Al and I have so many wonderful comments to make about our trip with Secret Dalmatia, I am not sure where to start. I guess from the beginning... I emailed and called Allen (the owner) to see if we were a good fit for his company and the services they provided. He directed me to Mariana Boko- travel designer. She listened to our wish list and offered several suggestions for me to review. I like to be involved in the process. She was wonderful with our conversations during the planning helping us to make this trip a memorable one. From reading other reviews, I knew a few definite experiences that we wanted to have. But as we went along on our two week vacation, we were surprised with special, one of a kind, experiences. Whether it was the wineries chosen, olive oil tastings, cooking class (Chef Tatiana-Trogir), truffle stop, or exploring along the coast. For us we really like down time and some days to ourselves. Mariana created a perfect blend between sight seeing, fun experiences, and our own time to do our own thing. We have done several personal tours, one of our best was to Asia and I wasn't sure if we would come close to their expertise. But Secret Dalmatia DID!! Key reasons are their attention to detail, providing consistent and unique personal experiences. Additionally, their guides are hand picked and it truly shows. Allen, has done a great job in selecting the best group of people to showcase his country. Everyone touched our heart and soul... we want to go back!
The hotels were all great for different reasons, if we had to pick one it would be Hotel Lemongarden. Not only great design, but practicality and function was taken into account (lighting, storage, comfort). Also, their service was personable and warm. Our second favorite hotel was Stancija Meneghetti, which has a beautiful property, a wonderful restaurant, and top notch service. We wish our room had better storage space and lighting but we would stay here again. The next hotel was Hotel Judita. Andrija and his staff make this hotel sparkle.
Next up guides... OH WOW! I have to mention each one because they were such an important part of this trip! Each guide was well versed in history, although the best part to us was hearing their various perceptions depending on their varying backgrounds and past experiences. Being able to share ideas made us feel more like friends than someone just passing throughout their country. The first guide was Mathias (Istria), he made sure that we knew that it was our tour from the very beginning. He was thoughtful in all he would say and do. The next guide was Natase (Split), she never rushed the tour... she didn't mind spending extra time with you if needed, after the tour we had a chance to chat and laugh like we were old friends with Andrija. A highlight for us! Next comes Dom (Brac Island), He took us on a hike. He was very prepared, experienced, and even had a walking stick for me! I had gotten hurt in Peru so the walking stick was a blessing! Besides being an expert at what he does, we enjoyed his personality and company very much. He took us to see Senjkovaic Winery for wine pairing. This was a true treat. The owners, Sasha and Madalena, were just a delight. Madalena is the chef and we feel she incorporates the three elements of cooking that are the most important. These are taste, creativity, and presentation! She is so talented! For us it was our best food experience in all of Croatia. Our next guide was Mario, his enthusiasm and love for what he does was amazing to watch. Meeting his family, eating fresh food in his home, and watching him grow his grapes was interesting. The last guide was Maris (Dubrovnik), she is so polished and well spoken, she makes history come to life... I could go on and on with my adjectives.
From my comments, I think you see a reoccurring pattern.... guides were knowledgeable, personable, warm, fun, and not boring. We were on the road a lot and with each driver, we felt safe (Goran, Tony, Phillip, and others just for transfer). They were all very professional. Our boat trips were the same level as everything else on our tour. Mariana, again thank you for making this trip one that we will keep in our hearts and memories for a lifetime. So glad that we had a chance to get coffee and go shopping! I always try to support designers and local businesses. I did find a few Croatian treasures along the way (Kawa and Marco Art). Hope to return!
-Charlene and Al Malaluan