Croatia on a Budget: Island Hop Without Breaking the Bank

You’ve probably seen the pictures of Croatia’s stunning beauty. This Mediterranean gem has been the vacation playground of the rich and famous for a reason. But that doesn’t mean it is out of reach for the rest of us.

Croatia is a stunning country, and while it’s been gaining popularity in recent years, it is still one of the more budget-friendly countries to road trip, explore, and ‘pomalo’ (which means ‘take it easy’ in Croatian)! 

Speaking of, one of the hidden gems I want to share with you is Vis, a small Croatian island located just off the coast of Split. Although it’s fairly close to shore, Vis feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland while still giving you the ability to count “island hopping in Croatia” off your bucket list.

You can find plenty of things to do on Vis, from swimming and sunbathing to hiking and exploring the island’s many caves. But there is much more to Vis than just sun, sea, and sand. The island also boasts a rich history and culture – like the fortress at Komiža and the nearby Blue Cave. So, whether you’re looking for a peaceful beach vacation or an adventurous hike through history, Vis is THE island. And because it’s not one of the main party islands in Croatia over-populated by tourists, it won’t break the bank to spend a week either!

PRO TIP: When you fall in love with Croatia, which you will, and you’re ready for a budget-friendly road trip down the entire Dalmatian Coast, this 15 Day Road Trip from Pula to Dubrovnik is the editor’s choice, ie. my favorite route!

What’s the big deal?

Vis is a small Croatian island situated in the Adriatic Sea, a whopping 18 kilometers wide and 9 kilometers long. Though small, the island has been inhabited for over 2,000 years, and it has been ruled by a succession of different civilizations – small island, big history!

First settled by the Greeks in the 4th century BC, it later came under Roman rule. In the Middle Ages, it was an important strategic outpost for the Venetian Republic. Later, it was controlled by Austria and then France, Italy, and Germany before becoming part of Yugoslavia after World War II. Today, the island is a niche stop on the Croatian tourist circuit, but its rich history is often overshadowed by its more recent reputation as a beach destination. While the island is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbor, Hvar, it is known for its unspoiled natural beauty and Mediterranean vibe. 

So when all of your friends are bragging about the more common (and overly expensive) Croatian islands and the coastline of Dubrovnik, you’ll be sitting back educating them on this gem of a find in the Mediterranean Sea – the Island of Vis!

What to Do in Vis?

