Glamp where the forest meets the crystal-clear sea
We love camping and have visited plenty of sites in the UK, but we are yet to camp overseas. I’m sure we’ll do it at some point, but at the moment, especially as we need to cart a buggy around with us too, it feels like too much to pack. And I HATE packing!!
And since we are kitted out to camp in the UK, we’ve not done a lot of glamping here. The cost of it has always seemed a bit unreasonable to me. But, glamping IS an appealing option to me for another country, because; it’s cheaper than a house, the weather will (hopefully) be far better than home, and it’s perfect for kids to get out and enjoy themselves.
Arena One 99 Glamping had caught my eye in a magazine article last year. Not only did it look ace, the price sounded pretty reasonable, and I’ve been keen to visit Croatia for a while. You know when somewhere stays in your head for while, it means you have to visit! So when the opportunity came this year to visit for Pula – for our FIRST holiday as a family of 5 – I was determined to see if Arena One 99 was as good as I thought it would be. And I’m pleased to say it did not disappoint!
From the moment you arrive (after a short 15 min drive from Pula airport), you know this isn’t your average glamping site. Rated one of the best campsites in Croatia (2018, 2019), this is a high accolade when you find out that Croatia is FULL of great camping and glamping sites, making it a must-visit country for anyone who enjoys outdoor-living.
Situated right by one of the many pristine beaches of the Istrian peninsula, the site offers comfortable places to relax, beach restaurants, teepee play areas for kids, as well water sports and other activities. The tents are so well suited to the environment, each sitting proudly on the hill leading down to the water, interspersed by trees and manicured plants. And the wellness area at the top of the site boasts treatment areas, a cluster of private hot tubs, and a top-notch sauna whose picture-window offers views across the campsite.
In our two-bedroom tent (which slept up to 6 people), the beds themselves were massive and comfortable. We had plenty of space for the 5 of us, and even though the bedrooms didn’t have doors, the layout worked well and you still felt you had privacy. The tent itself offered; free wifi (the coverage across the whole site is excellent), all linen and towels, AC/heating, bathroom toiletries, hairdryer, safe, fully stocked kitchen (except for an electric kettle, but there was a coffee machine, hob and microwave so you could heat water in other ways), recycling, TV, and a private deck with furniture. And it was most unexpected to find that the tents are cleaned every day.
I really loved it here and have been raving about it to anyone who dares to let me open my mouth. What I will say though, is that the plus-points of the premium-finish, beautiful landscaping and spa facilities, did feel oddly juxtaposed against the more basic elements of glamping e.g. hearing noise from other tents, the lack of comfort in places (a sofa would’ve been nice inside our tent), and having to lock the tent with three fiddly padlocks.
Comparable glamping-sites in the UK seem to cost a lot more money, and I bet they don’t come with a cleaning service and all the same facilities that Arena One 99 offers. So if you are keen to try glamping for the first time, without the UK temperatures, then definitely head here. But, you will be paying for style as well as substance, so if you’re happy to go more basic, then Arena One have a whole range of alternative sites you can try.
We loved it because…
- It’s really beautiful, with a stunning location on a quiet peninsula where the forest meets crystal clear sea.
- Landscaped to perfection.
- There’s a variety of tent styles which work well across the site. Our two-bedroom tent was a great size, and the superior tents also looked fab.
- Babies are very welcome. The large travel cot was made up with a little duvet cover and sheets on arrival, and a Stokke high chair was made available. And except for a few hills, it’s easy terrain for buggies.
- Free hot tubs (or at least they were when we went!). And my husband ‘the sauna obsessive’ said it was the best sauna he’s been in. The rest of the wellness area looked very cool too.
- Our 5 year olds were kept entertained by the free teepee play-area, and the calm seas were perfect for paddling. And of course, so many rocks for throwing in the water. Why are little boys obsessed with rocks…?!
- There are no cars allowed on site (you and your luggage will be given a lift by an electric buggy to/from your tent), so it’s safe for kids to run around.
- It’s a 5 min drive to Medulin which has some great family restaurants. We tried Salt and Pepper, and Restaurant da Giovanni. Both were fab, well priced, and very family-Friendly. Several supermarkets with free parking are also nearby.
- And, it’s only 15 mins from Pula airport! Fantastic for getting your holiday going as quickly as possible, and for stress-free departures.
But it might not suit you if…
- You are a light sleeper. We went during a particularly quiet half-term week in May where less than half the tents were booked. We loved the peacefulness, but I can imagine this place feeling over-crowded during peak summer months, which could make for a few noisy evenings. The tent walls are thin after all…
- It’s raining! While the tents are weatherproof, it did get chilly at night (in spring), and I wouldn’t fancy staying here if it were chucking down. I can imagine the kids (and us!) quickly getting bored if you aren’t as lucky with the sunshine as we were.
- You forget the essentials! The on-site market is tiny, pricey, and seemed to close at 2.30pm every day we were there.
- You’re more of an eco-glamping-purist. In my opinion this place is borderline glamping, it could easily be a villa resort as it’s so well-kept and the tents so high-end. We loved it, but it might not be what more seasoned campers/glampers expect.
- And I’m not sure of the sites’ eco-rating, but I would like to have seen more evidence of sustainability e.g. food waste bins (they did have other recycling) and solar panels.