We hope you’ll find our Hvar Island Travel Guide useful. It’s intended to anybody planning a visit to Hvar Island, wether it’s just a couple of hours island hop from Split, or for those planning to stay there longer.
I’ve been to Hvar Island five or six times. First two times were all in 1990s. Back then I’ve stayed in Vrboska, and in Hvar Town.
In May, 2016, I’ve finally went back to Hvar Island. Today, Hvar is a much different place. In this Hvar Island travel guide I’ll try to cover as many areas as you can need to plan a perfect holiday on this great Croatian island.
Hvar is perhaps the most famous of all Croatian islands. It is best known for its turquoise waters, lavender fields, 2.800 hours of sunshine a year, good nightlife, and as a summer refuge for rich and famous.
We also like it for its history and culture, lovely countryside, hidden bays, tasty food, and great local wines.
With a surface of 300 m2, Hvar is the fourth largest Croatian island.
Contents For Hvar Island Travel Guide
- 1 Hvar map & location
- 2 Destinations in Hvar
- 3 Reasons to visit Hvar Island
- 4 What to see in Hvar
- 5 Things to do in Hvar Island
- 6 Hvar accommodation
- 7 Hvar Island Travel Guide: Restaurants
- 8 Beaches on Hvar Island
- 9 Bars, Clubs & Nightlife on Hvar Island
- 10 Traveling to Hvar Island
- 11 Getting around Hvar island
- 12 Car Rental in Hvar Island
- 13 Further Reading
Hvar map & location
Hvar Island is located in central Dalmatia, off the coast of Makarska Riviera on the mainland, and between islands of Brac, Vis, Korcula, and Peljesac peninsula.
The island stretches for just over 68 km from northwest to southeast. And, it’s the longest Croatian island.
Hvar Town is the largest settlement on the island, and island’s administrative centre.
The northwest part of the island is rich in fresh water springs, and thus fertile, while the rest of the island is rather dry.
Below you’ll find a google map of Hvar.
Destinations in Hvar
You might wonder what is the best place to choose as your base on the island. This really depends on multiple factors, like how many days you plan to stay on Hvar, how budget-minded you are, would you travel by car, do you plan on staying at one place, or travelling around, and so on.
If you want to see and be seen, and don’t mind paying premium for that pleasure, choose Hvar Town. Otherwise, choose Vrboska, Stari Grad, Jelsa if you prefer quieter, more laid-back vibe that is also lighter on your wallet.
Hvar Town is the largest, best known and most-visited town on the island. The most attractive destination on the island, Hvar town is also the most expensive place to stay. Hvar boasts a myriad of beaches, hotels, restaurants, historical buildings, and cultural monuments, as well as the best nightlife on the entire island.
Stari Grad Hvar is the oldest settlement on the island. The town is located along the long, deep bay with the old town at its end. The old town consists of traditional stone houses, cobblestone streets, and numerous churches. The most interesting monument is Tvrdalj Castle, a palace from 16th century. Beaches aren’t Stari Grad’s forte, but nevertheless it’s popular summer destination.
Located in the centre of the island’s northern shores, Jelsa has lovely beaches (some of them sandy!), a good choice of private accommodation, and a variety of sport facilities, restaurants and bars. It’s a good alternative to Hvar town for those looking for more affordable accommodations, and quieter vibe.
If you fancy quaint villages, consider Vrboska, Milna, Sveta Nedjelja, or Sućuraj.
Reasons to visit Hvar Island
Hvar is one of the most visited Croatian islands for a reason.
It’s stunningly beautiful, with a good tourist infrastructure, lovely beaches, tons of history, and a good nightlife.
After hearing of so many celebrities visiting Hvar, you might imagine it all glitz and glamor, but it’s far from truth.
Our number one reason to visit Hvar is actually Hvar’s stunning nature.
The island, out of the main tourist resorts, is pretty intact. Wild herbs perfume the air wherever you go.
The wild oregano left the deepest impression on us on our last visit to Hvar, back in May 2017. We even brought some home and planted it in our garden. Fingers crossed it survives Istrian winter.
If beach hopping is your kind of vacation, then Hvar might just be the right destination in Croatia to visit.