  1. Promenade from the town of Vis to Kut [Free] – Always love a good walk around town! From the port of Vis to the little adjacent town of Kut is about a 20-minute stroll, and I recommend you do it once on the island. If you’re crafty about your timing, your goal is to lunch at this gem: Restaurant Vatrica. Order anything fish-related, and go for that bottle of wine (but remember, don’t drink and scoot!)
  2. Explore the Beaches of Vis [Free] – Another budget-friendly activity is beach lounging, where you BYOB and BYOS (Bring Your Own Snacks). Some of my favorite beaches on Vis are Stiniva Bay, Prirovo Beach, Smokova Beach, and Oključna Beach, so choose your own adventure!
  3. Hike up to the Highest Point on the Island [Free] – While there are many mountain trails and markers, and most hikes take between 2 – 5 hours to get to the top of any hill, this is your end destination at least one of the days: Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The views of the entire island from the top are stunning!
  4. Swim in Stiniva Bay [Free] – From the moment you arrive, you’ll be mesmerized by the stunning scenery. And one of the best ways to take it all in is by swimming in Stiniva Bay. While it’s not a walk in the park to get there, you’ll be rewarded by crystal-clear water, surrounded by towering cliffs and lush vegetation. Put on your sneakers and get ready for a 20-minute downhill hike to the beach – no flip-flops recommended.
    • PRO TIP: Bring your own adult beverages and some snacks. While there is a little bar stand at the bottom of the beach, it’s quite expensive, and we’re on a budget!
  5. Scooter around Vis [$] – In fact, make sure you rent one for the duration of your trip, as it will be your main mode of transportation (and a cheap one at that!). There’s no better way to trek the narrow roads of the island, take in the stunning scenery and visit the bustling markets in town (where cars don’t always fit) than by scooter. Plus, when was the last time you had a photo opportunity on what is commonly known as the cutest 2-wheel vehicle!
    • PRO TIP: Stop at the Stone Garden for the local wine and snacks. This local couple single-handedly built this stone garden out on the hillside, which I find incredibly impressive!
  6. Spend time in Komiza [$] – This is where we booked an Airbnb and spent a whole week unwinding, exploring the island, eating our way through all the gelato Vis has to offer, and gorging on the fish every day. A couple of my favorite restaurants in Komiza include Konoba Bako and Konoba Jastozera.
  7. Wine Tasting of the Local Variety [$] – Instead of going on a wine tour, which can be a pricey service, grab your scooter and go on your own! Some of my favorite wineries on the island are Senjanovic Winery, Vidovic Family Winery, and Vislander Winery. And if this is your first experience with Croatian wine,
  8. Visit the Blue & Green Cave [$$] – For this, you’ll want to grab a tour because you definitely need to get on a boat to explore both caves. Because the seas are temperamental, check every morning if boats are going to the Blue Grotto and book your trip. There are few in the world, and lucky for us, one is right here on Vis!
  9. Date night at Lola’s [$$] – Yes, I know it’s not the cheapest, but you’re allowed one Splurge moment, and this is it! One of my favorite restaurants and nights out was Lola’s Konoba & Bar for a few reasons. Firstly, walking into the restaurant feels like you’re entering a secret garden, with twinkling lights and little nooks to sit and sip on a cocktail before dinner. Secondly, the owners and chefs are excellent at their craft and the dishes are incredibly delicious, putting a western European spin on traditional Croatian favorites.
  10. Tour the Islands on a Boat [$$$] – You’ll want to grab a skipper and boat for this adventure, which will be a bit more pricey than the above budget recs, but it will be nice to be guided along to Hvar and Brac, even Krk and Korcula in a day around some of the more popular islands. Grab a few wine bottles, which I hope you purchased on your self-tour, and enough food to last you a few good hours – spend your day on a boat!

How to get to Vis?

The cheapest way to get to Vis is by first flying into the Split International Airport. After landing, there is a bus service just outside the terminal that will take you to the ferry port. It’s a 30-40 minutes ride and is the least expensive and most time economical option. Alternatively, you can also take an Uber.

From the port, take the Jadrolinea Ferry, which runs 2x daily to the island of Vis. This ferry should only take about 2 hours, and has wifi on board, so don’t you fret!

Tips for staying on a budget?

  • Rent a Scooter for your main mode of transportation – It’s slower than a car, but trust me, you won’t be wanting to speed and miss the stunning scenery of the island. Additionally, the road system is essentially a loop – a trip around the island on a scooter should take about 2 hours tops.
  • Stay in the town of Komiza – Both the Port of Vis and the town of Komiza are great places to squat for the duration of your stay, but if you’re looking for a less touristy, more budget-friendly option, Komiza offers wonderful restaurants, is the hub of where you can take the boat to the Blue Cave, and is even more relaxed than the town of Vis.
  • Pack Light – I’m talking about a backpack for the week! You’ll be riding around on a scooter, and need to be able to carry your pack on your back to get to your destination.
  • Make sure your Travel & Medical Insurance is active! – While this is a small expense upfront, it’s a budget tip in the long run because the cost is more if the unexpected happens. And because you’ll be traveling by plane, bus, ferry, and scooter in one day… need I say more?
  • Buy groceries and snacks at the mini-markets – Eating out will get expensive quickly, even on this little remote island. While you don’t want to spend all your time cooking, consider buying coffee and snacks for lunch, as you may be on the beach or hiking around the island. And dinner for a night out! 

PRO TIP: Once you’ve explored the island of Vis and spent some time on the Dalmatian Coast, may I point you to the islands of Italy – Which is Better: The Amalfi Coast or Sicily? for you.