Novalja is a beautiful seaside town to the far-north-west of the island of Pag. Whilst it has an infamous reputation for its vibrant nightlife and a Croatian festival hotspot, it’s also the destination of choice for Croatian family holidays, quiet breaks and beach relaxation. You can reach the town within a 1hr30 minute drive from Zadar so many tourists opt for a combined trip of city break and beaches between the two. Come to Novalja for an active summer nightlife and stay for the nice beaches and seaside town vibe.
Read our Zrce Beach and Novalja travel guide for answers to all of your questions, including where to stay, eat, party, and the top things to do here.
JUMP TO: When to visit | Getting to/from Novalja/Zrce | Transport options | Things to do | Where to stay | Supermarkets & Shopping | Restaurant Guide | Nightlife | Top Tips
When to visit and the weather
The busy summer and festival season run from Easter-time all the way until October, with July and August being the busiest months. Visit during the peak summer for guaranteed crowds, big festivals and parties, but expect to pay much higher costs for accommodation. Temperatures in July and August reach high-20’s/30 degrees, whilst the months of May, June and September are still in the comfortable low 20’s. Being a beach town, you’ll want to arrive during the summer as there isn’t much to do outside of this period.
Getting to and from Novalja
The closest airport to Novalja is Zadar, which is 1 hour 30 minutes by car to the town. Here are the best ways to get to Novalja.
Local bus service – If you’re travelling from Zadar Airport or another Croatian city, a cheap and quick way to get to the town is via a coach transfer. Compare bus options on GetByBus here, where you can book mobile tickets in advance. Buy your tickets at least a few days before you travel to secure a seat. If you’re flying into Zadar Airport you’ll need to first catch the airport bus to the Zadar City bus terminal and then catch an onward bus to Novalja.
Car rental – The cheapest and safest option for car rental is direct from Zadar Airport. Compare rental options using Skyscanner’s comparison tool here.
Private taxi transfer – If you prefer the convenience of driving straight to your hotel and don’t mind paying extra, a private taxi service is still a viable option. It’s also great for groups of 4 or more! The cheapest option is to book a transfer in advance using Skyscanner’s transfer comparison tool here. A private car will cost you around £70 for the one-way trip.
Getting around whilst there
As Novalja is a small town, you can reach everywhere on foot, however if you plan on venturing to outside beaches and attractions (including Zrce Festival Beach), you’ll need to catch a taxi or local bus. You can also rent some quirky methods of transport. See all options below.
The local bus – Runs through the town on the main road. It’ll transport you to Zrce Beach and onwards to small beach towns and the island capital, Pag Town. If you want to travel further afield, many coach companies operate from Novalja’s main bus station, which is just on the edge of town.
Electric motorbike rental – You’ll find cool electric ‘chopper-style’ motorbike rental offices throughout Novalja, spread across the main streets and by the beach. They’re a fun way of getting around town and exploring nearby beaches! We recommend Novalja Rent. They have consistently good reviews and are reasonably priced. View their website here.
Scooter rental – If you have a scooter/moped licence, you’ll be able to rent a scooter to explore the island. As above, look for a scooter/electric motorbike rental stand.
Uber/Taxis – Uber is readily available throughout Novalja and is our recommend option for quick trips across the island. The service can get busy and increase the surcharge on an evening so be sure to plan around this. Travel early evening before the rush to Zrce if you can.
Top things to do in Novalja
1. Relax on the beach
Novalja’s beaches are very nice and the perfect place to relax after an adventurous morning out or night of partying. The beach is made up of fine pebbles rather than sand so make sure you pack a towel to lie on. Along the beach stretch you’ll find sunbathers chilling out, two trendy beach bars playing ‘Ibiza’ vibe beats and plenty of sun loungers, which you can rent for 30 Kuna per day.
Enjoy a beach cocktail, go for a swim or have a nap in one of the most popular areas of town! You won’t have far to walk either – the beach has a central location next to the marina. If you get bored of the main beach, there’s another on the far side of the marina to the north. It’ll take you around 30 minutes to walk there or a quick taxi ride.
2. Play volleyball
Located next to the beach as part of Beach Bar Bridge, there’s a full-size beach volleyball court with sand. Rent the court for an hour (around 100 Kuna), grab your friends or a random bunch of people up for some volleyball and have an energetic afternoon out. It’s right next to the bar so you won’t have to go far for drinks! View the volleyball court on Google Maps here.
3. Stroll the promenade
Novalja’s promenade stretches for the entire width of the town, providing excellent walks on a morning or evening. Start at the beach and walk the entire length of the promenade, where you’ll find market stalls, bars, restaurants, performers and pretty views of the yachts and tourist boats in the marina. We recommend walking the promenade at sunset for some breath-taking views!
