A Croatian island favorite off the Dalmatian coast, Hvar is more than its reputation as a party destination and celebrity haunt. It’s also home to unspoiled nature of lavender fields, vineyards, and olive groves with a coastline that’s pitted with jagged inlets and pebbly coves that kiss the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea. The island’s capital, Hvar Town, is one of the Adriatic’s best-preserved historic towns and offers ritzy hotels, elegant restaurants, and buzzing nightlife and makes for a great jumping-off point to discover the nearby Pakleni islands.
Moving away from the Hvar Riviera along the southern shores, it’s possible to experience a more unhurried and Dalmatian way of life in the coastal settlements of Stari Grad, Vrboska, and Jelsa, and the half-abandoned stone villages of the interior.
Planning Your Hvar Itinerary
Tucked conveniently amid some of Croatia's most visited islands, Hvar makes for a great pitstop on a sailing adventure of the Adriatic. On this 5-day itinerary, you'll board your private vessel in Split and sail for Hvar, dropping anchor in Hvar Town's harbor to overnight, but not before traipsing the pedestrianized alleys of the medieval center. The following day sees you sailing the Pakleni archipelago, stopping as you like to swim and snorkel the many bays and inlets.
Meanwhile, this family-friendly tour heavy on fun, sporty activities features three nights in Hvar Town, the perfect home base to kayak to the Pakleni islands, bike to the heart of the historic Stari Grad Plain, with enough time to soak in the cultural delights of the capital as well as smaller stone settlements beyond.
When to Go
When to visit Hvar is a matter of personal taste though you can't go wrong weather-wise as the narrow island is the country's sunniest locale. If the party scene is what you're after and you're okay with rubbing shoulders with the inevitable crowds then look no further than the peak summer months of July and August (Hvar's population more than doubles during this time). Though be mindful to book reservations and accommodation well in advance as there's significant pressure on hotels and restaurants (particularly in Hvar Town).
Enjoy a little breathing room along the coast and beaches during the shoulder months of May, beginning of June, and September and October. The weather is sunny with little rain and the Adriatic is warm enough to swim (June, September, October) and bargains still apply. During this time, allow yourself plenty of flexibility with planning your itinerary to and from Hvar as you can expect a reduced ferry schedule. For more, see Best Time to Visit Croatia.
The easiest way to reach Hvar is by boat with regularly scheduled two-hour car ferry rides that occur from Split to Stari Grad and passenger-only catamarans from Split to both Hvar Town (1 hour and 20 minutes) and Jelsa (1 hour and 50 minutes). If you happen to be further down the Croatian coast, there is a three-hour ferry that departs from Dubrovnik to Hvar Town en route to Split. Meanwhile, if you've rented a car, consider boarding a car ferry from Drvenik on the mainland to Sućuraj on the eastern end of Hvar (25 minutes) to begin your island exploration. Note that as lines for car ferries fill up fast in the summer, queue up early (two hours in advance in August).
Elsewhere, there are one to two daily catamarans from Brač, Korčula, and Lastovo, and a weekly catamaran from the tiny island of Vis. Though a better way to navigate to and from these islands would be to hire a speedboat or go on a sailing tour.
Getting around on the island is relatively easy. There are regular buses running from Hvar Town, Stari Grad, Vrboska, and Jelsa with a service dedicated to picking up and dropping off ferry passengers between the Stari Grad port ferry terminal and Hvar Town (which takes 30 minutes).
And if you plan to fly, the closest major airports reside in Split and Dubrovnik, with a smaller domestic airport on nearby Brač, though most people fly into the Split airport and then take the short ferry ride across the glittering Adriatic Sea.
Highlights & Things to Do
Main Coastal Towns: Hvar Town & Stari Grad
The nearest thing Croatia has to the Côte d'Azur, Hvar Town exudes Mediterranean charm. Its glamorous Riva hugs the yacht-filled harbor and leads to the historic core, a medieval network of narrow car-free marble streets overseen by a 16th-century fortress and ancient milk-white stone houses. It's no surprise Hvar Town's allure draws in crowds of around 20,000 people a day (in the high season), making it the island's busiest destination.
Rustic Stari Grad, on the other hand, is a relaxed, more family-oriented town and the island’s main port. Resting along the sides of a deep bay, Stari Grad is one of Europe’s (and Croatia’s) oldest towns, boasting the standard Adriatic charms you come to expect: stone houses bedecked with window boxes and narrow alleys that open onto unexpected small squares. What’s more, to the east of the town lies the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad Plain, an agricultural landscape where the ancient Greek system of field division has been preserved almost unchanged.
Quiet Coastal Towns & Interior Villages
Then there are the quiet coastal towns of Jelsa and Vrboska to Stari Grad’s east, both nice spots for a short visit. A former fishing village, Jelsa’s 19th-century waterfront is backed by an old quarter of intimate streets and squares, all surrounded by thick pine forests and tall poplars with access to a few swimming sites worth checking out. Likewise, Vrboska is a laid-back settlement (and Hvar’s smallest). Sleepy Vrboska is nicknamed “Little Venice” for its trio of quaint bridges that span the length of the narrow inlet the village dwells.
