A comprehensive guide to Cavtat, Croatia

With rolling hills, sparkling turquoise sea, orange topped houses and luxurious yachts lining the harbour, Cavtat is a sight to behold. There is an undeniable charm about the town, making it a fascinating and beautiful holiday destination that many believe is Croatia’s best kept secret.

It’s no secret that our team at TO4U are big fans of Cavtat – we have sent dozens of our clients there in recent years. This small town/village is located just 15 kilometres from Dubrovnik, and whilst it has a popular and well-established tourist industry, a clear sense of Croatian culture remains, and it is certainly not over-crowded. It acts as a quiet haven away from the bustling, lively Dubrovnik.

My parents and I chose Cavtat for our holiday destination as we wished to visit somewhere that allowed us to both relax and explore. We also wanted somewhere with stunning scenery – and Cavtat certainly delivers in that department. Our flight to Cavtat (Dubrovnik) was from Bristol: a 2 hour 45 minute journey, flying with easyJet. Unfortunately, there was a delay once we were on the aircraft as the luggage trolleys broke – however to make up for this wait the staff invited all children into the pilot’s cockpit, which was a really sweet gesture. Dubrovnik airport – which is actually closer to Cavtat than it is Dubrovnik – is only a 15 minute transfer ride away, and thus is very convenient. Rather than using a bus, we had a pre-arranged private transfer, and whilst this is at a slight added cost, it is a hassle-free way of starting your holiday.

Many people choose Cavtat over Dubrovnik as it offers a more relaxed choice of holidaying – it could also be considered to be more child-friendly, due to its small size (That’s not saying Dubrovnik is unsafe at all!). Indeed, there were a considerable range of group types staying in Cavtat: couples of all ages; families with young or older kids and group holidays! This really helped the town feel more welcoming and less commercialised. The range of accommodation types – from private villas to small hotels to large resorts – helps cater for this.

ACTIVITIES

Although Cavtat only really has one typical “beach”, and rather has more rocky edges lining its shores, we observed many people spending all day on a towel on a smooth rock, taking breaks to dip in the beautiful sea. The one main beach, which is directly in front of the Hotel Albatros, is lined with sun loungers and popular with families. Personally, if you’re happy to explore, I would recommend finding a more secluded spot to swim on the headland rather than go to the Albatros beach. These quieter spots are still great for kids – the shallow water meant children loved swimming in the sea. The waves never became dangerous – although we had beautiful weather for the duration of our stay. I would certainly recommend wearing water shoes whilst swimming/paddling – there are a high level of sea urchins and whilst the water is clear enough to make sure you don’t step on them, it’s still a good idea to wear them. This aspect of Cavtat is very popular – we spent many hours swimming around and relaxing on a smooth rock, with a book in hand. If you find the right place you’ll only be near to a couple of others, making it very relaxing. (Our favourite spot: walk through the car park by the Tourist Information Centre, and continue for about 50m to find a quiet spot off the path. If you wish for a busier part by a restaurant, follow the path where you will come across a section of water cordoned off for swimming and various sun loungers. Continue further still and you’ll find somewhere else similar, just with a bar instead of a restaurant). If you’re looking for a classic bucket-and-spade destination, it is worth keeping in mind that Cavtat isn’t somewhere you can really build sand castles, but there’s so many other things to keep children entertained.

If swimming doesn’t suit you, Cavtat offers beautiful walking options. Every day we walked twice around the main headland, which had lovely shaded areas and lots of benches, and takes around 20 minutes if you don’t stop to take photos, sit down, etc etc. You can also walk so far around the other headland where Hotel Croatia is situated. The pine trees here are beautiful and so serene. If you wish to walk a little further, there are walks such as the Ronald Brown Pathway and one between Cavtat and nearby village of Cilipi. Whilst I’d liked to have walked these, the heat meant that this was not a sensible option! I would recommend, however, that these walks would be done in walking boots rather than sandals or flip flops.

