After six weeks of non-stop go go go travel I needed somewhere to unwind and relax for a few days and Hvar seemed ideal. With only 11,000 inhabitants, Hvar is an island off the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia in the Adriatic Sea. Surrounded by azure waters, the picturesque town of Hvar is watched over by the 16th century fortress while luxury yachts and party boats moor in the habour for the night.
It is this contrast between the jet setters and the budget backpackers that make Hvar a great place to relax during the day and party at night. The town and surrounding beaches tend to be sleepy during the day, with most bars closed and the harbour empty of any of the larger vessels. Come late afternoon and the stream of Sail Croatia party boats start coming in, each carrying young, mostly drunk (mostly Australian) backpackers from port to port, where they party hard before their boat leaves at 5am the next morning. Next to these boats, and at the other end of the scale, are the luxury yachts, which those of us on shore could only dream about owning, or even renting!
During the hot days there are a number of beaches around the coastline, or you can simply swim off the rocks to cool down. Paddle boards are available for hire, along with small motor boats if you want to explore further along the coast. At many of the beaches and bays you can hire anything from budget plastic sunbeds to luxurious sun loungers, all of them better than laying on the pebbly ground.
A walk up to the 16th century fortress is a great way to spend a late afternoon, and the best spot in my opinion to stop and watch the sunset. The fortress looks over the whole town from above, with many different look out vantage points, and a lovely little café selling ice cream for the hot and weary (and hungry). There’s also a very small but interesting exhibition with objects found from two shipwrecks in the area.
After sunset the bars begin to fill up and the party starts. The younger Sail Croatia crowd head to the bars sitting on the harbour’s edge, who give away free shots to entice the revellers. They pump out the latest hits and stay open until about 2am. In the many alleyways leading off the main square you’ll find funkier and less crowded cocktail and wine bars. I had some fun nights in each, and will never forget watching a young Canadian guy being led astray by an Australian girl (not me!) who managed to convince him that she was staying on one of the luxury yachts. The look on his face while they were being escorted off, after having completed a full tour of the yacht, was priceless!! Even funnier, his friend who I was sitting watching with was filming the whole thing, and posted to Facebook. A night he won’t forget (or remember) in a hurry.
After a few days I decided to get off the island for a bit of adventure, and joined a speed boat tour with my new Canadian friend and dorm mate Maude. The boat would take us to visit the green and blue caves and several beaches and coves on the nearby island of Vis. Out on the open water we bounced hard over the swell and Maude was constantly hit in the face with large waves of water. It was an awesome ride between laughing uncontrollably and singing the Pina Colada song.
A visit to the blue cave is best done between 11am and 12pm, when the light is the best and as the wind and the swell picks up later in the afternoon which makes the entry to the cave impassable for boats. We transferred to a smaller boat, a large dingy that held about 16 people, and headed around to the cave entrance. At first I thought it was a joke. The entrance was a tiny hole in the side of a rocky cliff, with swelling water seemingly covering the whole entrance at times. How the hell was the boat, with us in it, going to fit through that!!?? As we got closer our boat driver suddenly yelled for us all to crouch in the centre of the boat. We all squished in close but he yelled again, more urgently, “get in the middle and heads down, down DOWN FURTHER!”. Eeekk!. I got down low and pushed my head down with my hand as far as I could, when all of a sudden it was dark and we were in the cave. Phew! Nobody lost the top of their head.
Inside the cave the water shone a luminous blue, a phenomenon caused by a small opening in the roof of the cave where sunlight streams through. It is very similar to the Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri in Italy, which I visited over 15 years ago.
We stopped at several other places on our speedboat tour including a secluded beach which we had entirely to ourselves, a small cove were we hopped straight from the boat into the water (but had a damn hard time getting back on the boat), a large bay where we drank cocktails at a bar perched on the rocks, and the green cave, larger than the blue cave but where the green is not as iridescent as the blue.
Getting to Hvar is easy, with ferries leaving the harbour in Split fairly regularly. I arrived on a bus from Zagreb at about 12pm and managed to get a ferry ticket for the 3pm departure, leaving some time to grab some lunch and see a little of Split. There are plenty of luggage storage places at the train/bus station. My speedboat tour was with Primi Boats, the best in town!