Istrian holiday notes and tips

Notes from our holiday in Istria - reviews, hints and tips

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We recently spent just under two weeks visiting Croatia and in particular the Istrian peninsular. These are my notes and thoughts from the holiday.


Hotel Parentium

We stayed for 11 nights at the Hotel Parentium which sits on a peninsula between Plava Laguna and Zelena Laguna to the south of Poreč. We had two Classic rooms. The rooms were relatively spacious, well equipped and clean. They have a balcony, although the view is of an astro turf covered roof and other rooms with balconies. It didn't bother us as we didn't spend a lot of time in the room. Wi-Fi was very usable throughout the hotel although it is an open network so you might want to consider using a VPN.

The hotel itself is lovely. It is really really clean and well maintained. It has a wellbeing centre with a gym, indoor pool and spa facilities. The gym is well equipped and was never too busy. The indoor pool was lovely and warm and also never over full. The two outside pools were nice although a little on the cold side when we were there. Being able to order a drink while in the pool was a nice touch. Sunbeds are around the pool as well as in the grounds and by the sea. Towels can be picked up by the pool. The sunbeds were busy especially by mid afternoon but it was usually possible to find one or two.

The hotel also has a sort of beach which is effectively a concrete promenade you can walk on with areas that provide access to the sea. Despite this description, they were actually quite nice and we used this quite a lot. The sea was relatively warm. I would recommend using pool shoes and the steps in and some of the rocks can be a little slippery. There are also areas with trees including hammocks that can be freely used. The view of the sunset was excellent from here.

There are a couple of restaurants next to the hotel as well as a small shop which was useful for snacks and drinks. It has a limited supply but is convenient. On the other side of the hotel you can walk towards all the other hotels and restaurants for Zelena Laguna. This is the busier and more touristy side. There are beach volleyball courts here and also some following the footpath towards Poreč . There are a few table tennis tables next to the restaurant by the hotel (not sure if these are paid for or not).

We stayed half board (we got a good deal) and I would recommend doing this if you can. The breakfast buffet is good with a lot of variety. The same can be said for the evening buffet. On the whole the quality and variety were very good and they did vary it a bit each day. Some of the food is cooked at the buffet. In the morning there is plenty of juice - if you want coffee or hot water for tea just ask one of the waiters if they don't approach you immediately. In the evening you will need to pay for drinks - these are a little on the pricey side. It is convenient to be able to easily sign things to the room.

Most evenings there is also some form of musical entertainment. This ranges from piano music in the reception area to duets or small bands either there or outside. All were of a pretty decent quality and we regularly grabbed a drink and listened to them in the evening. We took cards and Uno with us and played them with the kids while listening - a very good move bringing the games.

Parking is charged at 1 euro per day and they have a car park behind a barrier. This is always busy and can be difficult to find a space sometimes. If you have the card on the dashboard you can park on the hill up to the hotel, as long as it is not directly Infront of the hotel - maybe worth checking with them if you are unsure.

The main nationality of guests seems to be Germans with a smattering of various other nationalities including a few British. The staff all spoke good English and were very helpful. A nice touch was a bottle of wine and a card in the room on my wife's birthday - we hadn't told them.

The cleaners are good although they sometimes have a tendency to knock and enter without much warning in the morning so do use the "do not disturb" door hanger when needed. Air conditioning worked well and all the lights are controlled from a few consoles around the room. There are electric plugs next to the bed (annoyingly not all hotels do this). There is a safe, a mini bar and a TV in each room and lots of storage space.

We really enjoyed our stay and would recommend it, especially for families.


Ciao Ciao, Poreč

We ate at Ciao Ciao twice. The first time was at lunchtime as my son and I wandered through the town and wanted somewhere to eat. We got a table immediately and ordered pizzas. The service was friendly, fast and they spoke good English.

