Sea kayaking holidays in Croatia

As one goes through life, one learns that if you don't paddle your own canoe, you don't move.
- Katherine Hepburn
Kayaking is almost synonymous with Croatia. And if you want to ‘move’, in the words of the iconic actress Katharine Hepburn, through its marine magnificence, this really is the way to do it. With a collection of over 1,000 islands grouped into several archipelagos, sea kayaking in Croatia really is living.

There are a few myths out there about kayaking, for those who have never had that experience of pushing their posteriors into plastic and then sliding out into sea. Most importantly, just about anyone can do it. Secondly, you are never too old or young to start. There are buoyancy aids made for babies these days, and you can paddle in a tandem kayak with your children if you like. Although for your own peace of mind, and sometimes for insurance purposes, many kayaking tour operators insist that you can swim. Thirdly, it isn’t always as tiring as you might imagine, especially if you are a beginner, when expert kayaking tour operators will choose itineraries that mean you can just sit pretty and go with the flow, building up slowly and kayaking between two to five hours a day.

Independent versus guided holidays

Experienced kayakers have been paddling their way around Croatia’s archipelagos for years, and there are plenty of holidays out there catering for those who know the ropes and can kayak between several islands, all before breakfast. And do so independently with no guides. For the most part, however, kayak holidays in Croatia cater for the paddle and pootle brigade, and for those who are happier being out on the waves with an expert instructor guide. Sea kayaking needs some expert knowledge and so, if in doubt, go on a guided tour. It makes for a much more stress-free holiday.

The Elaphiti Islands

The most accessible sea kayaking is around the islands that glisten tantalisingly off the Dubrovnik coast. They are the Elaphiti Islands, a small archipelago covering around 30km2, the main ones being Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep. You can spend a week kayaking on this part of the Dalmatian coast, travelling in a small group and being fully guided by expert kayakers, taking your first trip out onto the water by ferry to Lopud. Here you will spend a day getting used to being on a kayak, paddling around tranquil, sandy bays such as Sunj, having a sunset walk through its lush woodland, and then chilling at a waterfront café in the evening.

When you are kayak confident, you will start island hopping, leaving your bags to be transferred for you by a boat while you go in search of, for example, the island of Sipan, this time without a ferry. After kayaking through turquoise Adriatic waters past natural stone arches, dramatic cliffs and a cornucopia of coves, you reach its coast, letting the waves carry you ashore. Sipan is the largest of the Elaphiti Islands and a place to also explore on land, with a plethora of ancient, romantic towns, tiny fishing villages, vineyards and olive grove covered hills.

A highlight for many kayakers is the exploration of sea caves. Paddle out to the island of Ruda, off Sipan, then kayak to, and swim through, a hole into a magical, shimmering cave, where the sunlight peeks through just enough to illuminate it and the water. Sea kayaking holidays in Croatia, whether four-day breaks or weeklong odysseys, are full of magical maritime moments like this.

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Sea kayaking holiday in Croatia

Sea kayaking holiday in Croatia

Kayaking holiday on stunning Elaphite Islands near Dubrovnik

From €890 to €935 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2024: 1 Jun, 15 Jun, 22 Jun, 29 Jun, 20 Jul, 27 Jul, 3 Aug, 10 Aug, 17 Aug, 24 Aug, 31 Aug, 7 Sep, 14 Sep, 21 Sep, 28 Sep, 5 Oct, 12 Oct
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Mljet Island National Park

If island hopping isn’t your thing, you can spend several days exploring different hidden coves and beaches around the island of Mljet, Croatia’s only island national park and located in the Dubrovnik archipelago. Three quarters of this stunner are covered in forest, so although you can also hike through it, sometimes taking a kayak around it is the only way to explore it fully. You can also kayak and swim on its two saltwater lakes which are the glistering sapphires in its emerald interior.

Istrian idylls

It is hard to find a bit of the coast that isn’t covered by sea kayaks, and the Istrian Peninsula in the north is another paddling paradise. This is a good spot for a multi activity holiday in Croatia, combining sea kayaking around the ancient coastal town of Rovinj or the Porec Islands, for example, with a couple of days’ hiking in Plitvice National Park. Water addicts need not panic, however, as Plitvice is a land of 16 freshwater lakes and 90 waterfalls. And for those who like the idea of combining inland and coastal, you can also go on a kayaking holiday that starts on the Zrmanja and Krupa Rivers in Velebit Nature Park, rafting or canoeing all the way down to Obrovac, where you change to sea kayaks and enter the Novigrad Sea.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Huck Finn Adventures] [Intro: Huck Finn Adventures] [Independent versus guided holidays : Huck Finn Adventures] [Mljet Island National Park: Patrick Rouzet]