In planning our trip to Hvar, I quickly noticed an apparent lack of travel guides and itineraries for the popular island. Maybe it’s because people plan trips to Hvar to do absolutely nothing but lie on the beach for two, three, seven, ten days?! I don’t blame them, and there are hundreds of beaches on Hvar where you could choose to do absolutely nothing. But, Hvar still has some “must sees” and I wanted to read others’ opinions on how to make the most of Hvar while also relaxing. So, I’m here to show you how to experience everything Hvar has to offer while also spending time on the beach… a relaxing adventure!
We traveled to Hvar at the end of May — an ideal time to visit the island. The full swing of the season was just beginning when we arrived and everyone was excited for summer! There were really no restaurants or stores still closed for the winter, accommodation prices were cheaper than in July/August, and the island was just crowded enough! I would definitely advise traveling in late May/early June or September!
2PM : Leaving mainland (Split) behind
The two main ferry operators to Hvar from Split are Jadrolinija and Krilo Kapetan Luka. They’re virtually the same, so I’d suggest checking the timetables of both operators online to see which works better for your schedule. In May, each company only had two sailings a day, and we ended up taking Jadrolinija to Hvar and Krilo back from Hvar, simply because of the times. The ferry tickets are extremely cheap, so much that I questioned whether I had the correct exchange rate multiple times. The Jadrolinija ticket was 40kn (~$6.50) and the Krilo ticket was 80kn (~$12.50). Also keep in mind there are a few towns on the island of Hvar, so ensure you’re booking your ferry to the correct port! The majority of hotels are in Hvar town, but there are others scattered across the island, and some may be better served by the Stari Grad port.
We caught the 2pm catamaran to Hvar, arriving shortly after 3pm. There’s something magical about arriving to places on boats — the excitement of arriving slowly building as the destination gets closer and clearer. The port of Hvar is definitely one of the most picturesque entryways into a town there is. We arrived to a bustling town square and went straight to our hotel to check-in. Hvar was the only place on our trip through Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina where we didn’t stay in an Airbnb. This decision was mostly driven by the desire to have access to a beach or pool. We wanted to have a spot to lie out and swim – after all, we were going to the sunniest island in Europe!
We stayed at Hotel Podstine and were impressed with its ocean views and waterfront lounge chairs. After spending two nights there, I would recommend it to anyone looking to stay at the pool or relax by the water, but not those who are hoping to spend a good chunk of time exploring Hvar Town. For reference, West of Hvar Town there are three main bends where you can find many of the larger hotels. Podstine was at the last bend, about a mile or a 20 minute walk from town. Although it didn’t bother us during the day, we tired of having to walk back through the unlit streets of Hvar each night following dinner.
5PM : Nothing to Wine About
We decided our first stop in Hvar was going to be at Tomić Winery! As many Croatians told us, you’ve probably tried Croatian wine, but you don’t know it! The Dalmatian coast, including Hvar, is best known for Plavac Mali, a red wine that is high in alcohol content and in tannins. It’s a crossbreed of two grapes – Dobričić and Crljenak Kaštelanski (more commonly known as Zinfandel). Long story short – for a century, sommeliers wondered about the origins of the Zinfandel grape, one of the most popular “native” grapes in California. In 2002, scientists discovered the DNA of Zinfandel was identical to a grape that was barely being grown in Croatia – Crljenak Kaštelanski (that’ll catch on around the world)! On its own, it was a trickier grape to grow, so the Croatians bred it with Dobričić. Hvar’s conditions (along with those of the rest of the Dalmatian coast) are ideal for going Plavac because of its steep mountain slopes overlooking the sea. Growing the grapes on the south-facing slopes of the coast protects them from the harsh, cold wind from the North!
So now that you know the full history on Plavac Mali, we can return to our trip to Tomić – one of the most popular producers of Plavac (and more) on Hvar! After admiring the hotel and its grounds for a good 30 minutes, we called a cab through the hotel. The Tomić Winery is located in Jelsa, on the other side of the island from Hvar Town (and closer to Stari Grad). We heard great things about Tomić and decided the trip (about a 30 minute taxi ride for $40 each way) was worth it! If you have a car (and a designated driver!) then the trip will be even easier for you, but we decided to call a cab!
