Croatia is the starting point to diving all the best the Adriatic Sea has to offer. There are over 1,000 islands to dive around with plenty of caves, caverns, tunnels, and rock formations to explore. Wrecks are common including ships from both World Wars and other wrecks, soem of which are over 150 years old and have been transformed into living reefs underwater. Divers can expect to see eels, octopus, tuna, seahorses, nudibranchs and more…all with the foothills of the Alps and Dinards mountain chains as a backdrop.
Croatia is very easy to get to. There are several major airports receiving flights from Europe as well as major international cities; many daily trains arriving from Austria, Hungary, Italy, Serbia and Slovenia; and there are several ferry boats arriving from Italy and Slovenia. Getting around the country is easy via the rail, bus or by car and there are plenty of other activities to take part in such as hiking or skiing in the winter.
Croatia can be dived year round, although it receives the most tourists in the summer months due to warmer temperatures (both above and below water) and the European summer vacation season. The summer months have air temperatures between 17C and 35C and water temperatures up to 27C. Water temperatures can vary depending on depth and close proximity to freshwater spring entrances as they often bring colder water into the Adriatic. In the winter air temperatures average 5-15C and water temperatures get as cold as 11C. The most rainfall occurs in May, June, October and November.
Both the north and south Adriatic has plenty to offer dives including good visibility (5-30m in the summer), little or no current, and both deep and shallow dives for all levels of experience. Croatia is also a great place to get dry suit certified (any time of the year, although in the winter you’ll want to use one!) Diving in Croatia does require a permit issued by the Croatian Diving Federation. It is good for one year and only issued to certified divers, costing around 15 Euros. Divers will need to show certification card and passport to get one.
Divers love Croatia for its interesting underwater topography. There are many rock formations to explore with tunnels to swim through and both large and small caverns with coral and sponge encrusted walls. In some areas there are caves to explore and in others rock pinnacles jet up from the bottom out of nowhere and fish swarm the pinnacle. There are many wrecks of all different ages including WWI and WWII. Current is rare and most dive sites are less than 30m.
The Adriatic is mostly isolated which has allowed many endemic plants and animals to evolve. Of the over 7,000 species found in the Adriatic there are over 500 endemic algae species, four seagrass species, and at least 45 endemic fish species.
Croatia diving is all about the islands. Some favorites include the island of Havr which has steep walls, caves, and lots of marine life. Close to Havr are the Pakleni Islands which are known for canyons with giant gorgonians, yellow and pink sponges and the Paulina Wreck which is thought to have sunk over 150 years ago.
Just off the central coast of Croatia are several popular islands to dive. Vis is the largest island and has many underground caves for exploring and several wrecks. Biševo is home to “Blue Cave,” one of the top cave dives in Croatia where divers first enter the cave by boat before descending underwater. Another favorite is the island of Sušac. Here deep cliffs can be explored by divers with tons of fish everywhere. Colorful anthias seem to buzz around the bottom.
The island of Svetac is known for its black coral and in the past was a popular place for Mediterranean monk seals (one of the most endangered mammals on Earth.) They can still occasionally be seen here, although most are found closer to the Italian coast of the Adriatic.
Water temperatures in the Adriatic Sea are mild during the summer and can be cold in the winter. A 5mm with hood and gloves is recommended in the summer as there can be cold thermoclines or changes in temperature in areas where freshwater springs are feeding into the sea. In the winter a dry suit is recommended.
Croatia almost seems harder “not to get to” than to get to. It can easily be accessed by plane, boat, rail, or car. Eight airports receive international flights and the country has many small airports including many on the numerious islands in the Adriatic Sea. Zagreb Airport is the main international airport, but divers may also find the Dubrovnik and Rijeka (on the island of Krk) airports useful. For those not wanting to fly the rail system is reliable, as are the ferry boats coming from Italy and Slovenia. Expressways are also considered to be generally good for getting around the country by car.
There are plenty of dive shops to choose from along the entire Adriatic Sea coast, so pretty much wherever you are staying in Croatia, you can find a dive shop. In the north, Dive City, located in Crikvenica, teaches classes and has a dive boat to take divers out to sites around the Krk and Cres islands. They also can book accommodations and other non-diving excursions. For instruction one of the most popular dive shops is Croatia Divers 5* PADI Resort located in Vela Luka, on the island of Korcula. They do instruction from beginner dives through instructor and also take already certified divers on dives to explore Korcula and the other nearby islands. Viking Diving Center in Hvar also does PADI training, has daily boat trip and can arrange accommodation. In southern Croatia, Blue Planet is in Dubrovnik and offers PADI training through instructor and technical diving instruction. They are part of Hotel Dubrovnik Palace which makes it convenient to stay at the hotel and take dive classes or go out for pleasure dives. They also have a great house reef right outside the hotel this is very popular for night dives (and good during the day too.)
Most of Croatia’s dive shops offer reliable rental gear; some even have dry suits to rent during the colder months (and offer the class to learn how to used them if needed). Nitrox tank fills and training is offered at most of the larger shops.
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