Visit Croatia – Opatija
Visit Croatia. Did you work hard this year and feel you deserve a relaxing vacation that doesn’t drain your piggy bank completely? Did you ever dream of visiting Europe but believed such a trip just wasn’t in your budget? Do you love sitting by the calm, crystal clear sea in a luxurious lounge chair on an awesome beach? Do you like to eat well prepared, fresh food with a glass of fine wine or a good beer? If you answered yes to any of these questions, visit Croatia and enjoy a wonderful holiday in Opatija.
There are very nice hotels in and near Opatija but, trust me, it’s much better to rent an apartment from a local Croat when you visit Croatia. You can rent an apartment for less than the cost of a hotel room and you’ll cherish the experience. Email directly with the apartment owner and you’ll develop a nice rapport almost immediately. Friendly Croat apartment owners will work with you on the length of your stay and may even be flexible with the rate which can range depending on the location and size but you can find someplace just fine for about $100 per night.
We became friends with an apartment owner, who drove us back to Zagreb to catch our flight home. We paid for the gas to get to Zagreb and he got to spend time with friends in Croatia’s capital city. We remain friends and will stay in that apartment again. Finding apartments in Croatia is easy on sites like Airbnb. Just don’t lock yourself out of the apartment like we did and almost miss your flight home. That was not a fun day. The next time I visit Croatia, I will be the key master.
I mentioned in my post, Travelling to Croatia, there are a few sandy beaches in Croatia but most are rocky/pebbly or man-made platforms. Our favorite beach in Opatija is Lido Beach, a large, beautifully constructed wooden deck structure. When you’re sitting on Lido Beach, you feel like you’re on a yacht sailing the open sea. The lounge chairs are very comfortable and easy to fall asleep on, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen or you’ll acquire the complexion of a lobster after day one. Lido Beach is also a Blue Flag Beach, internationally recognized for sea quality and purity.
You should note some beaches in Croatia have dressing rooms and some do not. Croatians are very good at taking off their clothes and putting on their bathing suit all while wrapped in a towel. This takes some practice. The first time I tried this maneuver, everyone on the beach got a nice view of me naked. Full frontal. Try to get that picture out of your head. Good luck!. Very embarrassing!
The restaurant at Lido Beach serves a wide variety of delicious, well prepared fare for a fraction of the price of a typical beach side restaurant. Croat bartenders haven’t quite figured out how to make fancy drinks like a banana daiquiri or a pina colada yet, but they are getting better each year. I like to stop at the local convenience store, Konzum, and pick up some Somersby, a hard apple cider. It’s my new favorite drink to have at the beach. Very refreshing!
Friends have informed me a new beach has opened near Lido Beach. So go ahead and check out the new beach and leave some room for me at Lido. Just kidding. I’ll try the new beach this year and write a review in a future post.
There are lots of other beaches within walking distance. If you’re like me and don’t like to drive too much when on vacation, this is the place for you. We rarely rent a car when we visit Croatia. The one time we did rent a car, we were blessed with a vehicle powered by a lawnmower engine. My wife had to push the car up the first hill we encountered. Driving downhill was much easier on her.
The most convenient beach, located in the heart of Opatija, is Slatina, the city beach. There’s a small fee, around $20, to use a decent lounge chair and an umbrella, but that is fairly common in Croatia. Be careful getting in and out of the water, the steps can be slippery. There are some nice cafe’s and shops fairly close to Slatina Beach so it’s pretty convenient to come and go as you like. There is almost no crime in Croatia so don’t worry, no one will steal your yellow sunburst beach towel or your paperback beach book.
The Lungomare and Dining
All along the sea, you’ll want to walk along the Lungomare (The Seaside Promenade) where you’ll discover lots of hidden gems such as boutique hotel beaches, nice cafe’s and some good shops. The boutique hotel beaches are small and you’ll need to arrive early to get your spot. Some of these beaches have a private feel and can be romantic.
After dinner, walk along the Lungomare to burn off a few calories and take in the beauty of the sea and the magnificent villas. There’s even a casino or two in Opatija where you can gamble away 100 kuna, if that’s fun for you. It was for me. 100 kuna is about $16, I am not a big gambler.
I suggest a walk to Volosko for dinner. It’s a 30 minute leisurely walk where you’ll find Moho, my favorite pizza place in the world (and I live in NYC, so I am a pizza expert). Moho sits in a small inlet on the sea next to a few other nice restaurants. Stroll over to the other restaurants and have a look at their menus.
We had the pleasure to be joined by a cat for dinner at one of these restaurants. The feline sat patiently on the chair in front of us, waiting for dinner to be finished and was pleasantly treated to some leftovers. The waiter just smiled and said, “Oh, now you have made a friend”. Just a few steps up the hillside, you’ll find some real dining treasures. Tucked away on a very small street, find Konoba Tramerka and you’ll be treated to a culinary delight. Your taste buds will thank you.
Things to Do nearby
About a 20 minute drive south of Opatija, is Moscenicka Draga where you’ll find more fantastic pebbly beaches, sightseeing and as always when you visit Croatia, great little restaurants serving freshly caught fish and other Mediterranean delicacies. One of the best meals I ever had in Croatia was at a small hilltop restaurant, Tu I Tamo (Here and There). Amazing food and an awesome view of the Adriatic Sea as the sun comes down.
The largest Roman coliseum outside of Italy sits in Pula, Croatia. The Pula Coliseum is where David Gilmour kicked off his tour in support of his latest album. Wish I was there. We plan to visit Pula this year and I will let you know all about it in a future post. Pula is less than a two hour drive from Opatija and also has a beach where you can cool off on a hot day.
This post is getting long but let me quickly list a few other things you will love about Opatija:
- You must visit the Hotel Milenij and sit on the patio, face the sea and order some coffee and an apple strudel and treat yourself to a fantastic breakfast buffet. Amazing!
- On a hot day after lunch, you must try the sladoled (Croatian ice cream). Watch your back gelato!
- The Open Air Summer Theatre has special events, movies and concerts. They have a bar so you can have a drink while you’re watching the movie. Very cool.
- Since I like to eat, one more restaurant suggestion. Tavern Istranka has amazing goulash and serves the best bread in Opatija.
- Crave some nightlife? Here is a link to Opatija’s Nightclubs.
I couldn’t find good borek in Opatija so if you are reading this and know where I can get good borek nearby, please let me know. I’ll pass on the information in a later post.
Visit Croatia and you’ll be happy you did, I promise!