My Croatian friends warned me: Do not waste your time at Zrce beach.
But I am stubborn, and I did, and what I experienced was worth a thousand and one warnings. So, I am giving the same advice to you: Do not waste your time at Zrce beach.
Zrce beach, Croatia’s answer to Ibiza
Zrce beach is located on the island of Pag close to the city of Novalja in Croatia.
To get to the island of Pag, you can either drive down close to Zadar and take a bridge (free of charge) or you can take a ferry from Prizna to Zigljen. If you choose the bridge option, you will have quite a nice ride through the whole island, which is 60 km (37 miles) long and can get as narrow as 1 km (0.6 miles).
If you happen to be already in the area and want to go to the Zrce beach without taking your car, then there is an option of taking the municipality bus, which runs quite frequently (every 30 minutes, all day long) in multiple lines. Just be prepared, because with the bus ride comes the very first rip off. Read further to find out.
When searching for details about Zrce beach, I came across on the page supporting tourism on the Pag island, and Zrce beach in particular, the following:
Thanks to the strivings of the Croatian tourist community and the “Plavi cvijet” (blue flower) media, Zrce beach was pronounced the most beautiful and the best set beach in the Adriatic for the year 2002.
A place to go, one might think, but there is a catch. This award is 13 years old, so it is actually older than your toddlers or preschoolers! In 2002, Barack Obama was not even the President of the United States yet! I think you get the idea that this is long time ago. So how does the Zrce beach look like now? And is it really feeling like in Ibiza?
The first thing that strikes you when you arrive to the beach is the music, which is coming from all the directions. One would think, there ain’t no party without music, right? I am not a Beethoven, so I did not mind so much that the music is overlapping, but can imagine it gets a bit exasperating after you spend the whole day at the beach sunbathing. Also, believe me, it gets super annoying, when on one stage they play one song and 10 minutes later you hear exactly the same song from the stage on the right. Inspiring DJs everywhere, every time.
Second thing you notice, is that the beach is everything but clean. I get it, there are young people hanging around, it is dark when they party, so they think it is invisible. But… is it really necessary to have everywhere cigarette tips, broken glass (!!!) and empty plastic bottles? Is it really that hard to pay extra staff or even the locals for cleaning up the most beautiful beach of the Adriatic of the year 2002 – aka Zrce beach? Or is it tourism that destroys the paradise and piggies from all over Europe come to make mess and forget to clean after themselves? Anyway, be it this or that, I just prefer to not spend time in trash and I think I am not the only one.
Okay, you are on a beach, so you want to change for swimming suit and finally start enjoying the saltiest water in Europe (salinity of 38‰) and the true summertime. Oh, very handy that there are these little dividers, where you can go and change into swimwear. But…wait a second, it has not been raining for several days and for some strange reason the pebbles under the dividers are very wet and stink like my cats’ litter after a long weekend out of home. And what is this brown thing covered partially with a defaced flyer from the Aquarius club? Yucky, yucky, yucky!! Probably heritage from the party of yesterday, because to be honest, in order to see the public toilets, you have to look behind the beach, in between the trees. And do not forget to prepare 5 kn to pay for the privilege of using a real toilet.
So, you are left with two options, public nudity and changing in front of everybody on the Zrce beach or balancing on one leg with your hand holding your nose in this divider of yuck. I chose the second, but was regretting every second I spent there and if I had to choose again, I would have surely gone for the first option.
Now comes the time to enter the sea and have a nice swim. There are nice little pebbles and the water has a bit greenish color. Why is that? Special flora? Eruptions on the Sun? If you carefully look at the map above, you can see that the Zrce beach is not located on the open sea, but rather in a little bay, so the water does not move there so much. And if you remember your physics or art class blue + yellow = green. Do not get misled, the water in the rest of Croatia is bluer than the sky and it gets also blue at Zrce beach, but you have to swim far far away. Not recommended for the swimming school starters! Although, I have the feeling that there is so much salt in the water that it is impossible to drown. But rather do not try it.
