With its perfect location on the Adriatic Sea, and it’s beautifully warm Mediterranean climate, Croatia is fast becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe, and it’s in no small part thanks to its many islands, including Hvar.
Hvar Island is found just a short ferry ride away from the mainland, close to the city of Split, and it’s a place that’s a true microcosm of everything that’s made Croatia such an iconic European travel destination.
On Hvar, you can find the oldest towns in Croatia, where ramshackle medieval streets are watched over by the imposing walls and towers of fortresses built by the Venetians. Surrounding the island, you can find pristine, turquoise waters, and endless snorkelling and island hopping opportunities.
It’s one of Croatia’s best summer getaways, and to inspire your trip, here’s our ultimate travel guide to Hvar.
This ultimate travel guide to Hvar will show you all the most beautiful places in Hvar, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Hvar and things to do in Hvar which will help you in planning a trip to Hvar.
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How to get to Hvar
Found along the Dalmatian coast, Hvar Croatia is one of the largest of the many islands in the Adriatic Sea. The island is found to the south of the major city of Split, and south too of the islands of Brac and Solta.
If you’re flying into Croatia, then Split is the most convenient place to travel to in the first instance, as the city acts as the transport hub for the region. From Split, you can catch regular ferries and fast catamarans to Hvar’s Stari Grad, and to Hvar Town, the main entry points to the island.
You can also visit Hvar on island hopping trips from Split, especially in high season, as many tour companies offer packages that take you to the surrounding islands. It’s also possible to arrive by private yacht, and indeed, the infamous Yacht Week passes through here in the summertime.
If you’re visiting from Dubrovnik, while further away than Split, there are also ferries and catamarans plying the route to Hvar.
What to expect in Hvar
Hvar is a popular island destination, and you can expect it to be very touristy, especially given that it frequently makes the top ten lists of international travel publications when it comes to best islands in the world.
That means you can expect things to be more expensive than the mainland, but compared to other European destinations it can still be good value. There’s a wide range of hotels and restaurants, with many catering to higher-end customers, but at the same time, like most of Croatia’s historic destinations, Hvar still manages to retain its rustic, almost undeveloped feel, despite being thoroughly developed for tourism.
The main currency in use in Hvar is the Croatian Kuna, and you’ll find money changers and ATMs in the main tourist towns. The local language is Croatian, however, you’ll find that a lot of people living and working here speak English and other European languages to a high level too. It’s important to note that despite being in the European Union, Croatia has yet to join the Schengen Zone.
How to get around Hvar
Once you arrive by ferry into Hvar – generally, most sailings arrive in Hvar Town – then local buses are available to take you to your onward destination from the ferry port itself. The buses can take you to the island’s major tourist destination, namely, Hvar Town, Stari Grad and Jelsa. Be aware that these buses mostly start and end in Hvar Town, and you may find yourself popping into and out of this transport hub a lot if you are trying to visit lots of locations on the island.
Within the towns themselves, it’s simple enough to walk around and explore by foot, but just ensure that in summer you are prepared for the intense heat. Taxis are available, but they can be pricey, and a much more economical way to get around privately is to hire a car. Many travellers also choose to hire the relatively inexpensive, although much more hazardous, scooters and mopeds during their stay.
Island hopping tours and boat trips are another great way to see more of Hvar, and of the surrounding beaches, bays and islands.
The best time to visit Hvar
With its warm Mediterranean climate, Hvar has great weather all year round, however, the majority of visitors will arrive during the scorching hot summer. Temperatures are incredibly hot between May and September, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the beaches and to go swimming and snorkelling.
Peak season is incredibly busy though, and prices are much higher for accommodation and hotels. The streets can be packed and the beaches can be overflowing with tourists, while the ports are quite literally crammed with yachts. If you don’t mind the crowds, it’s a good time to meet other travellers and enjoy the sun.
Hvar is very much a summer destination though, and come October time, things start to close down for the off season. Businesses can close, while island hopping tours may stop completely. Ferries still run of course, because people live here all year round, but the schedules are nowhere near as frequent as high season and you’ll need more flexibility if travelling in the off season. You won’t be able to do or see as much in low season, but if you want to escape the crowds, it’s worth the extra effort.
Things to do in Hvar
Hvar Town is the largest ‘city’ on the island, although with a population of just over 3000 residents, it’s hardly huge. This is the main hub on the island, and you’re bound to pass through Hvar Town at some point even if you aren’t staying there.
From Hvar Town, you can sail across to the Pakleni Islands, and you can lounge on the surrounding beaches, without a care in the world. In Hvar Town, you can hike to the high walls of the Spanish Fortress, where not only will you learn about the island’s intense history of war and invasion, but you’ll have the best view of the city below.
Hula Hula Beach
While you’re on the island, one of the best things to do in Hvar Croatia is to visit the Hula Hula Beach, where you’ll find the eponymous Hula Hula Beach Bar, as well as some pristine scenery.
Located close to town, this is a popular beach, and in summer it’s busy but bustling and a great place to hang out and meet people. At the Hula Hula Beach Bar, the parties start in the day and go on well into the next morning.
