10 Things to do in Makarska, Croatia
When you think about Croatia, wildly popular tourist hubs like Dubrovnik, Split, or Plitvice Lakes National Park probably come to mind first. Makarska, Croatia, a coastal village near the southern tip of Croatia, is still under the tourist radar - but is no less beautiful than it's popular counterparts. It has stunning, nearly unoccupied beaches along with everything else you love about Croatia like the delicious food, quaint white-washed buildings, and helpful and friendly locals. Here is my list of the best 10 things to do in Makarska, Croatia, plus other helpful information to plan your stay.
The 10 best things to do in Makarska, Croatia:
1. Take a stroll along the promenade
To get acquainted with the relaxed essence of Makarska, you simply have to get outside and take yourself on a leisurely stroll along the promenade with sweeping views of the Adriatic Sea on one side and the looming Biokovo Mountain on the other side. Makarska is a laid-back, serene coastal village and it's best to enjoy it in the same way - taking it all in during a relaxing walk. Along the promenade are many local restaurants and boutique shops where tourists and locals alike gather to enjoy the sweet views (though I definitely don't mean gather in the way you see crowds gather in Dubrovnik). I just relaxed my first day, eating and walking around to introduce myself to the city!
2. Hit the beach
Makarska is home to long stretches of pebbly beaches with some of the brightest turquoise water I've ever seen. It is simply too beautiful to not spend a day there soaking up the atmosphere. In fact, I dare you to try to stay away from the water here in Makarska, it's that downright alluring. There's plenty of coastline to grab a towel and lay out, there's not really a specific hot spot beach that everyone goes to because it's just all that beautiful. After you've spent the day soaking up the sunshine and swimming in the refreshing waters, prepare to be amazed by the Makarska Riveria sunsets. I seriously saw one of the best sunsets of my life here (and that's saying something from a Hawaii resident) where the entire sky looked like it had lit a fiery glow, which made the town light up in an unbelievable purple tone.
3. Hike up the Biokovo Mountain
Makarska is not only good for stunning beach days, but it's also a great destination for hiking if you grow a bit bored of days of chilling out by the water. Biokovo Mountain has a dominating presence on the Makarska Riviera, visible from almost anywhere along the coastal towns. The most popular trail here is to Vosac Peak (standing at 1,422 m or 4,665 ft tall) which is only 1.8 miles / roughly 3 km from the center of Makarska town. The hike there is posted very well with signs. Make sure to bring plenty of water, the full adventure up and down the peak can take half a day or more depending on your pace. Biokovo Nature Park, the area where trails are open to the public, is only open from April to November during the year, so keep that in mind if you're planning off-season travel.
4. Take a boat trip to nearby islands
If you've already spent time chilling at the beach or hiking up mountains, then there are a few awesome day trips to take from Makarska. Makarska is well-situated to visit popular Croatian island spots like Hvar, Bol, and Brač. In fact, Brač is home to what Conde Nast actually listed as the most beautiful beach in Europe: Zlatni Rat beach because of it's unusual sharp V shape (I happen to disagree with the editors at CN and find Navagio Beach in Zakynthos Greece as the most beautiful, but that's beside the point). In any case, these day trips are a fantastic way to explore more of Croatia's coastline. There are a wide variety of different tours available, which you can easily purchase anywhere in the city center with vendors. Prices range anywhere from 30 euros to over 100 euros.
5. Go to the secret cove in Brela!
This cove is the whole reason I felt drawn to come to Makarska. I saw a picture of it floating around Pinterest and decided I absolutely had to see this view in person. And since I posted this photo of the cove on Instagram a few years back, I still get consistent questions about where this is and how to visit it. As far as I know, there isn't really a name for this little beach, so I just call it the secret cove. It's located in Brela, which is adjacent to Makarska and very similar in terms of beaches and views, though it is a smaller, quainter version. To get here, either take a quick bus or taxi ride from Makarska to Brela. Once you're in Brela, head down to the coastline and take a right along the small sidewalk promenade. Keep walking past gorgeous views and rugged, rocky cliffs until you reach the cove. I know these instructions sound rather vague, but once you're there in Brela, it's so small that it should make perfect sense. Remember, all you need to do is walk along the promenade to the right and you'll eventually find this hidden gem after a 5 or 10 minute walk. The pictures of this cove speak for themselves, it's a must visit!
6. Check out the nude beach at Nugal Beach
What would a European summer cliche be without a classic nude beach? If you're up for it, there's a lovely beach to really get the full refreshing effect if you know what I mean. It's about a 30 minute walk along the rugged coastline, so definitely bring suitable shoes and not just flimsy sandals like you would for a normal beach day. Even if you don't wanna go nude here, the beach is worth it simply for the rugged beauty. Recent reports say that a Catholic fundamentalist group has been removing the signs to the beach, which has made getting there more challenging (c'mon, why do you have to ruin the fun!?). Before you go, make sure to do more up-to-date research to avoid getting lost on the trails.
