Island Hopping in Croatia: 2 Days on Hvar
Get ready for the time of your lives. In this post, I bring you to the island of Hvar for days filled with incredible caving and swimming adventures and even better fresh food.
In the summer, Hvar is an island resort that takes on a new life. People flock to this paradise in the middle of the Adriatic Sea for water adventure, great food, and long nights that don't end until the sun rises again.
To reach Hvar, you must take a ferry (an hour ferry from Split and four hours from Dubrovnik). Two full days and three nights on the island is the perfect amount of time to soak it all in. We were able to take a tour for a full day out on the Adriatic to visit other islands as well as explore the two main towns, Hvar Town and Stari Grad.
Follow along as I take you through our epic vacation, including my most favorite day of the trip, if not the best tour on which I've ever been (ok besides the luxury safari in South Africa for my honeymoon, but I'm not counting that as a tour per se). I still can't get over these photos. Take me back with you!
What to See by Day
Day 1: Out on the Adriatic
Hop on Ilirio's Three Cave Tour for a day on the Adriatic filled with caving, snorkeling, and island hopping.
Magical is really the only word to describe the best day of our trip. By 9am, we were out in the middle of the Adriatic cruising on an 8 passenger open speed boat. It felt like we were flying. All we could see were shades of blue as the water blended into the sky.
We spent the morning swimming in caves and jumping off cliffs. The water was the perfect respite from the hot Croatian sun.
The tour took us to three swimming spots on the island of Vis in the morning. The first, was the Green Cave. Ilirio's tour starts early, so you can get to the caves before the swarms of people arrive on day trips from Split.
We visited a secret cave where you had to swim under the water in order to access it. Yes, it was out of a James Bond film and so incredible.
Along the way, the skipper explained the history of the island of Vis. The island played an important role as a military zone due to its strategic location in the Adriatic. Vis just recently opened to tourism and its population remains under 5,000.
We had a long leisurely lunch at Porto on the island of Biševo...because the rest of the day was really so taxing. Can you believe these lunch views? We ate at a restaurant right on the beach. Make sure to grab a snorkel mask and venture out to the cave in the cove. The color of the water is simply spectacular and you'll see schools of fish!
We chose a fish right out of the case that had been caught that morning. It was one of the tastiest and flakiest white fish I have ever had! I wrote about this truly amazing experience over at Book Culinary Vacations. We also ordered squid and an out of this world octopus salad. Restaurant is cash only! Let's just say that we almost had to do dishes for our lunch. Don't make the same mistake.
After lunch, we visited the Blue Cave on Biševo. The water is mesmerizing neon blue. The cave has underwater bridges that look like you can reach in and touch them, but they're really 20 ft. below the surface. The cave gets its color from a small underwater opening that reflects sunlight off the white limestone of the cave. The light illuminates the whole cave. It's truly beautiful. Note that you can't swim in this cave and there are separate boats and guides that take you in.
After the Blue Cave, we went to Stiniva Cove for a swim. If you dare, try climbing the rope up to a cliff jump, but watch your feet because the rock wall up is very sharp. Then finally onto Komiza Village back on the island of Vis. It's the perfect final stop to grab a gelato before heading back to Hvar.
Day 2: Stari Grad and Exploring the Island
Take the bus in the morning to Stari Grad on the other side of the island and spend the afternoon on the beach.
+ Have breakfast at Vita Health before heading out for the day
Enjoy refreshing smoothies and light frozen yogurt for breakfast outside on the water.
+ Explore Hvar Town and hike up to the Hvar Fortress for incredible views
Walk to the Franciscan Monastery after breakfast. Then come back to the main square and admire St Stephen's Cathedral. Then head up the stairs through town to Hvar Fortress for incredible views of the town and Pakleni Islands in the distance. No need to pay to go into the Fortress itself.
+ Hike down and take the bus from Hvar Town to Stari Grad to enjoy a morning in the old town
You can purchase tickets on the bus. The ride takes about 30 minutes. Make sure to check the schedule and arrive 10 minutes before because sometimes the buses leave at will.
+ Explore the small streets of Stari Grad and stop at the cutest deli, Za Pod Zub
Most people head to Stari Grad at night, so enjoy the quiet of the other side of the island during the day. Wind through the streets of the oldest town in Croatia. Make your way to Za Pod Zub to sample truffles and maybe even purchase some as a souvenir...you bet we did.
+ Turn left onto the Riva to walk along the water
Stroll along the water. Stop at Lanterna Bruna for a drink and take a dip in the sea.
+ When you're done exploring, take a taxi to Gostionica Mala Milna for lunch and an afternoon at the beach
Our taxi driver told us about this amazing family run restaurant on the beach where they use vegetables grown in their garden. Take a late long lunch and then enjoy the beach. We found it difficult to find a taxi. There is a taxi stand in the center of town, but it was empty during the day. You can go around the corner and ask the Information Office to call one for you. Ask them before you get in the taxi about how much the ride will cost. Then, confirm with your driver. They don't use meters, but quote flat fares. Bonus, stay in the air conditioned office while you wait!
