jezero (Small Lake), Rikavica and Odysseus Caves and Greben Stit off the Southwestern Coast of the island.
Mljet is also home to the only coral reef in the Mediterranean, where the Big Lake meets the ocean. A superb place to explore the marine life that lives on the reef. Mljet Island is accessible by boat from Dubrovnik, where you can charter a boat to snorkel and explore Southern Dalmatia.
Just about anywhere you put your head underwater in Croatia; there will be something to see. These are just a few of the many good snorkeling spots we know of.
By Merryn Wainwright