Croatia is so enchanting, it lured us back for a fourth visit!
This time, we spoiled ourselves with a slow-travel journey along the Dalmatian Coast.
We made a point of including the island of Hvar in our Croatia itinerary.
Croatia is full of coastal gems.
But Hvar is one of the most popular Croatian islands – and for good reason. Nestled in the Adriatic Sea, it beguiles travelers with its clear turquoise waters, fairy-tale architecture and vibrant Mediterranean buzz.
There’s a long list of places to see in Hvar, whether you prefer a full day of sightseeing or a leisurely afternoon of wine tasting and beach hopping.
During our visit, we immersed ourselves in the heart of it all, staying in Hvar Town. One of Croatia’s prettiest beach towns, it’s an ideal base for exploring the top activities on Hvar.
In this guide, we cover our favorite things to do in Hvar. We highlight the best beaches, historic sites, day trips and outdoor excursions.
Take it from us. Any Croatia trip must include Hvar!
Best things to do in Hvar, Croatia
1) Hike up to the City Fortress (Spanish Fortress)
From the harbor, follow the signs through the Old Town streets and up the stairs to the city’s old citadel.
The Venetians built the imposing fort, completed around the middle of the 16th century. But Spanish engineers worked on it, so it’s called the Spanish Fortress or Fortica (Tvrdava Spanjola).
You’ll walk up through winding backstreets, floral botanical gardens and a Mediterranean herb garden scented by pines, cypress, sage, mint and lavender.
Every slightly sweaty step is worth it once you reach the top.
The views you get of Hvar and the Pakleni Islands are extraordinary.
2) Check out St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a top thing to do in Hvar if you’re a history buff. Located in the heart of the city, it was built in 1605 on the site of an earlier 9th-century church.
Set directly in Hvar’s main square (Hvarska pjaca), this landmark was once one of the most important public places on the island.
Marvel at the details of the cathedral’s imposing Renaissance facade, which includes a towering 17th-century belltower. Inside, you can see the vaulted ceilings, Baroque altars and 15th-century wooden choir stalls.
3) Admire the tiny Hvar Theater
Considered a hidden gem of Hvar attractions, the Hvar Theater showcases Croatia’s cultural heritage through a mix of history and art.
Dating back to the early 17th century, this historic venue oozes old-world charm with its beautiful Baroque architecture.
Inside the theater, you can learn all about its rich history and see original elements that still stand. Make sure to stop and admire the preserved frescoes on its walls dating back to 1819 and memorabilia on display from past performances.
What makes it so special?
It was actually the first public theater in Europe.
It was open to citizens of all backgrounds and social standing (unheard of elsewhere at the time). Everyone – from fishermen and peasants to nobility and the rich – attended this theater, and it operated for an impressive 400 years.
You don’t have to be a theater enthusiast to appreciate this cultural landmark!
4) Chill at Mlini Beach (Pakleni Islands)
Known for their dazzling emerald waters and come-hither beaches, the protected Pakleni Islands are a 30-minute boat ride from Hvar Town.
Three of them make popular day trips from Hvar in the summer season. (They’re the only ones with any buildings or facilities.)
Mlini Beach, on the islet of Marinkovac, is one of the best beaches near Hvar (and one of our personal favorites).
It’s the quietest in the area, with plenty of natural shade from pine trees and a few restaurants.
A sign on the islet says this is a “quiet beach” and that if you want to party, go elsewhere.
To make it even more idyllic, rent an oversized daybed with gauzy curtains floating in the salty air.
It’s paradise found – and visiting the Pakleni Islands is simply one of the top things to do in Hvar.
Pro tip: Take a public water taxi boat from Hvar Town. They leave at 10:00 am, 11:00 am and 12 noon, then return hourly between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
5) Have a fancy seafood lunch at Palmizana Beach
On Sveti Klement (another Pakleni Island), Palmizana Beach beckons with high-end seafood lunches and a champagne vibe.
Get there early, though, if you want a daybed. They’re a hot (and scarce) commodity.
The deep narrow cove has a sandy bottom, so swimming in the warm green water is a treat.
Palmizana Beach is mostly a place for a fancy lunch and a swim.
There’s no natural shade. So if you don’t snag a beach chair and umbrella, it’s not very comfortable for extended lazing about.
If you’d prefer to chill on a calm beach without all the glitz and glam – but with lots of beach chair rentals and plenty of natural shade – Mlini (#4) is a better option.
6) Swim at Pokonji Dol Beach
There’s no shortage of great beaches in Hvar. Not sand beaches, but picturesque pebble beaches.
One of Hvar’s most beautiful beaches is Pokonji Dol Beach. Walk south from Hvar Old Town for 30 minutes, and you’ll reach it. It’s a lovely pine-shaded coastal walk, past grand white villas.
Pokonji Dol has a couple of beach bars and restaurants where you can rent sun beds to melt into while listening to the waves.
Or take a rolled-up beach mat that you can buy in town for a song (like we did) to lay out on the pebble beach.
(Another beach, Bonj Beach, is closer to Hvar Town – to the west – but we preferred Pokonji Dol.)
7) Walk to Robinson Beach
If you want to get away from it all, keep walking along the same coast, past Pokonji Dol, to Robinson Beach (also a pebble beach).
And as the name hints, you’ll get that Robinson Crusoe vibe.
The Robinson Trail is one of the best hikes in Hvar.
It’s really a level coastal walk, shaded by pine trees much of the way. You can do in in hiking sandals. From Hvar Town, it takes about an hour.