For the thrill-seekers, Cavtat offers excellent water-sports opportunities. There are various companies based in Cavtat that offer water sports. We opted for a company called Water Sports Cavtat which is located at the end of the main car park by the tourist information centre. Before visiting Cavtat, my parents and I liked the idea of hiring paddle boards, and serenely exploring Cavtat on them. Indeed, this was a popular activity; we watched families, couples and individuals alike paddle happily around the bay. There also is the option of hiring a large family paddle board, which looked entertaining.  Rather than opting for this, my parents had become intrigued by the “Crazy UFO”. This is, essentially, an inflatable round sofa being pulled along at high speeds by a jetski. The maximum capacity on one of these is five people – a party of one to four costs 400kn (£50), with the fifth person allowed at an added cost. Our jet skier was really friendly, trustworthy and enthusiastic, and within no time we had life jackets on and were sat on the Crazy UFO, holding onto the handles tightly. Prior to starting, we were told what signs to make with our hands indicating whether we wanted to go faster, slower, or if the speed was just right. We were then powered across the water, swinging from side to side, for a duration of around 15 minutes. It was exhilarating and hilarious – with the water spray hitting you in the face and the waves making you bounce up out of your seat (hang on tight!). It was one of the highlights of my stay, and I’d thoroughly recommend it. Other water based activities included a small inflatable water park in front of the Albatros beach, pedalos with slides available to hire, small boats or jet skis to hire for the day or for an hour or two.

Another popular option was parasailing. This is also offered by Water Sports Cavtat. The cost varies, depending on whether you wish to opt for the daytime or sunset parasail, and how many people are in your party (maximum of three). This is a 10-minute long ride, where you are lifted 100m high in the air, giving (presumably) spectacular views across the bay. Every evening, as we ate dinner, we watched people parasailing around the bay, and whilst short, it looked like a brilliant experience, especially with the backdrop of the beautiful sunsets.

The general vibe in Cavtat in the evenings is wonderful. Shops stay open much later than in the UK, encouraging people to wander the streets as the sun goes down. The week we stayed was their music week, meaning there were live performances by the harbour throughout our trip, adding a fantastic atmosphere. One night we watched the local majorettes, which was a lovely insight into local life.

DAY TRIPS

We spent ten days in Cavtat, and only went on two day trips (one to Dubrovnik, and another to the Island of Lokrum). Dubrovnik is a must-visit. It is worth researching the best days to visit, as we timed our trip for when there wasn’t a cruise liner in, so that there would be less crowds. The boat trip between Cavtat and Dubrovnik takes an hour – technically, it is about a 30 minute journey, however the boat stops at nearby villages of Plat, Mlini and Sobreno on the way, which doubles the duration. These are all much smaller than Cavtat, and whilst still looked charming in their own right, appeared more dominated by a single large resort-style hotel, which is different to Cavtat. One aspect of the boat journey to look out for is the resort village of Kupari, which is easily spotted by its abandoned hotels on the waterfront. This acted as a stark reminder of how recent the fullsizeoutput_baaCroatian War of Independence was. The beach in front is very popular, and it was quite surreal watching people lounging in front of empty hotels with visible shelling damage. We arrived in Dubrovnik at 10:00, and the harbour of the Old Town was already bustling. The streets with beautiful old stone and orange topped houses were beautiful, albeit very bright and hot! After walking down the main Old Town street, we then wandered into the side streets. Here, we were met by narrow flights of stairs with plants emerging out of the walls, and windows flung open. This provided an insight into the daily lives of Dubrovnik citizens, and there was something so intriguing about it. We wandered down further and decided to go on the City Walls walk, in order to capture the views of Dubrovnik in their best light. It is worth noting that this walk is not cheap – 200kn (£25) per adult – but this is a similar price to the 3 minute journey in Dubrovnik’s cable car. The walls operate a one-way system which helps the experience be much less stressful and less crowded. Once on the walls, the views of Dubrovnik are beautiful.

