It’s a big year for my hubby and I, we are both leaving our 20’s behind and entering into the big 30. My thoughts around hitting this milestone birthday are for another post, another time; let’s just say I’m not thrilled at the prospect. Last year, as we discussed what was ahead, we decided that we would treat ourselves to a special trip. When my search for the perfect holiday began I was focused on far flung adventures; Turks and Caicos, Mexico and Thailand were just a few of the places I meticulously researched. Having discovered that our travel budget for the whole year would be more than gobbled up with this one holiday we went back to the drawing board and noted down our priorities. We both wanted something luxurious but also family friendly, not bank busting and definitely All Inclusive. As we discussed possibilities, Mark asked me where I had always wanted to go and the first place that popped into my mind was Croatia! My sister had been travelling there for years and her tales of stony beaches, quaint villages and gently rocking fishing boats had me daydreaming about a trip to this beautiful place.
Since we began travelling together we have always booked package holidays with TUI (formerly Thomson), loving how they take care of every detail and always trusting their ratings. I excitedly began to search for family hotels in Croatia. The possibilities were endless, each one looking more beautiful than the one before but there was one hotel that really caught my attention. Now before I go on, I should say, if there is one thing I love more than travelling, it is getting a good deal on our chosen adventure, I am a bargain hunter through and through. The 4* Bellevue Resort in Rabac was ticking all the boxes but there was one small set back, the hotel wasn’t built yet and so I was falling in love with the resort based on some digital mock-ups of what it would/should look like in a few months time. This made me nervous; one of my favourite shows used to be Holidays From Hell and I remember the vast majority of nightmares being the result of booking a hotel in construction. I couldn’t get this particular place out of my head though and so I delved a little deeper and found a Facebook Group set up by locals following the hotels progress, it set my mind at ease straight away as I read phrases like “almost complete”, “absolutely stunning”, “height of luxury” throughout numerous comments. The huge upside to taking a risk was that I got an incredible deal, and I really mean incredible! Having priced the holiday again I can now say that we managed to save around 50% and we also got to upgrade to a swim up room, winning!
We flew to London Gatwick the night before our adventure was to begin as there are no direct flights from Belfast to Pula (the closest airport to Rabac). It turned out to be the most perfect start to the holiday as it meant we had a whole evening to relax before flying to Croatia, I have no doubt that had we been at home we would have been rushing around sorting last minute packing! We ordered pizza to our room, watched a movie and slept like logs until the alarm went off the next morning.
A short 1 hour 40 minute flight later, on the Dreamliner no less, we were approaching the coast of Croatia. Crystal clear water, lush landscapes and the prettiest buildings, we had arrived in a little chunk of paradise. Pula Airport is tiny, we were in and out of there in under an hour and with TUI reps waiting to guide us to our coach everything was just so easy. We set off through winding mountains and right round the rugged coastline before pulling up at the stunning Bellevue Resort. We were giddy with excitement. First impressions of the hotel were that we had landed ourselves an absolute gem; every surface was gleaming, the staff were super friendly and efficient and our bags were brought to our room for us, maybe a small gesture to some but for us this was the signal that the relaxation started now!
Family Swim Up
Our faces lit up as we opened the door to our home for the next week. As I said, we upgraded to a swim up room as a special treat and it was the very best decision. Our view right through the suite was a beautiful infinity pool and then just vast panoramic views of the ocean, I pinched myself every time I looked out. Everything was so well set up for Susanna, she had her own full size cot and a little step for the toilet and sink plus loads of room to play. Our suite was huge, with a giant bed, crisp linen, ample storage room, a separate room with two more beds (we used it as a living space) and a great big balcony. We also had two TVs and a jack and jill bathroom, a pillow menu, oh and a Nespresso Machine, literally the dream. We were so blessed as our next door neigbours were such a lovely couple with the sweetest little boy who was such good company for Susanna.
