Saturday, October 06, 2007

Croatia Online - Hotel Spongiola on The Island of Krapanj

We decided to treat ourselves to a restorative luxury break last weekend after a demanding few months on the work front. The brief was to find somewhere that didn’t involve a long drive from Split, had the necessary facilities to keep us amused and pampered if the forecast rain arrived, and didn’t completely blow the bank. As it was, the weather turned out great and so did Hotel Spongiola on Croatia’s smallest and lowest lying inhabited island – Krapanj.

Krapanj itself is opposite the village of Brodarica on the mainland, just before Šibenik, driving from Split. As you get to Brodarica, follow the signs for Zlatna Ribica, one of the best seafood restaurants in the region, park your car and call Hotel Spongiola to ask them to send their boat to come and pick you up. It’s a five minute trip, if that, and an easy step on and off the boat.

Hotel Spongiola has everything you’d expect from a good four star hotel – very pleasing décor and surroundings, friendly and efficient staff, a gym, swimming pool, wellness centre with saunas and hydro massage, a restaurant and bar and a nice shingle beach. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and very well fitted out and the half board option (add €4 per person to the bed and breakfast off season price of €92 for a double room for two) includes a great four course dinner. If you have the ham and egg omelette for breakfast (along with a copious choice from the breakfast buffet bar including cereals, juices, yoghurts, salamis, breads and jams) and work slowly through the evening meal, you won’t notice you’ve missed lunch! The one downside was going into breakfast on the second day, admittedly not at crack of dawn, and finding that the restaurant had turned into a presentation area for a dental seminar – a full screen photo of the inside of someone’s mouth is not the best way to start the day! No problem – breakfast hastily rearranged, with profuse apologies, on the partially covered side terrace.

Two days is just about right to unwind and explore Krapanj. You can walk round the island in less than an hour and the church and cemetery are well worth a visit. It looked like there could be two restaurants open in the high season but these were closed when we passed by. However, for a change of scene, there are two cafes by the ferry terminal and you can make use of the hotel’s ferry service, free and on demand up to midnight, if you want to explore the mainland or eat at Zlatna Ribica. There are also a number of trips on offer and the hotel doubles as a diving centre with a swimming pool deep enough, in one half, for diving training.

Spongiola is dog friendly too – you won’t find dogs running amok but if you have a well behaved, inconspicuous, furry friend you’ll find they’re made very welcome too. It’ll cost you an extra €5 a night but they’ll thank you for it and the easy clean wooden floors in the bedrooms ensures no tell tell doggy hairs remain after their stay.

Krapanj used to have a thriving sponge trade and the hotel is built on the site of a former sponge co-operative. You’ll see plenty of traces of history around including a small sponge museum and souvenir shop up a back street by the ferry terminal. Blissfully, and sometimes eerily, it’s almost completely car free. We spotted just one truck, with no number plates, and a van, the whole time we were there. That helps to make you feel you really are getting away from it all, on a remote island, rather than just a short hop from the metropolis.

Hotel Spongiola is like a breath of fresh air and a great option if glitzy 5 stars are a little too much for you but you want something a little different from Croatia’s myriad of perfectly adequate 3 star hotels. Just one point to note which added to our enjoyment but may not be everyone’s cup of tea – Sunsail use the hotel as a base for some of their charter boats with fortnightly flotillas starting there every other weekend in the high season. So if it’s peace and quiet you’re after, be prepared for this to be a little shattered on Saturday nights as the groups discuss the highs and lows of their holidays over a few drinks. Sunsail guests have their own areas for showers, etc, and they’re invariably a very social and friendly bunch but sheer weight of numbers can make for a lively evening once a fortnight. However it’s great fun watching the new bunch leave their moorings the next day!

Check out Hotel Spongiola’s website for full details of all that’s on offer – and look out for our next posting, in a similar vein – a Croatian travel company that seems to be a little different from the rest. Might be just the site you need to help you organise your next Croatian holiday and banish the blues as the nights draw in.


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