So you have only 24 or 36 hours in Hvar, Croatia? No problem, I have the perfect itinerary for making the most of your day.
We visited Hvar for my 30th Birthday as part of a Croatia visit and I have to admit, was curious, but not super excited about what I thought would be a very “Girls Gone Wild” or Ibiza crowd. Hvar ended up exceeding my expectations in pretty much every regard.
7:45AM – Hurry Up and Wait
Get in line for the car ferry from Split to Hvar. Jadrolina (http://www.jadrolinija.hr/) is Croatia’s main ferry line and operates the only car ferry between Split and Hvar. During the peak summer months, later ferry can fill up fast, so get in early and queue up. I suggest the 8:30 ferry which is still fairly achievable. The employees who all appear to be bored teenagers who are more interested in their phones than directing traffic won’t be a big help. You may end up parked in a line next to another line with about 4 feet between them which somehow becomes the exit lane for the ferry. This is fine until trucks and tour busses start coming off. The car behind is scraped along the entire driver side by a tour bus that then curses at her, and drives off. Maybe you should just charter a private boat to Hvar.
8:30 – Depart like Beyonce
Now that you’ve waited patiently just to be crammed in between a fuel tank and the maintenance worker smoking next to it, head up to the lido deck of the ferry. There is no poll here, but at least you will have the same chances of grabbing a seat since people here take it as a God given right to be able to lay down across 3 or 4 seats while families with elderly grandmothers and small children stand, looking on helplessly, like that bat in Fern Gully as the bulldozers come. Try the stairwell, at least there is a breeze there.
10:30 – Arrive like Kanye
Finally the only painful part of Hvar is now done. You’ve now made it to Stari Grad, my favorite sounding Croatian town, and a fairly quick 15 minute drive to Hvar town. Don’t both looking for parking in the town, instead park in the big dirt lot which isn’t overly expensive. It’s about a 10 minute walk down to the waterfront.
11:00 – I’m a Boat Captain!
Rent a boat from Lukarent, the biggest and (relatively) most reputable agency along the water. You can book online, but may be told that without a boating license, you can only get a 5HP fishing boat. this is actually quite sufficient, but if you just go directly to them, you may be able to get a speed boat. Sadly punctuality isn’t their forte, and it could take 30 minutes for the boat worker to bring the boat around, but results may vary. He will then give you a great quick instruction on piloting the boat which is fairly easy due to the outboard motor. This is the perfect craft for exploring the coves and coastline of the islands. You can easily sneak in between the high part yachts and find a private cove for yourself for tying up or anchoring for swimming. Bring some beer from Hvar’s Konzum supermarket.
1:00 – Life is a Beach with Lunch
Pull up to the surprisingly upscale for a shanty Robinson, located at Robinson cove, a short boat ride down the coast from Hvar town. This restaurant can only be accessed by boat or on foot via a 30 minute walk from town. Order some of the grilled squid and take a swim on the private beach while it cooks. Or if you are terrible with a boat, crash into the pier, bounce of another boat, and then pretend that you meant to just anchor nearby in the cove so that the patrons stop staring at you. Don’t worry, they’ll soon forget when the nude sunbathers arrive at the next beach over.
2:00 – You do You
Find a private cove on the nearby Pakleni island, the big island visible from the harbor. Keep going longer than it seems like you should, past Carpe Diem and the Australians on yachts until it’s just you, the fishermen, and the sea gulls. Now you have your own private water to either anchor at or tie up to if you can find a suitable rock. A rock is suggested as climbing back on board can be tricky from the water. This is the time to enjoy your beer, take a dip, read your Kindle, and dodge dive bombing gulls who don’t appreciate your presence in their nesting habitats.
5:00 – Wine time
By now you are probably deeply sun burned or at least dehydrated from the sun and beer. The only remedy now is wine. You have two choices, wine cellar or wine alley. For the cellar, head over to the town of Jelsa, about a 20 minute drive past Stari Grad to the Tomic winery. Here you can have wine pairings or tastings in the wine cellar with huge vaulted ceilings and a very moody atmosphere. You may find the wine and atmosphere much better than the service, so you may want to try the other option. Wine alley is Prsuta 3 in Hvar town, on the alley with the best seafood in Hvar. don’t worry, you’re not leaving this area yet. The wine bar is attentively served by an expert in wine who missed his calling as a double for Matthew Mcconaghy. He even puts on Bruce Springsteen just for you if he finds out you from NJ. You will be amazed by the wine pouring technique that involves and extra glass, cork sniffing, and some good old fashioned panache. The wine selection is top notch and you can enjoy several local island wines and many from across Croatia. Just don’t be late to dinner.
7:00 – Eating with the Fishes
Now comes the part you’ve been waiting for, the number one reason to visit Hvar other than hoping to see Prince Harry, the seafood. On either end of the street are two incredible seafood restaurants owned by the same chef, Luna and Giaxa. Giaxa may have slightly better food and be a little more upscale, but Luna outshines it with incredibly friendly and attentive staff and an amazing roof terrace. Take the stairway to heaven as they call it up to the roof where your table awaits under the stars with a nice breeze. Reservations are suggested, so stop in before the wine stop to put your name in to ensure you can get outside. The entire menu is great, particularly the octopus salad with a little spice like Croatian Old Bay, but you should definitely go with the waiter’s suggestion as they know what is up. The catch of the day prepared in the traditional Croatian fisherman’s stew style can’t be beat. You even get to see your fish and perhaps give it a name first. The white wine and potato stew compliments the fish in a way that lets it still have a presence in the dish. Wine is also very affordable, and by now you probably have a favorite from the wine bar to order here.At Giaxa, the menu is quite similar, so again go with the octopus salad, served here as whole tentacles rather than slices, and the catch of the day. The frightening red scorpion fish is far tastier with vegetables than it looks and the “magical” fish they couldn’t think of the name for is always a crowd pleaser. The wine list is the same here, and you can’t really go wrong.
9:00 – Wine Again?
If you didn’t make it to the wine bar because of the winery, now is the time to try it. Otherwise, head back to round out the menu. You earned it! Try the Grk, the confusingly named wine after the Greeks who brought viniculture to the islands, or the Krk, which can only be assumed to be named after the Kraken, the enormous tentacled sea monster which destroyed the island of Atlantis.
11:00 – Explore Hvar
Now that the sun has made it’s blissful journey to bed, you can explore the town without sweating out all that wine. check out the harbor down to the Lutheran church which often does concerts, the main cathedral, and the old palace. The park on the esplanade past the harbor is also nice and turns into a night club around this time.
1:00 – Club Squad on Fleek
Or be in bed for 2 hours. The choice is yours and your alone. You can check out Carpe Diem in town now which should start picking up, Hula Hula which is even more crazy with spring breakers, or even take a boat out to Carpe Diem’s beach on the islands you toured earlier. The party doesn’t really even start until after midnight, so to make the most of your time, stay until 5:00am.
Sleep the Night Away
The Heritage Villa Apolon B&B in Stari Grad is an amazing hotel with great staff, and exceptionally comfortable rooms. The wifi and air conditioning are great and you even get a nice fresh cooked breakfast. Choose from several options like cold rolls or fresh eggs with bread and local jams. They’ll also give you a coffee pretty much any time you ask, so ask early and ask often. Parking is a little tricky as the hotel is on a pedestrian area, but street parking is ample day and night.