Another great beach to visit on Hvar is Mekicevica Beach, which you’ll find is a quieter affair than the rowdy Hula Hula Beach. Set away from the town, here you’ll find a rugged coastline that’s undeveloped, aside from the odd restaurant, as well as beautifully clear water and a gorgeous beach.
Stari Grad translates into English as the ‘Old Town’ and this town on the northern shore of the island is in fact, often claimed to be the oldest town in Croatia. The town dates back to around 350 BC, when it was first settled by seafaring Greek tribes looking for new lands to colonize.
The town and much of the surrounding area are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of course, this is one of the most historic locations in Europe. In Stari Grad, there is much heritage to see, but the surrounding area is equally rich in history too. The Stari Grad Plain is a fantastic example of Greek agricultural works, and thousands of years later, the first farming system set up by those Greek settlers is still in use today by the local Croatians.
Another prominent town to visit in Hvar is the town of Jelsa. This charming port borders the eastern edge of the Stari Grad Plains and is found in beautiful surroundings, fringed by the Adriatic on one side, and Hvar’s tallest hills on the other.
Compared to Hvar Town and Stari Grad, you’ll often find that Jelsa can be much quieter, particularly in high season, but it’s certainly not less interesting to explore.
What to eat in Hvar
The cuisine that you’ll find in Hvar is very similar to the dishes that you’ll also find all along the Dalmatian coast. Given Hvar is an island, you can expect there to be a lot of seafood on the menu, and shellfish and octopus are a particular favourite
The climate ensures that herbs grow particularly well here, and dishes are rich in the likes of rosemary and parsley. If you can, try the Black Risotto, a risotto dish that’s coloured by the ink of a squid. Greagada is another great local dish, a hearty fish stew cooked in white wine and a plethora of herbs and spices.
Hvar is also well known for its lavender fields, and in season, you can indulge in a few slices of the delicious local dessert, lavender cake.
Where to stay in Hvar
If you’re wondering where to stay in Hvar, then don’t worry, because there’s a wide range of accommodation across the island. Just remember that in peak season though, it’s best to book in advance to avoid any disappointment, as you can’t underestimate just how busy this island can get in summer.
Budget – Budget travellers will find that the cheapest option is to camp, and there are several designated camping sites across Hvar Island that you can make use of, providing you have your own equipment. You’ll also find a few hostels in the towns, with the White Rabbit being a popular choice in Hvar Town, and The Shaka being known for its party vibes.
Midrange – With a surge in tourism, locals are making the most of the extra income opportunities, and mid-range travellers will want to check AirBnB listings for excellent value apartments across Hvar, which are often cheaper and more convenient than the hotels.
Luxury – The island has plenty of luxury offerings too and one of the best hotels in Hvar is the Little Green Bay Hvar. Located in a secluded bay, it’s pricey, but you get your own private speed boat to get around.
Tours to do in Hvar
Hvar’s wonderful Meditteranean climate has given the island a long history when it comes to wine production. Across Hvar, you’ll find several vineyards producing high-quality wines, and there are plenty offering tastings and tours. Even if you don’t leave the towns, you can enjoy tours and tastings in the local wine cellars too.
Croatia is a haven for yachts, and a great way to experience Hvar is to join a yacht tour. See the island from the ocean as you traverse the coastline and enjoy the splendid views and even better sunset from the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea.
The Pakleni Islands are found just off the coast of Hvar Town, stretching from the south-west of the island out into the Adriatic Sea. This small archipelago is one of the most beautiful, natural spots in Hvar, where you can find excellent snorkelling, crystal clear water and spectacular views. To see as much as possible, it’s best to arrange a day tour while in Hvar.
Day trips from Hvar
The most obvious day trip from Hvar is to Split, the main city on the mainland. Just an hour away by boat, you can explore the Roman ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, take in the splendour of Split’s fabulous harbour and dine out at excellent seafront restaurants and bars.
Located to the south-west of Hvar, the island of Vis makes for a fantastic day trip. This small island is a real charm to visit, but the highlight is always the Blue Cave, which is located on the nearby island of Bisevo and is usually included in the tours here.
Brac is the large island that’s found directly to the north of Hvar, and like Vis, it makes for a beautiful day trip. Take a boat or arrange a tour from Hvar, to see the spectacular coastline, indulge in the local wine and to see the ruins of ancient settlements.
Recommended tours in Hvar
- Blue and Green Cave Speedboat Small Group Tour from Hvar
- Hvar Wine Tasting Tour
- Blue Cave and Vis Island Day Trip from Hvar with Lunch and Wine Tasting
- Hvar Hidden Gems Half Day Tour with Lunch or Dinner
- Hvar Island Tour and Olive Oil Tasting
- Small-Group Sea Kayaking Adventure from Hvar Island to the Pakleni Islands
- Red rocks & Hells’ islands private getaway tour
- Hvar City Walking Tour
- Sunset sailing Hvar
- Chocolate and Wine Tasting Small-Group Tour from Hvar