If you’re reading this, then congratulations - Makarska is somewhat of a hidden gem that many people never have the fortune to visit, so planning what to do in Makarska, Croatia is an exciting prospect.
In fact, while tourists flock to Split and Dubrovnik, Makarska seems to be the holiday destination of Croatians and other Balkan countries, meaning the Makarska Riviera is much more authentic, local and a (slightly) quieter destination than other coastal cities.
If you’re looking for a coastal escape and a slower, more authentic trip to Croatia, you’ll find no shortage of things to do around Makarska, with the towering Biokovo mountain dominating the city’s landscape, there’s as many inland and mountain activities as there are water activities, making it the perfect choice for a summer getaway.
I would never have discovered Makarska had I not moved to Split, but I’m so glad I’ve been able to visit several times now after locals repeatedly recommended we visit the riviera. I really feel like it’s a hidden gem in Croatia.
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How to get to Makarska?
Makarska is around 1.5 hours from Split and 2.5 hours from Dubrovnik. You can follow the coastal road from Split for a scenic drive, or take the faster toll road inland.
Split is the closest airport to Makarska and there are regular buses from Split bus station that travel down the coast. You could also take a bus to Omis which are more regular and you’ll find a lot more connections from Omis to Makarska as it’s only 45 minutes away.
Why you should visit Makarska Riviera, Croatia
Located on the Adriatic coastline in a stretch called the Makarska Riviera, the Riviera is reminiscent of everything your mind conjures when you hear the phrase ‘riviera’ - stunning beaches, crystal clear turquoise water, endless promenades, waterfront restaurants, warm evenings, charming old towns and beachfront hotels.
Even if you don’t plan to stay long in Makarska, I 100% recommend visiting on a short trip or a day trip from Split, to experience this beautiful part of Croatia.
The riviera is a much slower pace than the packed crowds and tours in Split or Dubrovnik, but because it’s such a holiday destination, there’s still so much to do in the summer, with boat trips, tours, watersports and countless beachfront bars and restaurants.
If you’re after stunning beaches but prefer a smaller, more walkable town, I highly recommend Makarska.
The riviera is actually made up of three towns: Makarska, Baska Voda and Brela. All are fairly close together with buses between the towns, making them great options for day trips and exploring more beautiful beaches if you fancy a change of scenery.
Biokovo mountain towers over Makarska, as the tallest mountain in the Dalmatia region at 1,762m elevation, the riviera is breathtaking with its stunning mountains in one direction and the beautiful coastline in the other. You really will not run out of things to do in this region.
Where to stay in Makarska Riviera
There’s no shortage of stunning beachfront hotels, luxury resorts, apartments and B&Bs to suit everyone's budget in Makarska. But the standout property is the Aminess Khalani Beach Hotel, located along the waterfront by the famous Buba Beach Bar.
Full disclosure, I have worked with this hotel previously on a gifted stay basis, however I would never recommend somewhere to stay that I wouldn't stay myself and this hotel is a standout experience in Makarska.
Aminess Hotels own a range of properties throughout Croatia, from campsites to luxury hotels, but the Aminess Khalani Beach Resort is the first 5-star hotel in Makarska and it’s the newest luxury hotel in Makarska, having only opened in May 2022.
The hotel is a great mix of refined elegance, being designed with elements of water, stone and ether in mind, however it’s also a very family-friendly hotel, with buffet dining, a kids club and two kids pools.
With a privileged location right on the beachfront, you can choose from the pool or beach and both are just steps away.
Most rooms have a balcony with sea views and there’s regular live music in the evenings as well as active and lifestyle events such as yoga and pilates or dance workshops and discos in the evening.
Aside from the stunning location and interior, my favourite part of our stay was the beach on our doorstep with access to water sports like paddleboarding and jet skis as well as the Buba Beach Bar which is a total vibe.
I also loved the pool bar, having never been to a swim up bar in my life, this was a real treat! The whole pool area is elegantly understated without being pretentious - the gorgeous sand-coloured umbrellas and large pool are perfect for spending a lazy day.
If you’re looking for somewhere more budget-friendly but still on the beachfront, check out Hotel Park Makarska.
Or for somewhere in the town centre, check out Hotel Biokovo.
The best things to do in Makarska
Watersports on the Riviera
Croatia’s coastline is perfect for enjoying watersports, whether you’re a first time jet skier or a pro windsurfer and Makarkska is no exception!
