Makarska is the main city and resort of the Makarska Riviera in Split-Dalmatia, between Split and Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. It's backed by the rugged Biokovo mountains, a national park, and looks out across a channel to Brač island. It's a popular destination for package tours, with plenty of accommodation, eating places and beach activities.
The "Makarska Riviera" means the 66-km strip of small towns, villages and beaches along coastal Highway 8 from Brela to the northwest, through Bratuš, Baška Voda and Makarska itself, continuing southeast through Tučepi, Podgora, Igrane, Mala Duba, Zaostrog and Drvenik to end at Gradac. These all have some accommodation but are much smaller and with fewer permanent inhabitants.
Most facilities in Makarska itself are along the traffic-free beach strip, Šetalište Dr Franje Tuđmana. Hotels may give their address as Ul. Kralja Petra Krešimira IV but this is just a service road one block back where coaches and laundry trucks unload; another block back is the through-street and bus station. The strip runs to the peninsula of Sveti Petar where it joins the Old Town clustered around the harbour.
- The nearest airport is Split SPU IATA, 85 km north (and 25 km beyond the city of Split). In summer this has frequent package flights from north Europe and most visitors to the Makarska Riviera arrive this way.
- To the south is Dubrovnik DBV IATA with even more seasonal flights. It's 160 km south and you have to cross Neum in Bosnia and Herzegovina for all of 10 min to reach anywhere else in Croatia. If you hire a car at Dubrovnik to reach Makarska, they'll charge extra for taking the car out of Croatia, and apply that charge to every day of the hire even though you only make the short transit there and back. Most transits are trouble-free but see Neum for other difficulties you may face.
- Promet buses run every 30-60 min between Makarska and Split taking 90 min to two hours, fare 56 kn. They run along the coastal Highway 8 via Baška Voda, Bratuš, Brela, Marušići and Omiš. A few services then hairpin up the side of the river gorge to pass through Tugare but most stay on the coast to reach Split via Stobreč.
- There are four buses a day from Dubrovnik (3-4 hours via Neum) which continue north to Split then variously to Šibenik, Zadar and Zagreb.
- Makarska 1 bus station is central on Ul. Ante Starčevića at the junction with Ul. Stjepana Radića. There's a ticket office and a couple of little cafes and kiosks, and a shopping centre adjacent.
- The Jadrolinija ferry sails between 2 Makarska harbour and Sumartin on Brač island, taking an hour; 4 or 5 sailings a day so a day-trip is simple. Single fare adult 15 kn, car 150 kn. Public transport from Sumartin is very limited so either take your own transport or have it teed up for your arrival. The ferry has limited capacity and is not a ro-ro but a ro-three-point-turno.
Walk, but the beach strip is 4 km long, with electric scooters weaving past. With children you might take the road train that toot-toots along the strip every 20-30 min.
Bus: Croatia Bus runs south from Makarska every 30-60 min through Tučepi to Podgora, taking 30 min. To go further down the Riviera (e.g. to Igrane, Drvenik and Gradac) you have to take the infrequent buses for Dubrovnik and/or Metković, see "Get in".
For the Riviera villages north of Makarska, use the Promet bus for Split as above.
Taxi: there's no single large taxi company, but many small operators with a couple of cars apiece.
- The Old Town is small but well-preserved, stretching back from the harbour through alleys and piazzas, especially pleasant at dusk. The main church of Sv Marka (Co-Cathedral of St Mark) has a baroque interior.
- Municipal Museum on the quayside has a small but interesting display. It's open M-F 07:00-15:00, Sa 09:00-12:00; 5 kn.
- Malacological Museum is the grand name for this collection of sea-shells, usually open 10:00-13:00 and 17:00-19:00. Worth looking in for the venue, an old Franciscan monastery south end of the centre.
- 1 Sveti Petar (St Peter) is a small island that (like many other islets along the Dalmatia coast) has become joined to the mainland by infill, so it's now an anvil-shaped peninsula separating the harbour from the main beach. It's a bosky park with a stubby lighthouse at its west end and an old church. The south shore is popular with nudists so you might also see some stubby pale zucchini.
