In the late spring, I finally saw Croatia for the first time; I’d been wanting to visit the country for most of a decade.
The first stop was seaside Dubrovnik, the most visited city in Croatia, and my and Adam’s home base for three nights was the streamlined Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel.
Much like Old Town Dubrovnik itself, the Lacroma is a glamorous fortress by the Mediterranean. Only one, though, has a swimming pool…as well as kittens in the parking lot.
The Valamar Lacroma, part of a small Croatian hotel chain, is huge, glassy and well-equipped for everyone from couples to large tour groups. A modern sprawl of gleaming wood and windows, it’s full of little niches that make it feel smaller than its 385 guest rooms would suggest.
Set about 6 minutes outside of town, it’s ideal to have a car when staying here; fortunately, the hotel’s parking lot is both wide and free. (Booking a car online in advance, picking it up at the Dubrovnik Airport, and finding reasonably-priced street and public lot parking around Old Town Dubrovnik are all pretty simple.)
From its parking lot, the Lacroma looks not unlike a conference center; by the front doors, however, big round garden planters hint at something more organic. The farther you proceed towards the backyard (for lack of a better term), the more you realize that the hotel’s many levels are integrated into the grassy seaside hilltop they inhabit, rather than the other way around.
The views from almost any vantage point are spectacular, but nowhere more so than the guest rooms. Furnishings are spare rather than cozy, but double beds are actually double beds (not always a given in Europe, where twin beds are often pushed together to form a queen), the sound-proofing is excellent, and there’s plenty of room for two people to spread out. Our balcony looked out over the hill’s-edge swimming pool and the Elaphite Islands, enabling us to linger over sunsets and -rises ‘cross the teal-blue Med.
We were way excited about the enormous pool overlooking the sea, but be warned — the water isn’t heated. I’m sure this is a treat in the swelter of summer, but in late May it wasn’t yet particularly warm outside, and there’s no hot tub to offer relief from the chill. There’s a big indoor pool adjacent to the outdoor one, but this isn’t heated, either. The best part of the experience was lolling on lounge chairs in soft afternoon sunshine, sipping housemade lemonade and watching German tourists swim endless laps.
Retreating into the expansive Ragusa Spa, we soon learned three things: 1) everyone who works here is extremely kind and personable; 2) the massages are lovely and will loosen up the knots that ail you; 3) the treatment rooms are more utilitarian than soothing; and 4) this is no place to get a pedicure. To elaborate on the latter, just know that while my pedicurist was warm, funny and attentive, I left with over-filed hot spots on the soles of my feet (which required me to wear cushioned bandages for the rest of our trip) and gummy nail polish that never truly dried. I wish I had simply stuck to the Afrodita section for women, which features an infrared sauna, or booked a massage with Adam; the Ragusa is the only spa in Dubrovnik to offer couples’ treatments.
There are a couple of little bar areas and one elegant restaurant serving dinner, but our only food experience was of the gorgeous breakfast buffet. Almost everything I’ve ever had to eat in the morning is available in the huge dining room, and the fruit, fresh baked goods, yogurt, omelette bar, and strong coffee all made us happy. Heads up that milk products in Croatia generally come from goats and sheep, and are pretty universally delicious.
Now, I can’t promise this will happen when you visit the Lacroma, but a bonus at breakfast each day was checking out the entire Croatian water polo team, who were guests at the hotel. If this is your kind of scenery, just know that this was exactly as delightful as it sounds.
And one of the unexpected pleasures of not staying directly in Dubrovnik’s Old Town? It was far more serene. As Old Town is crowded each day with cruise-loads of tourists and each night with backpackers, having a quiet place to escape to was a relief. We loved our visit to this historic city, but also loved getting a good night’s sleep and not schlepping our luggage up and down slick stone steps in the rain.
But the most surprising part of our stay at the Lacroma was extremely small: heading towards our rental car one morning, Adam came across a friendly little tabby kitten in the parking lot. I squealed, we smiled, and we hung out with this kitty for a nice long while. It’s just one more sweet memory in a long-awaited journey to Croatia.
Our 3-night stay and daily breakfast
were provided courtesy of the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel,
but all opinions and observations are my own.