Weekend on the Croatian Coast: How to Rent a House with Vrbo.com

Home on the Croatian Coast

One of my favorite trips ever was the long weekend Courtney and I rented a house in Croatia. We spent with our five kids on the Croatian Coast, visiting Zadar and Split. We went over Memorial weekend, which was an excellent time for a weekend on the Croatian Coast, allowing us to think about all the people who’ve helped make our lives what they are today. It was more than just a fun vacation; it was also a chance for us and the kids to learn about new places and think about the past while enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather.

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Table of Contents

How to Rent a House in Croatia

Weekend on the Croatian Coast

The kids are out of school and the weather is great. I bought the tickets and asked my friend if she wanted to tag along. To be honest, I didn’t expect her to say yes. So imagine my surprise when I received a call asking me to help her book a flight on Ryanair. I grabbed my keys and jumped in my car before she could change her mind.

When to Visit Zadar & Split

We visited Croatia in May, a great time to rent in Croatia for a week. The weather was nice and it wasn’t too crowded. Adding a weekend on the Croatian Coast during this period was ideal for enjoying both the serene beaches and the historic sights comfortably without the hustle and bustle.

If you’re thinking about when to go, it really depends on what you like to do. Late spring, around May to June, is warm and perfect for hiking or exploring historical locations with fewer crowds. If you love the beach and don’t mind a crowd, summer, especially July and August, is the busiest time. The weather is hot, perfect for swimming, and there are many festivals and nightlife. September to October is also good if you still want warm weather but fewer people. Winter, from November to March, is cooler and very quiet. It’s a good time to see what local life is like without many tourists, but keep in mind that some places might be closed for the season. Each season offers a different experience, so pick based on whether you prefer sunny beach days, quiet nature trips, or cool weather cultural visits.

Ryanair Airlines

Budget-Friendly Transportation

Ryanair is an inexpensive way to fly all around Europe. It serves many second-tier cities, some of which you might not have heard of before. Not only are many of these cities unfamiliar to most Americans, but they also usually have names that are tricky to pronounce. Cities like Podgorica in Montenegro, Rzeszow in Poland, and Zadar in Croatia aren’t typically bustling with American tourists—yet. However, they offer a fantastic opportunity to dive into new cultures, explore historic sites, and meet locals not used to seeing tourists, especially two little black girls from America. These cities also provide easy access to more well-known tourist destinations. For example, they are all within driving distance of places like Dubrovnik, Krakow, and Split, which is perfect for renting in Croatia for a week. We couldn’t wait to find hidden beaches and coves while enjoying our weekend on the Croatian Coast.


Our First Destination

We arrived in Zadar on a balmy Thursday afternoon. Right off the bat, we were greeted with usual side glances. It was OK, the lingering stares were attached to many smiling faces, eyes bright and welcoming. The air was warm, the people even warmer, and we were on vacation. Our weekend on the Croatian Coast was off to a great start.

We met our hosts in front of the tiny International Airport in Zadar. The airport is compact for its international designation. They drove a little less than an hour in two cars to meet us as a courtesy,  a situation we would grow accustomed to over the next few days. I didn’t know what to expect; it was the first time I had done anything like this.

Homeaway.com (now Vrbo.com)

Meeting our Host Marinko & His Family

I found our home away from home on Homeaway.com, a paid online marketplace for vacation rentals in more than 190 countries worldwide, similar to Airbnb. More than 100 properties popped up when I put in my search criteria, but one stood out above the rest, and after speaking to the owner, I was sold. Marinko Colakov held up a sign that read Stacey Peters as we arrived for our weekend on the Croatian Coast. Marinko is impressive, speaking Croatian, English, German, and Yugoslav. He was standing next to his grey-haired father, who I would learn only spoke the latter—except for a few choice words of English.

If he was surprised, I didn’t notice. Stacey?? He said, sounding more like Schtacey, adding a rolling sh sound with a big grin. Marinko, I replied. I stepped forward to shake his hand but was in a full embrace instead. He kissed my cheeks and said welcome. After we all introduced ourselves, he and his father packed all our gear into the two cars, and we hit the road for the hour-long trip to Starigrad-Paklenica, a quaint town near the Velebit Mountains and the beautiful nature preserve with the same name.

The Long Drive from the Airport 

We pulled over thirty minutes later to a massive bridge spanned a gurgling river below. Marinko explained that this was the best place to get a land layout. He also said that if we were interested in bungee jumping, this was the place to do it. I’ll pass, I said, but thanks anyway. He laughed. We took pictures under the bright blue sky and piled back into the cars.

I smiled when we turned off the main road into a large parking lot towards the sea. Two houses, one all white and one coral, straddled the rocky coast and a very narrow strip of sand. It was perfect. The blue-green water was transparent and rolled back and forth over rocky coral and a boatload of sea urchins, which we would soon learn to avoid at all costs. You could see the happiness of each one of the kids. We were all very excited, ready to dive into the cool water.

Amazing Hospitality

Marinko piled the bags at the side of the coral house and said he would take them upstairs later. We would have a drink first. My kinda guy. While the kids explored the pool and the beach, Courtney and I followed Marinko next door to the home he shared with his mother and father. He invited us to sit under the shade under the porch with a perfect view of the horizon, which stretched as far as the eye could see. We could see a few tiny fishing boats rocking gently in the wind and the current.

homemade-wine-in-Croatia Weekend on the Croatian Coast: How to Rent a House with Vrbo.com

Homemade Croatian Wine

A moment later, Mama brought out two bottles of homemade Croatian wine, walnuts, and cherries. They smelled delicious. We held up our glasses, and Marinko’s father said something before we all clinked our glasses. The assorted shapes and sizes of glasses were so comforting, an assortment collected over many years, something impossible to accomplish on purpose. Both wines were both delicious and very strong. If I had to choose, I would have preferred the cherry, which I learned was a variety grown only in Croatian. We sat there for an hour, watching the kids play in the ocean…fully clothed. Marinko excused himself, taking our luggage up to our rental. We sat back, neither one of us in a hurry to do anything.

