Set one street in from Makarska’s busy seafront, Jež has long been a locals’ favourite, a reliable choice for Dalmatian standards. Then came Jadran Grančić, only 25 but with eight years of experience at the top hotels in Zagreb. Initially suspicious regulars needed time, and a special gastronomic evening, to take to his molecular gastronomy, but now Jež has won over both the traditional customer and the discerning tourist, happy to find swordfish on a Makarska menu and home-made bread to accompany the divine prawn soup. Classy service and décor are both appropriate for the upper price bracket.
Makarska kicks into life from June until September. Occurring almost (but not strictly) every week in July and August, Makarska's Fishermen's night sees a sprightly folk festival animate the waterfront. A celebration of local culture specifically for visitors, it's a great opportunity to snag some fresh fish and seafood, washed down with local Croatian wine. The festival sees people milling about in traditional costume and attendees participating in fun, simple games like balancing on a beam to the soundtrack of Dalmatian music.
Makarska is blessed with beaches. If walking, simply go northwards until you land the perfect spot. The town beach is a long promenade featuring cafés, restaurants and ice-cream vendors. With jet-skis cutting tracks in the water, and inflatables and pedalos bopping up and down, this option is great for families but far from a peaceful getaway. A short trek north, Ramova beach has majestically clear waters, with the occasional parasailer ripping across the sea. Nugal beach, to the south, offers excellent seclusion. It's not easy to access (by foot or by boat are the only options) the reason, perhaps, why it's the favourite of many locals. Underground freshwater springs rise here, meaning the water is refreshingly cooling. It's also a popular nudist spot.
Placed at the foot of the mountain Biokovo, expect glorious views of the sea and the charming town, backdropped by a spectacular mountain range. It offers a stunning contrast at sundown or sunset, as the colours of the rocks and buildings seem to change shades almost every minute in response to the ebbing strength of the sun's rays.
It may not look much from the outside, bare brickwork and a ship’s lifebelt, or the inside, bare brickwork, and low ceilings, but the Kalalarga on Makarska’s main thoroughfare of ulica Ante Starčevića serves some of the best Dalmatian food you’ll be served on the Makarska Riviera. With the town’s main fish market 200 metres away and the produce market also close, chef Mario Tomaš and kitchen have quality materials to work with, to produce traditional favourites and dishes with a more modern slant. These appear on the selection of daily specials, which operates in place of any tired regular menu.
Sternly looking down over the Makarska Riviera, the unspoiled heights of Biokovo are best explored with an expert English-language guide provided by the park itself. Tours can be half-day (three-hour) or full-day (six-hour) and fees include admission and multimedia presentations. Depending on the route, you should discover abandoned villages, isolated churches, remains of prehistoric dwellings and look-out posts with stunning views, not to mention the rare flora and fauna. Your guide will also explain the unusual geology of the region and the tectonic shifts that created it. Suitable footwear is a must, and independent exploration is inadvisable for those unfamiliar with the terrain.
Cetina is a river that winds its way through some 100 kilometres of the Dalmatian hinterland before reaching the sea at Omiš. You don't need to travel so far to visit it though, as its nearest point to Makarska lies just beyond the upper part of Brela, three-quarters of an hour to Makarska's north. Along the river, you can take part in various activities such as canyoning, rock climbing, kayaking and more. There's a high zip line over the river too, which is a bit of a trek, but worth it if that's your thing. There's also one at Tučepi, in the valley below Biokovo, which is fun and easy to reach by car, but with less picturesque views.
This five-hour tour provides unparalleled views from the highest point in the Biokovo mountain range, Sveti Jure. Wearing sturdy footwear, you set off from Makarska to reach the visitor centre at Ravna vlaška. From there, you head all the way up to Sveti Jure, Croatia’s second-highest peak at 1,762 metres (5,780 feet), the whole coastline spread out below. In certain conditions, you can see as far as Italy. On the way, the English-speaking guide will point out the various flora and fauna of the Biokovo Nature Park. With sections of the trek by air-conditioned minivan, this tour is also suitable for reasonably fit youngsters and seniors.
A cousin of canoeing, its boats derived from those used by Inuit hunters in Alaska, sea kayaking is a safe and fun sport for all ages. Here on the Makarska Riviera, it means being surrounded by the clear blue Adriatic, backdropped by the dramatic Biokovo mountain range. After English-language instruction, kayakers set off from Jakiruša Bay in Brela, passing undeveloped rocky coastline before arriving at equally unspoiled Vruja Bay. Here you relax on its usually deserted sandy beach, perhaps going for a swim and snorkel taking in the marine life, before heading back to Brela. The tour lasts four hours, all equipment provided.
Based by the main seafront promenade in Makarska, experienced More Sub runs all kinds of diving activities for all ages and levels, led by English-speaking guides. Its speciality is boat dives, half-day trips around Vruja Bay, as well as night dives and sunset dives, conditions willing. For experienced divers, a night dive might even take in a wreck, usually the Bracera Mare near Makarska, a traditional trabakul boat that once plied the Adriatic. Today it is the haunt of scorpionfish and eels. More Sub also offers courses, from complete beginner to underwater navigation and digital underwater photography.