Ever wanted to try some adrenalin water sports? Then Zrce beach is the place to cross your limits. You can try jumping on a pillow located on the water edge, bungee jumping, water ski or riding on a banana. All these activities have a dedicated section of the sea, so you should be safe swimming around. I really found interesting the option of water ski when the person looked like he is walking on the water and above it as he was pushed up by a slope of water coming from under his feet. But I did not really get into looking at the prices to avoid a heart attack.
But why is it so expensive when Croatia’s GDP is far from being on the level of Germany or France?
Croatia entered the European Union in 2013. What impact did it have on the prices and overall approach to tourists? I have the feeling that now, more than ever before (and I used to spend in Croatia 3 months of every year when I was a teenager), Croatia is becoming even a bigger rip off than it used to be.
So much that when we were in Novalja, the Sunday edition of Croatian newspaper had a full front page article about how prices were getting ridiculously high in Croatia. This steep price increase was also noted by many German, Italian and Czech newspapers too. What is rotten here, Croatia? To illustrate:
The price of shuttle bus from Novalja to Zrce beach was a big surprise. The driver told us that it is 20 kuna per person (2.75 EUR or 3 USD) for one trip. Given that the distance we needed to travel was not even 3 km, I was feeling that this is already a bit too much. As if you do the maths with me, 2 people x to Zrce beach and back x 20 kuna = 80 kuna. This is just a price you pay to the municipality to get to the Croatian pissing paradise. I got even more surprised when I read some reviews on TripAdvisor and people were saying they were paying only 15 kuna per person. So apparently the municipality is applying double standards for high and higher season.
On the way back, we were thinking that maybe, we should try a taxi. The distance to the Camping Strasko, where we stayed (which was btw a very good campsite) was only 3.4 km so we were thinking it cannot be so much more expensive than taking the bus for 40 kuna. To my surprise, the driver asked for 100 kuna to go to the camp. To which I told him hvala ljepa (thank you very much) and we decided to try the luck of sharing economy by standing close to the parking lot exit and persuading somebody going to Novalja to give us a ride (as the bus for our camp was not coming).
Let’s do the maths again, 100 kn for 3.4 km means roughly 30 kuna per km (4 EUR, 4.50 USD). The whole trip would cost a little over 13 EUR or 15 USD. So Zrce beach is actually not Ibiza, but rather the sister of London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Madrid and New York. Oh wait, it is actually cheaper in those cities to ride a cab!
One thing that strikes you when you arrive to Zrce beach is the omnipresent merchandising. The place is far from cool, but you have people wearing T-shirts with “Whatever happens in Zrce beach, stays in Zrce beach” (enticing people to urinate wild as this would for sure stay at Zrce beach?) or “I’m at Zrce bitch” – hear this lovely play on words? A souvenir that your grandma will for sure appreciate!
What else can you do at Zrce beach?
You can withdraw money from a tobacco shop. Strange right? I have never seen a tobacco shop to work as an ATM and call me suspecting, but I think that copying your credit card for future fraud can come together with the withdrawal service.
You can go into one of the 5 clubs (Papaya, Noa, Euphoria, Aquarius, Kalypso). All of them have an entrance guarded by a pair of Shreks that do not seem to be very welcoming. Wait, wanna go inside? Don’t forget to buy a ticket! And do not forget to withdraw a lot of cash as you will need it to buy overpriced drinks in the clubs (and to invite girls for them too as in order to get their attention and to fight the unfavourable man to woman ratio of 10:1, you simply have no other choice).
Will I go to Zrce beach again? No way!
Should you go? If you are in between 18-20 and managed to escape with your parent’s golden MasterCard, love loud interlacing music and do not mind being surrounded by trash and guys, give it a go! Do not fit any of these descriptions? Then just go to other beaches that Pag island can offer and buy a cart of ice cream for the money you saved by not going to Zrce beach.
Was I making it up? No! But if you want to read more opinions before you put Zrce beach to your Pag island travel itinerary, then check out these reviews on Tripadvisor.
Have been to Zrce beach and loved it more than your home town? Drop me a comment below!
Loved the writing style of this review? Did you laugh at least once when reading this article? Comment too as I am curious whether at least one person found it funny. Be the first one to give me feedback!