With the length of 250 km Hvar’s sea coast offers ample possibilities for swimming, and a wide range of beaches: from rocky, pebbly, to even sandy beaches.
And while the island is super popular, and gets loads of tourists over the summer, you can still find your little (semi)private spot by the sea.
Obviously, this won’t happen on most popular beaches in and around main towns, like Jelsa, Stari Grad, and Vrboska. But take a drive east, to less popular corners of the island, and you’ll discover many coves, bays and beaches where very few fellow tourists wander.
Also, the sea here is so clean, and has a special glittering colour.
History & Culture
Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Croatians, Venetians, Austrians, French, Italians, they all ruled Hvar throughout the history, and they all left trace in island’s architecture, culture, food.
Agricultural land in Stari Grad plains, UNESCO World Heritage Site, is still divided following the same pattern that Greeks laid down almost 2500 years ago.
Hvar theatre, built in 1612, is one of the oldest theatres in all Europe.
So, wherever you go on the island, you’ll encounter something of a historical value.
Cobble-stone streets, centuries-old squares, churches, and palaces dotting major towns and villages on Hvar are all witnesses of Hvar’s long history.
There is a common belief among Croatians, that people living on islands are special. Not in a bad or good way, just simply different than people living on a mainland.
However, for some reason, I found people on Hvar, to fit me perfectly. I found them warm, welcoming, open, funny and very direct in communication.
What to see in Hvar
The most popular town on the island, Hvar is simply gorgeous and must see on your trip here. Dominated by large town square that features Arsenal building, St. Stephen Church, and a small port, the old town is encircled by protective walls from the land side, and overlooked by 16th-century Spanish Fort (Fortica). Today, the Fortica is a popular tourist spot, and it offers lovely views over the town, the sea, and Paklinski Islands. For even better views (and less tourists), hike or drive up to Napoljun fortress atop of the Saint Nicolas hill.
This lovely beach, southeast from Hvar Town, is a must-visit while on the island. The parking, aside the main road, is limited, and it’s quite a hike to reach the beach from the road. However, it’s well worth the effort. The beach is secluded, made of small rounded pebbles, and while it is off-the-beaten path, it still gets quite busy. There are two beach bars / restaurants serving drinks and food. Shade is limited, but dips in clear blue Adriatic should keep you cool.
Unesco World Heritage Site since 2008, this fertile agricultural land, east of Stari Grad, has been cultivated since ancient times. In fact, it still keeps the same layout, as set by Greeks in 4th century BC. Cycle or take a ride through this maze of plots, planted mainly with grapes, olives, and veggies, and divided by dry stone walls.
Islands are plentiful in Croatia, and yes in fact, after arriving to Hvar island, get a boat, and hop to yet another island(s). An archipelago of twenty-something islands, Pakleni islands are a true wonder of nature, and inevitable stop if in Hvar. The islands are gorgeous, surrounded by turquoise waters, and full of hidden beaches, calm bays, and few restaurants and bars here and there – a perfect spot to spend a day swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, or just chilling by the sea. The most popular places include Palmižana, located on St. Clement Island, Jerolim Island with its nude beaches, and Marinkovac with famed Carpe Diem Beach Club.
Established in 384 BC by Greek colonists, Stari grad is not only the oldest settlement on the island, but one of the oldest continuous settlements in all Croatia, and even in all Europe. The old town is lovely, with its rich history, numerous churches, palaces, and cobblestone streets. Don’t miss a visit to the Tvrdalj, a former summer residence of a renaissance poet Petar Hektorovic dating back to 16th century.
Things to do in Hvar Island
There are many ways to get to know Croatia, and one of the ways is to get to know it through its wines. Wine has been, and it still is, an important part of Croatian economy, but also of identity, and a lifestyle. And Hvar is not different! Wine has been a major part of Hvar economy ever since ancient Greeks arrived on the island, back in 4th century BC. And it’s as important today, as it was back then.
Plan a half-day, or full-day wine tour while on the island of Hvar. While you can do it on your own, we believe having a local guide/driver makes it so much better. A guide can give you an introductory tour, answer all your questions, and the best of all, you can indulge in wine tasting all you want as you won’t need to drive.
