What does a holiday in Croatia for kids and families look like? Some practical tips on things to do, things to know, and things to avoid. But the good news is – a holiday in Croatia for kids and families is FANTASTIC!
- Is Croatia a kid-friendly destination?
- Where is the best place to go in Croatia for families?
- When is the best time to visit Croatia with kids?
- What is the best type of accommodation in Croatia for kids?
- Safety and the community: Croatia LOVES children
- Beaches in Croatia with children: what you need to know
- Eating in restaurants with kids
- The first Croatian word your children will remember: sladoled
- Things to do in Croatia for kids – some exciting museums
- Croatia for kids – nature & national parks and eco-farms
- The magic of the historic old towns in Croatia for kids
- Waterparks and other active holiday options
- Split for kids
- Dubrovnik for kids
- Istria for kids
- Zagreb for kids
- Rijeka for kids
- Slavonia for kids
- Zadar for kids
- Sibenik for kids
- Hvar for kids
- Babysitting services
- Travel with kids in Croatia
- Baby-friendly facilities and shopping supplies for kids
- How parents can relax in Croatia and look after the kids at the same time
Absolutely! Croatia adores children. One of the things I have appreciated most about living in Croatia is the sense of community which has been somewhat lost in more ‘civilised’ countries. Watching kids running around the square, intermingling with young tourists of the same age without a common language, while chilling over a cold beer, is one of my favourite memories of my time here. Generations of families do things together more than back home, and everyone looks out for kids and is ready to help. It is a very reassuring place to both travel and be a parent .
That obviously depends on what kind of family you are and what kind of holiday you are looking for. The bigger hotels have great facilities for children, with great summer programmes for the younger ones.
Other families prefer a more homely environment where they can cook, and there is plenty of quality choice of private accommodation which caters to kids. The arrival of AirBnB and similar platforms haver their pros and cons, but they have definitely raised the standard in requiring owners to provide services and facilities for families if they want the bookings.
If you have never camped before, consider it for Croatia. For Croatian has a very developed camping scene. And camping does not mean only tents. These days, bungalows and other more fixed and luxury accommodation are on offer. And they often come with the benefit of a full entertainment programme for the kids.
One other big growth area in recent years has been the rise in quality places to stay on eco-farms, particularly in continental Croatia. A chance to get away from the stresses of modern life, the kids are free to run around with nature, play with animals, eat healthy food, and learn a little about how life was before technology took over.
The school holidays are obviously the time when kids at school can travel. Prices are understandably higher, and temperatures are also hotter in July and August. Although the beaches are packed at this time (at least in non-pandemic years), one can always find a quiet beach in a country with over 1,000 islands and almost 2,000 km of coastline.
Prices and temperatures are lower in June and September, so a holiday as soon as school finishes or just before it restarts is not a bad option. Many hotels have special offers for half-term, and there is usually a good selection of flights at this time.
But for something a little different, why not check out Croatia in winter? Advent in Zagreb is truly magical, and it was voted the Best Christmas Market in Europe three years in a row.
And if you thought that Plitvice Lakes were stunning in summer, take a look at the video above.
Learn more about what Croatia has to offer in When to Visit Croatia: Your 12-Month Guide to Paradise.
As mentioned above, it depends on what you are looking for. The good news is that the quality of accommodation has improved a lot in the last few years. Guests can now shop around a lot more, and there are now more facilities for families in accommodation than even 5 years ago.
Hotels and resorts have great programmes for the kids so that the adults can relax with a cocktail by the pool. Private accommodation quality is rising constantly for those who want to self-cater. And camping and eco-farms offer a more natural experience.
With the possible exception of Japan, I have never lived in a safer country than Croatia, both from a crime point of view, as well as for children. Croatians adore children, and they will often strike up conversations or hand over little gifts to kids on the street or at the next table in a cafe.
After watching my kids like a hawk when I first took them down to a cafe on the main square, it did not take me long to realise that the whole square was also looking out for them. If one of my kids fell over, there would be typically 3-4 concerned locals who would get there first.
If you are used to sandy beaches on holiday, prepare for a totally different experience in Croatia. Get to know clear waters that you may not find in other places. Many Croatian beaches are rocky or have small pebbles. This results in much clearer water undisturbed by the sand. There are sandy beaches, but not so many. But if you haven’t had the rocky/pebbly Croatian beach experience, I recommend you try it.
Locals often wear flip flops into the water to walk across the pebbles in more comfort. Learn more about where to find the best beaches in the TC Beaches in Croatia guide.