The second time we visited we had finished a boat trip in the evening and everywhere was much busier. We decided to go back as it was good the first time. It was much fuller but they still found us a table and again the food and service, despite the number of people, was excellent. We sat in a terrace area upstairs - if you have the choice it is a little nicer up there.

A special mention should go to the waiters there as they work really hard (probably a little understaffed, especially in the evening) but are still efficient and helpful.

Restaurant Korta, Zelena Laguna

This restaurant was convenient for where we were staying and looked like one of the slightly nicer restaurants in the area that also had a menu that the kids could pick from. Between us we had salmon, spaghetti bolognese, wiener schnitzel and a pizza. All were really nice and reasonably priced. The restaurant was pleasant with plenty of outdoor seating and the waiter who served us was very friendly, helpful and spoke good English.

Villa Romana, Zelena Laguna

We got takeaway pizzas from here one evening so we could take them and watch the sunset nearby. They were ordered and cooked in less than 15 minutes. Nice pizzas and reasonably priced. It made for a fun, memorable evening.

Attractions/Things to do

Monvi Tours

We booked two tours with Monvi Tours - the sunset dolphin cruise and the all day cruise ("fish picnic"). They sail from Poreč but do two additional pickups - one of which is Zelena Laguna (by Villa Romana) which was very convenient for where we were staying.

The boat can accommodate 180 people and has four toilets - which were clean. There is a mixture of seating upstairs - some wooden benches and some plastic chairs. Downstairs it is padded benches. The crew are excellent and very helpful - one in particular clearly loves his job.

We were told when we booked there was "live piano music". This is not quite true as it is actually the boss of the company playing very cheesy songs on a synthesizer which he sings along to. For us, it added to the atmosphere and became a running joke but I could imagine for some people it might be a little annoying. 'Rolling on the river' seems to be a particular "highlight" of his repertoire.

Sunset Dolphin Tour

We picked up this tour from Poreč as it can get busy and we wanted to get a decent seat. It cost 35 Euros per person. It lasts for about three hours with drinks included - if you like blueberry squash or some low end white wine. You can also purchase other drinks from a bar.

We saw plenty of dolphins on our trip and the sunset was nice. There are lots of other boats out so it does feel a little like once one boat sees one then all the others come rushing over but they did seem to keep their distance from them.

Vrsar, Lim Fjord, Rovinj

We picked up the boat from Zelena Laguna. The cost was 50 Euros each. It was relatively full so we ended up with a table downstairs as all the space upstairs was taken. We still had a good view and the focus on this trip is the places visited.

The first stop was Vrsar. We were told when we booked that this was a place where there was a beach and you could swim. However on turning up there was just the usual busy pebble beach which was very busy - so not worth taking swimming stuff. However there is an old town but you only get an hour here so it would be a push to see it properly - you should head off straightaway once docked.

The next sight was Lim Fjord. This is where they also serve the food. Yes, it's nice but probably not worth a visit just to see it - good to have as part of the trip.

The food was actually really good for a boat trip. There is a choice of fish (a large fish), meat (sausage and chicken) or a vegetarian wrap. All are served with salad and bread. You pick your option when you get on. There is also free low end white wine and squash for this part of the trip. You can buy other drinks at any time during the day. There are a lot of seagulls on this bit that track the boat knowing there might be food.

The last stop was Rovinj and for us this was the highlight. It is a really nice old town and you get about 2 hours here. We walked up to the top of the hill through narrow streets to take in the view by the church. We then descended and spent time in the market. After that it was the trip back to be dropped off.

During the whole trip there is a commentary at various points in multiple languages (4 or 5). Personally I didn't gain much from the commentary and it does go on a bit once they get through all the languages but you can easily ignore it.

Overall we really enjoyed our day.