At various points around the walk, there are cafes and stalls selling fresh drinks and ice lollies, etc etc. Despite this, I would thoroughly recommend bringing your own water and snacks as you will save money, and equally you need water the whole way round. Due to the heat, it took us 2 hours, but we spent lots of time stopping to take photos! With young kids, I would expect it could take up to 3 hours on a hot day, as it is quite a long walk. I certainly wouldn’t let the heat and the length put you off this, as it was stunning. Every corner we turned would reveal another lovely view. Once we had finished our walk, we left to find the shop Kawa, as it was recommended in Lonely Planet, promoted as a shop selling Croatian-made goods. It is located just outside of the city walls, and is a great place to pick up some genuinely charming souvenirs. Afterwards, we stopped for lunch. Dubrovnik has hundreds of eateries, and I would recommend having a few places in mind for lunch/dinner before you go. We ate at “Snogu”, a fast-food Asian restaurant with a casual vibe and delicious food, located directly outside the City Walls. The total cost was around £50 for three meals, two beers and one lemonade – relatively pricey for a fast food eatery, but significantly cheaper than options within the City Walls.

On our way back to Cavtat we faced our only issue of the entire holiday, where the boat reached full capacity, meaning we couldn’t get on, and the extra boat sent out to deal with the issue was only going to Mlini, meaning we had to wait an extra hour. When buying boat tickets in Cavtat, your ticket only entitles you to travel with one particular boat operator – there were around 4 operating companies in Cavtat. This is something I would be aware of, but it isn’t a factor that put me off visiting Dubrovnik at all!

Our second trip was to the Island of Lokrum, which is directly outside Dubrovnik. We chose to visit this island rather than the tour of the Elaphiti Islands as we preferred the idea of having all day exploring one island, rather than a short period of time in three different islands. On arrival to Lokrum, you are required to pay 120kn per person – cash or card. The island is in beautiful condition, so it can be assumed this charge goes towards the upkeep of it. We spent a lovely 7 hours or so walking around the island – we went up to the fort, mistakenly thinking it was where the Game of Thrones chair was (it isn’t!) and this provided the most beautiful view. We also swam in the Dead Sea Lake which we loved – again, swimming shoes are recommended. Lokrum is also iconic for its peacocks and rabbits – they were very friendly, especially the rabbits, who were happy to be followed around by kids – it was sweet watching them whilst we ate our picnic! There are three or four restaurants/bars on the island, however most people opt for picnics as the prices are quite high.

Whilst Lokrum and Dubrovnik are two very popular day trip options, there are plenty of other excursions available too. We arranged boat tickets with Michael, whose agency is located just beyond Hotel Cavtat. For people wishing to explore further than Croatia, a popular trip is to Kotor in Montenegro. Equally, if you are happy to spend multiple hours on a coach, trips to Split in the north of Croatia are also offered. For those after a spot of wine tasting, this is offered too, where a coach from Cavtat takes you into the hills to a vineyard!

WHERE TO EAT and DRINK IN CAVTAT

Hdw1zUIrT9ybORLySOgAlthough we were on half-board basis, my parents and I were keen to seek out the best eateries in Cavtat. There is a great range of food in the town, from authentic Croatian cuisine to a simple burger and chips. For coffee and cafe, I would recommend “Peco”, a surprisingly large cafe with indoor and outdoor seating directly in the centre. As dairy milk differs to milk in the UK, there was a distinct difference, but the coffee itself was good quality. Their pastries are delicious too, and their waiter was really friendly.

