Hvar Island is Croatia’s glamour island. But have you ever thought about the top things to do in Hvar Island? At first we shied away from the thought of visiting a town and island where the rich and famous hang out, but we discovered that Hvar Island Croatia, a quite affordable and a most Hvar activities are either free or very affordable.
What You Will Find in This Post
An overview of Hvar Town
Let’s begin in the ritziest town on Hvar Island, which happens to be a town of the same name. Hvar town is set on a harbour dotted with mega yachts, busy with Hvar Yacht Week arrivals and the every day ferries carrying day trippers to the nearby Hvar Pakleni Islands. It entices more than 20,000 visitors a day in the summer season.
If you arrive by passenger ferry like we did you will step off the ferry right into the excitement of the Hvar Riva. The land rises quickly behind the Riva or Esplanade.
The views to be had from accommodation choices on the steep hill behind town are expansive. The water-scape across to the Pakleni Islands and beyond is every bit as glamorous as the town itself.
How to get to Hvar Island Croatia
Arriving by boat is mandatory on Hvar Island and the Krilo Passenger Ferry departs Vis Island at 7 a.m. every Tuesday, arriving in Hvar Town less than an hour later. This recent addition to the stable of ferries that connect mainland Split with the islands was an excellent choice for us. Coming direct from Vis the ferry cuts hours off the usual Vis/Split/Hvar trip. However if you’re bringing a vehicle you will need to return to Split and arrive by car ferry.
Krilo Ferry arrives and departs from the Riva at Hvar town (left of harbour below) while car ferries arrive in the port town of Starigrad.
Hvar is also connected by ferry from Ancona in Italy (summer only) and Dubrovnik (summer only).
Car Ferries arrive at Starigrad (town) from Split and from Drvenik to Sucuraj on Hvar Island multiple times each day.
Croatia Traveller has a dedicated page on How to Get to Hvar.
Hvar Riva in Hvar Town
Hvar Island nightlife is legendary and Carpe Diem bar located on the Riva is very chic and busy night spot. Historically it was a hangout for the movie starts but now every day people and music spill onto the Riva.
Mornings before the first ferries arrive and while the partiers are still in bed, is a deliciously quiet time on the main cafe strip on the Riva. We invariably found ourselves sitting comfortably at BB Club enjoying a croissant and coffee with a view.
They do food here, but I like it primarily as a place to relax and people watch over a coffee or cool drink and it is quite appropriate to do so.
With it’s communist background, Croatia does not have a culture of customer service, but we noticed the change at BB’s as their service was first class.
You must always ask for your bill in a Croatian Cafe. This is culturally appropriate as Croatian customer’s like to sit and chat for hours – the bill being left open in case a further drink is required.
The Riva at Hvar Town. BB Club is second on the right.
It became our morning ritual to watch the port come to life over a coffee/tea/juice and croissant.
By night it is fun to watch the boats come home to roost on the Riva. The most we counted moored to the same bollard was twelve. The boats that span out across the harbour mouth are also tied back to one another for extra stability.
Airbnb on Hvar
Most of our budget saving Lunches and Dinners took place on the terrace of our Airbnb apartment. The beauty of choosing Hvar accommodation early, is finding a place with such nice amenities and views that you look forward to eating at home!
The whole of this level was ours.
As the apartment was 3/4 of the way up the hill that backed the Riva, our host kindly arranged to collect us from the bus station, located behind St. Stephens square. The old town is car free beyond that point. At other times we climbed the route via lanes from the port taking 10 to 15 minutes each way. The shops made for an interesting walk on the way up and we varied the lanes we took on the way down. When it was time to leave, our host dropped us back the bus station from where we migrated to BB’s to await the ferry.
Camping Hvar Island
Just 1.5 km along from the quaint town of Jelsa, a picturesque seaside road leads to Camp Grebišće. It’s nestled amongst the pine trees and fronts onto an excellent bay for swimming and sun-baking. A bus connects Jelsa to Stari grad and Hvar town but it would be best to have your own vehicle.
Best Beaches on Hvar Island
Pokonji dol beach
A rough gravel track led from our Hvar Town hilltop, down through naturally treed slopes to Pokonji dol beach (also known as Mustačo Beach or Hvar Island Beach), a popular swimming spot. I’ve created a map below to show exactly how to get there on foot and by car.
The water was incredibly clear but the Hvar sea temperature was quite cold for us. After warming our post swim bodies on a rocky ledge we adjourned to Mustačo bar and surveyed the beach scene with our toes rattling the pebbles.
Croatian beaches are just so civilised!
Mustačo has a reputation for cocktails and good food and the out of the way position is inviting. We noticed that both the beach and water were clear of rubbish.
A Hvar Beach Bar – Mustaco.
Map of Hvar Island
How to get from Hvar Town to Mustačo Beach
Following Ivana Vučetića (road) back from Mustaco Beach to Hvar Town
From the bay it is a pleasant half an hour walk via beach road Ivana Vučetića, to Hvar Town. Pokonji Dol Island, one of the islands near Hvar, is quite close and Ivana Vučetića passes beneath windswept trees, with wildflowers and cacti providing patches of colour. It is an enjoyable excursion.
The small boat harbour on Put Križa, south of the Riva, is stunning at sunset.
The Fransiscan Monastery of St. Mary of Grace on Put Križa, was a 15th century retreat for sailors and today their collection of artefacts is the oldest on the Island.
