I’m super lucky that my parents still want to take me along on family holidays (even though I’n now 23), however it’s always a lovely chance to spend quality time with my family, eating, drinking, arguing and relaxing – a classic family hol! This year for our 2016 family holiday we decided on Porec, Croatia. I had my first taste of Croatia when last year, myself and 19 of my fave uni pals headed to Hvar, an island off of the Western coast from Split for a week. I had a great time, the food and drink cheap, beaches stunning, people friendly, and the nightlife perfect. Fast forward this year and my parents booked a family holiday for the five of us to Croatia for 11 nights. We typically visit Italy or Greece as a family, but decided to ring the changes, and due to the close proximity to Italy, Croatia was a perfect choice for us! My parents decided on the Isabella hotel, part of Valamar hotels, on an island with the Isabella hotel (4*), a 5* hotel and apartments. As well as a mixture of beaches, pools and recreational areas. We had such a lovely time that I just had to share the spot with you guys!
Location and Transport
As we’ve got older we’ve decided we like minimal fuss and stress, gone are the days where we used to pick up a rental car park and drive a few hours into the mountains, instead we like to breeze through an airport and hop onto a coach (sometimes). We flew from Gatwick into Pula airport, and with the flight being only 1 hour and 45 minutes, it was super chilleed, once we landed at the airport Thomson picked us up in the coach and drove us for 45mins to the bus station in Porec, where they sorted out our cases and we hopped on the 3 minute ferry from Porec to our island, where the hotel is. The ferries that run from Porec to the island run pretty often (every 15-20 minutes or so) up until midnight and we had no issues with them, they ran like clockwork and were easy to use.
Valamar are a Croatian chain and have a whole fleet of gorgeous hotels across the country. We decided on the Svetic Nikola Island resort which has the 4*Isabella Hotel that we stayed in, as well as a 5* hotel, 5* castle and apartments. The island worked out perfectly for us as a family as it meant we had alternative choices for our meals, swimming pools and beaches. The island itself is a lovely size, it takes around 15 minutes to walk around the whole island and has everything you could need, including an amazing kids clubs, kids pool, standard pool, pool slides, an adults only infinity pool, pebbly and sandy beaches, and a variety of bars and restaurants. We booked the breakfast and dinner package, and whilst we ate breakfast at the hotel every morning, we had dinner at the hotel every other night, venturing into Porec on half of the nights as this is something we enjoy about our family holidays. We really enjoy trying local hotspots and favourites, so this worked out really well for us.
The food options at the hotel are great. The choice at breakfast is large and there is everything you could need; from fresh fruit, to yoghurts, contintenal breakfast, a fry up, to order omelettes, pancakes, juices – you get the idea! As our package didn’t include lunch, most days we made a little prosciutto and cheese sandwich at breakfast which we then took up to our mini fridge in the room and had that for lunch – it worked perfectly for us, as I find int he heat I don’t get too hungry throughout the day. The evening meals were also lovely, and as well as the buffet dinner option, you could also have a BBQ on the beach which ran a few times a week, as well as upgrading to the 5* restaurant for a small supplement of 10euros per head. We did this on the last night and the meal was exquisite. I also have annoying and often tricky food allergies and the staff and chef were so attentive and lovely, and I had the most DELICIOUS dinner, one of my fave meals for a really long time. I would say though that for these different restaurants it is worth booking as soon as you check in, or beforehand if possible, as for the extra nice restaurant the only next free date was our last night!
The hotel is very well catered for families And the kids ‘Maro’ club and teen lounge are perfect for children. There was a weekly princess ball which always looked adorable, as well as frequent discos and loads of daily activities. We didn’t experience these as I am 23, and my sisters 21 and 18, however the kids looked like they loved what was on offer and the hotel is very child friendly.
The hotel are very good at occasions, and both the Tuesday welcome drinks and Thursday gala nights were super popular. In particular we enjoyed the gala night, where we enjoyed our dessert by the pool, watched the dance shows, entertainment and even won a pedicure in the raffle! We were there for 2 welcome drinks and 2 gala nights over our 11 night stay, so that also worked out well.
We booked our stay in Croatia with Thomson, and on our welcome chat, Steven ran through the organised excursions available, as well as offering tips on day trips you can do yourself. We decided to book 2 excursions through Thomson, and we organised 1 day trip ourselves. We went on both the BBQ Boat Tour, which visited Rovinj (Little Venice), Vrsar, and the fjord; and a gorgeous vineyard tour. Both of which I cannot recommend enough, but in particular the vineyard tour was a firm favourite. The wine tour was so atmospheric, and we visited both the Kabola Vineyard and Sinkovich distillery, visiting both these hilltop locations via a noddy train, and accompanied by an authentic accordionist and fab tour guide called Elvis. Lots of wine, and brandy were consumed, and discovering 2 pet pigs at the second vineyard only added the icing to the cake.
The Istrian area of Croatia is full of culture, and in Porec we enjoyed visiting the incredible UNESCO Euphrasian Basilica which was built between the 5th and 6th centuries and features a 6th century baptistry and a 16th century bell tower. We climbed to the top of the bell tower and the bells even went off when we were at the top! On the Friday before we left, the weather was pretty cloudy, so we decided to ditch the pools and beaches and boarded a bus to Pula. The bus in itself wasn’t a success as it took us nearly 3 hours to get to Pula, when it only took us 45 mins on the way back, where we decided to get a taxi, THANK GOODNESS. Anyway, we went to Pula to have a walk around the old town and to visit the Pula Arena Amphitheatre, the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have 4 side towers and with all 3 Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. The area was constructed in 27BC-68AD and is amongst the 6 largest surviving Roman arenas in the world and the best preserved ancient monument in the whole of arena, so it was quite the attraction. I love everything about Roman history and was totally in awe of the arena and we enjoyed an audio tour guide as we explored.
We had a lovely stay at the Valamar Isabella hotel and I would definitely come back, however I have a few quick pointers. During the first half of our stay we had no problem with finding sunbeds at the 5* pool and the beach, however, as we entered the second half of our stay we found that all of the sunbeds at the 5* pool were reserved by room which was a shame! Not 100% sure how this system works, but there were plastic cards attached to sunbeds with hotel room numbers on, who knows how many of these each room can have, but it was a little annoying. Other than that, and the air conditioning which made a weird sound every 5 minutes, I cannot fault our stay and I would definitely love to come back at some point in the future! I love Croatia, and the fact it is only a 1hour 45 minute plan journey away makes it SUPER appealing as well.
Also please excuse all the iPhone camera photos, not the best quality!
Have you visited Croatia before? Where would you love to travel to?