Without a doubt, I would recommend Bugenvila for a meal. Located on the harbour-side, it is possibly the most expensive restaurant in Cavtat, but has exceptionally presented food that tastes beautiful. We chose to visit for lunch, and booked a table in advance, meaning we were given a table with the best views. On request, they offer a vegetarian menu, which I ordered from, whereas my parents ordered from the set lunch menu. A complimentary side of homemade bread rolls and truffle butter is provided, which were delicious. My parents opted for three courses, whereas I chose two. Below are photos of our courses, all of which were sublime. To accompany, my parents shared a bottle of wine, Grk Birre, which they adored, whereas I had a non-alcoholic cocktail. Despite being known for being expensive, the lunch set menu was 189kn per person (£23) for three courses, which we felt was very good value. Instead, it is the added extras, like the wine and desserts which increase the overall price! They also offer a children’s menu, with pasta and chicken goujons, and appeared more than happy to adjust and create dishes for children too – the family by us requested a smaller version of a dish for their son, which they happily catered for. The service was relaxed and attentive, and visit was one of my highlights of the trip.

I felt it was sensible to compare average meal prices in Cavtat to the UK. Using a guide of a family of four, with one child eating from the children’s menu, I gathered the average cost of a meal with desserts – without drinks – at restaurants Ivan, Ciparis and Kabalero. A typical meal for 4 appeared to come to around £75 without drinks, which is not largely different to UK prices. We also learnt that dinner at Hotel Cavtat (for those staying) cost 135kn (£17) per person for unlimited food and desserts.

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Bubble Waffle

For ice cream, the most popular choice is the “House of Ice Cream”, at 10kn per scoop (£1.20). Their mango ice cream was delicious, as was their Nutella ice cream. However, their tiramisu ice cream was essentially just vanilla, so was disappointing! There are various stalls outside shops selling ice cream, so there’s lots of options. In the evenings, there are various street vendors selling an array of sweet treats, from crepes to slushies to candy floss to bubble waffles, which all stayed open late. I attempted to eat a bubble waffle, but it was far too big to eat by myself!

Every night we stopped off at a bar for a cocktail or two. For a perfect location to sip a drink, I would recommend Beach Bar Banac, located near Hotel Croatia. They specialise in various types of mojito – I would highly recommend their mango mojito! This bar was the most expensive we visited, with three cocktails for £25, but they are the only bar in this area, so the views are stunning. The music here may not be to everyone’s taste, but I personally enjoyed it. We also stopped off at Amfora bar another night (not on Tripadvisor) where we had three cocktails for £15. However, the vibe here felt less relaxed and more cramped, but the live music was a nice touch. For other nights, we opted for cocktails at Hotel Cavtat’s bar. There are four different areas to sit and drink – two inside and two outside, and you don’t have to be staying at Hotel Cavtat to use their bar. The drinks here are well priced and well made, and the inside bar had TVs where you can watch live sport.

Cavtat has two mini supermarkets, where you can stock up on sun cream and mosquito spray, a freshly baked loaf of bread or slice of pizza! I picked up a carton of soya milk there (and later found out Hotel Cavtat provide it if asked), and we often stopped there for snacks and cold drinks. I’d especially recommend getting elderflower Fanta, which is an intriguing bright blue but surprisingly good and I wish we had it in the UK…!

HOTELS

For our holiday, we stayed in Hotel Cavtat, a lovely 3 star hotel located in an excellent position on the seafront. There are two distinct areas of the hotel, with the new rooms towards the back and the old rooms towards the front. We were in the newly decorated Superior room with interconnecting door, which is perfect for families. Interconnecting rooms do not have sea-view rooms, but the view is even better outside, so it wouldn’t be a factor that would put me off staying in an interconnecting room. These Superior rooms are stylishly decorated and impeccably clean, with lovely comfy beds. The bathrooms were excellent too, with the showers being of a good pressure. Tripadvisor reviews complain about the Air Conditioning being centrally controlled, however I believe this is something that only occurs in the Classic Rooms, as we were easily able to adjust our Air Con. Breakfasts and dinners are buffet style, and the food was always well cooked with a good variety available. I managed to eat vegetarian food almost all week. Breakfasts were always busy, but were generally quieter before 8 and after 9, and once you became familiar with the location of everything, it was hassle free. The staff were all polite – Andrea in the restaurant was especially friendly and sweet. The hotel was popular with families with children of all ages, as well as older couples.

