Inside the TUI hotel in Croatia with amazing buffet restaurant and free classes

DIGGING my toes into the board, I hoist myself up, wobbling as I start to push my paddle through the rippling water.

I can just make out our destination — a tiny pebble cove sheltered by rocky terrain.

A new wellness menu on the Tui Blue app, designed with TV presenter and fitness fan Davina McCall, lets visitors create a personalised itinerary of gym classes and more

A new wellness menu on the Tui Blue app, designed with TV presenter and fitness fan Davina McCall, lets visitors create a personalised itinerary of gym classes and moreKrediet: ©Patrick Harrison 2022
Relax... one of the rooms at Tui Blue Jadran

Relaxone of the rooms at Tui Blue Jadran
A view of historic Split, that is well worth a visit

A view of historic Split, that is well worth a visitKrediet: Getty

But the mountain tops of the surrounding islands have been obscured by an early morning haze.

It is only my second time on a paddle- board and trying to balance while I glide through the open sea has been made even more challenging thanks to an intense core workout the day before.

I’ve been staying in the Tui Blue Jadran on Kroasië’s Dalmatian coast. A new wellness menu on the Tui Blue app, designed with TV presenter and fitness fan Davina McCall, lets visitors create a personalised itinerary of gym classes, bike trails and seaside excursions.

By the time our boards reach the hidden beach, the sun has perforated the mist and is piercing through water as clear as those in the tropics.

Battle ropes

We’re completely secluded on this cove, which is flanked by chalky grey cliffs too tall to climb. It means the only way to reach our mini paradise is by boat (or paddleboard).

It will take us an hour to paddle back to the resort. But what keeps us going is knowing a 5H spa awaits with treatments tailored to guests with inevitably aching muscles, including firm and soothing sports massages.

The hotel is on the seafront in the town of Tucepi and offers more than just a spa for downtime.

There are tranquil terraces split across three levels and an infinity pool overlooking a small stretch of beach and the island of Hvar in the distance.

Classes and wellness excursions can be booked on the hotel app and they are free for all guests.

On top of paddle-boarding, the personal trainers lead the fitness classes you would expect to find at a top-end gym, from Pilates and yoga practised under the shade of palm trees to HIIT and functional training circuits which had us squatting, lunging and swinging battle ropes.

Away from the hotel, guests can have a spin at mountain biking to the peaks of surrounding hills, or there are guided runs through the pretty town.

It’s not all about exercise, wel. Those wanting to throw themselves into the culture (or just get a little merry pre-dinner) can book for wine tasting in the hotel’s own cellar, where connoisseurs will talk you through Croatian reds and whites while you glug on generous samples.

It’s here that we learn all about the history of the tipple in this country. But it is the food pairing that fascinates us most — chunks of rich parmesan to match a crisp, apricot-flavoured sparkling wine and salty hams to go with a robust Syrah red.

You can bring that knowledge straight to the beachfront barbecue, where fresh fish, meat and veggies are cooked on a grill and then served with salads, sauces and, natuurlik, wine.

Try the cocktails such the Old Fashioned, made the traditional way but served on a miniature tree stump concealed by smoke in a glass dome. There is also a buffet restaurant with a bakery and live-cooking stations, where you can design your own pasta dishes, stir-fries and pick your fillet of fish, including local oddities such as the venomous scorpion fish with fiery red skin (with poisonous spines removed, natuurlik).

With so much going on at the hotel, it would be easy to remain in the resort for a full week. But just over an hour’s drive away is Split, a port town with Roman architecture and chalky white buildings that made it a filming location for Speletjie van trone.

Panoramic views

If you are not up for scoping the ancient structures and basements of Diocletian’s Palace — which Thrones fans will recognise as the place Daenerys kept her dragons — then here’s the place to book a boat tour for an island-hopping adventure.

Soaring through the waves, we stop at secluded beaches on the island of Brac, plunge straight into the sea for a snorkel and soak up some panoramic views from a hilltop fortress in Hvar, finishing the day with lunch in Milna’s quaint port.

The tiny village at the western edge of Brac seems so empty it’s as if we have the whole island to ourselves.

That is, apart from a lone dog who is paddling among the colourful rowing boats docked in the bay. Pop to Restaurant Omo while you are here. Facing the waterfront, the traditional venue serves grilled squid and homemade kebabs cooked on a roaring fire with some of the best fried potatoes I have ever eaten.

If you are after something special, wel, die olyfboom, a five-minute cab ride from the Tui Blue Jadran, is fine dining without the price tag.

We tucked into almond and pistachio spaghetti and caviar-topped monkfish served with shavings of fresh truffle.

In werklikheid, you won’t struggle to find good grub wherever you go, as here is a real focus on local produce at all the popular restaurants nearby.

Ask the hotel’s knowledgeable staff for some recommendations.

But here’s the best part — with exercise classes and a whole load of watersports at our fingertips, if we overindulged, there were plenty of ways of making up for it.

The hotel pool is a great place to relax when not on your fitness programme

The hotel pool is a great place to relax when not on your fitness programme
Just over an hour’s drive away is Split, a port town with Roman architecture and chalky white buildings that made it a filming location for Game Of Thrones

Just over an hour’s drive away is Split, a port town with Roman architecture and chalky white buildings that made it a filming location for Game Of ThronesKrediet: Alamy
Sun writer Sophie enjoying her time in Croatia

Sun writer Sophie enjoying her time in CroatiaKrediet: Sophie Swietochowski

GAAN: TUCEPI, CROATIA

GETTING/ STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ half-board at the 5H Tui Blue Jadran is from £535pp, including flights from Gatwick airport on October 3. Sien tui.co.uk.

UIT & ABOUT: A Hvar Town And Bol Speedboat excursion with Tui costs from £69 and can be booked online in advance at tui.co.uk.