Popular wine-producers are Zlatan Otok, Tomić Wines, PZ Svirce, Plancic Brothers, and others. Popular sorts include red plavac mali (Zinfandel’s offspring very popular in mid and southern Dalmatia), and pošip, a white grapes native to the island of Korcula, but planted now all over southern and central Dalmatia.
Like in other Croatian coastal regions, seaside villages were not necessary where Hvar locals resided back in history. Believe it or not, our ancestors preferred the safety, and coziness, of mountainous interiors. They were farmers who lived off live stock, and crops. And the villages developed around fertile interiors.
But first with phylloxera, and later with industrialisation, and a development of a modern-day tourism industry, people started migrating to the coast (or further away), abandoning their old villages, and old way of life.
Today, these villages, although abandoned, and for major part uninhabited, still witness our past. When on Hvar, explore some of those villages. Our favourite places include Malo Grablje, and Humac.
Chase authentic island scents
I’ve visited many Croatian islands, including Brac, Vis, Korcula, Elafiti, Mljet, Cres, Krk, Lošinj, Murter, Pag, and Lastovo, but I have never felt such wonderful scents as I did on Hvar Island. Maybe it was a time of the year we’ve visited that contributed to this (we’ve been there in May when all nature awakens), or it’s really “Hvar thing”, but I highly recommend everyone visiting the island to take a hike in nature immersed in the scent of rosemary, lavender, and wild oregano.
Sample local cuisine
Hvar dishes don’t differ much from the rest of Dalmatia, with few exemptions, like gregada, a fish stew typical for Hvar. The dietary pattern here is simple: based on boiled veggies, fresh fish, and everything soaked (yes, soaked. not sprinkled) in olive oil. For a typical Hvar comfort food, head to konoba Kokot in Dol, Stori Komin in Malo Grablje, or tavern Kod None in Svirče.
Hvar is a popular tourist destination with good infrastructure and a variety of accommodation: from hotels, to private apartments, villas, youth hostels, and even camping.
The main tourist season stretches from late June to early September, with last week of July, and two weeks of August being the peak season.
Accommodation prices sky rocket at this time. So if you want to stretch your dollar, our suggestion would be to visit the island in the second half of September or early October, when the weather is still nice, sea is warm enough for swimming, and crowds are fewer.
Another advice we can give you is to book your accommodation as early as possible. Similar to airline tickets, accommodation prices also increase with the demand, and as there is less inventory on the market. This means that the earlier you book, the cheaper price you will pay.
The most popular booking site in Croatia is Booking.com. So browse your accommodation there, as they have the largest inventory for short-term rental, and hotel accommodation in Croatia.
If you book using Booking.com, book a room with a flexible cancelation policy. This way, if your plans change, you can simply cancel your booking. Also, if for some reason, at any time, your hotel runs promotion, you’ll be able to cancel your previous booking and secure a better deal.
For private apartments, beside Booking, check also AirBnB. If you sign up using our link, you’ll get 32€ to use toward your next travel.
Recommended Hvar Island accommodation
Hvar Island Travel Guide: Restaurants
If you spent some time here at our blog, you already know that we love food. Whether we eat at the top-notch fine dining restaurants, or humble local eateries, they all have one thing in common: they use fresh local ingredients to turn them into divine dishes.
We find that on the island of Hvar, your best bet when it comes to food is to go with traditional-dishes, and more often than not to look for traditional eateries called “konoba”; this means grilled fish, and meat with side dishes like Swiss chard, zucchini fritters, or French fries; octopus or meat with veggies, baked in a pot covered with embers, called peka; gregada, a typical fish stew from the island of Hvar.
Below you’ll find few recommended restaurants on Hvar Island, and more to follow in a separate blog post.
Beaches on Hvar Island
When I think of Hvar, I can’t but think of gorgeous sea, limpid, and calm, with lovely turquoise colours that simply draws you in to take few laps, or to just float endlessly.
Hvar beaches, just like elsewhere in Croatia, are mostly rocky, and pebbly. The nicest secluded bays take a boat ride to reach them, or walking in the heat, but they are all worth it.
