Spring is the time to visit Croatia’s pampering hotels – they’re perfectly designed for wellbeing and warming sun, says Jo Fernandez.
HOTEL BELLEVUE, Mali Lošinj
Across the bay from Opatija, Hotel Bellevue is a gleaming white edifice fringed by ancient pine forest on Cikat Bay, on the western side of bijou Lošinj, an island with a reputation for health and wellness since the 19th century. Neutral- hued, understated rooms let in that clear sea air via sliding balcony doors. The glamorous all-white Spa Clinic offers treatments drawing on both medical aesthetic and holistic wellness services, geared around a ‘slow ageing’ concept; both indoor and outdoor pools are filled with filtered seawater.
‘Locally sourced’ is a genuine brag here with the Mediterranean and Japanese dishes in the hotel’s two restaurants whipped up using herbs picked from the gardens and seafood fresh from the Adriatic. Neighbouring islands such as Rab, with its dreamy architecture and secluded coves, are easily reached using either the hotel’s skippered speedboat or its traditional sailboat, with the bonus of spotting dolphins. There’s also a private jet service in a six-seater plane linking all major Croatian and European cities to Lošinj airport.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £155 B&B. losinj-hotels.com
HOTEL MONTE MULINI, Rovinj
Surrounded by lush forest and a skip and a hop from the pebbly beach (no need for Croc-style footwear as these stones are smooth), Hotel Monte Mulini is a 15-minute walk from the picture-perfect Italianate old town, crowded with Venetian-style houses and elegant piazzas. With its dreamy location, set into the Istrian hillside on one side of a bay, the focus on wellness and relaxation includes the light-filled lobby featuring a panoramic glass wall that frames a heady view of the Adriatic. There are no less than four equally blue outdoor swimming pools, the work of WATG architects, whose CV includes Mandarin Oriental and One & Only.
The spa succeeds in splashing a lot of gold around without it being tacky, despite glittering gold floors, a slender slice of indoor pool crowned by a large gold mosaic and treatments based on, naturally, gold (the 24-carat gold facial features gold leaf placed on the skin), although the less glitzy elements of water, stone and wood also feature in the design. Retox at the cellar-like Wine Vault restaurant among over 300 bottles of wine, with creative seasonal tasting menus including delicate spring dishes such as lightly poached oysters with fava beans and watercress.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £144 B&B. maistra.com
Rubbing glamorous shoulders with the Mandalina superyacht marina, the D-Resort in Šibenik, Dalmatia, has brought a 21st-century edge to one of Croatia’s oldest port towns. The dramatic concrete and timber design by Nikola Bašić (the Croatian architect also conjured up Zadar’s innovative and playful ‘Sea Organ’ and ‘Greeting to the Sun’ waterfront sound and light installations), juts out over the channel, much like a ship at sea. Highly contemporary rooms are dressed with bright modern art while raw concrete walls with big balconies and well-thought-out sofa beds make them family friendly.
Choose from locally sourced Croatian, Mediterranean and Asian dishes, then work it all off on the rooftop running track or stroll to the cobblestoned medieval town centre, a good 40 minutes’ walk. Hours can be whiled away at the super-sleek D-Spa, which continues the luxe relaxation vibe with an angular indoor swimming pool (outside, an infinity pool overlooks the marina), and a hammam that cleanses pampered guests with eucalyptus black soap, then douses them with fragrant orange blossom and rose water. Heaven.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £122 B&B. dresortsibenik.com
The first five-star hotel and restaurant in the northern Adriatic, the Relais & Châteaux-listed Bevanda thrives on its waterfront location. Set on the scenic Kvarner Gulf, squeezed between the Istrian peninsula and Dalmatia, views of Rijeka and the islands of Cres and Krk are framed by picture windows and large terraces. Masterfully created by Croatian architects and designers, its ten light-filled, design-led rooms all have balconies and bear the names of the many artists and notable visitors to the town in its former heyday, from James Joyce to Gustav Mahler.
Built on the site of a regionally renowned restaurant that was founded decades ago, the current eaterie serves ingredients fished from the sea, such as scampi tartare with citrus granita and scampi powder. There’s an outdoor pool overlooking the bay, and a Lido beach resort next door. The hotel’s Albatro 45 speedboat can be skippered for excursions. Walk off dinner along one of Opatija’s most prominent landmarks, the famous Lungomare seafront promenade, which stretches along the Riviera and passes right under the hotel’s terrace.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £186 B&B. bevanda.hr
For more on Croatia, visit croatia.hr