The tag of one of the 10 most beautiful islands sits well on Hvar. Its relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle, cultural heritage, delicious local cuisine and fine wines all make it a winner for a vacation of a lifetime for both couples and families. And despite its reputation as a party town, we found that there are many hings to do in Hvar for families. So, if you are wondering about what to do in Hvar Croatia, consider that the island offers a lot more than just being a party island.
We experienced this picturesque island by car, with a luxury stay at a boutique hotel with its private beach. What I remember most are the panoramic views overlooking the Adriatic Sea, cycling and diving adventures on the island, and good restaurants in Hvar town. Even with some sightseeing in Hvar, it turned out to be one of the most relaxing stays on our two-week trip to Croatia. Read my Hvar Travel Guide to know about the best things to do on this lovely island.
Best time to visit Hvar
July and August are the peak season to visit Croatia. Hvar Island has a pleasant climate, with warm and dry summers and cool winters.
The best time to visit Hvar is from June through October. But do note that Hvar during summer months is crowded and hotels are expensive. The rich and famous are in Hvar town mainly. You can choose to stay in choose Vrboska, Stari Grad, or Jelsa for a more laid back experience in summer.
If you wish to enjoy Hvar without the crowds, visit in the shoulder season: May or September.
Hvar sightseeing is enjoyable since the island gets a large number of hours of sunshine (more than 2500 hours per year), which gives it its nickname of Sunny Hvar.
History of Hvar town
In 1420, Venice took proper control of Hvar island and, as it was often used as a stopping point for ships sailing between Venice and the rest of the Mediterranean. The island prospered under this rule, so much so that Hvar town became the richest area in Dalmatia.
Austrian, French and Italian rule happened subsequently, and then it became a part of Yugoslavia in 1922 until Croatia declared its independence in 1991.
How to reach Hvar Island
Hvar Island is located in central Dalmatia, off the coast of Makarska Riviera on the mainland. Split and Dubrovnik airports are the closest airports to Hvar island. There are few boat companies operating between Hvar Island and the mainland. Jadrolinija is a large national carrier, operating on almost all islands’ routes. Jadrolinija offers a direct, year-round ferry from Split to Hvar Town. It is a pretty quick ride, taking only about an hour to arrive in Hvar Town.
Kapetan Luka is a small regional carrier serving Split, Hvar, Korcula, Mljet, and Dubrovnik with its fast catamarans. Getting to Hvar from Dubrovnik is simple during the high season, as it serves as one of the main gateways to the island. The best way to reach Hvar is by hopping on one of the many catamarans that run daily between Hvar and Dubrovnik.
Drvenik, near Makarska, is a great location to reach Hvar from. This ferry crossing is the shortest of all three as it takes only 30 minutes to reach Sućuraj, on Hvar.
Getting around on the island
Hvar is known for 4 main towns – Hvar town, Stari Grad, Jelsa, and Vrboska. Hvar Town is convenient since it offers many hotels and restaurants across budgets. It is also the place where the ferry from the mainland or other Croatian islands come to.
The most convenient way to travel around the island is by car, or by scooter. The main island’s road D116 runs from Hvar Town to Sucuraj and connects all major towns on the island, like Stari Grad, Jelsa, and Vrboska.
Things to do in Hvar
Hvar is famous for its sunny days, lavender fields, azure waters and nightlife. There is natural beauty and lovely beaches and hidden coves waiting to be discovered in Hvar. There is also history and culture on the island.
Hvar sightseeing offers a plethora of enjoyable activities on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. From exploring the Venetian architecture of Hvar Town to marveling at the stunning views from Fortica Fortress, you can get on boat tours to the nearby Pakleni Islands or indulge in wine tasting at local vineyards. Here are the 9 best things to do in Hvar.
Explore the island by car
We decided to rent a car in Hvar town to explore the island. My husband wanted to show me some of the sights that he had discovered during his cycling trip. You can opt to rent one of the colorful Beatles, a local on the island owns more than a 100 in all possible colours!
From Hvar town, we drove towards Milna. The drive had the same cliffs and scenic bays as we found in Makarska Riviera. When we passed the Pitve-Zavala tunnel to go to the north side, the scenery changed. We also viisited other towns like Jelsa and Vrboska on the island by car. I would highly recommend exploring this island by car as one of the best things to do in Hvar.
Visit Stari Grad and Stari Grad Plains
Stari grad is not only the oldest settlement on the island, but one of the oldest continuous settlements in all of Europe. Amble around the old town in Stari Grad to see ancient buildings.
The agricultural land in the Stari Grad plain is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This fertile agricultural land has been cultivated since ancient times. Spanning some 80 hectares and dating back 2400 years, Stari Grad Plain has been described as the largest and most productive field on the Adriatic coast, where little has changed since the Ancient Greeks introduced an agricultural colony.
