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I can’t quite remember when I first started seeing photos of Croatia’s water. Crystal clear waters, tan people showing lots of skin, and gorgeous sunny skies. Photos would pop up in my Instagram feed of people on floaties in turquoise water, or an article would come out about yacht week, with photos of expertly executed dives. My obsession with swimming in Croatia’s waters began to build, and so did my assumptions and misconceptions of them.

Assumption #1: The beaches would be amazing.
It never even occurred to me that I hadn’t seen any photos of the beaches. And for good reason. They look like this:

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G.L.A.M.O.R.O.U.S. 

It is possible to find a few traditional sandy beaches, but they generally are tucked away and not easy to get to. We found that many more of the popular “beaches” are made of tons of little pebbles, and even more common were just big boulders and rocks that people sunbathe on or jump off. The pebble beaches make for some very relaxing sounds as the waves come in and push the rocks towards shore, then as the water recedes the rocks tumble back in a gentle cascading noise. It’s kind of like the ocean is giving the land a stone massage. Heh.

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Cliff relaxing.

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This was the sandiest beaches we saw! And you had to arrive by private boat.

While the entry points of the water may not be very traditional in a sandy beach way, they have their own unique appeal. One of the most popular activities we saw at these big rocks was jumping off them. Up and down the coast of Croatia, we watched small little leaps from 4 feet, to daring drops of 40 feet.

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The annoying part was swimming all the way around to climb out to do it again!

Assumption #2: The water would be warm. 
Another thing that didn’t occur to me to consider was the temperature. I associated the clear and bright liquid with my experiences of the clear and bright 90*F toasty bath water in the Caribbean. That was a very wrong assumption to make. The water in Croatia is cold. Not New England cold, but cold enough to make you pause and reconsider your decision to swim. Most days it was warm enough that the water felt pretty refreshing once you got all the way in, but we saw many people pausing thigh deep, debating their life choices.

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Darth Vader learns to swim.

Assumption #3: I would visit the Blue Cave.
Over the centuries amazing caves formed along the rocky shorelines. Some are small little coves, but some are ridiculously wide and deep caves that stretch hundreds of feet back. All along this part of the Adriatic you can find “blue caves” which are caves that have a direct source of sunlight that hits the bottom of the cave (usually some kind of white rock) that then magnifies the sunlight and lights up all of the water in the cave to an electrifying blue. We tried to get to the blue cave in Split but due to high waves blocking the entrance, the cave was closed that day, which apparently isn’t that uncommon! We ended up temporarily satisfying our cave hunting obsession with some caves in Pula, which were super beautiful. And of course, people were jumping off the top.

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I will write more in-depth about this cave at some point, but it became an obsession to find it. People were jumping off the top, which was like 25-30ft!

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The trifecta – cliff relaxing, people debating their life choices (right) and cliff jumping.

Assumption #4: My toes would be safe.
One thing I was warned about before I went was to bring water shoes. This was less because of the rocks (though I do recommend having them for that reason alone) and more because of the sea urchins. The water has to be some kind of magical breeding temperature because those little suckers are everywhere. Generally at the popular beach spots, either they have been cleared away or they don’t even set up shop, but take a few steps outside the normal area and BOOM they are all over the place. We planned ahead and brought water shoes, but at one beach, Derek still got a spine in his shoe. It took him forever to get the darn thing out, and it narrowly missed his toes.

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Too close for comfort!

All in all the waters of Croatia were absolutely gorgeous, but not at all what I was expecting. I had a blast swimming in them, jumping in them, laying near them, and even diving in them. Go with an open mind and prepare for the unexpected!

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