FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Croatia Makes it Easy to Turn a Business Trip into a Family Vacation

by Brandon Schultz

May 16, 2024

Dubrovnik © Emicristea | Dreamstime.com

Daily

Croatian tourism took off in the early 2000s and shows no signs of slowing, thanks in part to its starring role as the unmistakable setting in popular franchises like Game of Thrones and Below Deck Mediterranean. But there’s good reason both Hollywood and tourists keep returning to this small Balkan nation along the Adriatic Sea. Up and down the coast, it’s truly as stunning as it appears on camera, and moments here consistently feel elaborately staged … but they’re not.

From the magic of Old Town Dubrovnik, fully encased in medieval fortress walls and with limestone alleys so shiny and white they’re often mistaken for marble, to Diocletian’s third- century palace and island-hopping in Split, Croatia teems with enigmatic beauty of mythical proportions. How mythical? The Greek gods fought over which Croatian island was the world’s most beautiful, and Odysseus was enchanted by the nymph Calypso here, too.

A boom in tourism means the country’s most popular destinations, cities like Dubrovnik and Split, are rife with large hotels well-equipped to host conferences and meetings of up to around 1,000 attendees. While the capital, Zagreb, may serve as the business hub of the nation, many of Croatia’s larger facilities are actually centered in these more tourist-friendly hot spots where unforgettable incentive activities are more plentiful and the scenery is unmissable. This also makes Croatia an ideal destination for combining business with pleasure and turning a work trip into a combo family vacation.

Trogir

Trogir © Emicristea | Dreamstime.com

In Dubrovnik, cruise ship visitors crowd Old Town by day, so evening walking tours are best for those actually staying here, making this an ideal family activity after a day of meetings. Bonus: The strong sun poses less of an issue in the evenings, too. A cable car connects Old Town to the top of Srd Hill, where sweeping views of the town and islands below are reason enough to visit, but dune buggy tours of the hilltop make an especially exciting activity for those looking for daytime thrills. Tours run regularly and don’t require advance booking. Both within the Old Town walls and beyond, Dubrovnik currently houses a dozen restaurants selected by Michelin, including one with a star. An abundance of fine-dining options offers top opportunities for celebratory or romantic meals, but you’ll find plenty of family-friendly restaurants of good quality in the region, too. For dessert or afternoon pick-me-ups, kids of all ages will gawk at the visual splendor of Old Town’s candy shops, boasting barrels of oversized sweets in irresistible colors and shapes, and the town sports a solid gelato scene, too.

Mali Ston, just about an hour from Dubrovnik, is home to the top oyster farms that help make the region famous for its unrivaled seafood. An afternoon visit here offers not just an enviable lunch for seafood lovers but also the chance to take a boat tour of an oyster farm and learn about the business directly from the farmer … while, of course, tasting oysters straight from the sea.

Dubrovnik also proves convenient to some beautiful islands worth exploring (in fact, you can even kayak your way to and from Lokrum), but you might want to save your island time for Split if you plan to visit there. You can reach many islands from Split, but Brač and Hvar are two of the most famous and accessible. On Brač you’ll find what is surely Croatia’s most famous beach, Zlatni Rat. Called the Golden Horn (or Golden Cape) in English and often ranked among the world’s best beaches, this spit formation provides more than 2,000 feet of sandy beach surrounded by the sea on three sides, and the tip can change direction with the strong currents. Hvar, more populated, includes several towns, popular beaches and a thriving nightlife. Many choose to stay in Hvar instead of Split during their time in this part of Croatia, but it’s only about 1.5 hours from the city by ferry, so it makes an equally enjoyable daytrip.

Hvar island

Zlatni Rat © Biletskiy | Dreamstime.com

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Trogir lies only a 30-minute drive from Split, but you can extend the water focus of your time here by taking a ferry instead. It takes about an hour to reach this medieval charmer, famous for its Venetian architecture, and you can easily enjoy it in a few hours for an ideal afternoon activity. With more time to spend, you can also visit some of Trogir’s beaches. Alternatively, Croatia’s renowned Krka National Park, home to the world-famous waterfalls often casually called Krka Falls, lies an easy drive from Split that generally ranges between an hour and an hour and a half. The trek to the falls themselves requires a good deal of scenic hiking, making this a more nature-focused and family-friendly daytrip, provided everyone can handle a moderate day of walking with some stair climbing.

LODGING
Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik
A five-minute walk from Old Town, this 5-star hotel has played host to the likes of Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth Taylor. Sea-view rooms offer stunning Adriatic vistas from private balconies.
Ul. Frana Supila 12, Dubrovnik
$$$$

Hotel Supetar Cavtat
This boutique property in the historical center of Cavtat, a seaside town just a few minutes outside of Dubrovnik, is a design lover’s dream with a chic wine bar highlighting Croatian grapes.
Obala A.Starčevića 27, Cavtat
$$$$$

candy shop

© Nadtochiy | Dreamstime.com

Hotel Villa Harmony
Situated on Split’s most famous beach, this coveted stay offers island and sea views from every room, each outfitted with smart-room technology. Spring for a suite to guarantee a balcony hot tub.
Preradovićevo šetalište 1a, Split
$$$

DINING
Restaurant 360
Croatia is one of the few dozen countries rated by Michelin, and Restaurant 360 claims Dubrovnik’s only Michelin star. Expect presentation as precise as the preparation and as magical as the setting.

Ul. Svetog Dominika bb, Dubrovnik

$$$$

Šug
This Bib Gourmand restaurant may prove the best value in Split, offering top-quality Dalmatian dining for a fraction of what you’d expect. The tasting menu remains a popular choice.
Ul. Tolstojeva 1a, Split
$$$

Vapor Restaurant

A Michelin-recommended restaurant at Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik, this recently redesigned space redefines contemporary Croatian fine dining, featuring the best of local seafood, meats and produce with unbeatable views from terrace tables.
Ul. Pera Čingrije 7, Dubrovnik
$$$$

INFO TO GO
Dubrovnik International Airport serves 35 airlines, including the alliances of all major U.S. carriers. Many hotels offer transfer services, but the Old Town lies less than half an hour from the airport, easily reached by a shuttle bus with tickets costing $10 or less. Taxis service the airport, Uber is available and typically cheaper, and there are plentiful rental car options.

Split Airport, officially Saint Jerome Airport, equally accessible and similarly close to the city, supports 32 airlines. Shuttle buses from SPU are intended to coincide with flight arrival times and cost around $10, but two public bus lines also stop at the airport for about a third of the price. Taxis from the airport generally run about $40 or less, Ubers are often cheaper, and several rental car agencies operate at the airport.

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