3 – 6 June 2016
Before I went to Croatia, I spoke to several friends who had been to get recommendations for where to go and what to do. My holiday buddies did the same thing. Without fail, every person we asked told us to go to Hvar. After I arrived, it took me all of 30 seconds to see why. I spent three nights on the island but I could easily have spent my entire week there. Its pretty, its relaxing and there are loads of good places to eat and drink.
Sunbathing & Swimming
Although Hvar is an island – it is not known for its beaches and, from what I can fathom, that is just Croatia in general. Instead of sand, there is just a lot of rocky edges. Still there were sunloungers aplenty and amazingly blue water so sunbathing and swimming was still a popular activity option. On our first morning, we set off on a walk around the edge of the harbour – on the lookout for somewhere sandy. We spotted several signs pointing to beaches next to the pathway but all we could spot was a lot of rocky crags. Sure these were very picturesque but they didn’t look particularly comfortable so we get on walking. After a short while, we spotted a resort, complete with pools, and opposite a stoney stretch of beach covered in blue sunloungers. We tried to work out if you had to be at the resort to use them but it didn’t seem to be the case so we sat down. We spotted some nicer sunloungers further down the beach so we figured those were the ones you had to pay for and the rest might be free.
After dumping our stuff, we immediately went into the water. It took a little while for me to coax myself to get completely in and then I went off for a little swim. That was until I went over a dark patch on the seafloor below. I hate not being able to properly see what’s beneath me so I went back to lie in the sun. Happily, one of my friends had already left the water before me so I had some company and it wasn’t too long before all five of us were lined up on our chairs. We lay there for a couple of hours – moving only when (1) we spotted someone three of us used to live with at university (it’s a very small world) and (2) to get a cocktail from a nearby bar. Eventually, a couple of guys started to come around asking for money to use the chairs and as we were getting hungry we took this as our cue to leave.
Rent a Boat
On our second day in Hvar, we decided to rent a boat and go out on a little adventure to some of the other nearby islands. There were several options available to us. We could have gone on a designated day trip to some of the nearby sites, we could have rented a speedboat and had a driver take us out for the day or we could have our own little boat that we could take out ourselves and which didn’t have enough horsepower for us to do any real damage. Since the latter option was the cheapest (400 kuna for a whole day – although we only needed it for a half day) and sounded like the most fun, we decided on that on. Helpfully, one of our group had previously worked as a sailing instructor so she took charge – but it turned out that driving the boat was simple enough that we could each take turns steering it. Our first stop was Carpe Diem Beach (see below). As we tried to moor, a guy on shore quickly spotted that we didn’t have a clue what we were doing and came over to lend a hand. After we finished up there, we headed to another spot where we could sit at another bar by the water’s edge and a third before moving onto our third and final place.
Here, there seemed to be a busy bar but we stayed on our boat, just taking in the scenery. Actually we spent most the time watching a group of boats trying to moor on the rock next to us. This wasn’t the most sensible spot for them to leave their boats as they parked up over our anchor, which didn’t help us when we wanted to leave before them. A couple of their party had stayed on one of the boats and between us we were able to pull up our anchor and pass it around us so that we got head home. It was on the way back, I took over the steering. It was harder than I thought to just keep the thing going in a straight line but I was determined I was going to make it back into the harbour. I made it pretty close – there weren’t too many big boats trying to come in or out at the same time and the ones that were there I was able to dodge. Then I realised I didn’t want to be responsible for crashing into an expensive yacht and so passed the reigns over to my more experienced friend as we got closer to having to find a place to moor. We all ended the day unscathed – including our boat and all the surrounding bigger ones.
On our third and final morning in Hvar, we decided it was time to climb uphill to the fortress that looms above Hvar town. It wasn’t a hugely difficult walk – although it was hot and there was multiple stone steps and a twisting uphill pathway. Still we found some pretty foliage and a cute kitten on the way up and we did eventually make it to the fortress. Entry was around 30 kuna (don’t quote me on that) and we were given an information leaflet so that we had some clue as to the history about the place. As we were exploring, we found a room which several information boards and artefacts which had been discovered on the seabed and put on display here. Back outside, we found some amazing views of the town and the bay below us. We decided this would be a good place to get a group shot but each time we reached a viewing point, the place seemed to empty. Eventually, we were able to grab someone as they were wandering off and begged them to stay and take a quick pic.
Before we left for Croatia, my friends and I decided to wing it with accommodation. We had a rough plan for how long we wanted to stay in each place (which we ended up sticking to) but we weren’t sure so just decided to book it while we were there. Before we checked out of our hostel in Dubrovnik, we combed through Hostel World looking for available rooms in Hvar for the next three nights. We settled on the Helvetia Hostel. It had decent reviews, seemed to be in a good location (not that we had any idea where was a good place to be in Hvar Town) and had a 5-bed dorm room. Since there were five of us that would mean we’d get a room to ourselves. We arrived to find that the hostel was in a better location than we had realised – in one of the little streets right next to where our ferry had docked in the harbour and close to St Stephen’s Square. We were greeted by the hostel owner who was very friendly and helpful. He welcomed us with a drink brewed by his mother and bid us farewell with a drink made by his father. The place was quiet and, although the facilities may not have been the most modern, everything was clean and working and I enjoyed my stay. There was also a decent sized kitchen (which we didn’t need but would have been ideal if we were on a tighter budget) and a lovely rooftop terrace where we could have a drink overlooking the harbour. Our winging it plan had worked well.
Between Dubrovnik and Split
Although Hvar seems to be a very popular destination in Croatia, the number of ferries going between the island and Dubrovnik weren’t as many as I had expected. One of the girls in our hostel wasn’t even sure there was a day. Thankfully, however, there was at least that. Although perhaps they only run that often over the summer. As it was, we were able to get a ferry at 4.30pm. It was due to take around three hours but it wasn’t for about another half an hour that we actually arrived in Hvar Town. The port was just around the corner from the central St Stephen’s Square. This was an ideal spot. Our hostel was only a few minute walk away and the area is crammed full of bars and restaurants. It was here that we could catch the same ferry a few days later which carried on past Hvar and ended up in Split. It was a much quicker journey (around an hour) albeit a bit delayed.
Hvar is a big island but you can access the main places you’d want to go on foot. There is plenty of accommodation near the harbour, along with bars and restaurants and the fortress on top of the hill. I did walk 15-20 minutes or so round the edge of the harbour to find a good sunbathing spot and Hula Hula Beach Bar but that wasn’t exactly a marathon distance.
To nearby islands
Although I could have happily spent my entire time on Hvar itself, taking a boat at to the nearby islands was a lovely way to spend the day. However, if you’re not really in the mood to take care of a boat yourself (however small they may be), hiring someone to take you out in a speedboat or a water taxi is also an option. Then there’s the seemingly endless amount of places that offer day tours to particularly pretty spots. These might be more expensive choices but it’s nice to have options.