I’m not sure I have ever been somewhere more insta worthy than this resort. From the outside the hotel’s scattering of creamy white buildings are interspersed with tiered landscaped gardens and swimming pools. There are four large pools, one of which is an infinity pool where you can spend ages spotting dolphins and gazing at fishing boats passing by. This pool also has a water-slide and there is a separate outdoor water complex for little ones. Terraces surround the resort and drops down into petite, cove-like beaches. Walls of windows throughout the interior reflect the sea, sun and sky. Indoors feels light and airy with contemporary furnishings which definitely fit into the Scandi category: think sand-coloured sofas, natural wooden tables and sea blue ceramics. The Wine Bar became our favourite evening spot to sip cocktails in pretty white surroundings, with a soothing backdrop of live acoustic music, bliss.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the panoramic dining room, with an open-air terrace overlooking the sea. This is a buffet restaurant with a huge range of options and a special section just for kids. I was so impressed by this place and how accommodating it was for families and the restaurant is no exception. Susanna was able to help herself, plastic ikea plate in hand, from the low height children’s corner. There was also a great incentive for the little ones to eat their fruit and veg in the form of a sticker rewards card which they handed in on the last night and got a certificate on stage during the kids disco, genius! Lunch and Dinner options were solid Mediterranean treats, with fully stocked salad and fruit bars, plenty of cured hams and Croatian cheeses, pizza, pasta, pan-seared meats and a range of fresh fish. Daily cakes are tasty, desserts are not amazing but the ice cream is good. The breakfast buffet is a traditional spread, with platters of everything from grilled tomatoes and bacon rashers to a bustling station for create-your-own omelettes; the freshly made, small-batch pancakes and donuts are standout. Wine, Beer and soft drinks are all available within the restaurant. There is also a pool bar which is open daily and a table-service restaurant which you can use once per week as part of the all inclusive package.
Something for Everyone
While the resort is primarily aimed at families, there really is something for everyone. The kids programmes seemed absolutely superb, although we didn’t make use of them, we did hear glowing reports. Bamse, the resort mascot, frequently made trips round the restaurant and pools which made Susanna’s day. Aside from the pool areas, there was a well-equipped park, a small soft play area, tennis and beach volleyball courts. We spotted a water sports hut just outside the hotel but didn’t actually get to see what all they had, I’m pretty sure there were paddle boards and kayaks though. You could also hire bikes close by. Each evening there was a kids disco followed by a show of some sort, the only downside to the disco was the timing, it didn’t actually start until 7.30pm which was a struggle some evenings for our tot. For the adults there was a fabulous gym and a spa plus a separate ‘quiet pool’ and four poster sun beds dotted across the various terraces.
Rabac itself is a quiet area which feels almost untouched by tourists. A short 20 minute walk around the stunning coast brings you to the village of Rabac which has a pretty harbour, bars and restaurants, souveneir shops and a range of boat tours. The entire way around this walk I was stopping to take pictures, everywhere you look is simply beautiful. We stopped for ice cream at Pingo and it’s completely fair to say we all died and went to Heaven just a little; creamy coconut was my scoop of choice and man it was delicious. We were told that it was hard to spend money in Croatia and it is true, we came home with most of the Croatian Kuna we left with! Nemo, the glass bottom boat, took us on a tour around the bay to spot pretty fish and a sundeck to soak up some rays. This is a great one for the kids and actually, we ended up having the boat to ourselves so the Captain let Susanna take the wheel for a while, her smile was literally from ear to ear. A little train runs between the resort and the village of Rabac all day, another highlight for the kiddos. All in all, if you like somewhere with hustle and bustle, Rabac may not be the place for you. This is very much a laid back, fishing town with little to do other than sunbathe, swim and sail, perfect if you ask me. Another aspect worth noting is how unbelievably friendly the locals are. They are proud of their country and excited to show it off, nothing was too much hassle and we never ever felt unwelcome.
Take Me Back
Our week in Bellevue Resort was perfect from start to finish. This hotel is as close to the luxury of our honeymoon as we have ever been but with the added benefits of being perfect for families. We have found the balance of family friendly and luxury difficult to achieve, but this place aced it. I should point out that we visited out of season, in May, and it was quiet for the most part which definitely added to the enjoyment for us. Towards the end of our stay we noticed it getting busier, due to half term in England, and it did become harder to find sun loungers and seating in the restaurants. I can imagine in summer it could be a bit overcrowded for my taste, although, a swim up room does remove that issue to an extent. With so much on offer within the resort, we didn’t stray too far, however, had we spent longer we would have most likely hired a car and drove to Lake Bled (3 hours away). This holiday was everything we hoped for and so much more and it has certainly made me want to explore Croatia as much as possible, watch this space.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing in our Croatian adventure. If you have any questions about our trip I would be so delighted to chat to you more. Have you visited Croatia? If so, where have you been and where would you recommend? You better believe I have searched flights already!