Tomić has a number of options for visitors, all of which include a tour of the winery and a tasting in the most incredible tasting room I’ve even seen. A trip to Tomić to sit in the tasting room would be worthwhile enough – the room has been modeled off an ancient Roman dining room in the method of construction used in Diocletian’s cellars. It is buried in stone and I felt as if royalty should walk in to join us at any moment! We did a group tasting of 4 wines (there were only 3 of us in total), which is held ~4 times a day. The tasting included Opolo Nobile (rosé), Beleca (white), Plavac Mali Barrique, and Prosek Hectorovich (dessert wine), and a “snack”. The snack was a beautiful platter of meat and cheese which was paired with each wine. I still dream of the delicious feta cheese we ate at Tomić (and the idyllic setting and great wine). The price of the tasting was 150kn (~$24). You can also book private “VIP” tastings of 6 or 8 wines (200kn and 250kn, respectively) at any point! Either way, contact Tomić through the website before visiting as reservations are required!
Two hours later, we returned to Hvar Town for dinner, loaded with a few new bottles of wine. Needless to say, we would go back to Tomić in a heartbeat! But, you don’t HAVE to travel the 15 miles to find great wine on Hvar. If you’re not up for a trip to Tomić, head to 3 Prsuta Wine Bar in Hvar Town. You can grab a seat on the quaint street and ask the wonderful host to try one of their many different Croatian wines. Although they didn’t have Tomić when we went, we tried Kairos, a popular Zinfandel which is grown in nearby Trogir (close to Split). If you’re hungry, order a meat and cheese plate, as they have one of the best we had during our trip. I swear, the meat and cheese platters got better each and every time we ordered one.
7:30PM : Feasting at Black Pepper
We ate our first dinner in Hvar at Black Pepper, a fairly new restaurant on the Hvar foodie scene making “creative local food”. The hardest part of choosing where to eat in Hvar was choosing where NOT to go. There are so many amazing restaurants on Hvar and we struggled to pick just two! We sat on an adorable back patio at Black Pepper and enjoyed shrimp gnocchi, truffle ravioli (which came in a parmesan bowl!), and pepper steak. In addition to the amazing food, the staff was extremely welcoming and pleasant. Like a few other restaurants in Croatia, Black Pepper also had tiered seating on the steps outside the restaurant – so Europe! We made a reservation at Black Pepper a week before arriving, and it’s important to look into reservations in Hvar as the popular restaurants get extremely busy in the summer. I contacted Black Pepper over Facebook to make the reservation since they don’t have a website. My boyfriend wouldn’t stop making fun of me for all the Facebook chats I had going with different Croatian restaurants!
10 AM : Beach Hopping
Hotel Podstine had breakfast included with our stay (as do most hotels in Hvar) so we woke up each morning and enjoyed a delicious buffet overlooking the water! We ate a big meal as we were planning on renting a scooter and spending the whole day exploring a few different beaches on the island.
We headed to Antonio Rent in Hvar Town to rent scooters for the day, but our plan was slightly disrupted when we were told the company had been discouraged from renting scooters to inexperienced riders due to a number of recent accidents on the island. There are lots of stands in Hvar Town from whom you can rent scooters, 4X4s, cars, etc. so we decided to walk around and talk to a few others as well. The sentiment was very similar across the board – Hvar is hilly and not the best place to rent a scooter for the first time. We were surprised (and slightly disappointed) to hear this after multiple people had suggested we rent scooters on the island. However, the comments did make us weary – and we decided to rent a 4X4 instead. This way, we could still explore the island as planned.
11 AM : First Stop : Zaraće Beach
Once acquainted with our 4X4, we headed East out of Hvar on the only road there is (116)! The road quickly ascends and we were soon greeted with beautiful sweeping views of the rest of the island which had been hidden until now. 6km (3.7 miles) down the road, there is sign for Zaraće “town”. We turned right onto the “road” (which is really a path) and descended down towards the beach. This road was seemingly made for 4X4s! If in a car, I would elect to park on the main road, so long as you don’t mind a 15 minute walk down to the beach. At the bottom of the road, there are small parking lots where we parked the 4X4. The beach is about a 5-minute walk from the parking area, where you will pass by small homes.
Zaraće is a beautiful, secluded beach. Like almost all beaches in Hvar, it is rocky and you need multiple towels to lie comfortably. However, if you don’t mind swimming to get to your tanning spot, there are great rocks lining the water where we parked ourselves for a few hours! For those seeking adventure, there are also a number of rocks to jump off!
1 PM : Up Next : Dubovica Beach
After a couple hours at Zaraće, we continued our beach tour. Following the road towards Stari Grad, our next stop was just a few miles down the road. Dubovica can only be reached by foot – and this is part of what makes it such a rewarding stop! We parked our 4X4 on the main road by the Dubovica sign and made our way down the path. As we descended, the beach slowly started coming into view! Dubovica is slightly larger than Zaraće and its’ cove is made even more picturesque by the small stone buildings overlooking the water. There is also a bar/restaurant right on the beach if you are looking for a mid-afternoon pick me up!
