Cavtat is a pretty coastal town in the southern Konvale region of Croatia just 20 kilometres away from its famous neighbour Dubrovnik. It is lesser known than nearby resorts and as a result the peaceful town is a quieter holiday destination that has retained its small town local feel. Cavtat (promounced tsav-tat) is an ideal base from which to explore this stunning part of Croatia and further afield into Montenegro.
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Things to do in Cavtat
Cavtat begins shortly after the turn off from the main highway and slopes steeply down to the sea front where you will find the old town. Walking down the hill into Cavtat affords a stunning first glimpse of the town; shuttered houses of creamy stone with vividly contrasting terracotta roofs jostle for space creating a myriad of buildings, all against the pure blue backdrop of the sparkling Adriatic.
There are two pretty harbours, both a perfect semi circle shape which lead to two tree filled peninsulas that stretch out into the Adriatic. The main body of the town hugs the harbour and marina on the left side of Cavtat.
Palm trees line the harbour front promenade which is edged by shops and cafes. The marina is a popular strolling spot, day or night, and provides an opportunity for close up, envious goggling at the super yachts which moor up daily in impossibly tight spaces in the harbour. In the summer months, this promenade comes alive at night with sympathetic illuminations and an array of music and cultural events.
Cavtat is made for wandering. Turn right off the promenade onto any upwardly sloping lane into the old town to leave the bustling harbour front behind.
The compact old town is a maze of cobbled, stepped lanes with ornate wooden doors hinting at hidden houses beyond. Vivid pink bougainvillea and huge budded Magnolias somehow manage to grow amongst the stone.
A short walk from the top of any of these lanes will lead to the hilltop Cavtat cemetery with sweeping views over the town from the imposing 1921 Racic Mausoleum. The 360 degree view is worth the many steps to get there! Entrance to the mausoleum is 20 kuna.
Directly below the Mausoleum nestling on the harbour front, is the small Church of Our Lady of the Snow. This tiny, atmospheric Franciscan church welcomes visitors daily and it is possible to attend a service on Sunday, though the times vary depending on the heat!
At the opposite end of the promenade is the stunning Church of St Nicholas whose lone bell tolls rhythmically throughout the day.
The church is welcoming to visitors but if you wish to attend Sunday service you need to arrive early as it is very popular.
The 15th Century church is worth visiting in order to view the paintings by the locally born, 19th century artist Vlaho Bukovac, whose nearby home is a three storey museum housing some of his paintings. Entrance to the musuem is 30 kuna or it is included in the extended options for the Dubrovnik Card.
Opposite the church is the colourful farmers market, held daily on the harbourfront. Mouth watering fresh fruit and vegetables and ‘made on the spot’ ice creams and pancakes will tempt you in.
Buy your food and enjoy an idyllic picnic on the harbourfront.
If you are lucky with your timings, you may catch a water polo match at the open water pitch just behind the farmers market. We spent a fun afternoon watching local youth teams competing in a water polo tournament supported by very vocal locals! Most entertaining of all was the enthusiastic and passionate team coach!
Continue around the harbour to visit the pink Rectors Palace, a Renaissance mansion hosting the private collection of the Cavtat born 19th century lawyer Balthazar Bogisic. An array of costumes, weapons and historical artefacts make up this 35,000 piece collection including a valuable collection of numismatics (coins and currency to you and me!). The library is a must for book lovers housing over 20,000 books. Entrance is 25 kuna.
With every Cavtat restaurant in the harbour offering postcard perfect views from outdoor terraces and balconies, food lovers are drawn to Cavtat. People journey over from Dubrovnik for dinner catching the last boat back. If you wish to enjoy a stunning sunset over the Adriatic whilst eating your dinner, make sure you reserve a table at your chosen restaurant well in advance.
Swimming in Cavtat
There is no sandy beach in Cavtat though there is one small pebbly beach on the opposite side of the harbour to the old town. Walk a little further along from the white sailed roof of the Spinnaker Hotel and restaurant to find the beach. There is zoned swimming area around the beach and with the gentle incline into the water it is an ideal location for children. As a result, it is very popular with families and space is at a premium in summer months. Stand up paddle boards and kayaks can be hired nearby.
The centre and left side of the main harbour is where local people go to swim; the water is shallow to enter and unbelievably clear. As it deepens, the water hues change from clear to turquoise to a rich blue. The whole population of this small town – old and young alike – seem to spill into this area after working hours creating a fun, buzzing atmosphere.
You can also swim and snorkel from just about any spot on the rocky shores of the wooded peninsulas. Carefully gauge the water depth before entering the water and be aware of submerged rocks and currents.
The two peninsulas are very pleasant to walk around, offering lots of shade from the closely knitted pine trees as well as providing expansive views of the Adriatic. The cool breeze off the water is an added bonus! Each walk only takes around one hour at a slow pace.
The right peninsula walk is paved and very popular with locals and tourists seeking out isolated swimming spots. There is a popular bar half way round the peninsula with the only toilet in the vicinity!
The left of the two peninsulas has an easy hiking trail on an uneven path through the forest. This path was devoid of tourists – which may be why the nudist beach is located near the end of the trail! The stony path winds through aromatic pines accompanied by birdsong on a blissfully cooling breeze; it is a very pretty, peaceful circular walk, ending on the hill top just above the Spinnaker restaurant.
There are some long distance walks starting or ending in Cavtat, notably the challenging Ronald Brown Way, which make it possible to walk to and from neighbouring Ćilipi. It is possible to catch the bus one way and walk the other but there are no facilties on this scenic, sun exposed route so pack a backpack with water and snacks. Ask for route advice and bus timetables at the helpful tourist office at the bus station in central Cavtat.
