Guide to CRES, a Magical Island in the Adriatic Sea

Let me guide you to Cres, a truly magical island in the Adriatic Sea.

View of CRES, a Magic Island in the Adriatic Sea
Without a caption, one could easily think this is an Italian vilaggio.

Just an hour from the Croatian mainland, you’ll find unspoiled nature, coastal towns, and clear waters.

Just like Porec and Rijeka, also this island deems very Italian due to its ever-changing history.

One of my favorite European cities is Venice. And the sight from Riomaggiore over the Sea left me speechless.
God knows that.
Sometimes he likes to amaze me with a nice surprise.
So he thought a bit and then remembered that there was still a little room left on this Adriatic island called Cres.
So God thought: Why not just combine the beauty of Venetian architecture and the natural splendor of the Cinque Terre in one spot?!

Port of Cres Istria Croatia
Location, location, location: My Apartman is in the olive green house – second on the left.

Said and done, cute little houses were built around an unpretentious jetty. Then, lush hills and narrow pebble beaches were added – and eccolo: Paradise on Earth!

Is it an Island? Is it a Town?

I have to be precise here: Cres is an island and on this island is a town also named Cres.
And that’s the jewel.

The island of Cres is connected to another island called Lošinj which is more popular and therefore also touristically more developed.
I had my share of touristically developed in Poreč, so coming to Cres to me was like entering paradise.

There is the atmospheric center – somewhere between cute and sophisticated.

Cres Town in Istria Croatia
Italian heritage at every corner.

There are expensive yachts in the small port.
But there are also the old men with weather-beaten faces, drinking Rakija and having heated discussions in Italian, albeit, the times that the Venetians ruled Cres are long gone.

The cold, clear waters can be enjoyed from small beaches within walking distance or larger beaches where different types of boats take you.

I Don’t Splurge

Wonderful Cres is a good opportunity to write a little bit about where I am staying during my road trip.

The Croatian Apartman

Since usually, I’m spending just the night in my room, I’m a little cheap when it comes to accommodation.
Although I appreciate a nice room, the price matters. But I’m not doing hostels.
I love hostels – young, fresh travellers hanging out, exchanging experiences…great energy.
But I’m very, very, veeery uncomfortable sleeping in one room with people I don’t know.
To be precise, I’m also uncomfortable sleeping in one room with people I do know.

Well, Croatia caters perfectly to people like me.

Are you familiar with the Casa Particular system in Cuba? People rent out a spare room they have polished according to some very strict rules established by the Máximo Líder and rent them to…people like me.

Here in Croatia, you hardly ever use the common area together with your host, however, sometimes they just live next door.

What you get is a small Apartman or studio. Not always furnished like in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, but with lots of love.

You certainly find everything you need: A clean bedroom, a tidy bathroom, a small kitchen or kitchenette – and lots of care by your host.

Actually, I think this is why it reminds me so much of Cuban Casas Particulares: The hosts get out of their way to make you feel at home. They offer to pick you up wherever you arrive, they don’t stop to tell you to let them know whatever you need – they are just so nice! Genuinely nice!

Becoming Family

When I got to my first Apartman, the Art Room*, in Zagreb and met Irena, the art aficionado who rents out rooms decorated by her artist friends, I thought it was just a lucky shot, that we got along since we are both so art buff.

But then I came to Poreč, and Martina was also so welcoming and nice and sent her husband to pick me up at the bus station although it was only a ten minutes walk to the Apartman Oliva*.
Once there, he wouldn’t stop fixing the TV so I could watch German television.
I had told him about five times that I didn’t want to watch TV in general and particularly no German television…in Croatia.
He finally fixed it.
I never turned it on.

Yesterday I came to Cres and finally met Dolores, the sweetest woman ever, who had sent me about twelve WhatsApps to explain precisely how I’d get from the jetty to the Apartman – we’re talking about 150 meters here.

Guys, if you ever happen to feel lonely in your life, just rent an Apartman in Croatia – your host will shower you with affection.

I’d like to know: What are your favorite accommodations when you travel – rather luxury or rather homestays or….? Share it with me and my readers in the section below.

On Cres. Or In Cres.

Surprisingly, Cres is the same size as the far more famous island of Krk, but is only populated by a little over 3,000 people. And also tourism is by far not as massive as on the more popular islands. Only on Cres’ sister island Lošinj, tourism is more developed. That’s the reason why, after having pushed my way through tourist groups in Poreč, I stayed on Cres.
And in Cres.

Far more boats than cars in Cres
Far more boats than cars.

Croatians are a bit chintzy with names and call a town after the islands where it’s located.
So Cres on Cres.

Port of Rijeka
Leaving from Rijeka to Cres.

Like everywhere else in Croatia, you can rent an Apartman – the one I rented was in a prime location about three minutes’ walk from the ferry overlooking the small yacht harbor.

I could walk from there to the beach or to some supermarkets in a couple of minutes. The owners got out of their way to make me feel comfortable – a perfect stay.

Cres cannot deny its Venetian heritage.
Cres cannot deny its Venetian heritage.

The Apartman is located on one of the main squares so there are about five different restaurants as soon as you open the door.

Town beach of Cres in Istria
The beach around the corner.

You reach a small beach in five minutes.

It’s not a great beach.
Come to think of it, there are no really great beaches in Croatia.
But it doesn’t matter since everything else is so perfect.
However, this one is a beach where you can stretch out on pebbles and relax and take a dip in the crystal clear waters.

