Hiking, Biking and Lavender: A Wellness Guide to Hvar, Croatia

Hvar makes for the perfect place to relax and decompress in a naturally beautiful setting
Hvar makes for the perfect place to relax and decompress in a naturally beautiful setting | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Surrounded by the Adriatic Sea – a symbol of vitality in and of itself – the island of Hvar is full of wellness options, from remote beaches to hikes with breathtaking views.

Whether you’re seeking a serene spa, yoga class or taking in natural aromatherapy via Hvar’s renowned lavender fields, you’ll find the perfect wellness activity to soothe your body and soul. Of course, part of wellness is eating, and Hvar has plentiful healthy food options centred on a Mediterranean diet, including fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood, as well as locally sourced olive oil. Around every corner, you’ll find that Hvar makes for the perfect place to relax and decompress in a naturally beautiful setting.

Explore Hvar’s top hiking trails

Seeing Hvar by foot is an ideal way to explore the island while breathing in the fresh sea air. Mira Ćurin, president of the Mountaineering Association of Hvar Island, Planinarsko društvo Hvar, recommends hiking from Milna to Malo Grablje and Velo Grablje (and the lavender fields around it), which will provide you with a dose of natural aromatherapy. She also says to be sure to visit summit Motokit along the trail – this way, you’ll not only see much of the island, but also some of its charming villages. “The best view would be from Hvar’s highest summit, Sveti Nikola (St Nikola), which is 628 metres (2,060ft) high,” she explains. While various hiking trails go there, Mira suggests starting from Sveta Nedjelja, a beautiful seaside village, which “also has a great winery and the best climbing spot on the island.” From Sveti Nikola, you’ll have views of other islands, as well as mountains including Biokovo, Mosor and Kozjak, she says. Whether you want to meditate or take in the scenery, hiking around Hvar is just one way to get a wellness fix.

Walk up the town steps to the Španjola Fortress

If you find stunning views to be calming, be sure to walk up to the 16th-century Španjola Fortress. In 15 minutes, you’ll not only have got a healthy walk in, but you’ll be overlooking Hvar Town and can relax as you feel the sea breeze around you. Aside from seeing quaint stone houses and red roofs below, you’ll also be able to see a lot when looking out further. “The view is really great – you can see the whole town, the busy port and the Pakleni Islands in the distance,” says Mira.

Cycle around the island

If cycling is more your thing, you can rent a bicycle or take a tour with a company like Hvar Life. Massimo Monashesi, its founder, says that Hvar is one of the best destinations for active holidays, which includes cycling tourism. The company provides various types of tours for beginners, families, leisure, advanced and professional cyclists. “The best way to enjoy the island is by gravel bike, the new trend now, because you can combine easy gravel roads with paved roads,” he says. Stari Grad – the oldest city in Croatia – is the best starting point, just in front of where the ferries arrive, he adds. Then, he’d recommend riding through Stari Grad Plain (a UNESCO Heritage site), Vrboska (Little Venice), Jelsa (where you can go wine tasting), Pitve, Vrisnik, Vrbanj and Dol. At each stopping point, you can pause and take in the scenery around you. “Just immerse yourself in the modern Mediterranean lifestyle and ancient culture of the island of Hvar,” says Massimo.

Treat yourself to ultimate relaxation at a spa

For a complete spa experience, venture to the Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel on the waterfront. Their Sensori Spa is 1,600 square metres (17,000sq ft) of wellness, including treatment rooms, a VIP couple’s room, a relaxation room, yoga classes, a fitness studio, an indoor pool, a spa lounge and four types of saunas: steam, salt, infrared and Finnish. Whether you’re travelling solo and want to treat yourself or looking for a memorable experience to share with your partner, the Sensori Spa is a perfect place to soak in all the relaxation you can handle.

Get off the grid at Cast Away

If you want a true off-the-grid type of experience, Cast Away beachfront resort is “a great place to work on your well-being or just relax,” says owner and director Didier Van Bellinghen. In the village of Gromin Dolac in the south part of the island of Hvar, its location is an escape in and of itself – you’ll find it at the end of a dirt road. Most importantly, you’ll find many options when it comes to wellness: walking and biking trails, secluded coves and beaches, and kayaking and paddle boarding – all with plenty of nature and a quiet atmosphere. If inhaling the scent of pine trees, olive groves and lavender fields sounds enticing, you’re in the right place. “Or you can just relax in our beach huts or hammocks and enjoy some alone time on the deserted beaches while sipping on a delicious cocktail from our beach bar,” says Didier. He says Cast Away is also the ideal venue for yoga and meditation – and they host several retreats throughout the year. “If you want to disconnect from the outer world and experience a stronger connection with yourself and the natural world around you, Cast Away is the perfect place to do so,” he adds.

Grab a healthy snack – or some organic cosmetics – at Green House

When you’re on vacation, it may sometimes be challenging to find somewhere to get healthy snacks and food. But on the island of Hvar, you can check out Green House Hvar, the first official health store on the island. From fresh fruit, vegetables and superfoods to essential oils, local herbs and organic cosmetics, the shop exudes wellness. Plus, its unique decor – complete with shelves made out of canoes – makes it worth exploring, too.

