Hvar, Croatia

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Hvar has recently become the cool, easy alternative to Mykonos and Ibiza with its stunning sand-coloured, textured buildings, clearer than clear waters and so many neighbouring islands to visit you’re spoilt for choice. All this with a fun, buzzy and heady nightlife to go with it - perfect! Hvar and the rest of Croatia is on my list to keep exploring as it really does have so much to offer for whatever holiday you’re after.

 

How to get to Hvar

Hvar Ferries

It’s easy to get to Hvar from Split or Dubrovnik, both by ferry, however it’s definitely worth buying your ferry tickets before getting to the port. The queue for the little ticket shack was winding around and around when we arrived, with the ferries being mostly fully booked as far as I could see in peak season (mid-August). This was the best site I found to show ferries from all providers, and the differing times by month and by day. From here it took me a while to understand where to go next!

Bear with me because this might be a little dull, but trust me it’s useful!

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Take note of the Ferry Company for next steps

Hvar Ferry Timetable Example

Book your ferry tickets directly with the ferry company, as this up-to-now very useful website unfortunately adds a layer of unnecessary confusion when it comes to booking and the available routes.

It’s not the end of the world as Hvar island isn’t huge, but for good knowledge, Hvar has two ports; Hvar and Stari Grad. Hvar port lands you right in the Old Town, whilst Stari Grad is about 15mins away in the car. The ferry company websites will specify the route when booking.

All ferry tickets are non-transferable so if you miss your ferry, you’ll need to buy another ticket. For the cautious cats, there are bars and cafes along the port to sit in if you find you’ve got some extra time beforehand. First holiday Aperol anyone?

Taxis

We landed in Split airport which now offers a direct “Express Ferry” to Split port, and apparently is the fastest way to get there. We didn’t know this before and found the airport arrows and the option itself highly confusing in our 3am wake up state, so safe to say we didn’t go for it! Instead, off to the taxi rank we went and instantly found a legal taxi using the meter. As with all airport taxis starting at the airport though, the rate to the port was high (480 Kuna) and for some bizarre reason included a 40 Kuna luggage tax – thankfully for all luggage and not per case!

From Hvar port, the taxi rank is based across the square next to a church with plenty of waiting taxis and drivers. Our apartment was a 10min drive but yet cost us 250 Kuna.

To compare, at the end of our holiday our 6am pre-booked taxi from apartment to Hvar port cost us just 120 Kuna. The taxi from Split port to Split airport, though not pre-booked, cost a much reduced 270 Kuna.

So the Split-Hvar taxi lesson is try to pre-arrange transfers, where possible, on both sides of the port because it is WAY cheaper!

 

Where to Stay in hvar

Most people who come to Hvar want to stay near the Old Town, with its plethora of restaurants and bars, truly gorgeous cobbled alleys and streets, and its easy access to other islands.

We stayed in the Hvar Mood House, on the top floor penthouse apartment. The view and balcony got us immediately, as did the mahoosive size of the place!

Hvar Sunset (View from the balcony)

Hvar Sunset (View from the balcony)

We found it via HomeAway.com but you can book directly with Slavko, the owner, who I can verify really is the perfect host. Context: a strap on my shoes broke (epic female problems) and we text him asking if he had glue - he came up 10mins later with superglue in hand!

The apartment is incredibly clean and fully stocked, with plenty of towels, toilet roll, good hairdryer, washing machine and quite the serious amount of cooking equipment if you wanted to have a night in.

The location is something we couldn’t have found more ideal. With a beach (next to Hula Hula bar) 7mins walk through the garden, and an easy 10min walk taking you straight into the alleys and restaurants of town or a coastal 15min walk into the port side.

Also close by is Amfora hotel, a beautiful luxury 5* hotel whose pool you can use but be sure to pay the 100 Kuna each day for the identifiable striped towels. They will throw you out without hesitation if you don’t have one or visibly pay for a new one each day!


Hvar Insider Budget Knowledge

  • Cash is truly king! It’s only in a handful of bars, restaurants and shops that card is accepted. With ATM machines everywhere, they’ve made it easy for cash to be available but this is only useful if you’re not relying on your whole spend being on your credit card!

  • It is 100 Kuna for a sunbed everywhere on Hvar – add this into your budget if you like a sunbed

  • Hula Hula is definitely worth going to, but arrive for 6pm as there is no need to get a sunbed here. More on that and Carpe Diem below!


What to eat in Hvar

Croatian food at its finest!

Croatian food at its finest!

Much like the rest of Croatia, the local cuisine is focused on fresh seafood, various cheeses and Dalmatian cured hams.

This said, there is a hefty variety of food from high end cuttlefish ratatouille with a truffle whip served in a cocktail glass, to the speedy (but delicious) pizza and shish kebabs needed for fuel during a night out. For those wanting a change of taste after a few nights on the fish, most restaurants serve a good steak or meaty dish too.