- 2 Osejava Park is the coastal ridge stretching south from the harbour all the way to Tucepi. There are quiet paths (a bit rough for cycling), woodland, and little beaches. Wild camping is not recommended, as there are bugs and spiky vegetation.
- 3 Vepric or "Lourdes Makarska" is a woodland grotto with shrine. It's 2 km north of town off Highway 8, helpfully signposted "No entry except Driving School vehicles" in Croat.
- The mountains rearing up behind Makarska comprise Biokovo Nature Park, stretching 36 km along the coast and 9 km inland. It's a huge landscape of limestone karst crags, cliffs and ravines but the most accessible part is the village of 4 Kotišina. This has an old church and the scrappy remains of a castle built into the cliffs, but its main attraction is the Botanical Garden, a protected habitat rather than a formally-laid out garden.
- Get further into the park via the lane that begins near 5 Šimići on Highway 512. The park toll booth is here: 50 kn for one day, 100 kn for 3 days or 250 kn for 7 days. The lane zigzags up to Vrata, whence the south fork descends eventually to Igrane, while the north fork threads its way up Vlaška Ravine to the park's highest point of Sveti Jure (St George) at 1762 m. You're going to need a car with a stout first and second gear, or come on a tour; and make sure it's a clear day, there's no point when it's socked in by cloud. There's accommodation and a few cafes within the park.
- Water activities, e.g. parasailing, jet skiing and motor boat hire: lots of operators along the beach strip. Wibit is a water obstacle course on inflatable rafts. The beach is just a narrow strip of shingle; no tides as this is part of the Med.
- Scuba dive with More, Kresimira IV 43 (opposite Dalmacija Hotel), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. They go out daily at 09:00 for two-tank dives, returning 13:00-ish. PADI courses available. 610 kn for two-tank dive & equipment, cash only.
- The other local diving operation is Butterfly based in Tucepi 5 km south.
- Hiking: the mountains behind town have several hiking trails, scenic and seldom crowded. Don't leave the trails as pitfalls abound. The snakes are mostly innocuous but don't mess with the horned / sand viper (Vipera ammodytes).
- Rock-climbing: lots of cliffs just behind town, varying grades of difficulty.
- Rafting and kayaking along Cetina River, a 30-min drive from Makarska. It's mostly calm, but there are a few fast stretches and one hazardous section. Several tour agencies in town offer guided trips down the river. They'll point out the cave where Tito's Partisans hid from the Nazis during World War II.
- Battle of Makarska or Mucules in 887 AD was when the local pirates of Neretva bested the Venetians, who thereafter had to pay protection money for their ships to pass. It's enthusiastically re-enacted each year on 18 Sep, starting at dusk around 19:30 on the harbour pier. Cutlasses, brass bands, camp sailorettes doing pop routines, wizz-bangs and flares, war-canoes mobbing a diesel-powered schooner, tricorn hats from a Captain Morgan advert, and wide-screen display, all contribute to the authenticity and glorious victory.
- Autumn Jazz Festival is held late Sep - mid-Oct.
- Money: most places don't take euros, and many don't take credit cards. There are lots of small exchange kiosks, commission-free and with rates within +/- 5% of the official rate so these are good value. Plus lots of ATMs dotted around but these will incur charges from your bank.
- Supermarkets: Lidl is south edge of the centre along Ul. Europske zajednice (open daily 08:00-21:00). Two other local chains are Tommy Maxmarket and Studentica.
- There's an outdoor market for souvenirs, beach gear and snacks on the spit of land west end of the harbour. There's also a kids' play park here.
There are many restaurants along the beach and in the main square area, but often mediocre and tourist-trappy. Recommended are:
- Jež, Ul. Kralja Petra Krešimira IV 90. Daily 12:00-00:00. Mediterranean restaurant, good for seafood and meat dishes.
- Kalelarga, Kalalarga 40. Daily 14:00-01:00. Fresh seafood, slow service so make a night of it. "You never know what you'll be eating" said one reviewer, who enjoyed the donkey in red wine.
- Restoran Herc, Šetalište Dr. Franje Tuđmana. Daily 08:00-01:00. Good food and service.
