Cavtat is a pretty coastal town in the southern Konvale region of Croatia. It is lesser known than other resorts in this sunny, popular region and as a result, the peaceful town is a quieter tourist destination which has retained its small town local feel. It is an ideal base from which to explore this stunning part of Croatia and further afield into Montenegro.
Getting to Cavtat
Cavtat (pronounced tsav-tat) lies 20 kilometres southeast of its more famous and heavily visited neighbour Dubrovnik.
Situated just 6 kilometres from the international Ćilipi 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!
There is a small bus station in the town centre with 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 passnger ferries and catarmarans to destinations further up the coastline of Croatia and to the many islands in the Adriatic.
It is just 22 kilometres from the border with Montenegro and the beautiful Kotor in the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro is around two to three hours drive away. 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 border. If you are travelling as a group, it may be more cost effective – and a lot easier – to travel to Montenegro by taxi and catch a Montenegran bus from the border town.
Accomodation in Cavtat
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.
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.
Dining out in Cavtat is expensive as you pay a premium for the gorgeous views! Airbnbs and self catering appartments from Booking.com are a great choice for travellers on a budget.
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!
Things to do in Cavtat
Cavtat town begins shortly after the turn off from the main highway and slopes steeply down to the sea front.
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 small, pretty harbours, both a perfect semi circle shape, with two, tree filled peninsulas stretching out into the Adriatic.
The main body of the town hugs the harbour on the left side. Palm trees line the harbour front promenade which is where you will also find several small shops plus a range of restaurants and cafes complete with outdoor terraces or balconies.
This is a popular strolling spot, day or night, and gives you the opportunity for a close up, envious goggle at the super yachts which moor up daily in impossibly tight spaces in the small harbour.
In the summer months, this promenade comes alive at night with sympathetic illuminations and an array of music and cultural events.
As all of the restaurants offer picture perfect views from their outdoor terraces, they are often fully booked.
If you wish to enjoy a stunning sunset over the Adriatic with your dinner, make sure you reserve a table well in advance.
Cavtat is made for wandering. Turn right off the promenade and onto any upwardly sloping lane to leave the bustling promenade behind.
The small, compact old town is a maze of cobbled, stepped lanes with ornate wooden doors hinting at hidden, beautiful houses beyond.
Vivid pink bougainvillea and huge budded Magnolias grow impossibly 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.
Directly below the Mausoleum nestling on the harbour front, is the small Church of Our Lady of the Snow Monastery. This tiny atmospheric church welcomes visitors every day and it is possible to attend a service on Sunday, though the times vary depending on the heat!
At the other opposite of the promenade is the stunning church of St Nicholas whose lone bell tolls rhythmically throughout the day.
The 15th Century church is well worth visiting to view the paintings by the locally born, 19th century artist Vlaho Bukovac, whose nearby home is a museum housing some of his paintings.
The church is very welcoming to visitors but if you wish to attend Sunday service, arrive early as it is very popular.
Opposite the church is the small, colourful farmers market, held daily on the harbourfront.
Mouth watering fresh fruit and vegetables and ‘made on the spot’ ice reams and pancakes will tempt you in!
Buy your lunch and enjoy a picnic on the harbourfront.
If you are lucky with your timings, you may catch a water polo match here at the open water pitch 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!
For further historical and cultural information, 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.
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. A short distance further round the harbour is the white sail roof of the Spinnaker restaurant and just beyond this is a popular, zoned swimming area for families. It is very shallow and ideal for children.
There is also a small, rocky beach here but space is at a premium in the summer months!
This is also the spot to hire stand up paddle boards and kayaks for an independant trip into the harbour.
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.
You can swim and snorkel from just about any spot on the peninsulas though carefully gauge the water depth and be aware of submerged rocks if jumping in.
The right peninsula walk is paved and very popular with locals and tourists seeking out isolated swimming spots. There is a wooden bar half way round with the only toilet on the whole peninsula!
The left of the two peninsulas has an easy hiking trail on an uneven path through the forest which is 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 just above the Spinnaker restaurant at the hotel playground.
Day Trips from Cavtat
The most popular day trip from Cavtat is to Dubrovnik. Going by bus (number 10) is the cheapest way to get to Dubrovnik and frequent buses leave from the bus station dropping you near to the cable car station in Dubrovnik.
Or you could take a scenic, 45 minute trip across the Adriatic inlet to Dubrovnik. The boats dock right outside the walls of the Old Town and boat timetables start early and run late (many tourists come to Cavtat from Dubrovnik for dinner).
We went by boat to Dubrovnik and the views arriving into the Old Town were spectacular. As a family of five, we shopped around on the harbourfront for the best price as going to Dubrovnik by boat is three tines the price of going by bus.
However, due to the high competition for clients, we were offered discounts without asking for them, securing free places for two of our children. We were also offered a discount by booking a day in advance.
There are some long distance walks starting or ending in Cavtat, notably the 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 at all on this sun exposed route so bring plenty of water and snacks.
Ask for route advice and bus timetables at the small, helpful tourist office at the bus station on the right harbour in central Cavtat.
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 which include transport are sold in the Cavtat tourist office.
Small kiosks at the harbour tout for business for snorkelling and fishing trips and transfers to surrounding islands. Make sure you shop around as prices vary.
Top Tips For Visiting Cavtat
Visit the helpful tourist information office at the small 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!) though the windowless cubicles are like a furnace in high summer. There is a toilet in the large Spinnaker complex on the other side of the bay near the zoned swimming area, which you are allowed to use for free.
Visit the small, friendly farmers market at the harbour to pick up delicious fresh fruit, vegetables and sweet treats; 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. The best ice cream you have ever tasted in a myriad of flavours with generous helpings for just 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 also lots of sea urchins in the water.
Make sure you watch the sunsets; they are breath taking.