For lunches, in beach bars and hotels, a decent sized salad or wrap costs around 120 Kuna. For our dinners though, the spectrum was far larger. The local and home-cooking style restaurants would see four very full diners paying around 300-350 Kuna each, which included topped up water and a couple of litres of delicious local wine. On a fancier night out, two bottles (750ml) of white local wine and smaller portioned plates saw us pay 500 Kuna each.

As with most places abroad, take a look at the menu before going in and if it looks a little on the fancier side, it most likely will cost that bit more.

Whilst in European mode dinners here do start later, for the popular no reservation spots it’s worth getting there for 7pm. Some restaurants will happily take reservations whilst others don’t or only offer specified times for reservation, but it’s always worth an ask.

Along with seafood, Gelato is also a big deal here with aRoma Gelato Boutique having a constant queue during its opening hours. And I understand why now after spending my last 32 Kuna on hazelnut and stracciatella scoops in a cone!

One last thing to mention is the utterly out of this world Borek from Milne bakery by the port. At just 12 Kuna, you can very easily make your way through the many filo pastry variations each day as a post-beach/pre-dinner snack.

Bars in Hvar

Hula Hula Sunset

Hula Hula Sunset

With plenty of options for drinks and frankly, a little confusing info on beach bar vibes I’m hoping this helps the keen Hvar explorer/night owl.

Around one side of Hvar port is a stretch of very lively bars with filled dancefloors inside and tables next to the water outside. It’s all fun, well-lit and incredibly easy to make new friends or strike up chats with your new happy neighbour. Table service is available outside and they mostly take card – hurrah!

Through some of the alleys and on the other side of the port, you’ll find some more sophisticated bars (seen by the plush cushions and rattan sofas on display), which are equally as good fun with a slightly different crowd and some very good cocktails. If the tables in these places state reserved, check with the staff as we found often they weren’t reserved at all.

For example, in one cocktail bar, we sat down after asking two separate parties if the area was reserved. Not too long after this, a stern-faced waiter came by implying the tables had reservations and required minimum spends. After some simple and insistent negotiation (i.e. “can we stay here until the reserved party turns up?”), he gave in and didn’t subject us to the minimum spend. And so another Hvar lesson: push back a little, but stay polite.  

Hula Hula is one of the island’s famous sunset beach bars known for its parties, so here’s the lowdown. Hula Hula is definitely a place to go to start off your night with all the table top dancing, big straws and neon lights you’d expect. However personally, I wouldn’t waste your time or money on a 200 Kuna sunbed for the day (the same beach stretches around the corner) or getting there much earlier than 6pm. Dress code is relaxed, some in bikinis and shorts, others in flowy kaftans and shirts. From our visit, it’s not the same dress code as Ocean Beach Ibiza so you can leave some of that face glitter behind! The bar shuts at 10pm when everyone fills the streets and heads into town. Pick up a slice of pizza when you get there – it’ll never have tasted so good!

Carpe Diem is spread over two places; a bar on Hvar island and the beach/club on Marinkovac island, accessed by a 10min journey on the Carpe Diem speedboat. Carpe Diem beach is open during the day until 7pm, at which time it closes in order to reopen as the major club it’s known for at 2am. We only went to Carpe Diem beach at night and without a VIP table (entry is 200 Kuna), when it had turned into a club in the forest adorned with a big DJ stage, lightshows, dancers and firebreathers. It’s busy and loud but with the right group who get stuck into the crowd, you’ll feel like you’re at Lost Village festival or Wilderness.

Keep in mind, despite the large spends both of these bars and clubs see, they are strictly cash only.

As all bars in Hvar close at 2pm, the options to keep going into the night are Carpe Diem or Pink Champagne. We didn’t get to try the latter but heard many good things from new friends made!

Island Hopping in Hvar

Hvar Islands

Hvar Islands

It becomes very clear when in Hvar that island hopping and sailing is a BIG thing! From every beach or seaview, you’ll see sailing vehicles of all sizes from small 5 person speedboats to Kardashian-worthy yachts.

I’d highly recommend visiting the other islands, and to have an explore of their leafy forests which often open into a beach. Most of the islands have restaurants and bars, and even hotels, so you won’t be stuck for sustenance. For those of us without our own boat (or casual 60ft yacht), there are a few options on hand:

  • Private speedboat taxi – a driven speedboat, around 500 Kuna depending on which island

  • Private speedboat – you’re shown how to safely drive the speedboat and have it until 6pm, around 500Kuna

  • Island tours – on a group boat trip taking you to various caves and islands for the day, around 600 Kuna

  • Local speedboat taxi – various boats going to different islands at allocated times, around 40-70 Kuna return (remember to keep your ticket!)

 There you have it, all you need to know about Hvar with hopefully some helpful tips!