Hotel Cavtat has an infinity pool, however I didn’t choose to use it as there were plenty of swimming spots outside! Equally, Hotel Cavtat has its own private swimming area directly outside the hotel. The pool appeared to be more suited to people wanting a serene swim, rather than somewhere for kids to dive into. This is not to the hotel’s detriment, as Cavtat’s waters are so child-friendly that I would simply recommend families to swim outside instead. There are multiple places to buy large floats (flamingos, pineapples, etc!) to use. I would thoroughly recommend Hotel Cavtat, although I would attempt to secure a Superior or Deluxe room, as having a lovely room definitely enhanced our stay.

Another popular hotel in Cavtat is Hotel Croatia, which is a large 5* with an exterior that resembles a cruise liner. Hotel Croatia has its own small play park for kids and two pools (indoor and outdoor), as well as a multitude of private swimming areas. They also provide a buggy service into the harbour, which is a nice touch.

MONEY

Tipping does not appear to be expected within Cavtat – for example, for our meal at Bugenvila, a service charge was not added to our bill. Obviously, if you feel that the service you receive is worth a tip, then do so (we tipped 10% at Bugenvila).

Most establishments in Cavtat and Dubrovnik took card payments – we used a combination of card and cash. When using a card, personally I would recommend paying in local currency if you are given the choice, as I believe the exchange rates are better.

Dubrovnik airport’s duty-free section does not take Croatian Kuna, only Euros (or card), however their cafe past duty-free happily takes Kuna. So, it may be worth trying to spend all your Kuna in the town rather than the airport.

OTHER POINTS

Cavtat is directly under the flight path to Dubrovnik airport, meaning during the day and into the evening there are various planes coming over. This is something to be aware of, however it didn’t detract from my stay whatsoever, as they are over and gone in 30 seconds. It certainly isn’t a continuous stream of planes coming over, and the latest they came over was around 22:30, so it didn’t affect sleep.

Be very cautious of your mobile network provider whilst in Cavtat. Whilst Croatia is usually included in European zones, meaning you can use your data and texts like you can in the UK, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina aren’t. (Check with your provider though about their rules in Croatia, as I only have experience with o2.) As Cavtat is very near to Bosnia, my mobile network connected to a Bosnian provider briefly, meaning I was charged £40, even though I was only using it for about 15 minutes before realising. To prevent these unwanted charges, turn your mobile network selection to “manual” rather than “automatic”, and choose a network that your provider has stated it is okay to use.

To buy souvenirs, I would recommend Skatulica, which sells a range of wooden items, chocolates, creams and other little gifts. We stopped in there multiple times during our stay, as whilst it was a small shop, it’s packed with little (well priced) items!

The harbour is the best place to catch the sunset. We walked over there every evening after dinner to sit and watch the sun go down, which was beautiful. At the same time there was always a game of water polo going on, which was fun to watch too!

Cavtat has cats everywhere! None of them were aggressive, and instead were either very friendly or rather disinterested in people. We loved watching them lounge on the deck outside our hotel or sat on the wall by the small supermarket.

Mosquitos are something to be aware of whilst in Cavtat. Some people are more prone to being bitten – for example, I was only bitten twice (on my last night!) whereas my mother was bitten multiple times. I would thoroughly recommend buying good quality mosquito repellent – you will be reapplying it multiple times during the day!

So…

Would I recommend Cavtat? Without a doubt. There’s still a magic to the town where despite knowing you’re surrounded by fellow tourists, you still feel like you are exploring somewhere less discovered. It’s also beautiful – the type of place where photos simply do not do it justice.

If your interest has been piqued by this blog, please contact us at enquiries@traveloptions4u.co.uk or pop in and visit us at our office! If you have a specific question about Cavtat, feel free to address your email to myself – Abi – and I’d be more than happy to answer.

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