3 PM : Road Tripping
We could’ve spent days relaxing at Dubovica beach, but we decided to get back on our 4X4s to explore the rest of the island! We continued towards Stari Grad, which soon brings you through a long tunnel – after which you will emerge on the North side of Hvar. After descending back down to sea level, you will see signs to turn off the main road for Stari Grad, where you can explore the town! This trip is completely customizable! We were having a blast just riding around on the 4X4 so we decided to continue exploring! We followed the signs towards Jelsa and once there, followed the signs towards Zavala. If you didn’t make it to Tomić Winery yesterday, you can drive to Jelsa today and stop in for a wine tasting or bottles to go! The 4X4 had a perfect truck for storing wine!
Along the way, we were tempted to stop at tens of houses with signs advertising local wine and lavender products for sale. If you continue to Zavala, the route takes you off the main road and onto tiny roads through small villages on the hills. To get back to the South side of the island, you have to pass through the infamous Pitve Tunnel. This is a 1.4km long, one-way tunnel. However, thanks to recent technological advancements the tunnel now has a traffic light! You read that right, the tunnel used to be manned in the tourist season and in the off-season, locals would simply approach the tunnel to see if they could see headlights approaching — if not, they would enter.
I won’t lie, I was hesitant to enter an unlit, one-way tunnel, but we were explorers for the day, weren’t we? So, we patiently waited for our green light as cars came through the tunnel. The inside of the tunnel looks as if it was just excavated yesterday and is damp and cold. It was probably the longest 1.4km of my life – but we made it out! Once back on the South side of the island, we continued along the coast (heading West toward Sveta Nedilja), passing by a number of small villages and admiring the vineyards lining the slopes. It was a beautiful drive along the water.
At this point, we had left Dubovica about an hour prior, and we needed to head back to Hvar to return the 4×4 on time! Even though we were technically heading towards Hvar Town, there is no paved road which connects Sveta Nedilja, the last town along the road, to Hvar Town, meaning you’ll have to back track and return the way you came (and through the Tunnel of Doom once again)! Again, you have to enjoy 4X4ing to come this far. In total, we travelled 50 miles during the day! On the way home, you can take a slightly different route back — one you pass Stari Grad, follow the signs to Velo Grablje and you’ll pass through all of Hvar’s lavender fields!
7:30 PM : Drinks with a View
After returning our beloved 4X4 and quickly freshening up at the hotel, we headed to Hula Hula Beach Bar to watch the sunset. Now, we went to Hvar in May, so the vibe at Hula Hula was chill and relaxing, but I’ve heard it can get wild in the summer, so keep that in mind if you’re travelling in peak season. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset in Hvar as it’s on the water and faces West. It has lots of tables and lounge chairs and LOTS of amazing tropical drinks to choose from.
9 PM : Carbo-loading at Dalmatino
After watching the sunset, we headed to Dalmatino, arguably Hvar’s most popular restaurant. Dalmatino, and a number of other restaurants in Hvar, only take reservations for their first seatings (7-7:30) and the rest of the night is first come, first served. Even at 9pm, Dalmatino had a bit of a wait, but we sat at the bar next door and admired everyone’s food flying by. After a short wait, we were seated outside at Dalmatino and tried to make the impossible decision of what to order. We went with the tuna tartare appetizer and two different gnocchis – one with truffles and shrimp and one with gorgonzola and mushrooms. It was one of the best meals we had on our trip – my boyfriend, who is not a foodie, even said it was the best gnocchi he’s ever had. We loved having truffles with every meal in Croatia — if we tried to do that in the US we would go bankrupt very quickly!
10 AM : Panoramic Views from Fortica
There’s no better way to end your two days in Hvar with sweeping views of the town. By now you’ve probably noticed the Fort towering above the city — it was built in the 16th century during Venetian rule to protect the city from the Turks.
From the center of town, it is about a 15-minute hike up to the Fort, following the signs for the “fortress”. As you climb the stairs, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore many of the back streets of Hvar Town. Once atop the Fort, catch your breath and take in the amazing views of Hvar and the surrounding Pakleni Islands. For 40kn (~$6.50) you can explore the preserved fortress, including artifacts on display.
We spent a final two hours in Hvar walking around the town, checking out the different stores, and grabbing a gelato while people-watching in St. Stephan’s Square.
2 PM : Bidding Adieu to Island Time
As we left Hvar in the distance, I contemplated quitting my job to explore all the other islands surrounding us. But, we decided not to jump off the ferry and continued on to Split to spend the next few days there!