4. Explore the island on a quad bike or electric scooter
One thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Novalja is the prevalence of electric scooters with big wheels. They’re everywhere! Rent an ATV or scooter/bike and explore the island at your leisure. Stumble upon remote beaches, venture inland for hilltop views and generally have fun seeing what you can find outside of the town.
5. Party at Zrce Beach
One of the main reasons many young people spend their summer in Novalja is to party on nearby Zrce Beach on an evening, which is only a 20-minute drive by bus/car. The beach has 3 clubs featured in the Top 100 DJ’s Magazine Best Clubs List and has countless other bars, clubs and nightlife activities to check out. It’s also the host destination of a number of music festivals. Arrive in the afternoon and party well into the early hours! Find out more information on Zrce Beach in our nightlife section below.
6. Enjoy an adrenaline fuelled speedboat trip
Fancy stepping it up a gear and doing something more exhilarating on your beach trip? Jet Boat Novalja operates from the harbour every day, jetting off brave tourists on a speed boat ride with intense turns, twists and full-speed sea racing. It’s a fun thing to do but not for the faint of heart! You can view their TripAdvisor profile here.
7. Rent a boat and explore the coastline
The great thing about staying in a port-town is the opportunity to rent a boat and explore the nearby beaches and islands off the coast of Pag. Pack a picnic and spend your day island hopping and relaxing in the sun with friends or family. You can rent a standard motor boat that doesn’t require a licence for around 600 Kuna for the day.
8. Go on an adventure to Pag’s very own Bermuda Triangle
The Pag Triangle is a unique land formation out in the middle of nowhere that’s said to be the site of an alien UFO landing. The rocks and land within the ‘triangle’ appear unusually different to those outside and it’s a cool site to see! Stop by and decide for yourself whether strange things are happening or it’s just a natural phenomenon. The attraction is only a 10-minute drive from Novalja.
9. Go on a full day excursion
If you’re staying in Novalja for a while and are interested in checking out the nearby towns, cities and national parks, the following areas are excellent day-trips from the town. You can either rent a car and drive there and back yourself or book an organised tour bus. Some locations are also served by the local bus service.
- Pag Town – A pretty town just down the road from Novalja that provides a more local atmosphere. Enjoy an ice cream by the marina and go for a long walk.
- Zadar – A stunning coastal town with a long promenade and some excellent architecture. Spend your day here wandering the old streets, enjoying a drink with a view of the marina or gift shopping.
- Plitvice Lakes – As one of the most impressive sites in the whole of Croatia, Plitvice National Park is a vast collection of lakes, forests and waterfalls. A must-see for anyone!
- Kornati Islands – Book a full day excursion to the nearby Kornati Islands for a day of snorkelling, exploring and relaxing on quiet beaches.
10. Wander around Pag’s old ghost-town
The town of Stari Grad was once a thriving mining hotspot that has gradually become deserted over time. Visit what remains of this old-town and walk amongst abandoned buildings. Stari Grad is just a short walk from Pag Town, which you can get to on the public bus.
11. Go wine and tapas tasting
Boskinac Hotel and Winery host daily tours of their winery, with plenty of opportunities for sampling local wines and light tapas snacks. This 2000-year-old wine production site consistently wins awards for the best wine that Croatia has to offer and you’ll learn plenty of interesting facts during your tour. Find out more and book on their website here.
Where to stay in Novalja
Like many Croatian towns, you’ll find a handful of hotels and hostels, but private apartment rentals and guesthouses make up the majority of places to stay. As hotels are limited, they also tend to be very expensive during the summer so we recommend renting an apartment. See below for some of the best places to stay in Novalja from all three categories.
Novalja Private Apartments & Guesthouses
There are way too many apartment rentals to mention, however we’ve assembled some apartment and guesthouse options that we personally recommend. We advise searching for Novalja apartment rentals here on Booking.com and picking the best option for your chosen dates. You’ll find that Booking.com has the most accommodation rentals for Croatia and they also include properties from sites such as AirBnB.
View on Booking.com | 3 stars | 4.5/5 TripAdvisor rating
This guesthouse is tucked away on the main street leading into Novalja town and you can reach the centre on-foot within 6-minutes. Stay in your own apartment as part of the complex and enjoy a welcoming atmosphere, quirky décor and a well-equipped but basic living area. There’s also a pool that’s open til’ late! Villa Ani is a cheap but excellent place to stay for all travellers.
View on Booking.com | 4 stars | 5/5 TripAdvisor rating
A modern apartment-block a short walk from the centre of town. The interior is bright and modern throughout and apartments are fully equipped with a kitchen so you can make your own meals. A low-cost accommodation option that’s a refreshing contrast to many of the more basic/traditional styles of apartments in the town.
