A (Part-Time) Local’s Guide to the Omiš Riviera

While the Makarska Riviera may be the better-known stretch of precious Dalmatian coastline, the adjacent Omiš Riviera is an equally fabulous destination! Some of the riviera’s most popular seaside towns include Duce, Nemira, Stanići, Ruskamen, Lokva Rogoznica, Medići, Mimice, Marušići, Pisak and of course, Omiš itself. This majestic stretch along the Adriatic is renowned for its rugged beauty. Punctuated by wild lavender, fragrant pine trees, and towering mountains that seem to plunge into the azure sea, the dramatic coastline of the Omiš Riviera serves as the ideal location for those seeking both adventure and rejuvenation. If you’re driving south from Split, once you pass Omiš you’ll notice the coastal highway becomes more elevated and those passenger-side views will transition from beautiful to audibly breathtaking. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

Adventure

Starting in the center of the riviera’s anchor town, climb the steep grade to reach Omiš’ Fortress Starigrad where you’ll easily capture those Instagram-worthy views. Full disclosure: the hike is rated as moderate to difficult depending on your physical condition so plan on wearing the proper shoes and toting plenty of water. If nature’s siren song of rafting, canyoning, cave swimming, and cliff jumping is calling, then let the expert guides at Dalmatia Getaway show you the glorious junction of the Adriatic Sea and the Cetina River. Check out their Instagram page to conjure a glimpse of what your ideal custom adventure could resemble! You can also zip line, rock climb, snorkel and cycle your way through Omiš. If a little less adrenaline is more your speed, get lost in the historic center of Omiš’ old town and spring for some refreshing gelato after shopping local wares. For a family-friendly adventure on the sea, I highly recommend embarking on a fish picnic. I detailed our experience aboard the boat Jelen (departing from Mimice) in a previous blog post, but there’s a similar excursion that leaves from Omiš harbor. You’ll get to explore the scenic island of Brač and indulge in a traditional Dalmatian lunch at sea and anyway, what’s better than floating on the Adriatic all day? Not much!

Beaches

Maybe you’ll agree: sometimes, I’d rather forgo adventure and simply bask in the unhurried splendor surrounding the sparkling Adriatic. In Dalmatia, this easygoing way of life is raised to an enviable art form and is known as “pomalo”. Basically, it’s a regional mentality that encourages slowing down, taking it easy, and relaxing. No stress! To me, it translates to lingering… lingering for 1.5 hours over a single cup of coffee (this takes practice) or lingering on that outdoor terrace for hours on end simply because it’s summer… and what’s waiting indoors, anyway?

A good place to practice the pomalo philosophy is the beach, of course. The Omiš Riviera is dotted with some of Dalmatia’s most divine pebble beaches, though I tend to spend the most time at a less-crowded spot near our home in the tranquil town of Mimice. Simply drive or take the bus about 6.5 miles south of Omiš (toward Makarska) and you’ll run into the “Mimice More” street sign. Drive or walk down the steep hill and you’ll be presented with not one but two beach options: Plaža Kutleša to your left and if you follow the curvy road until it meets the harbor, you’ll find Plaža Juto. The former features sensational scenery including the backdrop of Biokovo mountain against large boulders anchored in the obscenely clear water. The more lively latter shows off a stunning display of homes built into the sloping hills, Mediterranean cascade-style. I won’t tell you which I prefer as selfishly, I’d like to keep this place of pristine beauty to myself! In any case you can’t go wrong, as both boast beach bars and snacks such as crêpes (awesome!) and corn on the cob (strange but true).

Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for female European locals and tourists to lay out topless while the men don skimpy Speedos. I may have even caught an unwanted glimpse of a man displaying full-frontal nudity (yikes) whilst exploring a more remote area of Plaža Kutleša. Welcome to southeastern Europe! Don’t forget to bring a portable beach mat and an inexpensive pair of water shoes, both available for purchase in the center of Omiš (you’ll wish for both of these items as you try to get comfortable on the sometimes sharp pebbles).

Restaurants

Great restaurants abound along the Omiš Riviera! If you’re set on experiencing the famed Dalmatian dish known as peka, then book a reservation in advance at Kaštil Slanica. The veal peka is rightfully proclaimed the house specialty – even locals approve of Kaštil Slanica’s peka-making prowess! As a bonus perk, your meal comes with an incredibly up-close view of the Cetina River.

Also located in Omiš, Restaurant Bastion is a fantastic spot to enjoy a seafood platter and a liberal dose of people-watching along the main artery. Their calamari is a favorite, and your vantage point on the patio includes partial sea views. Don’t be surprised if your meal is capped with a glass of domestic liqueur – on the house!

Heaven forbid you’ve had your fill of typical Croatian food (hey, it happens to the best of us), you now have a newish option:Restaurant La Fabbrica, which is part wine bar and part gourmet burger eatery. Honestly, I’ve never really thought much of burgers in Europe but this restaurant does them justice. Juicy, full of flavor, well-spiced and cooked perfectly to medium rare, you don’t want to miss these burgers on their complementary housemade buns. Black squid ink buns, anyone? You’ll find exactly that here, along with the tastiest tater tots ever. Bonus points for a good-sized patio that’s ideal for watching Euro football matches.

Continuing along the winding coast to Mimice, there’s Konoba-Pizzeria Val which features a comprehensive menu including pasta, pizza, meats and seafood. However, my go-to order is a deep dish filled with seasonal roasted vegetables and baked with a blanket of golden, bubbly cheese (Val herself recommended this and I’ve been hooked ever since!). I always finish with the crêpes stuffed with oranges and ricotta alongside a glass of Maraska cherry liqueur. All of this framed by outstanding sea views on the terrace make Val’s my neighborhood spot.

For a unique hyperlocal experience, walk up directly above the bus stop on the Adriatic highway (the magistrala) and when you see the church, ascend even higher to Carevi Dvori. The steep walk is well worth it, as the aesthetics of this restaurant are so charming with its overflowing bougainvillea and flung-open shutters that you may return every evening. You’ll feel like you’re eating in someone’s home because essentially, you are! The menu is extraordinarily simple with just a few items that they do really well – various grilled fish (I opt for the sea bass), Dalmatian smoked ham and cheeses, and salad – so it may not be appropriate for picky eaters. Also, take note shoulder season travelers: they don’t open until June 15.

The coastal town of Marušići is yet another culinary destination along the Omiš Riviera. For lighter appetites, visit the Orgula Tasting Room (look out for the signage on the Adriatic Highway) for a glass of wine and a taste of their house-produced olive oil lineup along with fresh bread, smoked ham, and various cold mezze. The space flaunts picturesque panorama incorporating mountains and sea, and also sells really cool domestic souvenirs such as cutting boards carved from their olive wood.

If you’re craving a heartier meal, then check out Konoba-Pizzeria Maris which is situated right on the Adriatic Highway. Don’t pass up sitting out on the terrace as the views will command your attention, and start your meal with the seasonal salad served on top of freshly-baked pita bread with goat cheese and balsamic drizzle. I did mention the word “hearty”, right? That’s certainly the platter of ćevapi, paired with accoutrements of both ajvar (roasted red pepper-eggplant spread) and kajmak (a saltier take on clotted cream). Dobar tek, indeed!

I hope you enjoy my home in Croatia, the Omiš Riviera, as much as I do – it’s simply unbeatable in terms of breadth of activities, exquisite scenery, world-class beaches, delectable food, and good value! Hope to see you there.