Closest to the Old Town, Banje Beach has the Banje Beach club, where you can party into the early hours. For more family-friendly beaches, head to Lapad, where you and the kids can enjoy water sports and inflatable toys. The upmarket hotels east of the Ploče Gate have their own beaches; walk past them along the coast to find a private spot for a dip, or keep walking about 20 minutes to Sveti Jakov beach, a sandy sliver with a spectacular view of the Old Town. The most natural and peaceful beaches lie on the tiny island of Lokrum, popular with rock-jumpers and naturists. For the most unique Dubrovnik experience, head to either of the Buža bars to swim directly under the city walls, or to local favorite Šulić beach, in the shadow of the Lovrijenac Fortress.
Lokrum Island. Some of Dubrovnik's most natural and peaceful beaches lie on the tiny island of Lokrum, a short distance southeast of the Old Town. Lush and fertile, this tiny island is home to the ruins of an abandoned 11th-century monastery, set in exotic botanical gardens. Lokrum has swirled with legend and mystery ever since Richard the Lionheart was supposedly cast ashore there in 1191 when returning from the Crusades. The story goes that when the Benedictine Monks were expelled from the island to make room for aristocrats in the 19th century, they left behind a curse on any future owners of the land, including Habsburg Emperor Maximilian, who turned the monastery into his summer residence eight years before he was executed in Mexico. To this day it is considered bad luck to stay overnight on the island, though many a pair of romantics have tried. At the top of the island is a star-shape fortress built by Napoléon's troops during French occupation, later used by the Austrian army. A network of footpaths lead down to the rocky shoreline, past the "dead sea" lake, where it's possible to swim. There are cliffs to jump from, coves to bathe in, and a small stretch of coast reserved for nudists. One of the most popular day trips from Dubrovnik, it's a wonderful place to spend a day spotting the peacocks (a Habsburg legacy) or feeding the wild rabbits. To reach Lokrum, take a taxi-boat from the old harbor; they run every half hour during the summer. 15-min boat ride from Dubrovnik's old harbor, Dubrovnik, Dubrovacko-Neretvanska, 20000. www.lokrum.hr.