View on Booking.com | 3 stars | 4.5/5 TripAdvisor rating
Pool Apartments Galeb is a block of apartments in the centre of town providing great value for money. Rooms are basic; however, they’re equipped with everything you need to make your own meals and enjoy a pleasant night’s sleep. It also has a good-sized swimming pool, sun loungers, and each apartment has a balcony area. A top choice for its price and location.
View on Booking.com | 4 stars | 4.5/5 TripAdvisor rating
Hotel Joel is a trendy design hotel that looks like an upside-down ‘letter L’. Located a few minutes’ walk from Novalja’s main beach, the hotel is the most luxurious you’ll find for its location. Rooms and living areas are fresh and modern throughout and the reviews make it one of the top-rated places to stay in town, although expect to pay higher-end prices.
View on Booking.com | 4 stars | 4.5/5 TripAdvisor rating
After mentioning Hotel Boskinac in our ‘things to do’ ideas for its exquisite on-site winery, we had to mention it again as a place to stay because there simply isn’t anywhere better. The hotel is currently #1 rated in Novalja on TripAdvisor. Staying at Boskinac you’ll have access to a small but adequate pool, beautiful garden views and a boutique accommodation that’ll make you feel at home. The only downside is that it’s a 10-minute drive from the town centre.
View on Booking.com | 4 stars | 5/5 TripAdvisor rating
The most luxurious hotel in Novalja, but also the costliest. This newly built and modern hotel sits on a hill overlooking the town, providing peace and quiet as you relax in the large swimming pool with a view. The In Excelsis is the perfect option for couples looking for a luxury break away, with all of the facilities you’d expect in a 4-star resort.
View on HostelWorld | 5/5 TripAdvisor rating
Providenca Hostel has a prime location right next to Novalja’s marina and is within a short walk of the beach. Rooms and common areas are basic but well-maintained and staff are super-friendly. Depending on when you visit, the vibe can be different; however, you’ll feel at home and will definitely make friends. One of the better-rated hostel options.
View on Booking.com | 4/5 TripAdvisor rating
The go-to party hostel when visiting Novalja for the Zrce Beach nightlife. Rooms and common areas are clean and modern and it’s a refreshing place to wake up in after a night of clubbing. You have easy access to Zrce Beach via bus or taxi and can walk to Novalja town within 10-minutes. Expect a loud party atmosphere in the summer months.
Supermarkets and shopping
If you want to stock up on your favourite drinks, ice cream and food to cook in your apartment, Novalja has some excellent supermarkets in the town centre. Products are great value compared to smaller shops/restaurants and you can try some new brands you don’t have in your home country!
Here are the main supermarkets:
Plodine Novalja – Ul. Silvija Strahimira Kranjčevića 3, 53291, Novalja, Croatia – A large supermarket with a pharmacy – View on map.
Tommy Mini-market – Lokunje 3, Novalja, Croatia – Croatia’s go-to supermarket brand for local groceries and toiletries supplies. Very similar to LIDL in our opinion. Open late and right next to the beach/marina – View on map.
If you’re shopping for anything else, there aren’t a great deal of options for clothing and other essentials, however you’ll find plenty of gift, beach supply and souvenir stores alongside the marina.
The best Novalja Restaurants
For tips and ideas on the best places to eat, check out our Novalja restaurant guide here. Restaurants can be a little hit or miss so make sure you plan your evening meal with us beforehand!
If you’ve came to Novalja to party on Zrce Beach or a music festival, this is the section you’ve eagerly been waiting for. The Zrce Beach nightlife guide below covers the best bars and clubs to visit in both Novalja and Zrce Beach and some handy tips for making the most of your night out!
Zrce Beach Nightlife
Zrce Beach is the biggest nightlife hotspot in Croatia and gives other European clubbing holiday strips a run for their money! Think Ibiza but with cheaper prices. During the peak summer season, bars and clubs have beach parties during the day, before the sun sets and even more people arrive to party until the early hours.
Bars and clubs are open every day of the week during the summer and some of the big venues host International DJ’s and summer festival events (as listed below). Music-wise, you have everything from Electric Dance Music and House to Hip-Hop, grime and pop. It all depends which venue you’re visiting and what night of the week or event you attend!
The best Zrce Beach bars & clubs
The clubs on Zrce Beach each have a different vibe and the one you choose will all depend on what event you’re visiting for and the type of music you like. Check the event plans on the club websites and be sure to sample at least a few different ones during your visit! Unlike Novalja, which has many chilled bars, the scene at Zrce Beach is almost entirely beach dance clubs.