Aquacolors Water Park

We spent a day at the Aquacolors water park. We arrived about half an hour after it opened. It was already pretty busy but the queue wasn't too bad. We paid for a locker and two sets of sunbeds. Once in the park we took sunbeds at the far end as most had been taken nearer the entrance. We ended up not using the locker and there seemed to be a lot of people who were using sunbeds that hadn't paid for them (no reservation bands on the poles) - I am not sure what they do to solve this. So if you visit you might want to think twice about paying for the sunbeds and a locker.

One tip - at the end of the day our bag was raided by a seagull so if you might want to hang it up on the hooks at the top of the umbrellas to prevent this - we didn't do this until too late.

A lot of people mention the queues for the rides. There were some but they were manageable and they did seem to move. Sometimes it was tricky to get an inflatable so that involved waiting until one came free. The kids enjoyed the rides (especially Turbolance and Black Hole). My wife and I mainly spent time in the lazy river and wave pool. The lazy river was very relaxing, once you got an inflatable, and it sometimes has waves to add interest.

We did try the fast food outlet nearby. We just had some chicken nuggets and chips, which were okay, however it was incredibly slow service - definitely not "fast" food. They say you can't take food or drink in but we were not searched.

The bands to pay for things seem to work well and you just need to go to the cashier outlet at the end to pay. A fun, although slightly expensive, day out for the family.

Baredine Caves

We visited the Baredine Caves during a wet period of weather. This meant it was busier than usual. We queued up for about 20-30 minutes and bought our tickets but the earliest slot for an English speaking tour was about 2.5 hours later. Luckily we were staying close enough to go back there and come back later. For those unable to do this there are a couple of small exhibitions and a cafe but not a lot else.

As for the tour itself, when your time comes you enter a covered area and meet your guide. They give you a quick introduction as well as a warning that it is 270 steps to the bottom and then the same number back up. We took jumpers as we had read it could be cool in the cave but didn't really need them.

You descend into the cave and at various points the guide will point out the sights. There is only one way in and out so it also provides a point where other groups can pass you in the opposite direction. The caves themselves are quite impressive and there is quite a lot to see in the forty minutes. At the bottom there are a couple of albino amphibians to see that live water at the bottom of the cave you see on the tour. On the way out you walk up all the steps in one go.

The tour was good and well worth seeing.



If you are staying at Plava Laguna or Zelena Laguna there are few ways to get to Poreč. The easiest is probably the tourist train. It runs about every 35 minutes and takes about 25 minutes to wind its way along the cost. Cost is 4 euros per person each way. We used this a number of times and it was fun and convenient. However it does get busy so get there early if you can. Also if you intend to pick it up at one of the stops on the way then there is a good chance it will be full. If you miss the train then a taxi from Poreč to Zelena Laguna is 15 euros.

We also walked to Poreč and back from Zelena Laguna. It took just over an hour each way. If you do this it follows the coast most of the way but it is worth cutting the corner and going through the Apartments Bellevue Plaza resort - there some steps up to the pool area and then down the other side. Despite being a good hill, it saves a good chunk of time.

As for Poreč, it is a nice town. The train arrives near the marina and you can walk from there to the old town - which is the main focus. You pass through a small market that sells mostly standard tourist stuff.

The old town is nice and you can walk along the front past all the boats and the tourist tour stands. Unlike a lot of places we didn't get a lot of hard selling and hassle which made a nice change.

There is one main shopping street, Decomanus Street, and this is the main focus. There are lots of small streets branching out from this. It has a wide range of shops and restaurants. It also has a much more lively and completely different busy feel at night.

The main attraction is the Basilica however we didn't visit this. There is a very good ice cream shop next to it though - Il gelato di Salvatore.

On a different note, we did need a pharmacy while we were visiting and the Pharmacy Salus on Ul. Mate Vlašića was good and they spoke good English.


We did a day trip to Pula. The drive from Poreč to Pula was about 45 minutes using the toll road. It was about 4 euros. On the way back we took the scenic route along the coast which was a nice drive.