Out of Cres

As I said, there are a bit over 3,000 people on Cres island, and almost 2,900 are living in the town of Cres; which tells you a lot about the density of the population in the villages.

The most famous should be Lubenice, an untouched place about 20 km from Cres. There is actually a bus going, but only on certain days and at around 5 a. m.

Remote view of Lubenice on Cres Istria Croatia
Up where it belongs: Secluded village of Lubenice.

I wouldn’t mind going on a certain day at 5 a. m. to a village up the mountain inhabited by seven women. But I spent only two days in Cres and simply didn’t have the time. I absolutely need to come back with much more time to… basically nothing.

Since I didn’t have the opportunity to visit this enchanted village, I at least wanted to see some….water. And there is a lot of water around Cres and it’s crystal clear and deep blue and just amazing.

Blue sea around Cres Istria Croatia
Simply blue.

Cruising Around Cres

In the harbor, there are tour operators offering trips to a beach below Lubenice. It’s totally worth the 270 Kuna to spend hours on the ship just observing how the landscape around the petrol-blue waters changes.

Docking on the beach of Lubenice on Cres Istria Croatia
A nice day out.

Once you get to the beach, there is a guided tour of the blue grotto included in the trip. You have to swim, though, and the water in the grotto is freezing. But the cave illuminated by some rays of the sun is just mesmerizing.

A goat above the beach of Lubenice on the island of Cres Istria Croatia
What are all these people doing here? Suspiciously observed by curious locals while sunbathing.

Also included is a – let’s say not too heavy – lunch on board – choice of fish or chicken, and water, lemonade, and wine.

After about 90 minutes on the beach, the pirate ship heads back to Cres.

They promise you to spot dolphins on the way – and they actually keep their promise: We saw a group of three big, jolly mammals jumping around – the cherry on the cake that was this wonderful day trip.

Dolphins around Cres Istria Croatia
There were three dolphins jumping around the Korsar until everybody had a picture.

I went on the a bit silly pirate ship Korsar which is to be found in the harbor. You can get info online, but I have the impression that you get a better deal when booking on the spot. Just go to the small counter in front of the ship.

For me, unfortunately, that was it for Cres, since I had only three weeks for my entire trip.

So when I come back to Croatia, I’ll stay at least four to five days in Cres.

Practical Information

How to Get There

You can get from Rijeka to Cres in a bit over one hour with Jadrolinija and the fare is 35 Kuna – which is really cheap since you are travelling on a very comfortable catamaran. You can buy your ticket online or at the harbor, it’s very easy.

There is only one ferry going from Rijeka to Cres, it leaves at 2:30 p. m. and arrives at 3: 50 p. m. To catch it, I had to leave Poreč on the morning bus around 8 a. m. and had about five hours in Rijeka.

No problem, there is a locker room at the bus station and Rijeka is a really pleasant and authentic city.

The Downside of Public Transport

As I said, I was coming from Rijeka and initially intended to move on to Krk island.

At the end of a perfect day, the sun sets perfectly over the Adriatic sea.
At the end of a perfect day, the sun sets perfectly over the Adriatic sea.

In general, that’s possible since from the village of Merag on Cres leaves a ferry.
However, it is a little complicated and quite time-consuming since the buses and the ferry are not in sync.
It simply was not worth it losing an entire day getting to Baška just to stay there for two nights.

It might be much easier if you have your own vehicle, though.

Since for me, it didn’t make sense, I finally refrained from going there at all and went back to Rijeka instead.
Which was totally fine since, during my forced stopover on the way from Poreč to Cres, I fell in deep love with the city and was looking forward to having another stay there.

Best Place to Sleep

Apartman Dolores* – called after the sweetest owner ever – is located right on the harbor. You walk about 2 minutes from the ferry.

At night, you open the door and there are uncountable restaurants.

You walk ten minutes and you find yourself on a tiny, but a pretty nice beach.

Walk twenty minutes and the beaches get bigger but also more crowded.

Staying at Dolores’ Apartman*, you are in the middle of everything, and this lady – and her husband – are just the friendliest and warmest hosts you can wish for.

The apartman is pretty spacious with a big bedroom that easily houses three. There is a very well-equipped kitchen with every appliance you might need and a bathroom of a good size.

But besides the lovely owners, it’s the location – location – location.

Since the owners of Dolores’ Apartman* have only two rooms, chances are they might be booked out. Therefore, you can comfortably search for a suitable lodging option on this map`*:

Best Place to Eat

As I said, you just open Dolores’ door and….don’t look too far, at the next corner of the square is Buffet Marittimo serving basically what every restaurant in Cres is serving – fish and shellfish; but here you get really generous portions at a good price.

Buffet Marittimo
51557 Cres

What to Do

I’m an avid solo-travelling woman. Since solo travel doesn’t equal solitude, I love to join organized tours here and there. Since I was travelling through Croatia by public bus, I needed to join organized tours when I wanted to go on a day trip. Hence, especially if you don’t have your own vehicle and want to visit more remote places in a comfortable and secure way, here are some great options*:

Cres Island is only one of many beautiful places I’ve visited in Croatia. So to read about the others, go to the main post and take your pick! There you’ll also find valuable general information that will make your trip smoother.

Pinnable Pictures

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Note: I’m completing, editing, and updating this post regularly – last in January 2023.

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