Aquarius – An open-air club that has been established since the early days of Zrce parties. Expect International DJ’s and beach parties during the day and long sets until the early hours. One of the main clubs for Hideout and Sonar Festival.
Noa – Second in size only to Papaya, Noa is a newer beach club that hosts up to 4000 guests and has a whole host of facilities, including a restaurant, 11 bars, chill-out areas, multiple stages and a big party atmosphere. It gets packed out during the summer and has nightly events.
Papaya – Papaya takes partying to a whole new level! Huge in size and accommodating 5000 guests with its many bars, pools and stages, it’s the place to visit at least once during your trip. Be sure to book tickets in advance though, it can get booked up quick! It’s the main club venue for Croatia Spring Break, Area 4 and some other big festival names.
Kalypso – What started as a small beach bar 30-years ago is now an Ibiza-style outdoor club that hosts Black Sheep Festival and Fresh Island Festival parties in the summer and local DJ’s outside of events. Arrive for lunch and dance until the late hours. It’s also great for food!
Euphoria – Euphoria beach club is at the far end of the beach to the north. It’s a great place to enjoy a night out when you don’t have an event planned at one of the bigger clubs and is generally a little cheaper than alternatives. The music style is EDM and you’ll be able to enjoy trance classics every night of the week.
Novalja and Zrce Beach festival line-up
May – Zrce Spring Break Europe
June – Hideout Festival
July – Fresh Island Festival | Area 4 Festival | Black Sheep Festival
August – Barrakud Croatia | Sonus Festival
Nightlife in Novalja
Nightlife in Novalja is a little different to Zrce Beach. It has many more bars than Zrce, however the club scene is almost non-existent, with only a couple of venues staying open til’ late. It’s a great place to have a few drinks after dinner on an evening before heading to Zrce Beach, or keeping it chilled with casual cocktails. The vibe can still be lively and the crowd is a mix of families, couples and young party seekers.
The best Novalja bars & clubs
Beach Bar Laganini – Laganini is one of the handful of beach bars on the main Novalja beach and an excellent place to wind down after your night out. It has hammocks, deck chairs and even tables in the ocean so you can keep cool. Sit back with an iced coffee or cocktail and relax to the sound of chilled Ibiza beats.
Beluga Bar – Another great bar near the beach is Beluga. Located around the far side of the marina so you’ll need to take a leisurely walk to get there, it’s a cool place to relax with a cocktail at sunset. Being slightly out of the action, it has a unique appeal and the surrounding area is beautiful.
Plasica – house of rock & blues – If you’re not into partying on Zrce but still want a fun evening out, Plasica, the home of live music, is the place to go! Enjoy cover bands, local artists and a great drinks menu in this centrally located rock bar.
Cocomo – Cocomo is a unique venue. During the day you’ll find it to be a table restaurant, it turns into a lively bar early evening and then transforms into a dance club that’s open until early morning. You’ll find music ranging from House and dance classics to a 90’s cheesy pop disco. Be sure to check the style of club night and plan accordingly based on what you like. It’s the main club venue in Novalja if you don’t fancy trekking to Zrce Beach.
Top tips for visiting Novalja
- Save money by booking a coach transfer from the airport (Zadar). Taxi costs can really add up. However, if you’re travelling in a group, a private transfer may be a better option.
- Many people look for accommodation options on Zrce Beach and find there isn’t much available. Plan to stay in Novalja – you can easily catch an Uber or the local bus to Zrce in under 20-minutes and there’s a lot more facilities in the town.
- Contrary to prices often being listed online in Euros, the local currency is Croatian Kuna. Withdraw currency at no-fee ATM’s for the best exchange rates (rather than exchanging your own currency at an exchange booth).
- Consider extending your Croatia holiday and make it a road trip. Zadar, Split and the islands of Hvar and Brac can all be reached from Novalja.
- If you’re visiting for the nightlife, be sure to also plan activities for during the day. Aside from the beach, there are some great day-trips and places to visit nearby.
- Always check TripAdvisor reviews before booking a hotel or eating in a restaurant. You don’t want to ruin your trip by having a bad experience!
- Use Uber instead of local taxis. It’s quick and easy and lowers the chance of getting ripped off.
- Consider sharing a taxi/Uber to Zrce beach with random people you meet on the street. Most young party-goers head to Zrce on an evening and you can split the cab cost.
We hope we’ve prepared you for an action packed (or relaxing) holiday in the beautiful Croatian town of Novalja and nearby Zrce Beach. Whether you’re on holiday to party or just relax by the beach and enjoy a traditional resort getaway, our tips, tricks and recommendations above will ensure you have a great time! If you have any questions, be sure to get in touch. We’ll happily help you plan your trip.