Party island. Best nightlife in the Adriatic. One of Europe’s best summer party destinations. The new Ibiza. Before I went to Hvar, everything I read about the island said pretty much the same thing.
The party scene revolves around Hvar town, a tiny gem of a waterfront city founded by the ancient Greeks and Romans and tossed back and forth by the Venetian, Ottoman and Habsburg empires over the centuries.
From June to September, Hvar stays up till the wee hours, throbbing with throngs of partygoers from all over Europe.
It’s pretty. It’s worth seeing. But it wasn’t “our” Hvar.
We began our discovery of Hvar on the quieter side of the island. It was from the tiny harbor town of Jelsa (and our homebase at the lovely B&B, The Quaich) that we set off to leisurely explore, enjoy, and ultimately fall in love with “our” Hvar.
Our Hvar was slow late breakfasts at the big wooden table in the courtyard of The Quaich. Then, heading off for meandering drives through sun-dappled hills…
whose slopes were groaning with grapes ready for the harvest.
Our Hvar showed us a different face each day, because every day brought us to a different beach. Some had sharp shingles and crashing waves, like the beach at Milna…
while others offered placid, shallow waters and smooth, rounded white pebbles, like our favorite (child-friendly) beach at Skalinada.
Our Hvar was the pitch black of the old tunnel through the mountain, the only way to get across the island, roughly carved from stone and so narrow, cars had to take turns.
I’m claustrophobic and have a terrible fear of tunnels, so I had my heart in my teeth every time we had to make the mad dash through. But I was always rewarded for my bravery with a sparkling new find on the other side.
Our Hvar was made up of achingly lovely guesthouses like Konoba Vrsnik (below) tucked into tiny villages, so rustic and charming they almost seemed unreal…
where we were always welcomed with the warmest hospitality, not to mention the most delicious food and as much Croatian wine as we could drink.
Our Hvar was dotted with roadside stalls where locals sold produce from their own farms, and allowed us to sample homemade prosec (sweet dessert wine) from their own vineyards.
Our Hvar was sprinkled with abandoned stone houses that sparked fantasies of our own little B&B. I can’t tell you how close to we were to becoming owners of a crumbling wreck. For real. This island can do that to you!
Our Hvar wormed its way into our thoughts of the future: of sailing trips and leaping off cliffs into the sea with Tala when she’s older.
But our Hvar also made us content to just sit in the shallows with our daughter, and simply enjoy the now.
I’m not a traveler of habit. I never liked the idea of returning to the same place year after year for the annual summer holiday, when the world is so big and there are so many places to discover. But Hvar is the one place that might just change that.
Getting there and around: The Jadrolijnija fast catamaran or Kapetan Luka ferry sails to either Hvar Town or Jelsa. Buy tickets well in advance! To get around, hire a car from Gianni of Globus Tours in Jelsa.
Where to stay: We loved our stay at The Quaich, cozy self-catered apartments run by the friendly Mick and Chris, who have a wealth of information on Hvar. They even brought out a box of vintage toys for Tala!
Go explore! There are tons of tiny beaches, with varying levels of accessibility. Our favorite was the beach at Skalinada, a small resort with a restaurant, parking, spa, cocktail bar. Great for families!
The ancient towns of Stari Grad and Hvar are worth at least a day trip each. Be warned that food and drink in Hvar town is way more expensive than anywhere else on the island. Parking can be difficult in peak season.
We attempted a tasting at Winery Tomic in Jelsa, but Tala was just not having it that day. And next time, we’re definitely asking Mick to help us book a day out on a yacht.
Good to know: Something about Hvar throws GPS systems off, and 4G signal is spotty in many places. We ended up using an old-fashioned map (with a bit of Google Maps when we could) to navigate. It’s not that hard!