On our car tour, we came upon the Stari Grad Plain. While Hvar is most popular for beaches and coastal towns, in recent years, there is a lot of interest in agritourism. In the right season, you can also see Lavender fields in Hvar.
Visit Jelsa and Vrboska
Jelsa also has a fascinating wine history and is even known as the island’s wine capital. On our trip to Jelsa, we went to Eis Caffe, recommended by a local. Run by an Albanian, it has become one of the must-do experiences in Jelsa town. We spent an enjoyable afternoon strolling through the main square and indulging in people-watching at Eis Caffe.
Then, we took the picturesque drive to Vrboska, the neighboring town with heavy Venetian influence. It is called ‘Little Venice’.
A visit to the Fortica in Hvar town
I cannot recommend a visit to this fortress enough. Even if you are uninterested in its history, the views looking down over Hvar and Pakleni islands are stunning. For the views, you don’t have to pay the entrance fee, you could just go to the side towards the sea (right to the entrance).
Dating from the 16th century, the Fortica represents the onetime main fortification of Hvar town, giving centuries of protection to the town and its port.
Construction of the present-day fortification began in 1282, on the decision of the municipality, when Hvar was under Venetian rule. It was built slowly, over many years, undergoing many adaptations, and was funded by the municipality, mostly from the proceeds of selling salt. Its elaborate ground plan, picturesque location and excellent state of preservation make it one of the finest fortifications on the Croatian coast.
Consider this guided walking tour of Hvar town.
What to do in Hvar: Cycling and Diving adventures
With its dramatic landscapes and quiet back roads, Hvar is a great cycling destination. My husband enjoyed an intense off-roading cycling experience with Hvar Adventure. This was an intense 4-hour off-road cycling experience but there are plenty of cycling tours offered on the island for the entire family.
Hvar also offers some diving centers, and it was here that I booked my first dive experience in the Adriatic Sea with Diving Center Viking. Don’t expect to see spectacular marine life like in the tropical islands but it was not a bad way to spend half a day.
These were both solo experiences, my daughter was happily playing on the private beach of our resort with one parent. There are several adventure activities like kayaking and cycling, which can be enjoyed together as a family on the island.
Beaches and Water activities
There are enough beaches and coves for swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and boating on the island. Dubovica Beach is a lovely cove with clear water perfect for snorkeling. The popular Pokonji Dol beach is located near Hvar Town and is considered one of the best beaches on the island.
The Skala Beach at Sveta Nedjelja is one of the most well-known beaches of Hvar. If you are headed towards Jelsa, check out the beautiful Prapatna Beach whiich is located in the north of the island.
Wine has been a major part of the island’s lifestyle. You can take a wine tour in Hvar. There are many half-day and full-day tours that take you through the fascinating history of wine production accompanied by a local expert. Browse through these tour options:
Sail to Pakleni Islands
Pakleni Islands are a beautiful archipelago off the coast of Hvar town. You can book a sailing tour to hop from one island to another, and relax, swim, sunbathe and snorkel.
Check out this sailing experience on a yacht from Hvar’s main port to Pakleni islands.
Nightlife and local cuisine
The island is famous for its nightlife, but that’s mostly located in Hvar town.
Hvar has many restaurants with superb Dalmatian dishes. Hvar does have a typical local dish that’s worth trying known as gregada. This modest fish stew is thought to be the oldest way of preparing fish in Dalmatia.
We ate a hearty meal at the highly recommended Dalmatino in Hvar town. Excellent fish and the aperitif they gave, to begin with, is to be tried for sure. Eis Caffe ice-cream and affogato, if you visit Jelsa, won’t leave you disappointed.
Boutique stay in the heart of the island
We took the Jadrolinjia ferry from Split to reach Hvar town. A staff person from our resort – Little Green Bay – was waiting for us to help arrange the taxi transfer to the resort.
The first impression of the resort and the secluded bay in which it is nestled is delightful. True to its name, very private, bohemian, and not entirely equipped for kids. But if you ask my daughter about the part she enjoyed most in Croatia, she would promptly respond – the 3 days spent in Little Green Bay 🙂
If you rather stay in Hvar town to have easy access to restaurants and sites, check hotel options here.
Croatia offers a stunning array of islands, each with its unique attractions. It becomes quite difficult to choose which islands to go to. The good news is that whichever one you choose would not disappoint you. We were happy with our choices – Hvar and Vis – as part of our two-week family holiday. For more options, check this post on some of the best islands in Croatia.
[This post was originally published in 2017, and later updated in 2023.]
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