All along Makarska’s promenade you’ll find opportunities for paddleboarding, jetski, parasailing, turbo scuba, snorkelling, pedalos and more.
There’s such a huge variety that even if you’re not an adrenaline junkie, there’s still so many activities for you to enjoy at a slower speed or closer to the shore.
Of course the huge stretch of coastline means there’s plenty of beach space too so you can sunbathe, swim in the crystal clear waters and relax too!
Stroll along the promenade
If you’re staying along the waterfront then the chances are that the promenade is right on your doorstep.
But even if you’re not staying on the seafront in Makarska, it’s still worth a wander along the promenade which stretches around 3km from the port of Makarska.
Along the promenade you’ll find countless restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, shops, nightlife and watersports as well as the lovely beaches on the other side of you!
You can easily spend a whole day on the promenade, beach-hopping and cafe hopping.
If you’re visiting in the height of summer and want to walk along the promenade, I do recommend you do that in the evening when it’s cooler, the heat at the height of the day can be a bit much!
Walk out to St Peter Forest Park
I love this spot for the beautiful views of Makarska with the mountain range in the background.
It’s also a nice easy walk perhaps first thing in the morning or after dinner in the evening if you don’t want to go too far. The park is the area you see to the right of the bay at Makarska harbour. You will see the monument to St Peter at the mouth of the bay
Do a walking tour and explore the Old Town
There’s a free walking tour in Makarska every Wednesday morning.
But even if you’re not in Makarska on a Wednesday, make sure to ask your hotel as they may offer walking tours. For example, Aminess Khalani Beach Hotel offers daily walking tours or excursions to see more of Makarska.
Even if you don’t fancy an organised tour, I still highly recommend spending 30 minutes or so wandering around the Old Town. It’s not big and you’ll easily explore it in a short time, but it's charming alleyways and stone streets really are beautiful.
Enjoy the best beaches in Makarska Riviera
With so much coastline, it’s pretty much impossible to find a bad beach in Makarska. Here are some of my favourite beaches and the best beaches in Makarska to visit as well as the best beaches in Brela and Baska Voda that I love:
Gradska Plaza and Makarska beach - the town beach, large and very busy
Plaza Podrace - my favourite!
Vruja - very tricky to reach - need proper shoes, not suitable for children
Go sailing on your own private sailing day trip from Makarska
Does anything say vacation in the Riviera more than a day sailing on your own private boat?
This epic Makarska sailing boat trip is for private groups, perfect for a romantic trip for two or a special trip with family or friends.
It includes sparkling wine, island hopping to Hvar and Brac (depending on winds and currents on the day), with plenty of chances for swimming and snorkelling when you’re ready to put down the anchor and soak in the sun and sea on your own private sailing boat.
Your skipper will give you the opportunity to steer and show you how to sail the boat too if you’re interested!
Have fun on the Aquapark courses
If you’re looking for some fun in the sun, the Aquaparks are great for adults as well as kids!
You’ll see the aquaparks dotted along the Riviera and there’s several that are easily reached from the promenade in Makarska.
You pay at one of the nearby booths and it’s a great way for some active fun without having the expense of a jetski or parasailing!
Visit the Malacological Museum
If you’re looking for what to do in Makarska when it rains, the next two options might be for you!
The Malacological Museum is a unique museum dedicated to over 3000 seashells! It’s located in a beautiful Franciscan Monastery which is worthy of a visit in and of itself!
But if you’re on the hunt for something more unusual and unique things to do in Makarska - this quirky museum might be the one for you!
Visit the City Museum
For a more traditional museum experience,the City museum is a great option if you want to learn more about Makarska’s region and history in a cooler environment rather than a city walking tour!
The museum is housed in an old 18th century palace and is dedicated to historical, cultural and archeological exhibits about Makarska.
Observe the night sky at the Makarska Observatory
Another hidden gem in Makarska is its very own Observatory!
It’s located just 50m from the beach in Makarska, making it the observatory closest to the sea in Croatia!
The observatory is internationally famous for the Day of the Universe event which happens once a year in August and attracts visitors from all over the world for the once yearly event - the Perseid meteor shower.
The observatory is open for two hours on weekdays between 8pm-9.30pm for two hours, the times depend on the time of year. In the summer months it’s usually 9.30pm - 11.30pm.
Check their website for more details.
Sample local craft beer at the Hops! Beer and Food Factory
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a huge craft beer fan, so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover a brewery in Makarska, right in the heart of the town.
