If you’re looking for a holiday destination that is temperate all year round, has equal parts relaxation, activity and partying, and is a short three-hour flight away from the UK, then the Croatia could be the place for you.
I recently did a trip along the Croatian coast, visiting Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split, and had an awesome time. The scenery is absolute spectacular and if you love being by the sea, then you’ll love Croatia – I’ve never travelled so much by boat!
Holidays are definitely for relaxing, and if you eat and exercise well for the rest of the year then 2 weeks isn’t going to ruin anything – but if you’re an active person or you have health and fitness goals you want to hit, you’ll want to keep moving and eat some healthy food while you’re away. It’ll also mean it’s not so much of a shock to the system when you get home and back to training!
I found the best active things to do and healthy food to eat in Croatia so you can enjoy your holiday whilst also having some active fun.
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Dubrovnik is very busy and expensive, but unmissable if you’re into history – or Game of Thrones, of course! We stayed a 20 minute walk from the Old City, which was great, as it was much quieter and we got our heart rates up every evening walking back up the hill from the Old Town.
I’m normally about saving the best until last, but I’m going to go out strong here because this is the best thing we did while in Croatia. It’s around 35 Euros each, which seems like a lot, but you’re out for around four hours and it includes a sandwich.
You start in the West Harbour, go out around Lokrum, and back again on the other side, along the Old City walls. You see stuff you wouldn’t otherwise (like a nudist beach – ahem) and it’s the most unique experience. I thought it’d scare me but you feel completely safe inside your kayak.
If you do nothing else from this guide, make sure you do this – it’s tough on the delts and lats, so maybe do some endurance work on those in the weeks before your trip!
Another must-do is walking the walls of the Old Town. Did you know that the walls were actually constructed to keep the massive winter waves from the town, then later used as defense? (And yes, Game of Thrones is filmed here too)
It takes around an hour (two if you stop to take in the sights) and it’s actually quite hard work, as there are lots of slopes and steps to tackle. It’s no gassy WOD, but it’s good to keep you ticking over while you get the absolute best view of the Old Town and the ocean all around!
Every local we spoke to insisted that walking up Mount Srd was near impossible and we should take the cable car, which we did. But honestly it seemed completely do-able to walk up – I’d say maximum an hour, and don’t do it in the very hottest part of the day.
Make sure you take food and water up with you, as although there is a restaurant at the top it’s basic and pricey. Going down is difficult as the pathway is full of loose stones – maybe treat yourself to the cable car on the way down!
While it’s not difficult to eat healthily in Dubrovnik – you can get grilled fish and vegetables in most places, as menus tend to be fairly similar – you’ll find that inside the walls of the Old Town is very expensive and places are very busy. I would’ve loved to have tried Nishta vegetarian restaurant but it was always fully booked!
My favourite healthy meal in Dubrovnik was from a little place called Barba, which is a street seafood restaurant to the left as you come into the Old Town via Pile Gate. They’re small portions but fairly cheap, and you get loads of salad with each dish – I had the octopus salad which was great.
Hvar invites you to relax with its lazy rock beaches and old town tightly-packed with bars and restaurants, but there are active things to do if you seek them out!
This is a gentle hike up through some lovely gardens to the Fort you can see from the port. Once you get there the views of Hvar are excellent – the sea seems to glisten even more spectacularly from your vantage point! Well worth the 30 minutes it takes to get there.
Big deal, surely you can go sea swimming anywhere on a coast, right? Well, for those who are nervous of open water and the sea in particular, like myself, it’s a little more difficult than that. However, the sea around Hvar is so clear and temperate that you feel comfortable getting in fully and swimming around. A big achievement for me!
For swimming anywhere in Croatia, it’s best to wear neoprene sea shoes, as the beaches and sea floor are quite rocky and there can be spiky sea urchins around too.
Again, it’s easy to get fish and veg in Hvar, and it seemed to be more reasonably priced than Dubrovnik, too. My favourite eats were Junior – on a back street just off the port, this place is famous for its seafood – Alviz for its traditional Croatian meals (the Dalmatian beef stew was amazing), and Vita, which is more the sort of health food place you’d get in a British city, with salads, smoothies and juices. The coffee here was great too, and the only place I found that offered alternatives to dairy milk.
If I had to choose my favourite place on this trip it’d have to be Split – it’s quieter than Dubrovnik but still has the same history to offer, with more of a cosmopolitan feel. I could’ve spent a week just in Split – and you can easily visit islands like Hvar from there – so if it’s one base you’re looking for, I’d choose here.
My favourite hike we did in Split! You can choose the more coastal path (easier, but better views) or the inner forest path, perfect if the sun is beating down. It took us an hour tops to get to the very top – when you reach a staggered crossroads, take the path slightly to the right that goes up. This will take you to a spot with incredible views.
We went back down the other side of the hill and around the coast back to Split town. I’d recommend taking food and water with you, as there is nowhere to buy anything once you leave Split town, and there’s a lot of parkland there just waiting to be explored!
Would you look at that setting for a CrossFit box?! There’s no CrossFit in Dubrovnik or Hvar unfortunately, but I managed to find a box in Split. It’s around 30 minutes walk from the Old Town and drop-ins cost 100 Kuna.
The coaches speak good English and are happy for you to drop in – I did drop them a courtesy message on Facebook though to let them know when I was going down. It’s a reasonably friendly box but generally the other members kept themselves to themselves.
Like I said, Split is pretty cosmopolitan, so you can find a wide variety of eats here. My favourites were Step By Step at the bottom of Marjan for a freshly-made, locally-sourced evening meal – sea bass as above; Toto’s Burger Bar, which had far more than just burgers (although my chicken burger was great) and is where you can apparently “get fit in Split”; finally the smoothie place on the sea front does açai bowls perfect to nourish and cool down in the Croatian sun.
There is no way I’ve covered everything here – you could easily spend months travelling around Croatia and you still wouldn’t get everything done. Hopefully this has convinced you to book your next holiday there, and keep active and healthy when you get there!
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Welcome to That Squat Bot! I'm Sarah, a Personal Trainer based in Manchester, UK.
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