vis island & krka park, croatia - swimming in secret bays and waterfalls

After Dubrovnik, Sara and I took a long-haul bus whose passengers were 50% rowdy, hungover Australians and 50%  totally asleep Chinese, up the Dalmatian Coast to our new home base in Split. Our few days based in Split were built roughly around two dreams: Sara wanted to swim at the base of a waterfall, and I wanted to see Vis Island.

Vis Island, Croatia

Fifty kuna (eight bucks) will get you on a Jadrolinija ferry to Hvar, Brač, Korčula, or Šolta -- all lush paradises with perfect golden beaches, fresh seafood, colorful port towns and unspoiled nature galore.

Vis Island, Croatia

Split, Croatia
Pulling away from Split...

Vis Island, Croatia
... and into Vis.

Vis is the furthest of the Dalmatian islands from the coast, and its isolation, coupled with its history (until the late 1980s) as a Yugoslav military base, means the island has avoided over-development (or, really, much development at all) and preserved its abundant natural beauty.

Vis Island, Croatia

Vis Island, Croatia

Vis Island, Croatia

Vis Island, Croatia

Arriving on the ferry, I wanted to take off on foot to find Stiniva Beach, had nothing but a very rough idea of what direction to go in, and was completely unaware that we'd be walking along the side of the only road, a tiny winding wisp of pavement which locals took at six hundred kilometeres per hour in their rickety old Fiats.

Vis Island, Croatia

Sara put her foot down and demanded we figure out how far away Stiniva was from the port (quite far) and whether we could get there on foot (no). Off to hail a taxi.

Me, to taxi driver: "We'd like to go to Stiniva Beach."
Taxi driver: *looks down at my breasts* *looks up at my face* "Yes."

Vis Island, Croatia

Our charming driver winged around the sharp turns, careening over terrifying cliffs and through idyllic grape fields, while blasting at top volume, on repeat, LMFAO's 'Champagne Showers'. It was a jarring experience.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Arriving at the little sign for Stiniva Beach, we had a 20 minute descent about 85 degrees straight down a cliff face.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

With every step, the beach comes a little more into view -- we're headed to that yellow roof near the bottom.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

 All worth it, the second your feet touch sand -- er, rocks.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

We ripped off our clothes and jumped in.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

And did a little exploring. There were folks snorkeling, solo climbing, and cliff jumping, and we did a bit of everything (though our "solo climbing" efforts were much less majestic than the actual rock climber, and consisted mostly of stepping extremely carefully around urchins).

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia
Sara bravely takes a leap!

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

There's a little shack on the beach. When we walked over to ask if they had food, the merry surfer dues running the joint said, "Sure, we got a cook! What do you want?"

We shelled out a couple bucks for cold beers to go.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Before we knew it, it was time to make the ascent back up the rock face to meet our favorite cabbie.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia
Goodbyes are so hard.

Stiniva Bay Beach, Vis Island, Croatia

 Our cabbie/best friend pointed out all the best vineyards on the island (Vis makes some of Croatia's best wine) and invited us to a houseparty his bro was throwing, but we'd had our fill of "Champagne Showers" for the day. Enough "Champagne Showers" for a damn lifetime.

We were plenty early for our ferry, so wandered around the town at the port a bit, soaking every last bit in.

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia

Vis Town, Croatia
Last glance of Vis as the ferry pulls out from the port.

Jadrolinija ferry, Croatia

Split sunset, Croatia
Pulling into Split at sunset.

If you can hack it, make it to Vis Island, and to Stiniva Beach. It's the most spectacular place I've ever swam in, and in the past year, I've racked up a startling amount of good secret swimming holes. Don't be deterred by the steep, perilous climb. Get there early or stay late to avoid rush hour of tourist boats cramming into the bay. And bring a couple bucks to buy a cold beer.

Split night, Croatia

Back in Split, we got a huge take out pizza a piece and a cold bottle of bubbly and ate on the port, laughing for hours, having funny conversations with strangers who passed by. It was a warm night and everyone was happy and in a good mood. This is my kind of nightlife.

Another day, we set out to check off a big item on Sara's bucket list: swimming at the base of a waterfall.


Krka National Park, Croatia

We took a bus into Split, then a bus to Krka National Park, and then a ferry to get to the waterfalls.

We chose Krka over the more popular but remarkably beautiful Plitvice just to cut out four hours on a bus. It was a beautiful day, perfect for a cool swim.

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

The park is built around the 73km Krka River, which carved a path through limestone hills forming a 200m deep canyon. Calcium carbonate buildup causes billions of plants growing on top of one another to form a barrier that produces the spectacular 800m waterfalls.

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Sara, dream list to-do crossed off, blissed out.

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

They're not hanging out in a perfectly straight line for fun (we're not in Switzerland. ZING) -- the falls are roped off, and risk takers are confronted with a speed boat manned by vicious tanned teenage lifeguards who guide you back behind the ropes.

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Sara was in heaven, and me.... this is not my scene. No words can express how massively crowded this place was -- but maybe the photo below can. People had spread out blankets on the fields next to the river, and people were essentially shoulder to shoulder, blanket edges overlapping.

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

I like my space and my solitude when hanging out in nature, and Krka at 2pm on a Monday just before August was.... the opposite of that.

Sara and I had been warned of the crowds (Lonely Planet Croatia: "insanely busy"), and vowed to arrive early. We left our apartment in the boondocks at 6am, and, after a bus into the city, a bus to Skradin, and then humongous lines for park entrance tickets and then the same humongous line to catch the ferry to the waterfalls, we got there at 1pm. Pro tip: wake up well before sunrise, splurge for a taxi, get there early. It'd be worth it.

Unless you're a person like Sara, of course, an endless well of zen positivity.

There is a path that cuts around and through the park (about an hour long), which we hiked for a respite from the crowds.

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia


Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia
Selfie with the 800m Skradinski Buk -- the waterfalls -- behind us.

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Next week, one last post from Croatia: downtown Split.

All photos taken by either Sara or me -- we can't remember whose is whose anymore!

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