Blue Cave Tour: Beyond the Hype

Before you book your Blue Cave Tour, read this honest, unbiased guide. We’ll tell you what Blue Cave is really like and offer our tips for making the most of your trip.

What Is The Blue Cave?

The Blue Cave, also known as the Blue Grotto or Modra Špilja, is on a lot of “must-see” lists for visitors to Croatia. On the Dalmatian coast, advertisements for Blue Cave Tours are ubiquitous. The Cave itself is located on the island of Biševo, near the island of Vis, and known for its mesmerising blue light effect. It is one of the most famous caves in the Adriatic Sea and it is a strikingly unique place. But – a little bit like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre – it’s not entirely clear why this particular masterpiece draws so many visitors, when hundreds of equally stunning experiences lurk just around the corner.

Getting to Blue Cave

Blue Cave tours mostly depart from the towns of Split, Hvar, Brač, and Dubrovnik. From Split, the journey takes at least 90 minutes by powerboat, depending on horsepower and weather conditions. From Hvar Town, it takes at least an hour to arrive in good wind – the journey is longer from Stari Grad and Jelsa. Dubrovnik is farther from Blue Cave than Split, so you can expect correspondingly greater travel times.

It is important to recognise that boat travel takes time, and that Vis is the most distant inhabited island from the Croatian mainland. Weather conditions, like headwinds or higher waves, can easily double transit times.

What looks close on a map is not necessarily so. Most tours leave port at 9am and return at 6pm. You can easily spend half the day or more in transit on a speedboat. These boats are propelled by powerful, loud engines that drown out conversation and music. The waves on the open sea will create too much bounce for you to read or scroll your phone. In addition, many tour boats do not have sunshades, so there is nowhere to hide from the blistering sun and its reflection off the water. You may get lucky and spot a pod of dolphins en route but mostly, you will be getting a good, long look at the sea.

Getting to The Blue Cave

The Blue Cave Experience

After your transit, you will arrive in a crowded bay, where your skipper will take a place in line behind the other boats. When it’s your turn, a small motorboat with a local skipper will come to pick you up. There may be other people on his boat already. He will take you to the shore, where you will wait in line again to buy tickets. Tickets are 18 euro per person for adults and 9 euro for children. There is a public toilet behind the ticket booth, which you may be grateful for since you’ll likely have been bouncing on a boat for the past hour or two.

Getting to The Blue Cave

Image credit: Sugaman Tours

Once you’ve purchased your ticket, you’ll get back on the local motorboat. Then you’ll wait one more time, now to actually enter Blue Cave. When your turn comes, you’ll pass through a narrow straight and then under the mouth of the cave, which will seem almost too small to enter. The difficulty of the entrance is why only small boats with specialised skippers are allowed. In fact, your visit may be delayed or cancelled if the winds prove too rough to pass safely. Take this into consideration when you book your tour, since few operators give refunds for weather.

Once inside the Blue Cave, you will be greeted by an otherworldly sight. The cave's interior is illuminated by sunlight passing through an underwater opening, which reflects off the limestone floor and walls, creating an ethereal blue glow.

The intensity of the blue colour can vary depending on the time of day and the weather conditions, with the most vibrant hues typically observed around midday when the sunlight is at its peak. The combination of the blue light and the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea creates a memorable experience.

The main cavity of the cave is about the size of a three-car garage, and twice or three times its height. There will be another boat full of tourists in the cave at the same time. You will pause in the cave for a minute or two while your guide says a few words about its history. Then you’re done! You will go back through the tunnel, under the cave’s mouth, through the straight, and then back to your boat again. Once you actually get going, the whole shebang takes about 15 minutes. It is an interesting 15 minutes! But again, consider if you want to spend an entire day of your vacation and several hours of driving and waiting in line for those 15 minutes.

Getting to The Blue Cave

Contrary to what many websites inexplicably promise, you absolutely will not swim. Swimming has been forbidden in the cave for years, because the number of visitors entering the cave was a threat to wildlife. The Blue Cave is part of the Vis Archipelago UNESCO Geopark, and it is a protected site.

