So, you’re looking to go snorkeling in Dubrovnik? We can hardly blame you. The shimmer of the glass-clear Adriatic is hard to ignore. Forever alluring visitors, it sloshes and sprays its salt all around the city, from the 12th-century fortification walls to the wooded Lapad Peninsula to the north.
The good news is that there are loads of places to dive in here. Dubrovnik might be most famed for its Game of Thrones castles, but it’s also replete with fish-filled swimming coves and secret little beaches.
Cue this guide to the best places for snorkeling in Dubrovnik. It’s got a grand total of seven options that we think cover the gamut from exposed, out-at-sea jump offs for the pros to more protected beachfronts for families. There’s even an island or two for good measure. Happy Adriatic safari going, folks…
Buža is unquestionably one of the most striking and unforgettable spots for snorkeling in Dubrovnik. Why? Well…just look at where it is. Spilling off the rocks underneath the 12th-century City Walls, it’s one of the very few swimming locations that’s actually accessible directly from the Old Town. The only way to get there is through a small gap in the ancient fortifications, and then down some zigzagging stairs straight into the sea.
For those bringing the snorkel tube and the goggles in tow, there’s plenty to see. That’s mainly thanks to the high visibility that comes with the rock-laced setting – there’s no sand to cloud the water and whatnot. What’s more, because this one’s out-at-sea, it gets deep very quickly, which means there’s a chance you’ll sight some of the larger native marine creatures, like red snappers and groupers.
After your session in the H2O, you simply have to drop into the Buža Bar. It’s right there on the cliffs above, set on a series of narrow plinths that gaze out to the Adriatic. The venue is one of the few places where you can sip beers under the shade of old Dubrovnik’s bulwarks, and the sunsets are simply to die for!
To the west of the Dubrovnik Old Town, past the muscular rises of the iconic Lovrijenac Fortress, and over the red-tiled chapel roofs of Saint Mary in Dance, this small beach is one of the quieter places for a dip and some snorkeling that’s still within reach of the main tourist quarter. Locals often gather here at the golden hour to cool off by jumping straight off the rocks and into the inky blue Adriatic.
Once again, it’s said rocks that really help to up the visibility levels and keep things clear when you dive under. That should come as music to the ears of would-be snorkelers, who can often gaze 20 meters or more just a few meters from the shoreline. Some of the best wildlife viewing will be where the waves meet the rock reefs just north of the jump-off point but be wary of going too shallow as the swells can be quite powerful. We’d say it’s mainly for experienced swimmers.
Plaža Danče is easy to reach from the old town – you’re looking at a 15-minute walk along Stradun and then into the green spaces of Gradac Park. There’s not really that much here apart from a charming little church and the coves, so be sure to bring your own sustenance and drinks if you fancy some refreshment post-snorkel.
Uvala Lapad Beach
Uvala Lapad Beach is the main beachfront of the famous Lapad Peninsula, which is the go-to beach haven of Dubrovnik town. It’s located about 10 minutes’ drive or bus from the old center, but you can also score a hotel here to have it right on the doorstep, so long as you don’t mind traveling in the other direction when it’s time to do the sightseeing.
The beach itself measures just shy of 100 meters from end to end. It’s often busy in the peak summer months, but way less crowded in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. The good news is that it’s all pebble shingle, which helps to keep the aqua in the main bay super clear. Couple that with a shallow access point from the beachfront itself and you begin to see why this is a top spot for learner snorkelers and snorkeling families looking to practice.
There are loads of amenities on offer at Uvala Lapad, including evening-hour joints like the Sunset Beach Bar and oodles of beach-gear shops that sell goggles, flippers, snorkel kits – you name it! Just above the beach on the hills, you can also escape to the Forest Park Velika, which opens now and then to offer sweeping views of the Adriatic and even access to some way more challenging snorkeling locations on the western side of the headland.
Lokrum is the closest island of all to Dubrovnik. It’s a stone’s throw – literally if you were a giant, at just 618 meters across the strait – from the entrance to the historic harbor. It’s well-linked to the Old Town by a direct ferry that makes up to a whopping 20 crossings per day in the peak season, though there are less in the shoulder seasons and winter months. You can also get across using your own rental motorboat or even sea kayak if you’re feeling really adventurous.
