We sailed into the Croatian island of Hvar to find a small piece of Adriatic summer paradise. The port town of Hvar is a haven for luxury super yachts, sailboats and powerboats and even outboard dingys that you can rent and play captain for a day.
We were impressed by the paved marble, traffic-free waterfront that gives the town a sense of historic opulence along with its grand main square and iconic Renaissance Cathedral. The ancient fortress looms high above the old town and the intriguing narrow stone streets are filled with smart, small shops, restaurants and bars.
We arrived in mid September when it was nicely calm but we could imagine at the height of the season (July/August) Hvar would be party central. This is a magic town, the right climate, stunning turquoise water, beautifully restored historic buildings and tourists enjoying the outdoor restaurants and bars, creating a real holiday vibe. The nearby Pakleni Islands are an adult playground and an added bonus with their secluded beaches and coves that are easily accessible by small boat or water taxi.
We only had three nights and two full days in Hvar but we had time to explore quite a few things. We stayed at Apartments Komazin about a 350 metre walk from the waterfront. Our very cute host Andro was a tourist’s dream. With his welcoming smile, he picked us up right on time from the port and gave us loads of suggestions about what to do in Hvar. The designer apartment (the lime green colour would not be our first choice) was immaculate with a full kitchen and balcony. We ate at local restaurants just down from the apartment and, at the end of our stay, Andro returned us to the port for our departure, after a thoroughly pleasant experience.
Hvar is a small island so getting around is easy. The bus/taxi stops are at the top of the square behind the Cathedral. Taxis are quite expensive here and buses are inexpensive but often crowded and not punctual. Along the waterfront there are several travel agencies where you can buy tours and ferry tickets and one tourist told us that he hired a coupé for the day and it was about $50US. Water taxis operate from the waterfront to the Pakleni Islands, leaving every twenty minutes.
From what we found there is none, but we found the locals very friendly and accepting. The closest thing to anything gay is the nude beach on Jerolim Island where we found a few discerning, like-minded male couples.
We caught the water taxi for a 40 Kuna return ticket. Jerolim is the second island in the Pakleni group and the trip across takes no more than 15 minutes. When you arrive walk across the island (it’s a whole 150 metres) and look for the sign ‘All Nudists Welcome since 1896’.
We found the rocks, left of the beach, to be the gay section but really the whole place is nude and everyone is friendly and welcoming. There is a shop and funky, hippy-style bar with hammocks and wooden chairs.
The water quality was outstanding and safe for swimming. The last water taxi back to Hvar is at 6pm.
On our last evening we made our way to Hvar’s Franciscan Monastery for a recital by the Galesnik male vocal group. This amateur, male achapela group was highly professional. The resonance and harmony of their voices, caught in the cavernous stone room, gave us goose bumps.
After the recital we happened to eat at the same restaurant as the choir (Il Porto Restaurant, and it has delicious food) and they were still singing to the delight of diners in the restaurant.
How often the recitals happen in summer we are not sure but check out the tourist information office to see when they perform as they are a local Hvar gem and not to be missed.
Take the 12:10pm bus to Stari Grad, (meaning old town) on the other side of Hvar and you will think you have walked back in time. This place is ancient, quaint and quiet.
Thought to be one of the oldest towns of Europe, founded by the Greeks in 385/384 BC, Stari Grad’s small narrow streets and stone buildings ooze with history and atmosphere. The town is situated right on the port which is a very popular mooring spot for private yachts.
Stari Grad is a relaxing, slow-paced town with bakeries, bars and eating places spread throughout the town, so finding something delicious to eat is not a problem.
The B&B Heritage Villa Apolon and Restaurant is a well restored villa that we would very much like to stay at for a few nights on another visit to this beautiful part of the world. Stari Grad is a piece of historic heaven that most of the world is still yet to discover.
No visit to Hvar would be complete without a walk up to the Fortress above the port. It took us about 30 minutes to make our way to the top, with a few stops for browsing in some quaint little boutique shops along the way.
Once out of the old town and onto the track to the fortress, the hike along the winding level pathways is not too strenuous. The panoramic views from the fort’s parapets over Hvar Port and the surrounding Pakleni Islands are nothing less than extraordinary.
There is a small entrance fee that is well worth paying to see inside the Fortress and absorb the splendour of this celebrated port town.
The Venetian Fort was built in the middle of the 16th century and parts were renovated by the Austrian’s in the 19th century. We walked around the stone walls and scrambled to various levels to look out for more invaders heading our way.
There is a lovely terrace café/bar at the top where we enjoyed the September afternoon sunshine; a perfect place for a cocktail. Another way to access the Fort is by car. Take the road that goes from the bus station, behind the hill, to the western part of the city, but that would be missing out on the challenge of making it up the hill.
- Be at the port at least 40 minutes before ferry departure to secure a seat for your next port.
- Hvar in July and August is very busy and extremely hot.
- We booked Apartments Komazin through Agoda.com and highly recommend this friendly, comfortable, family run apartment.