Southern side of the island is home to some of the best beaches on the Hvar island. South-east of Hvar Town, steep shores of Zaraće, Sveta Nedilja, Ivan Dolac, and Gromin Dolac, all abound in lovely pebbly beaches; some with pebbles so tiny that they almost feel like sand.
Pakleni Islands, located just few miles off the shore of Hvar Town, consist of many small islands, and lovely bays that make for favourite swimming spots among locals and tourists alike.
Hopeless sand beach enthusiasts head either to Jelsa, or to Sucuraj. Both towns have sandy beaches in the vicinity.
Bars, Clubs & Nightlife on Hvar Island
Hvar is one of those very few places in Croatia associated with restless, fun, crowded and wild nightlife. In reality, this really only happens in Hvar Town. And it really only happens in high season.
Carpe Diem, Hula Hula, Kiva, or Ka’Lavanda all offer day and night partying, cocktails, DJs, and good vibes. It goes without saying that they are also all really pricy.
And if your ideal holidays don’t include a load of loud, overexcited alcohol-infused twenty-something-years-old, head somewhere else on the island like Jelsa or Stari Grad.
Traveling to Hvar Island
Split and Dubrovnik airports are the closest airports to Hvar island. However, regardless of the way you travel to and around Croatia, sooner or later you’ll need to board a ferry or catamaran, or just a boat, to reach Hvar Island.
If you travel to Hvar from other parts of Croatia, like Zagreb, Istria, or Zadar, you’ll need first to reach Split, Drvenik, or Dubrovnik to get to Hvar by ferry.
There are few boat companies operating between Hvar Island and mainland. Jadrolinija is a large national carrier, operating on almost all islands’ routes. Kapetan Luka is a small regional carrier serving Split, Hvar, Korcula, Mljet, and Dubrovnik with its fast catamarans. And finally, you can book a private or shared boat transfer to Hvar. For more information check Hvar Boats website, or sign up for UberBoats service.
Getting from Split to Hvar
The easiest way to reach Hvar Island is from Split. Split ferry port is conveniently located just across the bus station, few minutes walk from the old town.
Jadrolinija runs ferry from Split to Hvar year around. The frequency changes with the season.
Car-ferry runs from Split to Stari Grad at least 3 times per day in winter, and 7 times a day in summer. From June through September, expect to pay around 7 € per adult, and 42 € per car for one-way ticket. The crossing takes 2 hours. Ferry port is 2 km away from Stari Grad.
Jadrolinija also runs daily a catamaran between Jelsa and Split (with a stop in Bol on Brac Island). The crossing takes 1h40min. One-way ticket costs around 7,5 € per person. The same company also runs a catamaran service between Hvar Town and Split at least once a day in winter and 4 times a day in summer. In high season one-way ticket costs 110 Kn (15 €) per person.
Kapetan Luka also operates catamaran service from Split to Hvar. Their boats in high season run 4 times a day. One-way ticket costs 90 kn (12 €).
Many readers ask us if it’s worth taking a day tour from Split to Hvar. The answer is Yes! You can do it on your own, especially from June through September when there are many ferry crossings between the two throughout the day. However, it might just be easier and more convenient to book a small group tour from Split to Hvar. Below you can find few boat tours that we recommend.
Getting from Dubrovnik to Hvar
In high season Dubrovnik serves as one of the main gateways to Hvar Island. The best way to reach Hvar from Dubrovnik is by catamaran that runs daily from mid-May to mid-October.
Catamarans are operated by Jadrolinija and Kapetan Luka companies, and each has a slightly different route.
Jadrolinija’s catamaran runs daily from June through September. It departs from Dubrovnik at 7 am, and arrives to Hvar at 10.30 pm. It also stops in Korcula, and after Hvar it continues to Bol on Brac Island, and further to Split. The return trip departs from Hvar at 6.40 pm, and arrives in Dubrovnik at 10.10 pm. One-way ticket from Dubrovnik to Hvar (and vice versa) costs 210 kn (30 €) per person.
