Discovered and colonized by the Greeks from Paros island in 384 B.C., Hvar Island has a long history of wars, fires, pirates, great wine reputation, lavender production, and proud citizens. Situated between Brac and Vis Islands and surrounded by the clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, this Croatian island has become a trendy spot for party goers and luxury Yachts, but not only them.
Hvar is much more than partying and expensive lifestyle, in fact, this is only one small portion of what this very much authentic Croatian island has to offer to the curious travelers. After 4 days immerging ourselves into the local culture, exploring off the beaten track places, wine tasting, sunset watching, learning the island’s history from the locals, and falling in love each day a little more, we thought that everyone deserves the chance to see Hvar like we did. That’s why, I came up with this Hvar Island essential travel guide for you, so let’s get started.
Hvar Island: getting acquainted
Hvar Island is located only 60km away from Split, where you find the nearest International Airport. The island is composed by different regions and cities, the 3 main ones being Town Hvar, Stari Grad and Jelsa. It also has several small villages such as Milna, Vrboska and Zavala, and many unspoiled areas. In addition, the Pakleni Islands are also part of Hvar, more precisely part of Town Hvar.
If you ever hear that Hvar is a party island, know that it’s not true, there is only one city on the island that has the partying and luxury reputation, Town Hvar. However, this beautiful picturesque town it’s not all about partying and luxury. There, it is possible to find places to eat, drink, shop and stay on a budget, and it is also a quiet place in the morning. It is small, but filled with contrast, but that has something for everyone, from luxury hotels and yachts to rented apartments, from fancy beach clubs to hidden bars in the alleys.
The oldest of them all. Stari Grad was founded by the Greeks in 384 B.C., when it was initially named Pharos (after the Greek island of Paros), and was the first settlement on the island. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s where the main ferry port of the island is located. It is a beautiful place, filled with alleyways to get lost and with plenty of restaurants and cafes.
Jelsa is also among the important cities on the island, and where most of the local wineries are located. Tourism is also growing in town, which has plenty of options for nightlife and is surrounded by beautiful beaches and villages, such as Vrboska, known as Hvar’s ‘little Venice’.
The best things to do in Hvar
It turns out, Hvar has so many things to do that we were very sad to have stayed only 4 days. We tried to see and do as much as we could of the island, but left sure that we are going back sometime. In any case, I out together some of the best things to do in Hvar:
Feel the vibe of Town Hvar
In the quiet morning before the party goers wake up, at late afternoon during the sunset or at night, the busiest time on the harbor, Town Hvar has a unique and exciting vibe. Have breakfast by the harbor, get lost in the alleyways of centuries-old buildings, have a cocktail or a delicious meal watching passers by and boats coming and going.
Visit the Pakleni Islands
Part of Town Hvar and closer to the city than you think, visiting these islands is a must when in Hvar. Each island has a name, some are completely secluded, while others offer restaurants, bars and night clubs. Different companies offer water taxi boats to the islands, which costs around 40kn per person, or you can go on a day trip with a local company. Another way to get there is renting your own boat, like we did, which gives you more freedom to explore the islands. In this case, arrive as early as you can to find a spot to anchor your boat in your desired location.
Do a wine tasting
Hvar produces some of the best and unique Croatian wines, and if you’re a wine lover, you can’t miss the opportunity to do a wine tasting in the local wineries. Some of them you can arrange for yourself, others you will need a company to take you there, like Secret Dalmatia, which we had the pleasure to partner with and got to enjoy an amazing half day wine tasting on Hvar.
Check out the lavender fields
Yes, Hvar Island produces lavender, and if you are around in July, lucky you, you will get to see the lavender fields in their best time! If you’re not, you can still feel the smell of the lavender being sold in the cities and villages, and even get some to bring back home.
Visit the abandoned village of Malo Grablje
Malo Grablje was once a village inhabited by families that cultivated olives and lavender. Because of a huge fire on the island, most of their plantation was destroyed. Economic crisis and poverty lead some of the people to leave the island, and others to build another village, just a few kilometers away by the sea, Milna. Take some time at the end of the day to walk around the village and hike up the mountain to experience a stunning sunset. You can finish up your walk at the restaurant of the abandoned village, Konoba Stori Komin, which is amazing.
Go hiking and/or cycling
For hikers and cyclists, Hvar is a paradise There are beautiful trails that take you to beautiful beaches, and roads where cars almost don’t pass anymore. It is a great way to explore the island.
