Krapanj Island is one of the hidden gems in Croatia. It is surely not one of the most popular islands or destinations here, but it’s still a very nice place, with something very special about its inhabitants’ activity: sponge diving.
Krapanj is an island where men were the sponge divers and female were doing all farming work and fishing.
I still remember my father’s words each time we saw their boats near Hvar island collecting sea sponges: “They are famous sponge divers from the small sponge fishermen village on the Krapanj island!“
Of course, there is more than the main activity of the locals that would make a visit here worthwhile – and we’re going to cover it all in today’s article about Krapanj, Croatia.
Things to know about Krapanj Island
This island is only 300 meters away from the mainland, in front of small village called Brodarica in the Sibenik county.
It is the smallest inhabited island of the Adriatic Sea covering 0.36 km². It is also the most inhabited island (per square meter) and has the lowest elevation of 1.5 meter above sea level. Check its position on this earth map!
Most of the island is covered by dense woods, with the Eastern parts being occupied by the Krapanj village.
The island offers a varied amount of pebbled beaches that are kid friendly, so it is an ideal place for a family day out (or more days!). Also, since it’s not such a popular touristic destination, this is the place where you can find some privacy on the beach.
Sponge diving on Krapanj island
The men of Krapanj have been diving for sponges for over 300 years and is still one of the main activities of the men living on this island.
This resulted in an interesting switch of roles on the island. Since the men were out the entire day diving for sponges (without any special equipment back in the day), the women were responsible for all the other household activities.
This means that they were field laborers, fishermen and did all the chores around the house. It certainly wasn’t easy for them but it also shows just how strong and unique Croatian women are!
At the end of the 19th century, a Krapanj diving crew consisted of 8 people. Only two or three were divers, two were rowers, two were in charge of the air pump, and one or two had to press, wash and dry the sponges.
In 1893, the islanders founded an association of the sponge divers, which later received diving gear from the local authorities. At the end of the 19th century, there were 14 diving crews in the association.
In 1940, the association had over 20 sets of diving equipment and 20 diving crews. At that time, nearly 400 people on Krapanj lived exclusively on sponge diving.
But things have changed in the present day, although sponge diving is still one of the main activities on Krapanj.
What are sponges / sponge diving?
You might be surprised by the fact that sea sponges are not plants but actually animals. They are considered among the first multi-cellular creatures on Earth and they still roam the waters today.
Sponges live of plankton in warm, calm and clear waters, on rough and rocky seabed up to the depth of 200 m. It takes 2 to 4 years for sponges to grow approximately 15 cm in diameter.
Sponges obtain plankton by filtering sea water and an average sponge can filter almost 2000 liters of sea water per day!
In the Adriatic sea, there is an excellent rounded species of sea sponges, the so-called Dalmata Fina, that can grow up to 40 cm in diameter.
It has considerable market value due to its fine structure. Today 1 kg of unrefined sponge has the price at about $70. Divers from Krapanj island usually harvest this sponge species.
Besides Dalmata Fina, there is also one more type of sponge in the Adriatic, Elephant’s Ear sponge, known for its unusual form and tremendous firmness.
Even though it can grow up to 1 meter in diameter, it is not as valued as Dalmata Fina.
How to get to Krapanj Island?
Being only 300 meter from the mainland, there is a daily ferry line (only passengers) that leaves from Brodarica almost every hour to Krapanj.
The trip takes only 5 minutes and as soon as the passengers have disembarked, the ferry returns to Brodarica.
This ferry is not run by Jadrolinija Croatia’s state maritime company. but by a small Sibenik town company. It is very reliable though and the best option (although you can find all sorts of private deals to take you there for a higher cost).
Where to stay in Krapanj?
While the island is not the most popular touristic destination in Croatia, it does have some nice offers when it comes to accommodation.
The best option on the island is its only hotel – 4-star hotel Spongiola, one that is always praised by all its guests. Click here to check it out.
Hotel Spongiola offers stunning sea views, has a private pool and amazing rooms, as well as the best restaurant on the island (in my opinion). It’s also the best choice on the island if you plan to do some diving, as it offers state-of-the-art diving equipment.
Top things to do on Krapanj Island
While the island doesn’t have a ton of attractions for you, the city itself is really nice. You should definitely walk down all the streets and enjoy the promenade, as well as the traditional Croatian houses.
The main attraction on the island is the Monastery of St Cross (Samostan Svetog Križa) which is a Franciscan monastery built in the 16th century.
The small church has a small museum where you can see a collection of sponges, corals, amphorae and ancient tableware. You can also enjoy its exhibits – Last Supper (dating back to the 16th century) and the Black Madonna on the Throne.
We also have the Spuga 2 – a sponge factory and sponge shop where you can get better acquainted to the island’s main activity and even buy some of those special sponges for back home.
And, of course, the ton of pebble beaches that surround the island. You can opt for the more popular options around the Krapanj village itself or travel South or West for more secluded bathing option.
No matter if you choose to spend one day here or a week, you will be impressed with this lesser known part of Croatia: calmer and less crowded, it’s the perfect vacation spot if you’re looking to be a bit away from the beaten path.