Makarska has long appealed to holidaying tourists eager to soak up the sun and party late into night – which just happen to be two of the best things to do in Makarska. The pebbly beaches, stretching or 1.5 miles, sit under the gaze of Biokovo Mountain and are sandwiched between the cool waters of the Adriatic Sea and shaded gardens of evergreens. At the center of Makarska is the historic Old Town boasting dozens of restaurants and a pleasant harbor filled with gently rocking boats. The nightlife options are slim, but that fact is overcome by a unique and iconic club in a seaside cave.
Makarska is the epitome of a classic summer-by-the-sea (and a Croatian city we had long wanted to see). Our visit, however, was in the spring and we were looking for things to do in Makarska beyond beach bumming. And, as much as we would have liked to sip a drink at a cave bar, it was closed during our visit. We wondered if our week-long, off-season stay might be a few days too long. As it turned out, the springtime weather was ideal for an active and lovely stay by the sea.
12 Things to do in Makarska
Stroll along the shoreline
The craggy coastline of the Makarska Riviera is covered in dirt trails and paved paths that lead both north and south from the city center. The routes that hug the shoreline provide panoramic vistas of translucent teal water and off-shore islands. Walk north to Krvavica, where there is a small marina and an awesome (and eerie!) abandoned hotel. To the south is a path that leads to the resort town of Tucepi. The trail runs through the forest (sometimes along the edge of the cliff above the sea) – and there are several paths leading to incredible lookout points.
Hike up the mountain
The highest peak in the Biokovo Mountain range, St. Jure (St. George), stands more than a mile above sea-level. Ascending St. Jure from Makarska is estimated to take 7 hours one-way, which is a little intense for us (with a car, it’s possible to drive to several lookout points). However, following the trail from the Old Town to St. Ivan Church and the town of Makar made us feel like we were conquering the mountain. We actually hiked a little further and were rewarded with stunning sea views.
Sail away to an island
There are 79 islands (and about 500 islets!) that dot the Adriatic Sea along the Dalmatian Coast. Brac and Hvar are two of the largest islands…both of which are just off-shore from Makarska. Set sail from the harbor on a scheduled excursion or rent a boat to navigate the waters. The behemoth Makarski Jadran is a popular party boat that bounces around the islands on day trips or, for a budget option, jump onboard the ferry that departs multiple times daily (schedule) to Sumartin, Brac.
Hop on a bicycle
The coastline trails on the Makarska Riviera aren’t only for walking – many of the paths are suitable for biking, too! Bikes can be rented from tourist agencies or via the bike sharing system, Nextbike.
Take a day trip
Centrally located on the Dalmatian Coast, Makarska makes a great base for not only island hopping, but also for exploring nearby cities. Travelers without a car have no need to worry – tour companies offer day trip excursions in nearly every direction! Head south to the Pearl of the Adriatic and discover the city of Dubrovnik. A trip north can lead to Krka National Park, a wonderland of waterfalls. Visit the city of Split and marvel at Diocletian’s Palace. Wine lovers won’t want to miss a day trip to Peljesac Peninsula, which is covered in vineyards and family-run wineries. Nature enthusiasts can spend the day on a boat in Cetina Canyon. Or, those who would rather be in the water, can learn to scuba dive in the Adriatic Sea.
Shop at a village market
Tucked into the mountains between Makarska and Omis is Zadvarje – a tiny village with a magnificent market. Rather than clustering into a square or park, the random booths of the Tuesday market are set up along both sides of the main street. While the usual Croatian market offerings are all present – in-season produce, local meats and cheeses, homemade jam and fresh fish from the sea – the Zadvarje market has heaps of unique products for sale. Tables are piled with hardware supplies, antiques are laid out on blankets, lamb is roasted on a spit and, in an open lot, men negotiate prices for cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. (Note: To go to the Zadvarje market, a car is required. Tourist agencies may organize bus tours in the summer. We were fortunate enough to have our Airbnb hosts let us tag along on their trip!)
Watch sunset from St. Peter’s Peninsula
Sunsets in Makarska are stunning – especially so from St. Peter’s Peninsula. Find a spot on the rocks by St. Peter’s Lighthouse (built in 1884) on the northern tip or follow one of the trails to a secluded clearing on top of the west-facing cliffs, east of St. Peter’s Church.
Bare it all at the nude beach
For visitors to Makarska interested in attaining a no-line tan, there are several nude beaches to achieve a full-body bronzing. It is common to see women sunbathing topless, but the beaches where baring-it-all is expected are marked FKK (for the German word “Freikorper-Kultur,” meaning free body culture). The most popular nude beach in Makarska is Nugal – a secluded crescent alcove beneath a cliff. To get to the picturesque beach, follow the shoreline trail on the Osejava Peninsula.
Drink Croatian craft beer
While the craft beer scene has yet to catch on in Makarska, there is one bar, Pivnica Pivac, which is stocked with microbrew bottles from around the world and pours Croatian craft beer on tap. Located on the harbor, Pub Pivac (Rooster Pub) is also fantastic for people-watching.
Walk through Kacic Square
At the heart of every old town is a main square…and in Makarska the main square is Kacic Square. Dominated by St. Mark’s Church and bell tower, the square is also home to the Kacic-Miosic Monument (erected in 1890) and a Venetian drinking fountain. To the left of the church is the city’s Green Market where vendors sell fresh produce and flowers every morning.
Search the sky for stars
Built on a Glavica Hill on the site of a World War II monument, Makarska’s Astronomical Observatory is hidden amongst a ring of towering evergreen trees to protect the site from city lights. The small silo-looking building is open after dark when visitors can look at the stars and planets in the sky.
Check out a festival
As a top destination on the Dalmatian Coast, there is almost always something going on in Makarska. Our visit coincided with a weekend wine festival, complete with lots of wine, DJs and live performances. Stop by the Makarska Tourist Board office to check the schedule of events and upcoming festivals!
Want to check out more of Croatia? Take a look at our 2-Week Croatia Itinerary!
We want to know: Have you been to the Makarska Riviera? What do you think are the best things to do in Makarska? Tell us in the comments!
Our top tips for your trip to Makarska
Where To Stay
During our visit to Makarska, we stayed in this awesome Airbnb Apartment. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) Toni and Darren are wonderful hosts and have stylish and spacious apartments in the heart of the city.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Makarska hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Top-rated hotels to check out for your upcoming trip: Hotel Park, Hotel Osejava and Hotel Dalmacija. Budget travelers might want to check out these hostels: Hostel Yeti or Hostel Makarska – or check for Couchsurfing hosts in Makarska, where you can stay for free.
When you are traveling and want (or need!) to stay connected, a wifi hotspot is the way to go. When traveling through Croatia, you can stay connected with reliable wifi from Roam Free Ninja. The personal mobile wifi hotspot can be rented for days or months at a time and allows you to easily connect to the internet from your mobile devices wherever you are. With a Roam Free Ninja hotspot, you can search for directions, look up sight information and share your travel experiences on social media in real time.
Before You Go
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- It’s easy to get turned around or lost in any new city! Be sure to have a good guidebook prior to arriving.
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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