Admire the view from the City Fortress (Fortica Spanjola)
Originally built in the 16th century by the Venetian, Spanjola Fortress not only has historical importance to the island, for sheltering citizens during the Turkish invasion in 1571, but also offers the best view you can have from Town Hvar and the Pakleni Islands. You can reach the fortress on foot from Town Hvar’s harbor, or by car, where you will find a parking lot right next to the entrance. It is opened between June-September and you can visit it for a small fee (20 – 25kn)
Find your beach
Hvar Island has several beaches, some very hard to get access to, like the famous Dubovica, which involves arriving early to park your car by the road, and hike your way down. While others are easier to access and are very popular, like the ones in Milna, and some are located on the Pakleni Islands, such as Palmizana. Most are pebble beaches, but you can still find sandy beaches on Bay Perna, near Sucuraj. In truth, you can spend weeks exploring them all!
Diving, snorkeling, sailing, fishing, SUP and kayaking are all available on the island. If you don’t have your own equipment, there are many companies you can rent from.
Watch the sunset
No matter how long you’re staying on the island, just make sure you will see the sunset! The most popular spot to watch the sunset on Hvar Island is at the Hula Hula beach, where the famous bar is also located. Other amazing spots are from the City Fortress and from the natural peak of Malo Grablje, Motokit.
Go partying or just have a drink or two
If your thing is partying, I’m sure Hvar will keep you busy. Beach and rooftop bars, open air clubs and private parties on Yacht, there something for every type of party person, but not for every pocket. Yup, partying in Hvar is expensive. On the other hand, if you aren’t much into partying hard or on spending all your money on booze, just have a few cocktails or a glass of wine in one of the bars.
Explore other parts of the island
Hvar Island is not all about Town Hvar, in fact, if you want to see another side of the island, go explore it. Visit Stari Grad, Jelsa, Vrboska, Milna, Sucuraj, and lesser known villages, and be even more impressed with the island’s beauty.
Talk to the locals
Most locals speak English, German and Italian. Don’t pass the opportunity to talk to them and learn more about the local life on the island and its history, not mention to get some insider tips and valuable recommendations.
Day trips to other islands
Many local companies offer you the chance to take day trips from Hvar Island to other nearby islands. You can, for example, visit Brac Island and Vis Island. Depending on how long you’re staying, it’s worth taking the time to see what’s around Hvar, if you haven’t yet.
You’re on an island, you’re on Hvar, just lay back and relax!
Souvenirs from Hvar
What can you get as souvenir from Hvar? The highlights are the local wine, lavender products and art. Every village sell their own products, either in stores or stands.
Where to eat and drink on Hvar Island
From highly expensive restaurants and bars to hidden gems, if there is one thing you shouldn’t worry about your stay on Hvar Island is where you will eat and drink.
Some of the famous
Divino (great view)
Hula Hula Beach Bar
Carpe Diem Beach (a, open-air club on the Pakleni Islands)
Getting around Hvar
The best way to get around the island is with a car, if you’re not traveling with yours, you can rent it on your airport of arrival or also on the island. Other options are renting a quad, scooter or a bike, but just keep in mind that during the summer it’s very hot, and a car might be more comfortable.
Where to stay on Hvar
Among luxury hotels, guest houses, hostels and apartments, where to stay on Hvar really depends on what you’re looking for. Of course, the most popular place to stay is Town Hvar, but if it’s too busy for you or too expensive, consider staying in Milna, only 8km away. Other places to consider staying include Jelsa and Stari Grad, also cities where you can find everything you need, and both only 29km and 22km away from Town Hvar, respectively.
We rented an apartment in Milna with a beautiful view to the sea. The hosts were beyond friendly, locals that taught us a lot about Hvar’s history and culture. We had a wonderful time with them, and can highly recommend.
Getting to Hvar
The best way to get to Hvar is with a ferry, whether you’re with a car or on foot. It is also possible to get to Hvar by seaplane, though costly and possible only during a few months of the year. Unless you’re on an organized tour, you need to figure out the best way to get there, so here we go:
By car and passenger ferry: there is only one ferry company that takes you to Hvar Island, Jadrolinija, which offers routes from Split, Drvenik, and since 2016, from Dubrovnik (only during the summer season).
If you’re going with a car, it is only possible to arrive on the island with the routes Split-Stari Grad and Drvenik-Sucuraj (recommended to those leaving from Dubrovnik). If you don’t have a car, apart from these two routes, you have the options to take a catamaran from Split-Town Hvar, Split-Jelsa and Dubrovnik-Town Hvar (only during the summer).
I highly recommend you to buy your tickets in advance online, and in case you’re with a car, to arrive early at the port (especially in the summer months), and by early I mean at least 1,5 hours before the departure.
By seaplane: you can book a seaplane from Split to Hvar Island for both Jelsa and Town Hvar ports with European Coastal Airlines. One way costs around 50 Euros, and it’s also possible to charter a plane for you.
What to pack to Hvar Island
Assuming that you will be on Hvar Island in the summer, here are some essentials:
T-shirts and tank tops
Summer dresses and jumpers
Waterproof phone case
Pin it up!