I must have tried 7-8 different kinds of homemade wines with Marinko during that long weekend on the Croatian Coast. The last one, made of orange, will forever stick in my memory. Night after night, we sat under the large awning and watched the sun vanish into the horizon. I wanted to grab the oars of the tiny boat tied to the pier, but I kept my promise. My husband begged me not to do anything dangerous, and no matter how romantic it felt, getting in that tiny boat was an example of precisely what he was talking about. I listened to the kids splashing away in the pool, the ocean and its treacherous sea urchins left in peace, and tried to imagine this as my life.

Rented House in Croatia

The rented house in Croatia was simple but fully functional, with a contemporary dorm style. Heavy oak framed beds and chairs, a covered futon sofa and a small console TV topped an Ikea-like rolling cart in one corner. A fully furnished kitchenette with dishes, silverware, a small fridge, and a hot plate in the other.

It was all good, I had no intention of spending a lot of time indoors. As soon as I thought that, my eyes veered immediately directed to the source of magnificent light in front of me. Two glass doors opened to an expansive tiled balcony overlooking the sea. A large table with an umbrella would prove to be a perfect place for a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine at sunset.

An hour later, we were splashing around in the cool blue-green waters of the Aegean Sea in front of our rental. I sat on the jagged rocks under the cloudless sky, watching the kids float to and fro on floaters Marinko provided for us, wondering if there was anything better than this. Right now, I’d have to say no. I stuck my toes in the water that lapped the rocks softly.

The Ocean & Sunlight

The warm wind blew threw my hair and the bright sun, coated my entire body like thin cashmere. The water was so clear, almost transparent. You can see the tiny fish and sea urchins that latched onto the rocks, forming an impenetrable barrier that Courtney found out the hard way, was to be avoided at all costs after she stepped on one. It took us at least two days, a pair of tweezers, and an untold amount of prodding to remove all the spines in her foot. We spent that whole first day basking in the sunlight we had been sorely missing in Germany.

Plitvice Lakes

Day Two in Croatia

The next morning, Marinko suggested we rent a car, drive to Plitvice Lakes, and tour the city of Zadar. He drove us to a restaurant in town for lunch. An hour later, a car rental agent called to say he was parked outside the restaurant with a rental car. He added– take your time, please finish your meal, we will wait. I sat for 10 minutes with our brood of giggling teenagers, but feeling uneasy about having someone wait on me, I went to meet the accommodating voice on the other end of the phone. After receiving the keys, he handed me a few maps and general information on the area Marinko had compiled from a trip to the tourist board that morning.


The evening before our departure, I realized I didn’t have enough local currency to pay the bill, so I stole away to visit the ATM up the road. Who knew Papa Colakov would take that opportunity to look for me? And when no one could find me, a massive search ensued. They searched for me in the apartment, on the beach, and in the water. Marinko was just about to contact Interpol when I rounded the corner. Malik yelled down at me, ooooh, you’re in trouble!! He wasn’t lying. And just like that, all worry left his face. He grabbed a towel and headed down for an evening swim in the saltwater pool.

Papa-Colacov-in-Croatia-519x388 Weekend on the Croatian Coast: How to Rent a House with Vrbo.com

Papa Colakov

When I stepped on the back porch, I was met by Papa Colakov, who erupted towards me, scolding me–emphatically, arms flailing every which way, finger pointed directed between my eyes. His eyes were excited but kind. His lips turned down and stern. Papa Coloakov really had a huge crush on me.

I understood every word without understanding a single word except, Schtacey, Schtacey, Schtacey!! And then he smiled. Now we drink, he bellowed in perfect English. He bear-hugged me tight for an extra moment or two and I knew that the hospitality I felt instantly was real and I had made new friends. We sat down under the stars to enjoy a final drink of homemade orange wine.

Final Thoughts

Zadar and Split are worth seeing if you love cobblestone alleyways, historic sites, good food, and great weather, but Plitvice Lakes is stunningly beautiful and one of the world’s absolute must-sees. We cruised on the clear blue water, hiked through the lush waterfall-laden landscape, and enjoyed a picnic of local delicacies, listening to the roar of water hitting the rocks.

All three destinations are worthy of a post, so I’ll save that for another day. I didn’t know then that I would have the opportunity to visit the area on another occasion, but I did– eighteen friends, new and old, would storm the Croatian coast less than a year later. Unfortunately, there was no time to visit the Colakov family, but I will one day, I promise!! And if you get there before me, have a drink for me too.

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croatian-coast-home-away-from-home-519x778 Weekend on the Croatian Coast: How to Rent a House with Vrbo.com

2 thoughts on “Weekend on the Croatian Coast: How to Rent a House with Vrbo.com

  1. Oh, I can not wait to travel throughout Croatia. After visiting Greece, I know my heart lies within the Mediterranean. Looks like a lovely weekend for the kids and you ladies. I am so thankful for the military life and the travels we embark on because of it.

    1. OMG Ashley if you don’t visit Croatia, you are missing out on something very special especially if you have kids. Greece and Croatia are my kids favorite places to go.

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