Then What? The Five Island Tour

After Blue Cave, many tour operators will take you for a peek at Stiniva Cove and Green Cave, two other highly promoted sites. This itinerary is sometimes called the Five Island Tour, because operators from Split stop by three islands in the Vis archipelago, and also pass Hvar and Brač.

Stiniva Cove

Stiniva Cove on an extremely rare, quiet morning

Like Blue Cave, these locations are genuinely remarkable, but very crowded. To give you a sense of the volume of visitors, our boat driver at Blue Cave told us that he drives 20 tours a day, typically. And there are at least half a dozen other boat drivers. A boat holds about 10 people. You can do the math: that totals about a thousand visitors per day to Blue Cave and the related attractions. Each attraction is about the size of a house, so imagine driving up onto a lawn and visiting a house with a thousand other people. That is the atmosphere.

The other stops on a Five Island Tour are, again, not altogether close by. You can think of it as driving between towns. Would you want to get in a car, drive an hour and a half, then drive to three or four other towns, stay in each for about 5 minutes, and then drive home? If the answer is yes, then you will love the Five Island experience.

For tourists with a single-minded focus on getting their photo and saying “I was there,” the Five Island Tour ticks the boxes. For those who came to Croatia for a bit of the Mediterranean lifestyle and natural beauty of the Adriatic, there are better options.

Is Blue Cave Worth It? The Verdict

We do think that Blue Cave is well worth visiting… if you have the time to do it right.

If you’re only visiting Dalmatia for a few days, skip Blue Cave and soak up what your environment has to offer. Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar – they all have deep cultural richness and stunning nature. You will get so much more out of getting to know one region than from seeing many towns and sites superficially. Take the time to visit a local winery. Treat yourself to a day of relaxation on the beach. Visit a museum and take a walk in the woods. Explore a village that is off the beaten path. Take the money you would have spent on a Five Island Tour to splurge on a high-end dinner. Please: just do something nice for yourself and give the Blue Cave a break.

However, if you are travelling by private boat or if you’re staying in Dalmatia for at least a week, you have more time to venture forth. You are in a great position to explore all of Vis, including but not limited to Blue Cave.

How to Do Blue Cave Well: A Perfect Vis Itinerary

As we mentioned above, Blue Cave is on a small island near Vis. Going to Blue Cave and never seeing Vis is like going to Yellowstone and never making it past the visitor centre. Even by the high standards of Dalmatia, the island is exceptionally pristine, sophisticated, and rich in heritage.

Start your journey by taking a private boat or ferry to Vis Town. Take a guided hiking tour into the island’s interior, dotted with exotic karst formations and caves. Stroll the promenade from Kut to Luka. Dine at Boccadoro, one of the best restaurants in Dalmatia (like all of our recommendations, this is our totally unbiased, unsponsored take).

Vis Town

Vis Town

After a good night's sleep, wake up early to beat the crowd, and then use the rest of the day to enjoy the ridiculous perks of being on vacation in Dalmatia. Start the day with world-class coffee and espresso drinks at Kava 4. Skip breakfast (we’ll explain!). Now is the moment for Blue Cave. Get on your boat and arrive at Blue Cave by 8am to beat the crowds and have the place to yourself. It is a brief experience, but special and very worth it under these conditions.

Once you’ve made your visit, steer yourself to Komiža, a breathtakingly lovely town just 15 minutes from Blue Cave. Satisfy your growling stomach with a big, decadent breakfast at Cukar, a mouth-wateringly chic and inventive sweetshop featuring local ingredients.

Streets of Komiża

Streets of Komiża

After strolling through Komiža, get back on your boat and cruise along the island’s mysterious south side, which faces the open sea towards Italy. The southern coast of Vis is studded with dramatic caves and hidden coves for you to explore. If you have a boat suitable for sleeping overnight, moor in Stiniva Bay in the late afternoon, to experience the sunset and sunrise in this justifiably famous natural beach fortress. If not, continue your journey around the island onto the Pakleni Islands outside of Hvar Town or make your way homewards.

Hidden Cove of Komiża

Hidden Cove of Komiża

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