The interior of Hvar has a number of stone-forward villages. Breathe in the scent of lavender and rosemary in Brusje, on the island’s west end, learn how Vrbanj, Hvar’s largest village, got its start, and sample freshly-pressed olive oil and local wine from the nearby groves and vineyards of Svirče. Weaving your way uphill to the island’s middle lies Humac, a semi-abandoned hamlet and perfectly-preserved example of what Dalmatian rural architecture looks like.
Pakleni Islands & Beaches
Opposite the entrance to the Hvar Town harbor is the stunning chain of the Pakleni islands. A collection of wooded and rocky islets, most visitors to Hvar Town spend time exploring the crystal-clear waters, thought to be the most beautiful part of the Hvar Riviera. The largest of the islands is Sveti Klement, which supports three villages offering accommodation, restaurants, and beaches. There’s also clothing-optional Sveti Jerolim and the slightly larger Marinkovac which boasts two popular beaches: sandy Ždrilca and lagoon-like Mlini to its north, and Uvala Stipanska at its south.
Back on Hvar, the perimeter is littered with beaches, mostly of the rocky variety. Close to Hvar Town, you can rent sun loungers and day beds and if you’re lucky, find your own space to drop your towel. Further east, there’s the spacious swath of pebble beach at Milna where you can opt to rent a sun lounger, though there’s enough space if you’d rather not. Then there’s Uvala Dubovica, a white pebbled beach, considered to be one of Hvar’s most beautiful and accessed following a footpath down a rocky hill.
On the northern edge of Hvar, east of Jelsa and en route to Sućuraj are a slew of pleasant coves, like the sandy, but narrow Grebišće (it does not have a lot of shade so make sure to bring a beach umbrella). And the Glavica peninsula, east of Vrboska, offers a series of beaches, including naturist-frequented ones as well as the main destination of Soline.
Hike, Bike, Scoot, & Watersports
Beyond sunning on the beaches, there are a host of exciting activities to pursue. Rock climbing is popular where there are free climbing spots scattered around the island and open to climb all year round. Hike the Lavender Road amid sweetly scented lavender fields and gnarled olive groves as you work your way from Stari Grad to Hvar Town, stopping to visit the historic villages of Velo Grablje and Malo Grablje. Cover more ground on a cycling tour of the Stari Grad Plain, as you complete a circuit that also includes Jelsa and Vrboska.
Rent a scooter from Hvar Town and traverse much of the island terrain, hopping on and off as you please, like at a hidden beach you happen upon. The adventurous will want to join an ATV off-roading excursion that encompasses all of the above as well as St. Nicholas, Hvar’s tallest peak, and Sveta Nedija, a village surrounded by vineyards renowned for their difficulty to cultivate.
And of course, where there is water there is sport. For a host of watersports like paddleboarding, jet-skiing, kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving, head to any nearby beach for an opportunity that suits your needs. This 11-day active itinerary across Croatia includes a day of paddling out to the Pakleni islands from Hvar Town on a sea kayaking tour and this 6-day sailing adventure sees you spending four days aboard a private sailboat with an overnight in Hvar’s harbor.
Eating & Drinking on Hvar
Where to Eat
There are dozens of places to eat with more pricier options in Hvar Town. Feast on a full course meal from starters to dessert at Giaxa. Once a medieval palace located in the center of Hvar Town, it's now a restaurant serving traditional Dalmatian dishes with modern European flair. Tucked in a backstreet around the corner is Macondo. Local fish and seafood is delicious here but order their specialty, the gregada (a fisherman's stew with potatoes and garlic). Locals come here for the authentic Dalmatian cuisine and traditional atmosphere.
For something special, head slightly further afield. It's worth the trek to Robinson—literally, you must hike an hour and twenty minutes to the beachside restaurant. Sitting east of Hvar Town, dine on their squid nona mikra (squid braised with onions); it's what they're known for. Then, on an island a short boat ride from Hvar Town, Zori is run by a husband and wife duo serving dishes with a creative take on classic Dalmatian cuisine and offers beautiful views of the sea. Make reservations beforehand.
Read What to Eat in Croatia for more foodie-related information.
What to Drink
Hvar’s great weather also means it produces some of the best wines in the region. Immerse yourself in wine country less than half an hour inland from Hvar Town. Tour wineries to meet the winemakers and discover the UNESCO-protected grapes that have grown since the time of the ancient Greeks. Take a full-day or half-day wine tour and learn about the island's 2,400-year-old history of wine. Then hit the town to check out Hvar's nightlife, featuring more wine bars than clubs.
Though for something more intimate, bring a bottle of wine and watch the sunset from these two scenic locales:
Španjola Fortress. The short walk up to this old 16th-century fortress is worth the hike for the stunning views of Hvar Town and the Pakleni islands.
- Tito’s Caves. Get away from the tourists in Hvar Town and watch the sunset at these hidden-away caves. You'll see signs for the caves at the top of the peninsula just north of Stari Grad.