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Mountains and beach hike in Makarska: a day trip from Split

Hiking in Makarska was one of the highlights of our spontaneous holiday to Croatia. The perfect combination of mountains, beaches and – surprisingly – poor planning.

In June 2021, my best friend and I were all set to fly back to the UK to attend her bother’s wedding in the Scottish Highlands. And then the Delta variant happened and all flights between the UK and Germany were cancelled and the border was effectively closed. Not ideal. Fresh out of a very, very extended “lockdown light” here in Germany, we were determined to get away and booked spontaneous flights to Split, just hours after Dalmatia was declared a no-risk zone.

Ever since I went on a hiking trip to Northern Albania in 2017, hiking has become a staple of any trip. And so shortly after we booked our flights, we had a burning question on our minds: where can we go hiking? 

Our original aim: hiking in the mountains of the Biokovo National Park

Hiking in Makarska: the plan

After looking into some options close to Split (including Marjan Park in Split, where we did a lovely walk later in the week), we stumbled upon the Biokovo National Park in Makarska, just a short journey along the Dalmatian Riveria from Split.

Information on hiking routes wasn’t exactly forthcoming online (hence why I am writing about my own experience – you’re welcome, internet) but we saw that the city’s botanical gardens were located in the park and decided to make it our aim.


View of Makarska from the Tourist Office

On arriving in Makarska, we headed to the tourist info. We were keen to see how we could incorporate the newly-opened Skywalk into our day trip (despite my crippling fear of heights, I was surprisingly on-board – for Instagram-related content.) However, the woman int he tourist info instead told us about a route up to the peak of Vošac, the local mountain, which was in her opinion more beautiful than the Skywalk. (Interestingly, we seemed to run into quite a lot of locals who seemed quite against the project.)

She also told us about some other walks to nearby beaches, including one recently heralded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe: Nugal Beach.


Makarska’s beautiful cathedral

Setting off

So with a new route in mind, we set off with renewed energy, water supplies and bureks… at almost exactly midday. (Cue ominous music.)

Unsurprisingly, it was hot. We were hot. We were literally dripping with sweat within minutes. The start of the route took us to the hamlet of Makar, high above the shoreline.

The route was steep. Very steep.

We struggled. We really struggled.


View of Makarska from above

We understood why the woman in the tourist information had called this part the worst section and had suggested we drive up (we didn’t have a car and were slightly naive…).

On reaching Makar (with broken spirits), we were facing another vertical ascent into the mountains. We relented. We instead took the trail to our right, staying beyond the mountain top and heading for the botanical gardens instead. It was the right decision.


Hiking route to the Botanical Gardens

Recalculating the route

The route to the gardens was shaded and had beautiful views of Makarska below and out to the islands in the Adriatic. We skirted past a cute mountain church, as well as a few abandoned houses. The botanical gardens themselves were thoroughly disappointing but getting there was enjoyable!

And it was at the gardens that we realised we could head back down to the shore more directly and head to Nugal beach after all, before walking back to the town. It was another good decision.

Hiking to Nugal Beach

Admittedly, the route down was mostly along a paved road which – aside from the great views of the mountains behind us – was literally nothing to write home about.

But after skirting behind a Kaufland supermarket, we found ourselves in a wooded, rocky area on the shore, where we found a beautiful seafront route down to the beach.


The seafront trail to Nugal Beach

Nugal beach

And what a beach it is. It’s very easy to see why this was voted one of Europe’s most beautiful.

The small, rocky beach is situated in a small, sheltered corner between two clifftops, looking out onto the clear, blue sea.

Picture-perfect describes it well. The rocky slope down to the beach is also perfect for getting some photos of the beach. The beach itself is FKK-friendly too (so best to take your snaps before descending the hill…!) which was absolutely perfect for getting out of our sweaty hiking gear.

After about 90 minutes on the beach and a dip in the sea to cool off, we took up the seafront trail through the woods again back to the marina of Makarska. The route is really clear and accessible and makes a lovely walk back into town.

Back in the town, we dropped into Hops! Brewery for a cool glass of Biokovsko, a locally-brewed beer (and another recommendation from the woman in the tourist office), before heading back to the bus station to go home. The perfect way to finish a day of hiking in Makarska.

It was a really, really great day. Oh – and we never made it to the Skywalk.


A well-earned beer

Mountain and beach hike in Makarska: the essentials

  • Hiking route: 11.5km in total, with a very steep incline to start with.
  • Getting there from Split: 09:15 bus from Split, 18:00 bus from Makarska. Travel time roughly 90 mins.
  • Cost: 54 Kuna (around €7.20) per person each way.
  • The trail is well-marked. Difficulty: medium/hard.

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