- Restauran Berlin is a good choice on the beach strip near Hotel Park. It's part of Villa Kapulica, which rents apartments and rooms from €40 a night.
- Riva (Vinc-Mornar), Obala kralja Tomislava 6a (on harbour quay). Daily 11:00-01:00. Good sea-food restaurant. Busy people, they also run Café Bar Nautica, Pizzeria Centrum, a couple of villas, and a motor launch.
- Susvid, Trg fra Andrije Kačića Miošića 8, Makarska. 24 hours. Good seafood, steak and Med cuisine, cash only. They also own Peskera restaurant.
- 1 Jeny, Čovići, Tucepi (in hills above Tucepi, follow S12), ☏ . Daily 18:00-00:00. Good restaurant especially the 5-7 course tasting menus - but expensive, and they only take cash.
- 2 Konoba Veza, Srida Sela 1, Gornje Tucepi (in hills, follow S12), ☏ . Tu-Su 12:00-23:00, M 18:00-23:00. Good traditional restaurant up the hill above Tucepi.
- There are bars and cafes along the beach strip, while the dance clubs are around the harbour.
- Deep (by Hotel Osejava). July-Sept daily 09:00-05:00. Bar and dance club in a seaside grotto.
- Hostel Makarska Subtub, Prvosvibanjska 15 (one block back from harbour), ☏ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 10:00. First backpackers' hostel in Makarska. It is in a safe, quiet neighborhood. Peaceful, clean hostel with friendly atmosphere. It is run by a traveller who can give you all the info you need about Croatia. With dorms and en suite private rooms. Dorm €30 ppn.
- Villa Buljubasic, Put Pozara 11b, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Ten suites, all equipped with air conditioning, TV/satellite, WiFi, bathroom, fridge, balcony and grill area, 350 m from beach, with parking. €40-80.
- Villa Alma, Put Požara 11, ☏ .
- Vila Ventus, Molizanskih Hrvata 18A, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 2 rooms with use of kitchen, 2 apartments with own kitchen, 2 double rooms, all with A/C, 5 min walk from the beach. €25-90.
- Villa Jarak, Kralja Krešimira 108 (between Hotel Dalmacija and Hotel Biokovka), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Open Apr-Nov, clean spacious apartments and rooms with balconies close to the beach; all rooms with AC, bathroom, satellite TV, free WiFi, and kitchen. Double room €40-50.
- 1 Hotel Dalmacija Sunny, Ul. Kralja Petra Krešimira IV 41, ☏ . Large 4-star on beach, some facilities need updating but generally to a good standard. Often used by package tours. B&B double €150.
- 2 Hotel Park, Ul. Kralja Petra Krešimira IV, ☏ . Large central 4-star often used by package tour companies. Clean & comfy, friendly service; go B&B as the evening restaurant is nothing special. B&B double €300.
On the beach in Makarska, there are white beach chairs stacked along the beach. Although there is no sign to indicate that there is a charge to use these beach chairs, occasionally a money collector will come to demand that you pay for using the chair. However, the money collectors are vague about what you owe and how long you're paying for. They may also swindle you because they don't give receipts, so if another money collector comes along, you can't prove that you paid. If you refuse to pay the collector, he may threaten to call the police, but they don't seem to actually do so. Just tell in English that you thought the chairs belong to the hotel and that you thought they are included in hotel price.
Makarska and the coastal highway have 4G from all Croatian carriers. As of Sept 2021, 5G has not reached this area.
- Split can easily be done as a day-trip by bus, though it deserves a longer stay. Further north are Trogir, Šibenik and Krka National Park.
- Dubrovnik is a must-see, but for a day-trip you're better joining an excursion, lots available. Reckon 300 kn for a non-guided tour, which will pick-up from central hotels. The public buses are slow and sparse - okay for transfers, but tedious for a day-trip. All transport has to cross Neum in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
- Sumartin on Brač island is an hour away by ferry.
- Hvar island can be reached by ferry from Drvenik, but it's better to sail from Split, a longer crossing but it brings you straight to the charming old town.