7. Try the local beer and cuisine
The Dalmatia region of Croatia (Makarska is part of it) is famous for its fish specialty plates. In fact, a waiter told me that apparently each town in the region has a slightly different way of preparing it with varying ingredients and recipes. The overall technique, though, includes cooking the fish in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. In practically every restaurant in Makarska, you can order grilled fish ranging from mackerels to sea bass to calamari. I can practically taste the grilled mackerel I had there now. Ask for/look for the Croatian menu names Gradele or Buzara to try it! Don't forget to add a local Croatian beer, too - the best in my humble opinion is Ožujsko (a classic Croatian beer) or a craft beer like Zmajsko Pale Ale.
8. Shop your way through the Makarska market
Just off the path from the promenade in Makarska is the market. There's a bunch of tents set up here where locals sell their goods, with stuff like jewelry, tourist trinkets, and beach necessities are for sale. I especially liked how vibrant this part of Makarska became at night time.
9. Take a day trip to Krka National Park
A short hour and a half's drive away is the famous Krka National Park, a sprawling nature park with waterfalls galore. There are several day trips available from Makarska to Krka National Park (which usually pairs with other stops like charming Sibenik) or you could easily rent a car from town and drive there yourself.
10. Check out the main square (Kacic Square) and Makarska's Old Town
This would be a pretty quick thing to check off your Makarska bucket list since the main square and adjacent old town is really small. But! It's still absolutely worth your while to visit. The old town is painted white and orange in the traditional Croatian style. Inside the main square is also a beautiful little Baroque-style church called St. Marks with a view of Biokovo Mountain behind it - definitely worth stopping by and marveling at.
How to get to Makarska, Croatia
One reason that Makarska might be relatively unknown compared to Croatia's tourist hot spots is that it's not as easy to reach. Arriving there by bus from other Croatian cities (or nearby countries in the Balkans) is essentially the only option. I arrived there via an overnight bus from Ljubljana, Slovenia - bus services like FlixBus offer connections from here and many countries in the Balkans and behind. Unfortunately, there is no international airport servicing Makarska. The closest airport would be in Dubrovnik, which is about 100 miles/165 km from Makarska. If you happen to be visiting Dubrovnik, it's well worth it to take the trip down the coast to the Makarska Riviera.
Where to stay in Makarska
Given that it's a tiny, relatively quiet town, there's no better or worse area of Makarska to base yourself. For budget travelers: there are a small handful of dorm/hostel options - I chose Hostel Makarska for around €12 per night and was pleased with the comfort, cleanliness, and helpful staff. For a bit more boujee of travelers, the best Makarska Riviera hotels include TUI BLUE Jadran, MORENIA all inclusive resort, and Boutique Hotel Ani.
How much you should budget for visiting Makarska
Besides your accommodations, costs in Makarska are thankfully quite cheap, especially if you're comparing it to Dubrovnik where everything is overpriced. Daily expenses here should be relatively low: meals at sit-down restaurants will be around €10 ($11 USD), drinks around €3 ($4 USD) and gelato (indeed a very important metric, yes) was under €2. Given that it's a nature-centered destination and nature is free, your costs beyond food and accommodation should be low, unless you plan to do boat tours or rent a car to explore further in the Makarska Riviera.
How to get around Makarska
Makarska town itself is small and quaint enough to explore wholly on foot. There are also bike rentals and boat tours of the coastline available if that's more your style. Makarska is actually one town of several other small ones that make up the entire Riviera as a whole - and it's pretty easy to travel between them. There's really only a single, big, two-lane main road connecting the Markska Riviera, so if you go up to road from the town (less than a 5 minute walk), you can simply flag down a bus going in either direction. Most of the time, the bus drivers didn't even charge me a fee since it was such a short ride of only a few minutes. Of course, you can always take a taxi between the towns as well.
Other tips for visiting Makarska, Croatia
For some reason, nearly every other tourist I met (though there weren't a lot) in Makarska was English. Makarska must be advertised a lot by English tourism boards, because other than that, no one else I encountered in Europe knew about Makarska. It seems that locals have caught on and have a good handle on the English language, but it'd be nice if you learned simple words like 'please' (Molim) and 'thank you' (Hvala vam) which according to my personal philosophy, you should learn in every country you visit. The Croatian Kuna is the currency used, and there are exchange offices and ATMs available throughout the small town to withdraw and exchange your bills.
Overall, I felt that Makarksa was 1000x more beautiful than busy and overpriced Dubrovnik, and it was easily my favorite location that I've visited in all of Croatia. It's the perfect mix of a relaxing beachy destination with rich Croatian culture and a lively atmosphere! I hope you enjoyed my list of the 10 best things to do in Makarska, Croatia.