Get your own wellness chef

If you want a chef to arrive at your door and make you a meal, Hvar Chef is at your service. “We can provide the best local and healthy food in a beautiful and relaxing place – at your villa or any other spot on the island,” says Chloé Molina Badillo, co-owner of the company. Two French chefs, Yvan and Alexandre – who have worked for such prestigious brands as the Four Seasons – will be at your palate’s service. “Based on our chefs’ experience, it’s very natural for them to prepare tasty and healthy food, gluten-free options, freshly squeezed juices and to create healthy and natural dishes for our guests,” says Chloé. She says they also love to explain the origin and history of the island products they serve, such as fresh organic goat’s cheese, honey – and its health benefits – plus the wild, fresh herbs that they use and local olive oil or Istrian truffles. Their vegetarian dark chocolate soufflé – which contains rice flour, quinoa and coconut milk instead of gluten – is always a big hit, she adds. “The idea is to create the best culinary experience for our guests while using a large range of local products with international influences,” explains Chloé.

Experience 100% pure aromatherapy at Hvar’s annual Lavender Festival

Lavender has long been known for its calming and healing properties, from helping curb anxiety and insomnia to working as an antiseptic. As much as Croatia is known for its olive oil and wine, so, too, is it famed for its lavender: Hvar was once the eighth largest lavender producer in the world. Every June – when lavender blooms on the island – there is a Lavender Festival in the village of Velo Grablje, featuring various exhibitions, workshops and concerts. And, since the village where the festival is held is mostly uninhabited, visitors are transported back to the olden days through its 14th-century architecture and trademark stone houses. “The Lavender Festival is amazing because it takes place in a village where only a few people live,” says Mira. “The village was depopulated – everyone moved to Hvar Town – but the energy and great love for its hometown of just one man, Ivan Zaninović Grande, made the village live again.” And, once you’re surrounded by the scent of lavender in the air, you’ll likely automatically feel calm and relaxed. The good news is, even if you cannot attend the Lavender Festival, you’ll still find plenty of lavender products for sale around the island, from essential oils to dried lavender, so you can have it on hand whenever you need it.

Get a daily dose of the Adriatic Sea and vitamin D

As you can imagine, Hvar has plenty of beaches to choose from – so how do you choose? If you want to explore ones that are relaxing and not full of tourists, Chloé has a few ideas. “The Falko Beach Bar is great for meditation, away from the centre of town, has amazing sunset views, great lounge music, and massages available – all in the midst of pine trees,” she says. “It’s a must-see.” If you want to get even further out of town, Chloé suggests Dubovica Beach, between Stari Grad and Hvar. “It’s one of most beautiful stone beaches on the island – a small path goes down through an olive field, and you’ll pass agave plants and rosemary before reaching the bay, a combination of the best smells on the island,” she says. “Imagine being there in the early morning to do yoga or meditation while watching the blue horizon and surrounding islands. Taking a walk along the coast is also the perfect way to start your day.”

Go skinny-dipping at one of Hvar’s nude beaches

Some people associate wellness with feeling free, such as going skinny-dipping. Whether you’re a first-timer or veteran at swimming or sunbathing in the nude, Hvar has several beach options where swimsuits are not required. Carpe Diem Beach, on Marinkovac Island, is a short boat ride away from Hvar Town. Once there, you’ll find its trademark bamboo hut and several wooden beds and sofas to lounge on, as well as a wellness area with a variety of sporting activities, from a beach volleyball court to a diving school. While there are beaches where people are clothed, there’s a nude beach area called Stipanska if you prefer that.

Amo Beach, on the island of Jerolim, is another nude beach option. Just a few minutes from Hvar Town by boat, clothing is optional at this beach, and you’ll find that some areas are more secluded than others. If you’re seeking a relaxing setting that’s less crowded than other beaches, Amo is worth a visit.

Relax in a hammock among olive groves

Pachamama, three kilometres (2mi) from Hvar Town, provides you with a relaxing oasis away from hordes of people. Surrounded by 4,000 square metres (one acre) of olive trees, it’s the perfect setting for you to lie down in one of their hammocks and just be. “You can recharge or just relax and enjoy the beautiful nature around you,” says Manuela Delise, the owner, who is also one of the chefs. Afterwards, you can go for a swim in the Adriatic Sea or feast on the restaurant’s fresh fish, meat or vegetables of the day. “In South America, pachamama means Mother Earth, the mother of abundance,” says Manuela, “and we make food just like Mama makes.” She says some of their specialities include a prosciutto and cheese plate with nuts and honey, as well as fresh olive oil that they make themselves from their 120 olive trees. “We love what we do,” she says. “People like to come to Pachamama because the energy of the place is very easygoing and gives you a peaceful feeling, like being at home. It’s something I can’t explain — you just need to come and feel it for yourself.”