Dotted along the Istrian coast, almost parallel with old towns sitting on hilltops, the best beaches in Istria are pebbly, rocky, and even sandy. Some 90% of this northern Adriatic peninsula is on Croatian territory; the rest sits in Slovenia, snuggled against a tiny speckle of Italy.
While Istria is rich in history—particularly Austro-Hungarian history—embodied in old city walls and tunnels, the region now bristles with 21st-century vibes. Visitors come for the sun, local wine, white truffles, and of course, the beaches.
Here are the five most beautiful beaches in Istria, from Pula and Poreč to Rovinj.
Plovanije Beach, Cape Kamenjak, Pula
Best for couples
If you’re looking for hidden beaches in Istria, you’ll love the small Plovanije Beach.
If you come early in the morning, you’ll have the beach almost to yourself. However, it can get busy in the afternoon. Even still, you’re practically guaranteed to find a private spot under the fragrant pine trees of Punta Kamenjak Nature Park, on the southern tip of Istria.
It’s arguably the most romantic cove due to its remote location. Yet, it’s only a 30-minute drive from Pula’s Old Town. Sitting between two craggy headlands, the sheltered pebble beach spoils you with crystal clear water, ideal for snorkeling.
Hawaii Beach, Pula
Best for Nature Lovers
Havajska Plaža, or Hawaii beach, is a fantastic spot for cliff jumping. You can only reach it on foot as two rugged headlands surround it. Verudela Canyon, the ideal place to dive into the water and experience an adrenaline rush, is just 50 meters away.
Hawaii Beach is a pebbled cove with a Caribbean feel. It’s considered by many to be Pula’s best beach due to the turquoise, crystal-clear water. People come here to enjoy lazy days, basking in the sun as they work on their tan. Ensure you arrive in the morning, as Hawaii Beach only gets sunlight until early afternoon.
As an aside, Hawaii Beach has no facilities and is accessible via stairs.
Mala Kolumbarica, Cape Kamenjak, Pula
Best for Adventurous Swimmers
Calling all cliff jumpers. Situated 15 kilometers (9 miles) south of Pula at Cape Kamenjak, Mala Kolumbarica is made for the intrepid. To dive into the wild waters, you’ll need to navigate sharp rocks or find those few spots where you can walk in. Water shoes do wonders.
Mala Kolumbarica, a rocky cove lacking urban distraction, is also an excellent snorkeling spot. But make sure you stay inside the bay as the currents can be strong in the churning sea.
Note that getting into Cape Kamenjak Nature Park isn’t free. But once you’ve paid the entry fee, you can enjoy the coves and some of the best beaches in Istria, Croatia. Parking areas and a cool safari bar are close by. And the stroll on the coastal path from the nearest car park to the Kolombarica coves is nothing short of spectacular.
Lone Bay, Rovinj
Best for Families and Water Babies
The lovely little town of Rovinj is a 40-minute drive north of Pula. Like Pula, Rovinj has an old town with cobbled alleys squeezed between brightly colored houses, plus one of the best beaches in Istria.
Lone Bay is a stone’s throw from Rovinj’s old town. This sheltered pebble beach within the Golden Cape Protected Forest Park has recently grown in popularity as a place of respite. You can see Rovinj’s skyline, the hilltop, and rocks tumbling into the sea as you recharge your batteries in the turquoise water.
The family-friendly Lone Beach is perfect for water sports like windsurfing, kayaking and paddle-boating. Paddling effortlessly on clear water, you’ll enjoy the ocean sparkling in the sun and bubbling beneath the hull.
Bikes are available for rent, and the meadows behind the bay are ideal spots for a picnic if you’ve got family in tow. Other amenities include bars and restaurants, pine trees offering shade and wonderful scents that waft in the breeze.
Sveti Nikola Island, Poreč
Best for Affluent Eco-Tourists
Just off the coast of Porec (one of the best beach towns in Istria) is Sveti Nikola Island.
Rocky walkways lead to pebble, concrete, and sandy beaches, and breakwaters protect them from the force of the waves. On this tiny island, you can also find black oak and pine forests that are a treat to your senses.
Getting here from Poreč’s historic center takes five minutes by boat. It’s a great location to escape the city’s summertime crowds. And if you’re wondering where to stay in Istria, look no further than this island, where upscale beach resorts cater to the wealthy.
You can also play minigolf on Sveti Nikola Island.
And if you like sandy beaches, you’ll get your money’s worth at the tiny stretch of sand with umbrellas and recliners—ideal for curling up for a kip.
Once your skin has assumed a decent color, local wine and white truffles await you at the nearby restaurant.
Where to go from Istria?
While you’re still in Istria, you could visit Piran. This Slovenian coastal town has a crowd-free atmosphere, well-preserved fortification walls, plus a beautiful marina.
Verona, in Northern Italy, is for culture buffs. It transports you to a bygone era, with an amphitheater defying Rome’s colosseum, museums and squares exuding Old Town charm, plus the Romeo and Juliet balcony.
And let’s not forget Venice. The Gothic wonderland, where palaces, churches, and bridges are just as enchanting as the gondoliers steering their narrow boats through winding canals. The Lagoon City is easily accessible from Pula and other coastal towns in Istria. It takes merely three-and-a-half hours to get from Pula to Venice with Venezia Lines’ catamaran ferry.
While jellyfish exist in the Adriatic, stings are rare.
There are many towns on the Istrian coast worth visiting. But to give you an answer, Pula is a great place to stay. It has many beaches, a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, and all the amenities you’ll need on vacation, from shopping centers to cafes and restaurants.
Yes. You can find a few sandy beaches, but generally, it’s all pebbles, rocks, and stone slabs.