It’s officially the time of year when all the LA socialites and influencers have fled to Mykonos where the parties last ‘til sunup and the views look like postcards. If you don’t believe me, just scroll your Instagram feed or pop open the Geotag where you’ll be sure to see sun-drenched photos of perfectly shaped females posing in their best Greek-island outfits. While my own trip to Mykonos did make me fall in love with the location (and particularly the shopping, which gets overshadowing by the party scene), this Summer, I dusted off my youth for an all-night rager in Zrce Beach, Croatia – and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! Rightfully nicknamed “The Croatian Ibiza” this 500-meter strip of sand boasts some of the most outrageous music venues, all set against a serene lake-like body of water with the Adriatic Sea spilling in.
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In late July, I got decked out in my best pool-party-meets-festival attire and took the 1.5-hour (9 EU) bus ride from Zadar to Novalja. While the white buildings climbing the Mykonos hillside are indeed picturesque, this Croatian landscape is a party girls’ dream: the beautiful, sandy coastline has one long cement “sidewalk” down the middle; day beds, lined row after row, garnish the edge of the water; a set of roofless clubs, each bearing their own unique theme – evidenced by their architecture, burst from the desert terrain; and bungy jumps, jet skis, and other water sports are ready to entertain. I took one look at Zrce beach and felt my inner rave girl come back to life. In fact, I forgot I was over thirty.
While Noa Beach Club – jetting out into the water with its multiple levels and multiple pools and hot tubs – might just be the most amazing music venue I’ve ever seen and Kalypso is both sexy and outrageous, it was Papaya Club that truly stole my heart. Killing time before heading to Noa for the DJs I’d paid in advance to see, I was pulled into Papaya by a pretty promoter who offered me a free drink. This, however, was no ordinary drink. A bright blue concoction filled an entire bottle service carafe with a neon straw long enough to reach the seemingly endless bottom. Now, I’m pretty particular about my liquor – you know, the whole I’m-over-thirty-and-know-what-will-make-me-the-least-hungover thing – and generally stick to straight tequila, but the flourishing fragments of my former youth had taken charge and the blue drink was beckoning. This thing tasted like pina colada heaven, and I was committed. The scene itself was the real winner, though. Surrounding what can best be described as an adult kiddy pool (ie. only thigh-deep) are tables that look ready for exclusive bottle service but are instead open to the public. Vines drape across the top and purple and orange puffballs – that reminded of me of Chinese lanterns on acid – dangle from the flora. It felt like being inside Alice’s Wonderland. . . if her Wonderland was on a tropical island.
Of course, what makes any party are the people and the beats, and that is exactly what set Papaya over the top. An exceptional DJ played songs like “That Way” by SDJM & Connor Maynard and created transitions so outstanding I had to stop dancing and simply appreciate. A group of Italians who – indicated by stickers taped to their butts and a staff of wranglers in matching T-shirts – had been bussed in splashed water and sang along to their favorite Jams. I met a few women from the Czech Republic with rainbow-colored hair and a handsome Croatian fitness model, saw a clear cougar (possibly even pay-to-order) couple, and watched thong-clad dancers wiggle to the rhythm.
Though perhaps half-a-world away, Zrce Beach may be a bit more attainable than the other international party scenes. The exchange rate for the Kuna works in our favor, so you can ball out on a budget. So, if you’re timeline is making you envious and you’re searching for some escapism, look beyond Mykonos for your adventure abroad. Without hesitation, I recommend Zrce for reigniting your youth. I even pledged to party ‘til 6am!