A review of Blace, Croatia: The GREATEST vacation destination in the world. ever. It has KITEBOARDING.

For the third summer in a row, our family took our summer vacation to the coastal paradise of Blace, Croatia. We¬†love this location, and we’ve come to love vacation too. If you’re looking for a place¬†off the beaten path,¬†Blace is a great choice.

First, a bit about Croatia in general.

Croatia has enjoyed incredible success as a tourist destination since the breakup of Yugoslavia made it an independent country. It’s got almost the entire western coast of the Adriatic Sea within its borders, and lots of old stuff that people love to come and look at. You can see your feet through the water (which is always a draw for Americans like me and my wife, who only saw beaches on the Atlantic Ocean before moving here), and the water is so salty that it’s really easy to float.

So, over the years, I’ve seen every part of Croatia, and I’m completely¬†over it. I’m done with the never-ending search for that beautiful, pristine beach destination. I’ve been to Makarska and every town on the Makarska Riviera too many times to count; I’ve spent weeks in Split; I’ve driven out to Orebic and seen Peljesac. I’ve stayed in Rovinj; I’ve done day trips to Opatija. I did youth camps 3 times in Zadar. One summer I went to Dubrovnik. 3 times! So, I’ve seen every part of Croatia, and I eventually decided I was done playing that game — I just want a place where I can swim in the beach and I don’t have to do anything. Blace¬†is what we found, and we are deeply satisfied with it.

Blace, Croatia. We’ve taken 3 vacations in this spot. Note the kiteboarders.

There’s nothing in Blace.

There’s nothing in Blace, and that’s why we go there. There’s no ATM (if you run out of cash you have to drive back to Opuzen and use the ATM at the Konzum), no tennis courts, no beach volleyball courts, no hotels, no fancy restaurants, no clubs blaring techno music at night. It’s just a tiny village with a couple of beaches.

All that said, there is plenty in Blace to be excited about. There’s a huge, sandy beach outside the town that draws kiteboarders and has a huge campground across the street. There are no permanent buildings out there, so you can’t stay there, unless you want to camp. But you can go there during the day, since it’s about 0.5km from the town of Blace.

There’s also the main beach in town, which has two sections — a small one on the town’s little peninsula (see aerial photo), and another larger section. Separating the two sections is a guest house with a small concrete dock that people love to jump from.

But Blace has Kiteboarders. That’s something you probably don’t see at your beach.

Kiteboarders give Blace that little bit of novelty that makes it interesting. Apparently, people come there to learn, since theres a Kiteboarding school that operates there. When the wind picks up (which is fairly often), kites suddenly appear in the air. It’s amazing to watch.

More kiteboarders. This is at the big SANDY beach next to the village.
This is a dead-end road across the bay from the sandy beach. Kiteboarders like to congregate here and wait for wind.

Blace has plenty for people who just want to go to the beach.

If you go to the beach so that you can walk the strip, go to the movies, and rent mopeds, then Blace isn’t great. If you go to the beach to, er, go to the beach, then it’s perfect. Because that’s all you can do there. And that’s why we go every year.

There are two bars that serve pizza and hamburgers. We go to one of them about every other night for food. There’s a tiny market where you can buy fruit and snacks for sustenance. There are paddleboats you can rent for ~$5/hour. It’s fun.

Tyler at the docks, waiting for our pizza to be done.

Blace has nature.

Blace is only an hour away from our house in Mostar, and the drive out is beautiful. The area is at the mouth of a river, which means there is a very large marsh area around the village. It reminds us a little of Saint Simons Island, GA, where my wife’s family lives.

Because of the marsh, this is one of the few places in BiH and Croatia where you can consistently see wildlife around. There are egrets and cranes, pelicans and sea gulls, and last year a Dolphin swam all the way in to the beach and swam around with some of the vacationers.

The ride out to Blace is really beautiful. There are farms and houses in the marsh that depend on the abundance of water from the river delta.
This aerial photo is from some travel website. Just so you get the idea. You can see the “Mala Neretva” (Little Neretva) river emptying out to the sea at the top of the picture.

