There is a lot to enjoy in Makarska. This lovely little Mediterranean town will offer you loads of sunshine and some spectacular beaches, but you also have the unique backdrop of the majestic Biokovo Mountain. However, there is much more to this place than just stunning nature, and you can learn all about that from a local! Yes, here you will find the best tips about restaurants and beaches, but you will also find out what should be visited while in town and get plenty of tips that will help you have a perfect vacation. Start planning with the help of this guide!
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR MAKARSKA TOWN
(written by a local)
How’s this for a vacation destination? A small charming Mediterranean town right on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. In front of it lie some of the most beautiful islands you have ever seen, while behind it an impressive mountain range rises high into the sky. Along the coast surrounding this town are other, equally picturesque towns and villages, but there is also an ancient city in the vicinity too, full of impressive ancient architecture, great food and fascinating culture. You can also enjoy beautiful beaches, but there are also plenty of hiking trails to choose from if you desire some peace and quiet. “You can’t have all of that in one place!”, I hear you say, but that’s where you’re wrong. You can, and the place is called Makarska.
This lovely little town in Croatia’s south is a fantastic place for spending your summer vacation, and to help you make the most of your time here, you have a local (yours truly) assembling the ultimate Makarska guide for you. In the rest of this extensive article, you will find out which sights to visit, what the best beaches are, how to save money, where to eat, and a whole bunch of other details that can improve your experience and help you have a better vacation. In short, if you want to learn everything there is to know about Makarska, you couldn’t have come to a better place. Keep reading!
What’s the weather like in Makarska?
The weather in Makarska is fairly typical for this part of Croatia and even the Mediterranean in general. The summers, especially July and August are very warm, often hot, and this is the peak of the tourist season. However, September and June (especially its latter half) are also excellent choices if you’re wondering when to come to Makarska – it’s still very much the time when you can go to the beach, but the prices are lower.
Spring is warm and sunny around here, so if you want to enjoy nice walks along the coast while the weather still isn’t too hot, this is the place to be. Also, as mentioned, thanks to the wonderful Biokovo mountain above the town, you can enjoy some spectacular hiking trails. As a matter of fact, Biokovo is a nature park and one of Game of Thrones locations in Croatia, so if you’re a fan of the show, going there is a must.
The fall is generally quite warm deep into October, whereas November can be a bit on the wet side. Still, coming here in late September can get you some great deals while often even providing warm enough weather for a swim.
Winters in Makarska are generally quite mild compared to some other places. Very rarely will you see snow here, but it can get windy, which often makes you feel that it’s a lot colder than what the thermometer says. Still, if you want to get away from the freezing cold for Christmas, Makarska is a great choice, although do be aware that you will find fewer restaurants and bars open – many of them only work during the tourist season.
What to do in Makarska?
Makarska is a great spot for an active yet relaxing vacation. I’ve already mentioned Biokovo as a great place for hiking (the view from up there is just amazing), but you may also be able to rent a mountain house to combine the mountain with the surrounding sea even more. That will surely provide you with an amazing experience. However, there are plenty of other things you can do. A big sports center is located in town, so if you’re here with a group of friends you can enjoy plenty of team sports. That, however, is just the beginning.
You like to hop on a bike and just take off? The road leading from Makarska goes right along the coast and offers some wonderful scenery. And just a few kilometers away are the towns of Baška Voda and Brela (towards north) and Tučepi (south), which are all known quite well as excellent places for tourists. You can also head to Biokovo this way for some off-road mountain biking. Be warned, it can get quite hot during summer here, so make sure you have plenty of water with you.
Hop on a semi-submarine
One of the main attractions in Makarska is a ride aboard a semi-submarine. This way you get to explore the seabed in quite a unique way, and you will be blown away by the beauty the shimmering sunlight creates down there. It’s also something that’s going to wow kids and leave them amazed, but for a really memorable experience, you should book a night cruise. it really is a nice addition to your vacation and something that is bound to stay with you long after you leave.
There’s still much more you can do in Makarska, and it would be a real shame not to mention Safari Makarska here. This tour will take you in a jeep up the Biokovo Mountain and show you the incredibly interesting flora and fauna that can be found there. Probably the most impressive feature of the trip is the walk along the Skywalk, a glass-floor deck that allows you to experience heights of this mountain in a completely different way. Don’t worry, it’s all completely safe. You will also get to enjoy some incredible views and learn a lot about Dalmatian traditions and way of life. Even a traditional Dalmatian brunch will be provided! A wonderful day in nature, no doubt about that.
