It takes just one visit to Croatia to fall for its almighty charm. From its craggy cliffs to low-slung villas and secluded coves, this Balkan country is fast becoming the destination of choice for those seeking a hedonistic escape. While free-spirited travellers are quick to dance in the streets of Hvar, swim in the gin-clear waters of Split and taste the many flavours of Zagreb, it's the pocket-sized, pristine island of Dugi Otok that is starting to turn our heads. Just an hour's catamaran ride from the creative city of Zadar, there's a comforting, blissfully slow pace of life to be found here.
The arrival of design-driven hotel Villa Nai 3.3 has cemented the island's sultry and no-frills attitude. The eight-key stay is the brainchild of civil engineer Goran Morović, and is dug into a hillside in what appears to be a sprawling jungle of tangled olive groves; the same groves that have passed through generations of the Morović family. After teaming up with the incredibly talented architect Nikola Bašić back in 2013, the tranquil home-from-home was finally brought to life last year.
Before we reveal the juicy details, let's point out the reasoning behind the hotel's name. Once upon a time, three-and-a-half days of snowfall was the optimum climate for producing tasty olives. Today, of course, this is no longer the case, so instead the "3.3" stands for the olive oil, spa essential oil and the signature cocktail at the hotel which is drawing crowds. If you think that's cool, just wait until you hear about the in-house olive mill.
On arrival at the hotel, you'll glide through vast stretches of greenery, catching corners of the shimmering Adriatic with each twist and turn. Then, suddenly, emerging beneath the baby-blue sky, a curvaceous cutting-edge structure appears. Each stone (excavated from the very hill the hotel stands on) has been placed tactically in order to best absorb and reflect beams of sunlight, making for a seamless blend among nature.
Five rooms and three suites each flaunt the same exposed stone walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and Italian-chic furnishings from glamorous Giorgetti. State-of-the-art technology is purposefully rooted within rooms - think: electric curtains, finger-touch light fixtures and a door that locks itself - and that's not to mention the top-knotch coffee machine or built-in wardrobe space. We stayed in a sea-facing room, but if you'd prefer to be at one with the great outdoors, there are bedrooms for that too. While the beds are most definitely something to scream (or snore) about, it's the private outdoor terrace that's nailed our vote. Decked out with a ready-to-snuggle sofa and plush footstool, it's the best place to spend an afternoon gazing out to the distant shadows of the Kornati National Park. The bathrooms are just as impressive - a black-marble oasis basked in natural light, thanks to the open-sky window. Splash between an enormous freestanding tub and the inviting walk-in shower and revel in the Hermès products, fluffy robes and silky slippers.
What's for breakfast?
Everything. First arrives a pastry basket brimming with hazelnut-stuffed croissants, sticky cinnamon-swirl buns and crumbly brioches. Then a freshly pressed orange juice takes centre stage. Whether you consider yourself a sweet or savoury sort of person, order a plate piled high with fluffy pancakes and an extra-large serving of the scrambled eggs - both worth every single last calorie.
How about lunch and dinner?
There are two in house-restaurants on hand to deliver convivial all-day dining: Grotta 11,000 and 3.3. On warmer nights Grotta 11,000 calls; the outdoor courtyard is wrapped in burnt-orange beams of sunlight, making for the perfect date-night spot, with two outdoor fireplaces, so you can kick back and watch head chef Andrej Ivanšić work his magic. For a more relaxed but equally serene space, bag a table at 3.3. You can choose between infinity-poolside seats or the cosy inside dining area and, either way, check out the seven-course tasting menu.
Is there a bar?
Of course. Arrive at the bar at any hour of the day and you'll find flamboyant bartender William, also known as 'the mixology mastermind'. Shaking up all sorts of fruity concoctions, don't even think about leaving without tasting the signature lemon and olive-oil infused tea - trust us.
An outdoor saltwater infinity pool and an indoor saltwater pool? Now you're talking. Unwind in the sauna and on the ready-to-roll loungers or skip to the outdoor gym. Tennis fans will delight at the extra-large outdoor court. Anyone for a game of doubles?
How about their green credentials?
Farm-to-fork dining is a thing here. As the sunset submerges into the sea, the team arrives with buckets of freshly caught fish. On the roof of the property there's a working fruit and vegetable farm, and Goran's stylish wife, Nives will no doubt arrive with a basket of oranges and lemons plucked straight from the couple's home garden. Food aside, you'll find signs in your bathroom for an eco-friendly guide. Choose to reuse towels and linens, or simply place them in the tub when you fancy a refresh.
What about accessibility?
The hotel is one-storey, so it's got the green light for those with disabilities. It's a driving distance from the nearest town and port, and there's a transfer team on standby if you wish to potter around the island. Those who prefer to travel in style can keep their eyes peeled for the arrival of the hotel's helipad later this year.
What's the crowd like?
If the dictionary had a photo definition of cool kids, we're pretty certain it would look like the guests we brushed shoulders with at this place. This is an adult-only set-up (no under 12s), so you can expect to find an empty pool during most hours of the day.
Things I should know
Given that the hotel has an entire room dedicated to its olive oil awards, it seems rude not to chat to the team about booking a private tasting session. After indulging, head to the in-house boutique to snag your own bottle of olive oil to take home.
Within a short walk I can find…
Nothing - the whole point of this place is to reset and recharge. Rest assured, if you're craving an adventure, you can hop on a boat for a ride through the island's stunning Kornati National Park, or climb Lighthouse Veli Rat - the tallest lighthouse in the Adriatic - which is worth every step.
Rooms cost from £835 per night. Discover more at villanai3.3.com.