Measuring just 1.6km from tip to tail, the island is at once bitesize but also rammed with potential snorkeling hotspots. We think the best of them are on the more sheltered eastern coastline, where the waves are often lighter than out west. You can even find some within walking distance of the little port at Portoč, which is where the boats come in.
That said, we’d say that the snorkeling piece de resistance of Lokrum has to be the very narrow southern coastline. That’s where you’ll find the gaping sea caves of Golub spilja. They are best accessed with your own yacht or on sea kayaks, and they come with sloshing waters of perfect turquoise blue, not to mention plumes of sardines and spiky sea urchins on the walls.
Mokošica, a suburb of Dubrovnik that’s about 15 minutes’ driving to the north, occupies a pretty lovely spot. Clutching a shimmering fjord that cuts straight inland into the haunch of the Dinaric Alps, it’s got the clear Adriatic to its front and sun-scorched summits to its back. It’s hardly a wonder that it’s among the most sought-after living spots in the city, eh?
But Mokošica is also one of the top spots for snorkeling in Dubrovnik. That’s not really because of any booming underwater biodiversity. It’s mainly thanks to the protection that’s afforded by the surrounding topography. Yep, the fjord waters in the bay here rarely get affected quite so much by the afternoon and evening winds that come like clockwork in the summer months, meaning there’s decent visibility throughout the whole day and many of the locations tend to be accessible to more levels of swimmer.
Sadly, there’s something of a shortage of access points in Mokošica itself because much of the downtown is given over to yacht moorings. However, we like getting in at Rijeka Beach, where you can paddle straight out to see small fish in the shallows of the bay, and there’s also a convenient hop-off just by the side of Vapor Café.
The first of the three inhabited isles of the Elaphiti chain that strings its way north from Dubrovnik proper, Koločep is a fine taste of Adriatic islander life. Aleppo pines sway on the headlands, there are shimmering limestone cliffs that lurch straight from the sea, and more coves than you can shake a bottle of rakija at.
Now, if that sounds like it might be the perfect place to don the snorkel tube, then that’s because it probably is! Yep, Koločep might be a pinprick on the map at just 2.44 square kilometers, but that means loads of shoreline to get through, much of it totally untouched and undeveloped, unlike the stuff around the city itself.
There are some pretty amazing spots. Take the Blue Cave on the southwestern side of the island. Nothing but a postbox-slit of a crevice at the base of a cliff, it opens into a dank cavern where sardines flit this way and that like shards of a broken mirror. On calmer days, you could also boat around to the so-called Stairs to the Sea, a run of square-cut rocks that dominate the western coast. There, a few coves have boulders and reefs that are the perfect habitat for rarer types of small fish.
Plaža Sveti Jakov
The sole choice of snorkeling beach that lies to the south of Dubrovnik on this list, Plaža Sveti Jakov is usually touted as a top place to come and rejuvenate the tan and get your fix of R&R. It certainly is great for that, but it’s also amazing for chasing a sighting of the local marine life.
The reason? A long stretch of cliff face runs to the north of the beach for about 170 meters. It’s consistently in the sun, offers all manner of nooks and crannies to go looking for the wildlife, and is sufficiently far away from the splashing swimmers to invite some rarer animals. The only downside is that it’s quite exposed to the oncoming NW swell, so you will have to be a confident swimmer.
Once you’re done, be sure to take at least some time to relax in the cove. It’s famed for having one of the best head-on views of the Dubrovnik Old Town from across the bay. At sunset, you’ll also get to watch the light fade behind the pine-studded outline of aforementioned Lokrum island. Nice.
Snorkeling in Dubrovnik – our verdict
Whoever said this city was just for the Game of Thrones fans and history buffs? Not a chance. The coastline to the north and south tumbles down from the heights of Croatian Dinaric Alps to offer some of the most dramatic scenery in the country. The geography and topography there combine to give a whole medley of top-drawer locations for snorkeling in Dubrovnik, with some options even within walking distance of the Old Town.