Sea urchins: the Adriatic’s delicious foot-stabbers.
This will be a common sight during your swims in the Adriatic. Teach your kids to keep away from them, for sea urchins taste delicious on the inside but are rather prickly on the outside. Joe Orovic wrote a brilliant piece on TCN some time ago, which I heartily recommend. Sea Urchins: Dalmatia’s Delicious Foot-Stabbers.
Eat early. Restaurants can get very busy in the season, and waiting times can be longer than hungry young stomachs will tolerate. More restaurants now offer kids menus, but traditionally, kids eat from the same menu. It is all delicious, and the waiter will guide you through the more popular dishes for kids.
And if all else fails, there is always pizza.
Some restaurants have high chairs for toddlers, but by no means all. If you need one, check before you book/sit.
Ice cream – or sladoled – is a popular fixture on the coast. The quality is superb, the choice incredible, and the entertainment sometimes outstanding. And many cafes serve both alcohol and ice cream, which I have found to be a very civilised family combination over the years.
Croatia has AMAZING museums for kids. From the groundbreaking Museum of Illusions in Zagreb to the incredible Krapina Neanderthal Museum and the unbelievable Vucedol Museum near Vukovar. Looking for quirky? Have you ever seen anything quite like Froggyland in Split? Check out the option in our Museums in Croatia guide.
More than 10% of Croatia has been given over to national and nature parks. The country is already so beautiful, and it is great to see that so much of it is being looked after for future generations. Many have additional activities for the kids, as well as the natural beauty. Meet the 20 National and Nature parks of Croatia in a Page.
And don’t leave Croatia without taking the kids to an eco-farm. The traditional ways of the past are hardly understood by kids these days. Croatia has some outstanding eco-farms which will take you back to your childhood and open their eyes. One of my very favourite projects like this is my good friend Mario Romulic just outside Osijek. Mario is building an unbelievable eco-resort. You can follow it on Facebook to learn more and watch it grow.
If you are amazed at the old walls of Dubrovnik, the basement of Diocletian’s Palace, or the gladiator fights at the Pula Arena, just imagine what the kids will be thinking. Croatia gives a fantastic opportunity for children to learn about history and heritage in a fun and engaging way.
Some tourism providers are understanding this and designing tours to meet the opportunity. Among my favourite is former TCN writer Ivica Profaca, with his Diocletian’s Palace walking tour of Split for kids. It is superb.
Check with the local tourist board for the latest offers to entertain the kids.
Aquaparks are obviously fun attractions for the kids, and they exist in various sizes along the coast. The biggest are Istralandia near Novigrad, Aquacolours in Porec, Cikat in Mali Losinj, and Aquapark Dalmatia in Sibenik.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Ziplining, kayaking, sailing school, horseriding, cycling, climbing, scuba diving, the list goes on. Croatia is a GREAT outdoor destination for families.
Hotels and more luxury accommodation will have babysitting services, but what if you are staying somewhere more modest? How do you find a babysitter you can trust in a foreign country?
One tip is to join one of the Expat Facebook groups that exist in Croatia a few months before you travel and start to ask around. You will get to know the community and a little more about those offering babysitting services. This may help you decide. Two of the best Expat groups are Expats Meet Split and Expats in Zagreb (Official).
I don’t have to tell any parent that travelling in Croatia with kids needs a little thought. The heat, the crowds, the travel times. All can impact the success of a holiday if not thought through.
Use sunscreen, avoid the busiest tourist hours, eat early, hydrate. All common sense.
But know also that travel in Croatia is exotic. Kids LOVE the ferry experience, for example. And when was the last time you were on a train? Have your kids EVER been on a train.
There are pretty decent baby-changing facilities in most of the bigger towns and shopping centres. And in smaller places, feel free to go local. I used to do diaper changes at the local cafe in Jelsa (much to the admiration of some of the local mothers). Breast-feeding among locals is not that common, but is generally accepted.
Supermarkets have good stocks of supplies for things you will need for kids. The two stores, DM and Muller, have probably the best range.
In case of emergency, the number to dial is 112. More on emergencies on the dedicated TC page.
Life on a square in Dalmatia is unbeatable. Fun for kids of all ages, under the supervision of parents able to relax over a coffee, or something stronger. And there are always certain natural props which can entertain the little ones and stop them running around for 5 minutes.
Croatia for kids? I have never been to a country which does it better.