Aquaparks around and in Makarska
There are several aquaparks to choose from when in Makarska, and they are always a great way to have loads of fun, especially if you’re here with the whole family. Two of them are in Makarska itself (Sharko and Aqua Park), but there are more choices if you head to Baška Voda and beyond Tučepi. So, there’s a great reason to go exploring the whole Makarska Riviera – not only will you find some incredible beaches there (there’s a part of this article dedicated solely to them), but you can enjoy all kinds of fun activities in some great aquaparks.
What to see in Makarska?
Makarska is a dream come true for art lovers. There is a whole lot to see here if that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in, although you won’t be disappointed if you prefer good restaurants or are just looking for some great beach. Still, we need to take this Makarska guide step by step, so here’s a list of the most notable sights in town you ought to visit.
The Franciscan monastery
This is way more interesting than you may at first think. First of all, the monastery was founded in 1518, which means it’s more than 500 years old. However, in addition to some beautiful art, this monastery has something that makes it very much unique – a malacological museum. And before you ask – malacology is a branch of science studying mollusks. Therefore, you will find all sorts of amazing shells, crabs and stuff like that, all originating from the Adriatic. There are some truly beautiful specimens here, so do invest some time into checking this place out. It will be well worth it.
Kačić Square is Makarska’s main square, and there are three main things to look out for here. The first one is the cathedral of St. Mark, a lovely church built in the first half of the 18th century. The main altar inside is quite amazing, work of some of the finest Venetian masters, and the whole building is a fine example of Baroque architecture.
The other is the statue in front of the church, the one showing a friar. That’s Andrija Kačić Miošić, one of Croatia’s most important writers of the enlightenment period. He was born in Brist, a village near Makarska, so naturally, the locals are very proud of him.
Finally, you have a lovely Venetian fountain on the square, too. Dating back to 1775, the fountain is an example of late Baroque art and has Makarska’s oldest coat of arms on it.
You may be surprised to hear that Makarska has its own observatory. As a matter of fact, it has a whole Astro park, a relatively new thing opened in May 2017. It’s right in the city center, so you really can’t miss it. What’s particularly interesting is that it’s primarily focused on children, so if you have the little ones along, here’s where you can take them. It’ll be an hour or so well spent – people working here love to talk about space and, more importantly, aliens! No doubt your child’s imagination will be sent into overdrive, but even grown-ups could find this whole thing very interesting.
St. Peter Peninsula
Once you’re done with the observatory, head to that green patch in front of Makarska harbor. That’s the St. Peter Peninsula with the wonderful park-forest on it. Visitors love this place, and at the peninsula’s tip is a lighthouse that can be rented out as accommodation. You can have a fantastic view of Makarska from the peninsula too, with Biokovo looming over the town and dominating the scenery. Find the statue of St. Peter standing watch on the entrance to the harbor or a place to sit down and enjoy the shade of the pine trees.
Monuments to tourists and swimmer
Now here’s something quite interesting. To celebrate 100 years of organized tourism in Makarska, monuments were created to honor everyone who has or are going to visit this town. The monument to tourists shows a couple walking along Makarska harbor and enjoying the view, while the monument to the swimmer shows a guy just chilling out nicely in the sea. Incidentally, this latter monument is located right in front of the Makarska town museum, so why not pay it a visit while you’re there?
Day trips from Makarska
I said in the introduction that you have access to some amazing islands from Makarska, and that is certainly the case. Brač is literally in front of you, as you can get from Makarska to the town of Sumartin on Brač by ferry. And if you have a car with you, go ahead and take it – this island is quite big, so there’s a lot to explore. But since you’re here, you MUST go to Zlatni rat and refresh yourself in the crystal-clear sea there. This is the most famous (and arguably most beautiful) beach in Croatia, and visiting is very much worth it. Personally, I would also recommend you go to Vidova gora, the highest peak on Brač. That way, you’ll get more amazing views, and the great thing about it is that you can get all the way up to the top by car.
However, Brač is definitely not the only choice you have from Makarska when it comes to deciding on which island to visit. Hvar, the best island in Europe for 2019 according to Conde Nast Traveler’s readers, is also quite close, just beyond Brač. The amazing Hvar Town is a great place to spend a day (read why in our Ultimate Hvar Guide), and there are loads of beaches, even smaller islands (called Pakleni otoci) you can enjoy. There are also several other towns on this island very much worth exploring, so why not rent a boat in Makarska and then simply create your own schedule?