Parking in Pula can be tricky and expensive however if you don't mind a short walk, we parked at Parking Mandrač. All day parking was about 6 euros and you pay for it by scanning a QR code on the sign and following the instructions. You can then walk back towards Pula. The parking closer to the town was very busy and lots of people seemed to be having issues with the machines.

The main attraction in Pula is the roman arena. It is well worth a visit although it only took us an hour to see all of it. The queue was short and once inside you can wander around. There are toilets on the right hand side, half way around. It is pretty impressive although the historic nature of it is spoilt a little by the modern stage they had erected in the middle when we visited. The structure itself is impressive and you can sit on the steps/seats to appreciate it. There is also a small exhibition in the tunnels under the arena which is worth a look.

From there we went on to Zerostrasse. This is a series of tunnels that were built originally as shelters for the war. They are well preserved and they stretch quite a distance. It was nice to visit but we didn't find them that exciting. It also gives you access to the fortress above and this was, for us, more interesting. You can wander all the way around the walls and there is a tower you can climb that gives great views of the city. There can be a little bit of a queue to go back down the single elevator.

Pula was okay to visit but lacked a little bit of atmosphere compared to Poreč .


The town of Rabac is just over an hour from Poreč via the toll road and then some quite windy roads. It is quite a picturesque drive through some hilly country including a nice hairpin bend.

In terms of parking, we parked on the hill near "Park Hill Residences" which was free and also had some cover under trees. There is a bit of a hill straight down to the beach front. We turned left and continued to the headland which is Lanterna beach.

You can hire sun beds, a little bit pricey - 25 euros for 2 beds and an umbrella - however it does give some shade and is a great spot. There are toilets, changing facilities, showers and a small cafe (excellent toasted ciabatta). The water is crystal clear and there are steps to easily enter and swim. We also saw lots of fish swimming in the shallows where we were standing and paddling.

A very nice day out and we would certainly visit there again.



We hired a car through Sixt. Picking up the car was a little slow as there was no-one initially in the office but after that it was fine.

We were given a Peugeot 5008 which wasn't a bad car. It was handy that the cockpit display showed the current speed limit as we drove as the Croatians seem to pick speed limits randomly and change them every few seconds. I didn't work out the logic for their system so assumed it was based on someone picking a random number, walking a random distance and then picking another one. We relied very heavily on the display to guide us. There are a few speed cameras around, usually with a sign just before them, so be aware.

We managed to get Android Auto working so we could use Google Maps rather than the built in navigation - bring a spare USB cable with you in case.

Roads are generally good as long as you don't go too off the beaten track. The toll roads are very good and pretty reasonably priced. You pick up a ticket on entry and there are manned payment barriers when you exit.

There are very few traffic lights so they seem to rely on roundabouts. Indicating on a roundabout seems to be a rarity except by foreign drivers.

Pula Airport

I visited Pula airport when it was still part of Yugoslavia. In those days it was mostly a military base with a terminal that mostly consisted of a canvas roof and bunch of cheap plastic garden furniture. In comparison to that, it has advanced substantially however compared to most other international airports it still has quite a way to go.

There is a cafe and a duty free shop but that is about it. There are tables and chairs. Luckily there are not many flights and when a flight is called half the people will disappear and seats will become available. We didn't manage to locate a water fountain.

Be aware that you will need to pass through passport control once your gate is called so allow some time - not that it is that busy.

Gatwick Airport Parking

We parked our car at the APH car park at Gatwick. I have used Purple Parking in the past but was very impressed with APH. The buses seemed to be more frequent and the drivers were noticeably more friendly and helpful.

We had an issue with opening the car when we got back and they came and helped - again couldn't do enough to help and helped us quickly resolve the problem (key fob battery was getting flat).


Hotel Parentium

Ciao Ciao

Restaurant Korta

Villa Romana

Monvi Tours


Baredine Caves

Poreč Tourist Train

Pula Arena


Lanterna Beach


Pula Airport