Friday, September 17, 2021

Be charmed by Hvar, the glamorous Croatian island of your dream

Sailboats at sunset behind red tiled roofs

Hvar is a see and be seen kind of island. The sort of place an Instagram influencer would kill to visit, filled to the brim with luxurious yachts and gorgeous young girls teetering on high high heels as they navigate Hvar Town's stone streets. It was the first stop on my 2 week visit to Croatia and a perfect place to get over jet lag and enjoy some of Croatia's consistently sunny summer weather.

Years ago, I too would have crowded the island's famed beach clubs. But as a 40-something with two blissfully childfree weeks on my hands, I had something a bit tamer in mind. Our room at Heraclea Residential Apartments was a short walk away from the town's harbor, where gazillion dollar yachts lined the water's edge, but far enough away to be quiet. Daytimes were for sailing and visits to rocky beaches, and evenings were for dining al fresco in the town's charming alleyways and strolling around the harbor ice cream cone in hand. 

Sunset and crowds on Hvar Island
Sunset strolls in Hvar Town

Restaurant reservations were essential throughout our trip. We watched may a disappointed tourist be turned away from restaurants in each city we visited. Our first night we dined at Bunar, which had especially pleasant and helpful service. Like everywhere in Hvar, it was priced at what I'd consider to be American big city prices, so don't go in expecting Central European bargains. After dinner ice cream at the popular L'amor per il gelato came with a long line, and while good, we found other places in town to be just as good with a lower price tag and shorter wait.

We spent our first full day visiting Pokonji dol Beach, a 20 minute walk from Hvar Town. Despite our best efforts to avoid the route that led to a steep final path down to the sea, we still ended up on it. We looked down at the rocky path down to the beach with concerns for our poor ankles, but we managed to navigate it unscathed. It's not for the faint of heart, and I definitely recommend sturdy shoes and not just flip flops. You'll need those anyway because like nearly all Croatian beaches, this one is rocky. 

View of a crowded pebbly beach in Croatia
The top of a very steep rocky path down to Hvar's Pokonji dol Beach

We were able to rent two comfortable chairs and umbrella for 190 kuna and settled in for people watching. I will long remember the motley crew next to us who chowed down on corn on the cob throughout their beach day! No concrete slab or rocky stretch of coast is too inhospitable to the Croatian sun-worshipers, so you will see people set up for the day on every available surface near water.

Rocky beach with umbrellas and sunbathers in Hvar, Croatia
The rocks don't stop sunbathers at Hvar's Pokonji dol Beach

That afternoon, we enjoyed a wine tasting tour that brought us to Caric Winery and Plancic Winery. The tour of course came with a variety of delicious local wines and local meats and cheeses, but also was a great opportunity to meet some other travelers, and we enjoyed our evening getting to know our Dutch companions. Pharos Opol, a light and bright rose from Plancic was a particular favorite of the day. We had enough to nibble on throughout that we skipped a formal dinner afterwards and instead headed back into Hvar Town for mojitos at one of the many bustling bars.

People on a pebbly beach by the sea in Croatia's Pakleni Islands
No beach is too rocky for Croatians. Here they enjoy a sliver of rocky shores in the Pakleni Islands

The following day we headed to the seas with Hvar Adventure Agency for a day of cruising the Pakleni Islands. The sunbaked islands near Hvar are scrubby and rocky but charming, reminding me of Greek Islands near Athens, such as Hydra and Poros. With a warm breeze and free flowing white Croatian wine, the day of sailing was a delight. 

We anchored in quiet coves and swam in the salty Adriatic, which was perfect for floating with very little actual swimming required to stay afloat. Our skipper offered snorkel gear, but we found there wasn't much to see in the waters of Croatia. It was enough to just enjoy cooling off and jumping from the boat. A brief pitstop on Palmi┼żana allowed for a relaxing lunch at Bacchus overlooking another pebbly beach. A perfectly prepared red snapper, a salad, and two drinks ran us around $100 USD. 

That evening, we dined at Dalmatino, where we splurged on Gnocchi Istria, a black gnocchi with truffles and shrimp,  and well prepared steaks, again with Croatian truffles. It was one of the fancier meals of our 2 week stay, but I thought worth the high price tag in terms of both food quality and service.

Pink sunset, boats, and skyline in Hvar, Croatia
Hvar's harbor is full of high dollar yachts

The pretty young things in Hvar really are glorious to behold, and there is plenty of over-the-top fashion to keep people watchers busy for hours. After dinner, those not heading off to clubs like Hula Hula have cocktails at waterside bars or simply stroll around. We would end each evening with an ice cream as we sat on a bench taking it all in. We departed on a morning ferry to Korcula on our 3rd morning in Croatia and felt like 3 nights was the perfect amount of time to enjoy this glamorous little slice of Adriatic heaven. 

Want to plan your own trip to Hvar or elsewhere in Croatia? Jayway Travel arranged our entire 2-week trip and made the entire process so easy. They helped us choose and book everything we did including all hotels, tours, restaurant reservations, ferry tickets and private transfers, based on our preferences. More to come on the rest of our trip in future articles, but suffice it to say that if you want to plan a trip to Croatia (or elsewhere in Central or Western Europe), working with Jayway is a life-saver.

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