Kapetan Luka’s catamaran runs daily from mid-May to mid-October. It departs from Dubrovnik at 4.30 pm (Sept.-mid-Oct.: 4 pm), and arrives to Hvar at 7.35 pm (Sept.-mid-Oct.: 7.05 pm). This catamaran also stops in Pomena on the island of Mljet, and Korcula before arriving to Hvar; and then continues further to Milna on the island of Brac, and Split. The boat leaves Hvar for Dubrovnik at 8.40 am, and it arrives to Dubrovnik at 12.05 pm.
Getting to Hvar from other places in Croatia
Car-ferry also connects Sucuraj on the island of Hvar with Drvenik on Makarska Riviera. Car-ferry runs 6 times a day in winter, and as many as 11 times a day in summer. Sucuraj is at the far end of the island compared with other towns (Hvar, Jelsa, Stari Grad). Jelsa is approx. 50 km away from Sucuraj, and Hvar Town is almost 80 km away.
However, ferry crossing from the mainland takes only 35 minutes (compared with 120 minutes from Split to Stari Grad). One-way ticket costs 16 kn (2 €) per adult, and 108 kn (15 €) for car.
Besides mainland, you can also reach island of Hvar from the island of Brac, Korcula, Lastovo, Mljet and Vis Island. However, island hopping within one day is rarely doable. If you plan to hop from one to another island, plan to spend at least an overnight in each of them.
The only international ferry line serving the island of Hvar is one from Ancona in Italy to Stari Grad. It’s an overnight ferry that runs year around from Split to Ancona, but the stop in Stari Grad is only scheduled throughout August.
Getting around Hvar island
The most convenient way to travel around Hvar Island is by car, or by scooter.
The main island’s road D116 runs from Hvar Town to Sucuraj and connects all major towns on the island, like Hvar, Stari Grad, Jelsa, Vrboska, and Sucuraj.
This road is partly in good condition, especially in western part of the island around Hvar, Jelsa, and Stari Grad. However the more east you go toward Sucuraj the worse it gets narrow, with patched asphalt at many places, lack of safety barriers, and some curves especially past Jelsa.
If you travel by car from the mainland, make sure you fill up the gas tank prior to crossing onto the island. There are only three gas stations for motor vehicles on Hvar Island: one in Hvar Town, and two in and out of Jelsa.
Another way to travel around Hvar island is by bus. The island is served by Cazmatrans (t: +385 21 765 904), one of national bus operators (don’t bother trying to book through their website, or just trying to retrieve bus timetable – it’s simply don’t function). Buses connect all major towns on Hvar (Jelsa, Vrboska, Stari Grad, Stari Grad ferry terminal, Hvar, Sucuraj). Unfortunately, Cazmatrans doesn’t sell tickets through GetByBus website, but it’s still a good place to check Hvar bus schedule.
Car Rental in Hvar Island
There are few things to consider if you plan to use a rental car in Hvar Island. The main consideration is if you should rent a car in Hvar Island, or on mainland, prior to crossing over. This decision is not always evident, and more often than not it depends on personal preferences.
Car rental in Split Airport, or elsewhere on mainland, can provide you with a better choice of cars to hire, cheaper rental price, and overall better supply of rental cars.
On the other hand, car hire in Hvar Island gives you opportunity to rent only for the days you will actually use car (even if the price per day comes as more expensive; you will perhaps still spend less money in total on car rental).
It also gives you a chance to skip the lines on ferries. Queues on ferries only forms for the cars, and sometimes you are so far away in a queue that you need to wait for the next car-ferry. This never happens if you cross to Hvar on foot.
Crossing to the island on foot will also give you a chance to travel directly to Hvar Town, as car-ferries don’t dock in Hvar Town, only in Stari Grad or Sucuraj. Passenger-only catamarans dock in downtown Hvar Town.
Also, worth mentioning is the fact that majority of car rental companies in Croatia will charge you one-time fee for taking a car on ferries.
Paul Bradbury’s Hvar: An Insider’s Guide is perhaps the best travel book about Hvar. You can also check his other book about his life on the island entitled Lavender, Dormice and a Donkey Named Mercedes: A Decade of Expat Living on Hvar.
If you plane to make a trip to neighbouring Brac Island, read our Brac Island Travel Guide
We’ve also written a full post on Things to do on Brac island.
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