Have you ever wondered about traveling to Croatia for a romantic getaway?
I am a professional matchmaker and here's what I know:
- Traveling to Croatia is not the easiest task but don't let them stop you from going. The easiest route from the United States is to go through London, Paris or Barcelona and then take a direct flight (under 2 hours straight to Croatia. Croatia Airlines, which is part of the Star Alliance has direct and very inexpensive flights many times a day from Paris and from Barcelona. Once you are in Croatia, you can continue to your various destinations on Croatia Airline but make sure to find the direct flights so that you can fly from Split to Dubrovnik in 35 minutes instead of going through Zagreb (the capital) which will take you 4 hours!
- Keep in mind that many of the resort destinations in Croatia are pedestrian only and they do not allow cars. This is great for charm and romance but does not lend itself to wear sexy high heels. Make sure to bring comfortable flat shoes or at the very least wedge heels and water shoes.
- An easy first destination in Croatia is Split. Split has its own airport and is the perfect entrance point to the Dalmatian Islands. Split is a pedestrian only town although many of the hotels are outside the city centre. If you stay in a hotel that is outside the city center, you can either walk to the town or take a taxi to town but the taxi can only let you off at one of 4 places, on the edges of the city walls because at each of those points it becomes pedestrian only. If you decide to stay in the city centre, be prepared for a lot of noise. Keep in mind that you absolutely can do Split in one afternoon; you do not need to spend a night unless you want to. The Diocletian Palace is a must see and make sure to do the self guided tour in the lower level of the palace so you can see what the Palace really looked like long ago. The upper part of the Palace is now rebuilt with restaurants, cafes and the cutest boutiques all built right into its Walls.
- You next stop after Split should be the romantic island of Hvar. This will be the highlight of your trip. Again, Hvar is a pedestrian only island and does not allow any cars. The streets are cobblestone and all the hotels are located right on the crystal blue waters. To get to Hvar, you need to take a boat from Split. The best way to get there is by chartering your own boat so that you can see some of the other islands along the way. However, if you cannot arrange for private transport, there are 2 options, the Catamaran and the Ferry boat. The Catamaran is the quickest way to Hvar and goes right into the main Hvar port from the Spit marina. The schedule is a bit tricky because only one company runs the Catamarans, Jadolinka and you cannot purchase tickets in advance, you must buy them the day of your travel at the port. The Catamaran is very quick, just 50 minutes so if you can coordinate your schedule to catch the Catamaran, this is your best bet.
- When getting to Hvar, the second option is to go by Ferry to Hvar. The ferry takes two hours instead of 50 minutes but it is nice because it is a big ferry boat and you can sit on the deck, with the wind blowing through your hair and look at the stars. And it runs in the evening whereas the Catamaran does not. However, keep in mind that the ferry only goes to Stari Grad which is a port 20 minutes outside the main part of Hvar and the only way you can get to and from Stari Grad is taxi.
- When you are choosing a hotel in Hvar, keep in mind that all the nice hotels are right on the port and noise can be a real issue as Hvar is definitely a town that never sleeps. A company called Suncari Hvar Hotels pretty much has a monopoly on all the luxury hotels and each of their hotels offers something a little bit different. For romance, the Adriana Hotel is by far the best, as it is right on the water, has a private and secluded deck and pool area on the roof and is the least noisy of the hotels. The entire hotel is purple which goes along with the island's lavender theme and if you reserve a suite, you will have a large Jacuzzi tub for some sensual bathing. The hotel also has a luscious restaurant right on the water's edge (make sure to have the Scampi or the fresh catch of the day) and it also has the only spa on the island, make sure to book the couples massage which they will do outside overlooking the Sea with soft music and candles. And if you are in the mood for some socializing, the roof top deck turns into quite a happening nightspot but it closes at 2am so you can get to sleep. I
- In Hvar, other hotel options are the Amfora which is good for children and the Riva which is good for singles. Keep in mind that the island is very small and you can get from one side of the port to the other in about 5 minutes so it doesn't really matter where you stay as long as it is on the water.
- As for eating and socializing in Hvar, there are a lot of restaurants all over the island that have great freshly caught fish; you really can't go wrong at any of them. Then, as for the nighttime activity, it starts around 12 midnight or 1am. The most popular place called Carpe Diem which is located right by the ferry. When you walk past it, it doesn't look like anything special, but that's because the real action is on the Carpe Diem island. The club puts you on a ferry and takes you in the dark to the club that take up the entire island. And this place rocks until 5am and it tres romantique especially if you can find some provate nooks around the island. A second very popular club is called V-528 and it is famous for it's Gong which is supposed to bring you love and prosperity when you strike it.
- Once you have had your sun and fun in Hvar, the next place that is a must visit is Dubrovnik, the most famous city in the country. To get to Dubrovnik from Hvar, you need to take the ferry back to Split and then fly, a quick one hour flight directly to Dubrovnik. Once you arrive in Dubrovnik, the only place to stay is the Rixos. I visited quite a few of the hotels in Dubrovnik, but the Rixos was by far the most impressive. It's a 5 star property, which is part of a Turkish hotel chain and it is truly spectacular. The hotel is up on a cliff and overlooks the entire Adriatic Sea. The rooms are modern minimalist and the suite floors have gigantic balconies that look straight at the sea. And there, they have a turkish spa where you can get a real delightful Turkish Hamman. The pool is on the sea's edge and you can frolic in both waters. And their romantic seaside restaurant, the Azzurr is not to be missed where you can choose your fish type for them to cook to your specifications.
- As for Dubrovnik itself, it is this magical city that is all encapsulated within a fortress wall. The streets are all cobblestone, the stores and restaurants are built into the walls and the feeling is just old-fashioned and mystical.. Don't miss the City Wall walk which gives you a bird's eye view of the entire city as well as the gorgeous turquoise blue waters. Try doing this in the morning or the end of the day because it is quite the workout. And even though it looks a little touristy, don't forget to take a ride on one of the Glass bottom boats to see the fish in the water. You can take one of these boats to Lokrum which is only 10 minutes away from Dubrovnik but has a completely different feel. Lovely peacocks roam freely all over the island, people sunbathe atop of cliffs and rocks and there are many places to dive right into the sea. And for dining, don't miss one of the many outdoor cafes like Proto where Dalmatian food is the speciality and where you feel like you have been tranported back in time.
Samantha Daniels is a well known Professional Matchmaker, President of Samantha's Table Matchmaking and the author of Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern Day Matchmaker (Simon & Schuster).
Follow Samantha Daniels on Twitter: @Matchmakersd