For our two year anniversary trip to Croatia, we only had two days in Split but given the length of our trip it felt right to “split” our time between this city and Dubrovnik, which is further down the Dalmatian coast. We are water people and loved our resort on the bay just outside of the city. The views were beautiful, the water crystal clear and for most of our trip we were poolside with a G&T in hand. You can’t visit a new country without spending time “inside” the city walls, walking around streets that your ancestors wandered around generations past so while we did spend a half day touring around – our best memories are of walking the beach or sitting on our balcony watching the stars come out. Our all time favorite part of the trip was paddle boarding right in front of our resort at sunset on our last night. We knew a storm was coming and this was our last opportunity to enjoy the water, so we spent every last minute out there paddling around. The sunset was stunning and dare we say, romantic!
Driving around: About 3 hours give or take north of Dubrovnik (where our trip originated), the scenic drive to Split is 212 km (132 miles). We recommend stopping in Ston on the drive up to enjoy oysters and a true sense of small town Croatian feel that you’ll miss in Split or Dubrovnik.
The coastal road D8 (follow the “yellow” signs for the coastal roads and “green” signs for the highway) is the slowest option but the more rewarding offering breathtaking views. It will take you about 4 hours, including crossing into Bosnia-Herzegovina (USA citizens must have a passport). The best option is taking both the highway E65 and D8 coastal road. The cost for highway toll is 42 Kuna driving from Dubrovnik to Split and our gas (diesel, baby!) cost only ~$30 round trip. On E65, Croatian’s version of the autobahn, drive alertly as you’ll encounter drivers picking up speeds of 200km/h and up, over 115mph (which we did not do, Mom!).
Hotel: We opted to stay at Le Meridien Lav, Split a well recognized Starwood property 15 minutes driving from the center city that several friends had stayed at before. As Starwood Gold Members, it also was our best option to go with one of our go-to loyalty options and we generally were really happy with the choice. With beautiful views of the Adriatic and large terraces, the hotel has 5 star service and experience down and has a handful of good dining options on site meaning you don’t have to veer far off if you want to relax and enjoy the coastal zen.
If you’re a Starwood loyalty member, you also receive 10% of all dining at the property on food. We particularly enjoyed Conlemani, an Italian option on the property right by the marina. The fried zucchini sticks and meatball were delicious and fresh. The eggplant parm was OK – a bit mushy, which is NOT a favorite V texture – but the star was our appetizer of ice chilled black olives. [ed. note: we will always be serving olives over ice from now on!] The wine was overpriced and worth avoiding (after a few tastes we went with glasses of Prosecco instead).
We took advantage of the on property Diocletian Spa for 50 minute massages which were relaxing and fairly priced although a bit… different. Let’s just say there was one use under things involved. :O The infinity pool was also phenomenal and seemed to flow right into the sea. Great spot for sunset watching. The beach was beautiful but rocky as many Croatian beaches are. Make sure to bring sand shoes if you go here to save your feet!
Exploring Split (Old Town : Diocletian Palace): While the relaxation of the resort was near perfection, we decided to venture in for a half day in Split to see the Diocletian Palace ruins and old city. The history of the palace is fascinating: built some 1,700+ years ago in preparation for retirement by Diocletian, the palace is now a UNESCO world heritage site. While beautiful, the site is also surrounded by touristy restaurants, shops and even some “Roman” actors. We guess that’s to be expected though. You can do tours of the palace but we opted for a quick walk through and Snapchat selfies as the city was hot and really, we just wanted to be poolside.
Split is a great ferry point to islands like Brac and Hvar. We ran out of time on this trip to get to the islands for a day but they are only 30-45 minutes away with multiple returns in high season. You always need to leave something to come back for!!
Overall, we were underwhelmed by the city itself outside of the lovely architecture and ruins as it felt small compared to Dubrovnik. If in Split, we recommend a half day of meandering, sightseeing and gelato followed by returning to your seaside hotel for relaxation with a view. But that’s just us! We can’t resist the charm of lounging in the sun by the beach or pool.
Food & Wine: When in the Old City, venture to Luka to grab some of the best homemade ice cream we’ve ever had and definitely the best we sampled in Croatia. They’re liberal with trying flavors which you know we took full advantage of. We loved the Poppy Seed cake combined with classic chocolate as well as Hazelnut. If you’re vegan, their Peach sorbet was super refreshing. From Luka, we went to Bokeria for a small but well priced glass of Croatian rosè (it’s such a V move… ice cream + wine) to relax and people watch. Bokeria had a few tables outside and a good selection of wine and tapas. We noticed that dining out in Split versus Dubrovnik you’ll get way more bang for you buck, err Kuna. Comparable wine and meals were 30-40% cheaper based on our assessment of top restaurants we went or considered going to.
As mentioned, this part of our trip we were pretty lazy and ate all our meals at the resort, but the below restaurants were recommended to us by the concierge and they do look pretty tempting:
- Dovr – beautiful views just outside of the city. A huge patio for sunset dining, food and wine seem well recommended but not the best.
- Olive Tree – a new restaurant in shaded tents between the palace and the docks. We walked past and it looked nice, more comfortable and well decorated than other restaurants on the water.
Hope this helps and be sure to reach out to us if you have any questions! If you’re also headed to Dubrovnik be sure to check out our city guide.
V + M