The beer selection is small but very enjoyable, we loved the Summer Ale and the Stout. Also the burgers here are next level - seriously eat here if you get the chance!
Grab relaxed drinks at the Buba Beach Bar
There’s few things I love more on holiday than a cocktail or a beer at a fun beach bar.
Buba Bar is a very popular spot and it was perfect for us, being located right in front of Aminess Khalani Beach Hotel.
The straw parasols, wooden beach hut bar and fun music make this the perfect spot for refreshments while you’re at the beach or for evening drinks with a casual vibe.
…Or treat yourself at Manana restaurant
If you want to treat yourself to a more sophisticated beachside experience, you need to stop by Manana beach restaurant and bar.
Even the entrance to this bar on the promenade stands out as funky arches at the entrance lead you down to the decked area, tucked within the trees strung with fairy lights.
This is also a location that’s newly opened in 2022, with a huge variety of dishes from local charcuterie to seafood and sushi with an Asian inspired flare.
This beach bar is the instagrammable spot in Makarska and the music, drinks and vibe here are a fun addition to your Makarska getaway.
Enjoy sunset at Plaza Bilosevac
In all honesty, there are countless beautiful spots to enjoy sunset from along the Makarska Riviera. However I love this beach because it has a large sandbank that juts out further into the sea, making it easier to see the sun setting to the west and behind the mountains.
The vantage point is perfect for a wider view of the sunset and the coastline and there’s plenty of space to bring a blanket, a bottle of wine and create a romantic sunset moment away from the crowds.
Things to do near Makarska
Brave the Biokovo Skywalk
If you’re visiting Makarska in the summer, chances are it’s just far too hot to embark on any cycling or hiking routes in the National Park.
So the next best thing is this epic glass skywalk on Dalmatia’s highest peak!
You will need to book your ticket online here as this also acts as your entrance fee to the National Park which is ticketed in 1-hour time slots. This is due to the extremely narrow and winding single track road up to the Skywalk.
Buy your ticket online and queue at the park entrance 15 minutes before your time slot.. We had some trouble finding the main entrance, you can find the Biokovo National Park entrance located here.
The road is drivable but it is narrow, bumpy and steep in places, most cars can manage it but we were very glad to be in an all-wheel drive!
If you’re not comfortable or confident to drive on narrow mountain roads, I recommend going to the Skywalk on a guided tour. Book your Biokovo Skywalk tour here.
The views are honestly spectacular of the whole Riviera and National Park - this is a must do activity when planning what to do around Makarska.
Go cycling or hiking in Biokovo
When the weather is cooler, this is definitely the best way to see Biokovo!
The numerous hiking and cycling trails make Biokovo National Park a heaven for outdoorsy nature lovers and we already have a trip planned in October for when the weather cools down.
The ease with which you can go from sea to mountain in Makarska really makes this a unique destination and one of the best places to visit in Croatia.
You can find the trail map here.
Take a boat trip to Brač
The Jadrolinija ferry line will take you from Makarska harbour to the town of Sumartin on the island of Brač in just 30 minutes.
From here you can spend the day exploring, hire a scooter or take a taxi to the famous Zlatni Rat beach, aka Golden Horn beach at Bol, hike or drive up Vidova gora, Brac’s highest peak. Or go wine tasting at Stina Winery in Bol.
You can also book an excursion to Brač and other islands with a tour from Tučepi, just a few minutes drive from Makarska. Book an island tour here.
Go Zip lining
Also in nearby Tučepi, just 10 minutes from Makarska is the opportunity for another unique activity when you’re planning things to do in Makarska Riviera.
This epic zip lining experience is 1000m long and is suspended across the beautiful canyon in Tučep at Gornje Tučepiis.
The stunning views of the untouched nature in this area are spectacular!
This is an activity for adults and children, kids under 20kg can still ride and will be accompanied by an instructor.
Summary: What to do in Makarska
Whether you’re looking for an active getaway with plenty of watersports, hiking and adrenaline activities, or if you’re looking for the ultimate relaxation destination with a luxury hotel offering you both pool and beach - Makarska can offer it all.
I’m so glad I had the opportunity to visit Makarska. Having moved to Split, I’ve visited the Makarska Riviera several times now and I’m always surprised with more beautiful places to discover, eat and explore.
If you’re able to add Makarska to your Croatia itinerary - don’t hesitate!
Pin this for later to plan your future trip!