+ Ask the restaurant to call you a water taxi and head back to Hvar Town via the Sea
+ If you're so daring, head to Carpe Diem for an all night party in the woods on an island
Check out TBP Insider Tips below for more info on Carpe Diem.
Where and What to Eat
To say we were blown away by the food in Croatia, particularly on Hvar, is an understatement. We were so impressed by the freshness and quality of the ingredients. But really, there's nothing like freshly caught fish and Mediterranean cuisine.
> Dalmatino - the best restaurant on the island. We went two nights in a row. Make sure to contact before you go and put your name on the list. If you're not on the list, you won't get in. It was quite the scene watching crowds of people walk away in disappointment. Once you get to the restaurant, give the host your name and tell them you're on the list. Then head to the bar next door for a bottle of Croatian Rosé while you wait for your table. You must order the Carpaccio Eros (thinly sliced zucchini with capers and pistachios), Carpaccio Amor (thinly sliced octopus) and Tuna Tartar to start. For a main course, get the Gnocchi Istria (black gnocchi with black truffles). Need I say more? I almost forgot to mention the complementary apéritif (rogačica - carob brandy), digestif (travarica - sage liqueur), and dessert wine. Also, you get a 10% discount the second night if paying in cash.
> Gostionica Mala Milna - a family restaurant on a beautiful beach just outside Hvar Town. Unfortunately, we learned of Mala Milna too late, but our taxi driver said it's not to be missed. You can go for lunch and a beach day or go for dinner and watch the sunset. The owners use fresh vegetables from their garden.
> Vita Health Food Bar - great option for a light and healthy breakfast
Now in terms of foods and drinks you must try...
> Capers - they are HUGE and amazing
> Fresh fish and octopus - really anything will be phenomenal
> Truffles - they are native to Croatia from Istria in the north of the country. The government controls the prices, so you can actually afford them here.
Where to Stay
Stay close to Hvar Town, so you can easily walk into town. We stayed in this 2 bedroom George of the Jungle Airbnb, which was perfectly clean and in a great location. Our friends also recommended Vila Fio, but it's a short drive to town. We recommend using Airbnb or booking.com to find a lovely apartment.
TBP Insider Tips
> As I mentioned in the Dubrovnik post, you must have cash at all times because many restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions do not take cards. Forget cabs, they strictly only take cash.
> Most people take a Blue Cave tour from Split, but in my opinion, it is way too far. You are much better off taking Ilirio's from Hvar. This tour was our big splurge of the trip and boy was it worth it. The cost is 560 hrk per person (85 euro or $100). Make sure to book before you go.
> If you don't want to splurge on the tour, you can take a water taxi to one of the Pakleni Islands for a day on the beach. Just make sure to specify to your driver that you don't want one of the nude beaches...unless you do. You could also take a taxi to Dubovica, one of the prettiest beaches on the island.
> Don't worry about sea sickness on the large ferries between islands or the speed boats. Both Jen and I are very susceptible to motion sickness, but the water is so calm that you barely feel like you're moving. If you don't believe us, you can buy ginger pills at the pharmacy if you didn't bring Dramamine.
> If needed, you can store luggage for 35 hrk (5 euro/USD) at Fontana Tours. It was the best rate we found near the ferry port.
> We didn't make it to Hula Hula Hvar or Carpe Diem. These are the party beach clubs. Instead of Dubovica, you could head to Hula Hula or Carpe Diem for an afternoon. We wish we had one more night on Hvar to go to the night party at Carpe Diem. It doesn't open until after midnight. A boat picks you up from outside Carpe Diem, the bar on Hvar, and takes you to one of the Pakleni Islands for a night of partying on the beach. Please go and bring back stories...
> It's acceptable (and preferred) to wear a bathing suit around all day because you'll never know when you'll find a great beach. That being said, it's a good idea to travel with a backpack, so you can carry around a towel. Don't forget your sunscreen and a hat! The sun is brutal in the summer.
> I would suggest spending 3 nights on Hvar, so you can have one night of true partying. You won't want to stay out late the night before the full day boat tour and you may be too tired that night. You can easily spend a third night and then head to Split mid-morning after you've had time to sleep off your hangover.
> If you're into water sports, there is great tubing! Or at least that's what the kids from our full day tour told us.
> If you'd like another island, our friends recommended spending a night in the town of Bol on Brač (next to Hvar). We also mentioned Korčula in our Dubrovnik post. You could spend a night there on your way to Hvar from Dubrovnik.
Again, special thanks to Jen Kozin at Fly Photography for her contributions.