But wait, there’s more! You can also visit Vis, Korčula or even Pelješac peninsula. The latter is quite famous in Croatia for its red wine, so if you’re a fan of that you’ll absolutely love the wineries over there and how they pair their wines with delicious snacks. Vis and the nearby islet of Biševo are the home of the famous Blue Cave (one of the most popular boat tours from Makarska), and Korčula has a long seafaring tradition and more fantastic beaches to enjoy (Lumbarda is my favorite). To get to any of these locations, just set up a boat transfer from Makarska if renting a boat is not your cup of tea.
Head to Split
The city I mentioned in the introduction is Split (obviously, we have a detailed Split guide, too), and it really is worth at least one day of your visit to Makarska. The place was founded by the Roman emperor Diocletian, and his magnificent palace is the core around which the city has grown. With more than 1700 years of history, you can be certain that Split has some incredible architectural feats and loads of sights to offer, plus you can enjoy some great modern restaurants or simply walk the ancient streets imagining what it must’ve been like for Roman nobility all those centuries ago. Oh, and Split also played an important role in Game of Thrones too, so you can visit locations from the show in the city or on its outskirts.
Botanical Garden Kotišina
I know I’ve been mentioning Biokovo a lot in this article, but I can’t help it. It really is so beautiful. This time, I would like to divert your attention to Kotišina, a small but lovely botanical garden which is a part of the nature park itself. True, there’s a fair bit of climbing involved when you come here, but the surroundings and the views are well worth it. A variety of different habitats can be explored, and the information center of the nature park is here and open to all tourists during summer. Another great place for nature lovers, and I personally love the serenity the place provides.
Where to eat in Makarska?
If you have read any of our other ultimate guides, you know that the food in this part of Croatia is simply amazing. Makarska certainly isn’t an exception to that because you can enjoy some really fantastic restaurants around here. Here are a few Makarska restaurants you really should consider if you’re looking for a memorable meal.
Jež, Kralja Petra Krešimira IV. 90, 21300 Makarska
When it comes to seafood, Jež (Croatian for sea urchin) is THE place to go on the Makarska Riviera. This is a restaurant whose tradition goes back decades, and they have always been known for their fresh ingredients and masterfully crafted dishes. The menu is constantly updated, but with staple dishes like octopus salad or octopus risotto, you simply cannot go wrong. It’s also worth mentioning that they have a very extensive wine list (Croatian wines are excellent, and you’d do well to pair a white one with anything coming from the sea). For dessert, there can be no doubts – the lavender cake is something characteristic and fairly traditional in these parts and your taste buds will enjoy every single bite.
Restaurant Jeny. Čovića 1, 21325 Tučepi
Yes, yes, I know – this is not technically in Makarska, but the drive to Tučepi is soooo worth it. Careful, though, because Jeny is on the pricier end of the spectrum. Still, dinner here is worth every last cent. This family restaurant also has a very long tradition (more than 30 years) and focuses on modern gastronomy. I have to say, they do that flawlessly because, from the service they provide to the ingredients they use, everything is perfect. And when I say that the restaurant is about 300 meters (1000 feet) above the sea level with an incredible view, you will surely want to come here right away. Jeny has also been featured in Michelin’s guide, and their tasting menu is what put them on the map. Go for it!
Konoba Kalalarga, Kalalarga 40, 21300 Makarska
No overview of Dalmatian gastronomy can be complete without mentioning a konoba. This is a traditional type of restaurant which is quite widespread in these parts even today. The food you get in these places is maybe not as fancy as in modern restaurants, but it’s nevertheless incredibly tasty. Great homemade wine is essentially a must, plus the atmosphere is usually very warm and welcoming.
Konoba Kalalarga in Makarska is an excellent example of such a place. Again, seafood is the star of the show, but I would recommend going for their black risotto. That’s something everyone in Dalmatia simply adores and you will too as soon as you taste it. Some interesting wines are also available here, and when you combine all of that with traditional desserts, you will get an authentic konoba experience and learn a bit about Dalmatian culture. What more could you ask from a meal?
Tempera Streetfood & Bar, Fra Jure Radića 21, 21300 Makarska
To top this list off, we have something representative of the street food world. Tempera is located on the side of Makarska harbor, so it’s a great place if you’re in the middle of sightseeing and need a break for lunch. They are quite dirty/creative with the names of their dishes here, so you can order things like Beef-Gasm, Grow Some Balls and 3-Way Bruschetti. But although they are creative and like to play with the names, this restaurant treats all of its ingredients right and delivers a great dish every single time. If you like meat, you’re in the right place, but there are also some very interesting fish options, too. To top everything off, Tempera serves homemade ice cream which you can drown in vodka and liqueur or have deep-fried for dessert.
Makarska comes alive during summer, and there really is a lot to choose from when the night falls. You can go clubbing, have a nice drink in a good bar, or maybe join the locals in celebrating their fishing traditions all night long, which can actually be loads of fun.
