The island of Hvar is Mediterranean summer in a nutshell. Take a scooter along lavender-scented back roads. Snorkel in the aquamarine Adriatic. Sample some of the best seafood and wine in the region. With a six-month party scene, it’s just the ticket if you’re a solo traveller.
What’s the vibe?
Hvar is like Venice in miniature, minus canals. Renaissance palaces overlook honey-coloured quays; Tintoretto art adorns churches. At night, Hvar town twinkles under the stars, mirrored in the glassy Adriatic. Scents of pine and maquis drift from the hills, with aromas of sizzling sardine from restaurants. A long weekend is enough to see castles and churches, and to snorkel the Pakleni islets. From June to September, Hvar is up all night. In spring wildflowers bloom; in autumn the sea is still warm, as grapes mass on the vines.
Where to stay in Hvar
Accommodation never feels big-brand anonymous. Pick a Renaissance palace by a yacht-filled harbour, a family-run guesthouse on the quay or a cottage in the lavender-scented hills. A great local bar, winery or restaurant with sunset views is always a short walk or drive away. Hvar’s little towns each have their own personality. When travelling alone, we love these…
It has time-honoured Venetian palazzos, a hilltop castle and a harbour lined with fishing boats. But Hvar town is all about tonight’s party – especially between June and September, when the yachts cruise in and the bars are busy between après-beach and champagne breakfast.
It doesn’t have Hvar’s party scene, but Jelsa is perfectly located, an easy drive from everywhere – with beaches and mountains close by. This is where you’ll find a simple two-table restaurant on the waterfront, and two of Croatia’s best under-the-radar wineries: Tomic and Dubokovic are open for visits.
Boats in the harbour and cottages clustered by the quays – that’s Vrboska village, where ancient stone bridges and terracotta roofs huddle over a bath-calm inlet. The streets are as quiet as birdsong, yet Stari Grad town is only 10 minutes away.
For specific places to stay, let us help you with our curated Hvar hotel recommendations.
What to do in Hvar
Spend an afternoon walking through 1,000-year-old olive groves and fields of lavender, before pink ladies at sunset and dancing all night long. Here’s what we love to get up to, from dusk ‘til dawn…
Sample the best wines
Visit the ancient Stari Grad Plain Unesco World Heritage site – where they were growing wine grapes when Bordeaux was nothing but Druids and forest. Stop by the Zlatan Otok winery, across the island. His 2015 zlatan plavac grand cru was listed among the 10 best wines in the world – by the French, no less.
Enjoy the nightlife
Begin après-beach at the Hula Hula bar with one of their huge margaritas, and watch the sun sink orange over the Pakleni islands with the other singles. Wash down oysters and Adriatic prawns with a Hvar rose martini – house cocktail at the quayside BB Club. Then head to Carpe Diem, an al fresco cocktail bar turned DJ-club, staying long into the night.
Want a gang to party with? Sign up for Culture Trip’s eight-day small-group Croatia adventure – with the services of a Local Insider – and let your hair down for a night on the island of Hvar.
Snorkel the coves
Along the south coast, Hvar island drops in maquis-covered crags to a coast cut with wineglass coves where the water is turquoise and calm. Rent a scooter from Dino in town or charter a fishing boat. Now cruise the back roads and find your own spot.
Eating and drinking in Hvar
With wrigglingly fresh prawns and oysters, and a winemaking tradition as old as Rome, food and drink in Hvar is unforgettable. Here are three of the best places to get stuck in – from local lunch spots on sheltered coves, to seafood and sommelier-selected wine with a sunset over the water.
Duba Beach Bar
Poised over an aquamarine cove, with a secret shingle beach and superb snorkelling, this little beach bar is a sweet spot for a serene lunch. Cooking is low-key – ember-barbecued sardines to devour with a chilled honey-yellow bogdanuša wine, unique to Hvar.
With tables under the colonnades of a renovated Renaissance monastery and a modish menu of Med-meets-Asian-fusion cooking, Giaxa is a Hvar-town favourite. Try the Croshi (Croatian sushi) with a sommelier-matched wine from the 100-strong menu.
Long a favourite with Hvar’s yachting crowd, this upscale waterfront establishment is the place for seafood at sunset. It’s where you might see George Clooney or Tom Cruise eating sautéed Buzara shrimps – that is, cooked in tomato and red wine – at a neighbouring table.
Stay safe, stay happy
Bring cash as not all establishments accept plastic. And wear beach shoes in the water – stepping on a sea urchin is a painful experience barefoot.
Hvar is 70km (43mi) long but just a few wide. Drivers note: narrow roads wind and climb through maquis and lavender fields, turning into dirt tracks as they drop to the coast. Taxis are plentiful, if pricey, and buses are few and far between. All in all, it’s a great place to rent a scooter: try Dino’s in Hvar town.
Croatians are relaxed and friendly, but avoid speaking about the former Yugoslavia or the war with Serbia, and don’t make jokes about Catholicism.
If you’d rather join a small group of like-minded travellers than go solo, sound out Culture Trip’s Jewels of the Adriatic: the Best of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. It’s an eight-day adventure from Split to Dubrovnik, with highlights including sea-kayaking, wine-tasting, exploring Unesco-listed wonders and getting stuck into island nightlife.
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