C California Style

A Dominican Monastery in Bol. PHOTO: Grand Tour/Corbis.
Old Town.
A lookout at Rab Island. PHOTO: Peter Adams Photography LTD./Alamy.
The exterior gardens at Villa Orsula.
Boats docked in the harbor of Ika. PHOTO: Naglestock.com/Alamy.
Villa Agave, which rests on the remains of the 13th-century chapel of St. Lazarus.
Interiors at Villa Agave.

Treasure Islands

by C California Style

With scores of seaside charms, Croatia emerges as the new dream destination.

Year after year, Greece, the South of France and the Caribbean have been the jet-set’s go-to destinations—it’s not very often that a new “hot spot” emerges. Until recently, Croatia been able to fly under the radar, with a few in-the-know travelers seeking relaxation among the cobbled streets, white stone cottages and pristine beaches.

It’s hard to believe that Dubrovnik, which is only a quick two-hour flight from London, was not so long ago in the midst of war and turmoil. In fact, much of the history of this picturesque city involves being conquered by one nation or another. Most notably, the Italians and the Turks wanted to claim Dubrovnik as their own, and it’s easy to understand why.

Thankfully, the region is well recovered, and high-end accommodations in the seaside city have sprouted up at record speed, with Adriatic Luxury Hotels (adriaticluxuryhotels.com) at the forefront. If you crave the ultimate luxury experience, its five-star Villa Agave is at your beck and call. Sprawling terraces, beam ceilings and rustic decor make this Mediterranean-style dwelling a private paradise. For a simpler escape, Hotel Bellevue is easy and modern, with a postcard-worthy secluded beach. Just around the bay, it’s a great spot to get away from the hustle and bustle—and every room has an ocean view. Farther down the road, Villa Orsula is the quintessential boutique hotel, with the most decadent accommodations in all of Dubrovnik. Intimate and secluded, with a mere 11 rooms and two suites, it offers jasmine-scented hallways for guests to linger through to one of the many terraced gardens. Located on the water’s edge, it boasts sweeping views of the Adriatic and Old Town.

When you’re ready to venture out, Old Town, the heart of Dubrovnik, is where the action is. Walk along the city walls and experience a culture rich in history. Dozens of magnificent churches, as well as one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, leave you feeling as if you’ve stepped back in time. For lunch, feast on fresh mussels, oysters and squid at Kamenice. But keep in mind, gelato is practically a requirement here. The locals’ favorite is Dolce Vita, hidden off the main Stradun and serving flavors such as lime and pistachio.

As the afternoon turns, find your way down a windy maze of backstreets to Buza Bar, set high on the rocks. By day, sip ice-cold drinks, watch the cliff divers, take a dip in the sea and sunbathe on the rocks. By night, there’s music playing, and it’s a perfect place to meet up with friends. Make sure to order the lemon-flavored ozujsko—Croatia’s famous beer. If the open water is calling your name, charter a boat for the day and set sail into the Adriatic. Stop along the way to take a dip in one of the many uninhabited coves where the water is cool and crystal clear—a scene straight out of Blue Lagoon. Lokrum island is just 15 minutes from the mainland, with forests, a botanical garden and a salt lake. Korcula, the rumored home of explorer Marco Polo, is another charming island worth a stop. Take a walk along the water’s edge and dine at one of the chic outdoor cafés—you’ll wonder if you’re in the South of France. Next, sail over to Korta Katarina Winery (kortakatarinawinery.com), where you can experience the finest Croatian varieties prepared in small, precise batches. Palm trees dot this magnificent property, which actually looks and feels more like a glamorous resort. Make sure you plan time for lunch in the dining room, and you’ll want to take a few bottles with you—the perfect souvenir to bring home.

Edited by Jenny Murray.
Written by Stephanie Steinman.