How To Take The Ultimate Vacation On The Island Of Hvar
Take A Break is your ultimate guide to the perfect trips to recharge, rediscover yourself and your relationships and reengage with the world. We’ll cover shopping stops, great bars, restaurants worth your money, photo opportunities, memorable experiences and other important details you need before you book.
Once a quieter, cheaper alternative to overcrowded European destinations like Italy and France, Croatia has, in recent years, become a tourism hot spot in its own right. And it’s easy to see why.
The stunning blue hues of the Adriatic Sea, impressive historical sites, abundant national parks and pop culture cachet are all part of the draw. And then, of course, there are the islands.
Often called “the Land of a Thousand Islands,” Croatia has about 1,200 islands, islets, rocks and reefs. This summer, I had the opportunity to visit one of the more popular ones ― Hvar.
Although famous for its nightlife, Hvar is about so much more than partying. Below, I’ve compiled some favorite dishes, attractions and more highlights from this Croatian paradise.
Where To Stay
I hadn’t originally planned to go to Hvar during my time in Croatia, but at a friend’s insistence that I visit the island, I booked a hotel somewhat last minute.
Although many hotels were full for the summer season, I found a great rate at the Hotel Park Hvar. It was well located near plenty of restaurants, bars and attractions, and my room had a lovely view of the Adriatic.
Another hotel-related highlight of my time in Hvar was having sunset drinks and dinner on the terrace of Palace Elisabeth. Built on the site of the former royal palace, the five-star hotel is named after the famous Austrian Empress Sisi, who was an avid traveler and helped fund the construction of an earlier iteration of the property.
While those two properties are centrally located in the hustle and bustle of Hvar Town, you can find more tranquil accommodations away from the main harbor. Some friends enjoyed their stay at Maslina Resort in Stari Grad on the northern side of the island.
What To Eat
Fresh seafood abounds on the island of Hvar, and the offerings at Palace Elisabeth’s restaurant, San Marco, were delicious and beautifully plated. The prices made it more of a splurge meal, but that’s the case for many of the area’s dinner spots.
Gariful is another seafood restaurant that came highly recommended. Black Pepper serves classic local dishes with a contemporary twist. Don Quijote and Alavia boast breathtaking dinnertime views. And Bacchus Palmizana, which is on a nearby island, is a popular meal stop for tourists enjoying a boat day.
Keep in mind that many of Hvar’s best restaurants are only open during peak tourist season, so if you’re visiting during the winter, you’ll have fewer choices.
If seafood’s not your thing, you can skip the many fresh grilled fish, scampi, black risotto and fish stew options and opt for pasta or some traditionally prepared Croatian meat dishes with beef or lamb.
What To Drink
As noted earlier, Hvar is famous for its nightlife, so you’ll find ample bars, clubs and beach parties to check out after the sun goes down.
If you’re looking for a daytime libation or something a little more relaxed, however, don’t miss the island’s impressive wineries. One was even built in a cave and is only accessible by boat.
For a romantic candlelit tasting, there’s Dubokovic Wine. Zlatan Otok Winery is quite picturesque. And, of course, you can also schedule a guided wine tour that will take you to multiple wineries and tasting rooms.
What To Do
There’s plenty to fill your Hvar itinerary even beyond wine tours, epic restaurant meals and club nights. When I first arrived at the port, I got a taste for the area by climbing the clock tower and visiting the arsenal building, which contains a theater built in 1612 and exhibits about the history of the island.
The next stop was a hike up to the Spanish fortress, which featured gorgeous views of Hvar and the Adriatic Sea (and plenty of old cannon photo-ops). Also known as Tvrdava Fortica or Tvrdava Spanjola, the structure was built after a gunpowder explosion destroyed the original fortress in 1579.
Visitors can also hike up farther to a second fortress constructed during the Napoleonic Empire’s rule. Other historic buildings worth a visit on Hvar include the Renaissance-era Tvrdalj Castle and 15th century Franciscan Monastery.
You might prefer biking to hiking as a way to see the island, as there are many bike routes. Renting a scooter or ATV is also an option. Don’t forget to stop and admire the beautiful lavender fields along your ride (or better yet, time your visit to coincide with the annual lavender festival).
Still, no visit to Hvar is complete without some time spent relaxing on the stunning beaches and swimming in the sea. You can make your relaxation mobile by scheduling a boat day to explore the coasts of the nearby Pakleni islands. Palmizana is particularly popular.
Whatever you plan for your trip, don’t fret too much about fitting in every little thing. Remember to breathe and enjoy the island magic that’s drawn visitors to Hvar for centuries.