Anyone who has ever seen a picture of the Dalmatian coast doesn't need me to explain the appeal. Before leaving for our backpacking trip, we were seduced by its beauty and gave it a top spot on our never-ending "must see" list. We spent about a week in Croatia in mid-October and I am happy to report on the fantastic time we had. The weather was still pleasant, and there were no MASSIVE tourist hordes.
We spent two days in Zagreb, two days by Plitvice Lakes, and five days in Dubrovnik. Because the summer months had passed and decent weather/ferry transport were no guarantee, we decided to cut the islands focus on spending more time in fewer places. We spent endless hours researching the "can't miss beaches"...not to mention how to get to them... only to ditch all of our research to spend more time in Dubrovnik. Looking back, I wouldn't have had it any other way! This is something I always suggest: if you are stressed on time, cut places to spend more time in one city. You'll get to know it better, and you'll see the other places next time!
ARRIVING TO CROATIA: We took a bus from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Zagreb. We bought the tickets in advance, aka googled "Ljubljana to Zagreb bus" and purchased the first link that came up.