Deep Makarska is a prime candidate for the title of the best nightclub on the Makarska Riviera. This is because, apart from being located on a beach, a part of the club is in a real cave, which makes for a great partying spot. So, it’s easy to get out for some fresh sea air when you need a breather and then go back in to let the DJ take charge of your night once again.
If clubs are not your thing and you just want to spend the night chilling by the sea, may I recommend Buba Beach Bar? It’s an extremely popular place among the locals and tourists alike for several reasons: good drinks, location right near the sea and great parties. If your idea of a vacation is partying in your swimming shorts with a cocktail in hand right next to the sea, this is the best place for that.
Another good club for a night out is Marineta, right in the town’s center. It has a big terrace, which is always a plus on hot summer nights, and it’s quite popular among the locals. Very close to it is the Smile Bar, a place where you can get some seriously good cocktails and just sit down and enjoy the nice atmosphere. It’s open until 2 AM, so you have plenty of time to come and enjoy.
One form of nightlife that is characteristic for Makarska during summer are fishermen’s nights. They are organized several times during summer and are generally focused on celebrating local traditions and customs. It’s something like a fair, with loads of traditional seafood recipes being prepared out in the open, local music playing (often live), plus you can even participate in one of many traditional games. The atmosphere is great, everyone is out on the streets, and the smell of traditional food and wine permeates the evening air. If you have a chance, do go and visit this event.
Best beaches in Makarska
When it comes to beaches, Makarska really has a lot to offer. As a matter of fact, the whole Makarska Riviera is full of great swimming places.
But Makarska itself has some great beaches, too. Donja Luka is close to the town’s center and also has loads of facilities, including a big water slide. You can even go bungee jumping here! Therefore, everything you need for a nice day at the beach is very close to Makarska harbor.
If you like to enjoy beaches without any clothes on, you can do that in Makarska, too. One such place is on the St. Peter Peninsula, very close to the lighthouse. It’s quite secluded, with huge rocks and nice platforms swimmers can use to soak in the sun.
For example, you can head north along the coast to reach Brela and its wonderful Punta Rata beach. Many consider this to be the most beautiful beaches in Europe, and when you come here you’ll see why. Incredible surroundings, a combination of sand and pebbles and the fact that you will be walking across pure sand when going into the sea are just some of the advantages. And because of loads of sand, it’s also one of the best family beaches around too.
Very close by, in Baška Voda, is a beach called Nikolina. Crystal-clear sea, loads of facilities (bars, restaurants, etc.) and even two places specially designed to help handicapped people come in make this pebble beach a great place for just about anyone. It’s also quite big, so there should be room no matter where you come.
However, if there’s one beach you have to visit if you’re a naturist, it’s the amazing Nugal beach. It’s pretty much a naturist paradise, located close to the town of Tučepi. Set between two steep cliffs and next to a soothing pine forest, this pebble beach will win you over as soon as you set your eyes on it. Yes, it’s THAT beautiful.
Keep in mind, these are just some of the beaches this area has to offer and there are plenty of things you can do on top of the activities mentioned in this part of the guide. For example, you can go parasailing near the hotel Biokovka, scuba diving is really popular, with some really fantastic locations along the whole riviera etc. Pretty much whatever you can think of in terms of sea-related activities is available, which is why so many people come here every year, many of which have become regular guests every summer.
Makarska tips and tricks
Just like with any tourist town, there are some things you should know that can make your life a whole lot easier. So, here are some Makarska tips and tricks from a local to help you have a great vacation:
- There is no public transport in Makarska, it’s just too small of a town for that. However, there are tourist trains that circle the center which serve that particular purpose. As a matter of fact, one of them goes along the main beach (Donja Luka) – 30 kunas (about 4 euros) for a one-way ticket, 50 kunas for a return ticket.
- Finding a parking spot can be a problem. Also, paying for it can add up to a hefty sum. Consider booking a better apartment closer to the sea instead of one where you have to pay for parking every single day.
- While the beaches in Makarska usually do have showers (although this may not be the case if you head out of town), you may be charged a kuna (local currency) or two to use them. Keep some spare change on you if you want to use the showers or simply wait till you get back to your accommodation.
- If traveling to Split, you can expect traffic jams. This road can be quite congested, so the trip can sometimes take quite a while. Going by boat transfer is much more relaxing, comfortable and more beautiful, to be honest.
- Going hiking on Biokovo? Dress accordingly! You cannot hike in flip-flops. Unfortunately, accidents have been known to happen up there because people simply didn’t know what to expect and how to prepare for the occasion.