Day Trips From Cavtat
The most popular day trip is from Cavtat to Dubrovnik, one of the most visited sites in Croatia. Before your visit, check the online cruise ship timetable – the arrival of daily goliath sized cruise ships dramatically increases the visitor numbers to an already busy location. Try to choose a quieter day and you will enjoy Dubrovnik the more for it.
Dubrovnik is 20 kilometres away along a main highway so it is easy to self drive. However, once in Dubrovnik you may struggle to find parking and run the risk of getting caught in busy city traffic.
Alternatively, take the Number 10 bus from Cavtat bus station direct to Dubrovnik. Buses run frequently thoroughout the day and drop you near to the cable car station for Mt. Syd. This is the cheapest way to get to Dubrovnik from Cavtat.
However, we would advise taking the scenic, 45 minute trip across the Adriatic inlet to Dubrovnik. The boat docks right outside the walls of the Old Town by the Ploce Gate; access to the city walls couldn’t be easier. Boat timetables start early and run late as many visitors come to Cavtat from Dubrovnik for dinner.
The medieval city walls of Dubrovnik must be viewed from the sea to fully appreciate their size and scale as well as the incredible feat of engineering they involved. The views arriving into the Old Town by boat were spectacular.
As a family of five, we shopped around on the harbour front for the best price as travelling to Dubrovnik by boat is three times the price of travelling by bus.
However, due to the high competition for clients, we were offered discounts without asking for them and secured free places for two of our children. We were also offered a discount if we booked a day in advance. The extra cost is worth it for the views, the lack of traffic and the cool breeze!
Alternative day trips include snorkeling trips, fishing trips and transfers to surrounding islands and coastal towns. All of these are on offer at the harbour, just make sure you shop around as prices vary.
On Sundays, the villagers of Cilipi perform an outdoor traditional music and dance show after mass in front of the church. It is a ticket only event and packages including transport are sold in the Cavtat tourist office.
Getting to Cavtat
Cavtat is situated just 6 kilometres from the international Ćilipi airport, often called Dubrovnik airport. Taxis to Cavtat are quick and cheap.
The close proximity of the airport did not bother us during our stay; some aircraft noise can be heard but it is sporadic and is not consistent or frequent. Our son loved plane spotting and I think his holiday was complete when he spotted ANAs’ special liveried R2D2 airplane passing overhead!
Cavtat bus station in the town centre has frequent links to Dubrovnik and other towns in the region.
There are daily, regular boat trips around this area of the coastline and it is a short hop to Dubrovnik to catch passenger ferries and catamarans to destinations further up the coastline of Croatia and to the many islands in the Adriatic. Korcula Island is two hours by catmaran, Hvar is three hours. check the Jadrolinija website for details.
Unfortunately, there is no direct bus from Cavtat to Kotor, you have to go to Dubrovnik first, change buses and double back on yourself passing Cavtat to get to the Montenegran border. If you are travelling as a group, it may be more cost effective – and a lot easier – to travel to Montenegro by private taxi and catch a Montenegran bus from the border town.
We stayed in Cavtat by luck; we had wanted to stay in Dubrovnik but travelling in high season (and leaving it late to book!) we were unable to find accommodation within our budget. We were very fortunate with our default choice; we loved Cavtat as soon as we saw it and after just one day in Dubrovnik we were ahppy to return to the peace of Cavtat!
There are a couple of large hotels on the edge of town and many appartment complexes on the hill leading into town. Fortunately, the town centre remains unspoilt by modern building. The most famous hotel in the area is the Hotel Cavtat, situated outside of the town centre. Boat trips to and from Dubrovnik stop here to pick up and drop off passengers.
Another popular choice is the indulgent, ideally located Hotel Croatia whose stunning views are hard to beat!
We stayed at the friendly Appartments Senjo on the edge of town at the top of the hill. The immaculate one bed appartment comfortably fitted our family of five and using the kitchenette saved us a lot of money! It was also a little cheaper than staying in the centre of Cavtat. Ideally, rent an appartment or house with a balcony to enjoy the wonderful views and if visiting in summer, make sure you rent somewhere with air conditioning throughout!
Top Tips For Visiting Cavtat
Visit the helpful tourist office at the bus station for maps, timetables and information about the local area.
The sole public toilet is located at the bus station, costing 7 kuna (nearly £1!. The windowless cubicles are like a furnace in high summer. There is a toilet in the large Spinnaker restaurant complex on the other side of the bay near the zoned swimming area which you are kindly allowed to use for free. Pack your anti bac handwash!
Visit the small, friendly farmers market at the harbour to pick up delicious fresh fruit, vegetables and sweet treats. It is much cheaper than buying lunch in the restaurants.
For self caterers, there is a small but well stocked supermarket on the corner by the bus station. It also sells quick lunches such as pizza slices or ready made sandwiches.
A MUST DO is a visit to the ice cream shop Kuca Slaloleda ‘The House Of Ice Cream’ next to the ATM machine opposite the farmers market. Displayed in a rainbow of colours and flavours with generous helpings this is the best ice cream we have ever tasted! And for only 10 kuna. We visited every day!
Accommodation is cheaper the further away from the harbour you go. It is an easy 10 minute walk down the hill into town and if you cannot face the steep climb home at the end of the day you can catch the number 10 bus or a taxi – though you may choose to walk off the daily ice cream!
Bring beach shoes. There are no beaches, just rocky shorelines or outcrops and there are lots of sea urchins in the water.
Make sure you watch the sunsets; they are breath taking.
We feel very lucky to have discovered Cavtat by chance and would love to return one day to this sunny spot in Croatia. Have you been to Cavtat? What was your favourite thing to do there?