A place for families

One of the reasons we like Blace so much is that it is a perfect destination, in our opinion, for young families like ours. The village’s small size means it is free of the distractions that bigger places have. There is no ice cream on the beach, no fast food, no clubs — there are simply less things to grab your attention, which means that you can more easily focus on spending quality time together and swimming in the nice clear water.

Still Choosing To Believe You Can Have a Family Vacation To Remember

About a year ago, I wrote a response to this article from the blogger M.Blazoned. Her article about family vacations got picked up by HuffPost, and subsequently got a lot of mileage from friends of mine who share my stage of life.

There is a difference between a vacation and a trip.

I remember a few people responding to me by saying that I had missed the point —¬†M was only¬†pointing out that there is a difference between a true “vacation” and a mere trip.¬†Lest we get our hopes up needlessly, they said, in our¬†stage¬†of kids and minivans we ought not to expect too much from our summer excursions.

But I don’t think that was the point she actually made. Here’s what she said:

Wait. Is It Ever a Vacation with Kids?
I’m sorry to say, no. Unless you can pull off the hat trick of family trips. 1. Tropical resort. 2. All-Inclusive. 3. Kid program your kids will happily attend. It will give you moments that feel like a vacation, but, even still, you’re looking at a Vacation-Trip Hybrid at best.

Brushing aside the fact that M avoids¬†clarity with her “no-unless-but…” retort, the claim is generally staked — your family trips will never be vacations. They will never give you the refreshment and rejuvenation that a vacation will give you. ¬†If you cannot manage to take your family to a wildly expensive destination that offers fantastical arrangements for families with small children, you are doomed to¬†simply¬†cart your family around each year, spilling mustard on your clothes and getting burned by the sun while you satiate your children’s wishes to see Mickey Mouse, ride a roller coaster, go to the beach, get the¬†huge bouncy ball, or do whatever they just have to do right now.¬†

The prognosis is that you’ll be a leaky faucet, constantly, until these moochers finally leave your house, some time in the next century.

Maybe the problem is not that we’re expecting too much from vacations, but that we’re expecting the wrong things from¬†life

I want to posit that our real problem is one of unrealistic expectations of life in general, and that if we will reform our expectations to reflect reality, then we can find rejuvenation through fulfillment of purpose and experiences of closeness to the ones we love.

#1. Purpose

I don’t have the time to treat this topic fairly, but I will say that¬†life is better, fuller, clearer when lived out of a passionate pursuit of purpose. And though your children should not be at the very center of that purpose,¬†they play a clear and vital role. So, as you¬†use up your vacation days (a precious resource), and go spend time with your spouse and children, there is some sense that you are fulfilling some of the purpose for which God put you on this earth.¬†

#2. Closeness

If you have kids, you eventually get the idea in your head, clearer and clearer each day, that people¬†you love — your spouse and your children — will¬†live on after you are gone, and your time with them is ultimately limited.

Therefore, experiences of closeness are like fuel for your tank — they may not help you turn a profit at work, but they help you appreciate the people around you more, and they make you more thankful to God for graciously putting these people in your life. In other words, they bring you closer to a¬†maxim of faithfulness and gratefulness in a way that other experiences cannot.

What if we realigned our vacation planning around these goals?

I believe M’s ultimate problem with “vacations” was in her expectations of life, in general. Vacations, in that economy, are essentially a time totally free of obligation, except for the obligation to fulfill one’s own material desires. If that’s part of your definition, then it’s no wonder you can’t have a vacation while you also have a young family!

We¬†shouldn’t¬†focus on those things, because that’s not what we’re supposed to get out of life anyway. We’re disappointed, not because we don’t get what we expect, but because we expect things that we¬†can’t¬†get.

Instead, I would contend that vacations are a time when we get to take a break from the work and obligations that drain us, and draw nearer to the sense of purpose and relational closeness that gives us the energy to face the things we encounter upon our return.

With that in mind,¬†maybe we should ask the following question…

How can I plan a vacation, so that it will help me and the members of my family fulfill our purpose and grow closer as a family? Do we need the big bouncy ball in order to do this? …the roller coaster ride? …the hours in the car? Or,¬†can we do something simpler that will better prepare¬†us to come back and face our daily lives?

Think about it.