We enjoyed this town/beach/town walk three times. On the first two occasions we mis-timed the sunset, but on the third we nailed it. I spent quite some time capturing the sunset through different features on the shore-line.
More Hvar Island Beaches
Of course there are more beaches and many of them considered better than my favourite Mustaco. To begin with there is Dubovica Beach near Stari grad with it’s attractive stone buildings, but there is another…
If we return to Hvar I’ve earmarked one of Hvars hidden beaches, Lučišća beach near Sveta Nedjelja. It can be accessed by car, with a bit of a walk or by boat. The stories of seafood lunches of risotto and lobster in one of two restaurants with an underground wine cellar and underwater window, vineyards, olive groves, pine forests and crystal blue water, are what attracts me to this pebble beach.
St. Stephen’s Church and Square
The Church sits at the eastern end of the large and beautiful 4,500 sq.m. town square. As with Piran’s Tartini Sauare, St. Stephen’s square was once part of the harbour, being filled in 1449 and paved in 1780.
The garlands were to celebrate the ordination of a local boy into the priesthood. Although the square is quiet in the morning, it starts to bustle when the ferries arrive.
Surrounded by restaurants in the square today, this Water Well, built in 1520 is topped with a gorgeous wrought iron cover (1780).
Climbing the stairs leading from the back of the old town to a fortress atop the 100m high hill is the most popular of things to do in Hvar Island.
The restored fortress has led many lives and wows with views of the town, ocean and islands. Building started in 1282 funded from the salt sales of the city.
A gentle zig-zag path takes over where the stairs leave off.
In the 14th Century Spanish engineers became involved in the construction, creating the nickname of Spanjola. In 1571 the walls of Spanjola provided refuge (from Turkish invaders) for the whole town.
An un-named church along the fortress path.
Along with other Croatian fortresses we’ve met, Spanjola suffered the injustice of becoming a disco venue. But that is in the past with the rejuvenated cannons, bastions and battlements now being a major tourist attraction.
A visit to the fort is a pleasant way to while away a few hours in Hvar Town.
Hvar Town Loggia
The fortress and Loggia by night from Riva. The 16th Century loggia is the building with the arched colonnades. First built in 1289 the loggia was destroyed by the Turks at the end of the 16th Century. The beautiful rebuilt loggia is now used as Reception Rooms for the Hotel Deluxe and the town of Hvar.
Benedictine Monastery Chapel
Motto of the order of Benedictine Monks – Ora et Labora – Pray and Work
The Benedictine Nuns of Hvar Town were the Island’s first educators, 1826 to 1866, and then in the mid-nineteenth century turned their hand to making lace from Agave Plants (a recognised Unesco heritage). The monastery is a museum today featuring lacework made by the Nuns from Agave.
Follow the Coastal Path to the Beach Bars
Across the harbour from the Riva, follow the coastline, passing many Hvar bars, restaurants, and beach clubs. The clubs could be seaside dancing decks like Hula Hula or luxurious affairs like the white collonaded Bonj les Bains beach club below a popular place of weddings in Hvar.
Hvar is expensive by Croatian standards, but by eating two meals a day at home we kept expenses to a minimum. When travelling around the island we used public buses. Our Airbnb apartment cost $305 AUD for four nights.
Hvar Fortress Entrance Fees: 30 kuna adults and 15 kuna children
BB Club Breakfast: Classy with views. Coffee, Brekfast Orange Juice, Croissant approx 50 kuna
Hello 2 Cafe at Town Market: Affordable Take-Away and eat in. 10 cevapci with pita approx. 50 kuna
Self-Catering supplies. There is a large supermarket in Hvar Town close by the market. You can find the full list of supermarkets here. Vegetables are very affordable at the daily market as are chicken and pork from the nearby butcher.
It is true that Hvar Town is a glamorous party town where you can throw money around like confetti, but it is also a place to enjoy an inexpensive relaxing holiday. The key is to be a little off-season and book self-catering accommodation well in advance. Another lovely place to stay on Hvar Island is Hvar Stari grad where the car ferry from Split arrives. Most people believe Stari grad is the cheaper accommodation option but we found a beautiful and affordable Airbnb apartment in Hvar Town.
Hvar restaurants are sprinkled all-over the waterfront areas. I always like to take a step away from the waterfront when looking for a restaurant and recommend Passarola. The restaurant is quite near Hello 2 Cafe but with far different cuisine. It has the superb Ston Oysters from the mainland, my favourite seafood based menu and beef steaks on the grill.
Hvar or Vis.
These two islands are both accessible from Split and are only 30 minutes apart via the Krilo fast ferry. We stayed on both and thoroughly enjoyed them both. Hvar is busier with more tourist infrastructure. Vis is more laid-back and off-grid. We enjoyed Vis because we rented a yellow convertible and drove all over the island. We did not do this on Hvar so didn’t see as much of the island. If you like party time and action choose Hvar, if you prefer exploring out of the way beaches and relaxing in restaurants and port-side bars choose Vis. Ideally visit both!
When to Visit
We timed our visit for mid to late June. This is just before peak season of July/August. Although used to swimming in warm water, I found Hvar’s water temperature to be chilly but bearable. Maybe in early September the water would retain some of July/August’s heat, but the crowds would be gone.
June is a great month to visit because the Spring flowers will be out and the Lavender Festival is on. September, after the peak season rush, is another lovely time to be in Hvar.
If you want to party the night away and have temperatures over 30 degrees C then July/August is the time for your visit.