Don’t feel like walking there? Catch a water taxi.
We jumped on one that the Robinson restaurant has going from Hvar Town’s harbor a couple of times in the morning. (We walked back on the trail. But you could also return on the little water taxi that goes back to Hvar Town late in the afternoon.)
No matter how you get to Robinson Beach, rent a sunbed for 60 kunas (about $8 USD), a bargain compared to most rentals elsewhere at 100 kunas ($13). And order lunch at the restaurant.
Yes, the lunch is a bit spendy but worth it. And while you’re waiting for your freshly caught seafood to be grilled, you can splash about in the bath-like waters of the Adriatic Sea.
For beach babes (that’s us!), Robinson Beach is one of the best places to go in Hvar.
8) Go wine tasting
While the neighboring island of Korcula is known for its white Grk grapes, Hvar is known for its reds. In particular, Hvar is a good place to try wines made from the Plavac Mali grape variety, which is derived from Zinfandel.
At the winery, we tried six local wines while sitting on the terrace. They included two unique orange wines, which taste somewhat like rosé wine.
The wines were paired with tasty tomato bruschetta, cheese, sausage and some homemade jam made by the owner’s grandmother’s.
On the drive back to Hvar Town, we explored two local villages, Velo Grablje and Malo Grablje (see below).
9) Wander the abandoned village of Malo Grablje
Until the 1990s, Hvar’s economy was all about lavender production.
But then, great fires wiped out almost all of Hvar’s lavender fields. This left the locals with no work. They had no choice but to leave, turning Malo Grablje into a ghost town.
Today, one of the most fascinating things to do on Hvar Island is to explore this abandoned stone village for a few hours. Try your hand at pulling up buckets of water from the village cistern, once used for collecting rain water.
Then eat dinner at the rustic and very romantic Konoba Stori Konim.
It’s a traditional candle-lit restaurant in Malo Grablje, where everything is organic and locally grown. (Make reservations, as it’s the only business that operates in the otherwise empty village.)
10) Visit Jelsa
Sitting on the north coast of Hvar, Jelsa is an underrated seaside destination.
Its picturesque waterfront is the town’s centerpiece, offering stunning views over the harbor. Dotted with lively cafés and restaurants serving local Croatian cuisines, it’s made for wandering.
You can also explore Jelsa’s medieval core, with its charming cobblestone streets and Renaissance architecture.
The town is pleasantly compact. The main square is a good starting point for venturing off to see the town’s historic churches and buildings.
Jelsa is also known for its array of unspoiled coves and beaches.
In the summer months, Mina beach is a popular spot for families with kids, while nearby Vitarnja beach has a rocky shoreline, lapped by the turquoise sea.
11) Marvel at the Blue and Green Caves
The Blue Cave is a natural sea cave where everything is illuminated in an astonishing shade of aquamarine.
Its brilliance makes you wonder whether someone is adding dye behind the scenes. It’s that blue.
However, it really is a natural phenomenon created by how the light is reflected through an underwater entrance in the cave.
No matter, the Blue Cave is something to see.
The nearby Green Cave got its name from light shining through a fissure in the top of the cave. As the beam of light hits the water, it’s reflected off the algae-covered bottom, which creates a bright green glow in the crystal-clear waters.
Unlike the Blue Cave, you can swim and snorkel here.
Check out this highly-rated boat tour which combines the Blue and Green Caves with the Pakleni Islands.
Or see this 5-star-rated speedboat tour from Hvar to view the Blue Cave, Green Cave, Vis Island, Palmizana Beach (on the Pakleni Islands) and more.
12) Have sunset cocktails at Hula Hula Hvar
After all your beach hopping and cave exploring, it’s time for a party. And Hula Hula Hvar is where the party is at.
Hvar has a reputation to uphold, and this place knows what it’s doing.
From its DJs and cocktail list to the food menu, you won’t have to leave once you plant yourself on the sunbed. Dance under the Croatian sun until the moon rises high in the sky.
Or just go for sunset cocktails. The Hula Hula beach bar occupies prime sunset-viewing real estate.
13) Go on a day trip to Split
Most people visit Hvar from Split.
But if Split isn’t part of your Croatia trip, then consider doing a day trip from Hvar to Split. You won’t regret it.
Split is renowned for its UNESCO-listed Diocletian’s Palace, which is widely considered one of the most impressive Roman ruins. The 1,700-year-old palace forms the heart of the Old Town and includes over 200 buildings.
After you wander around inside the huge Palace’s imposing walls, exit and climb to the top of Marjan Hill for panoramic views of the coastline.
Prefer not to hike up the 584-foot-high hill?
Go for a leisurely sea-side stroll along the bustling Riva promenade. Then take a seat at a café and watch the world go by.
See our guide on must-do activities in Split for more information.
14) Visit the small village of Milna
A 10-minute drive from Hvar Town takes you to Milna, a little gem of a village. It has a protected cove with two sandy beaches, separated by a pine forest.
There isn’t much to do, which is precisely why you go there. So, rent a sunbed, try all the scrumptious seafood restaurants and chill.
15) Explore Stari Grad
The oldest town on the island of Hvar, Stari Grad is the biggest town on the island after Hvar Town.
It’s very different from Hvar Town, with less of a party scene. And its laid-back ambience is made for exploring.
Start your visit to Stari Grad by wandering through the maze of narrow streets in the UNESCO-listed Old Town – where you’ll discover ancient stone buildings and narrow alleyways.
Hidden corners reveal souvenir shops, historic churches and the famous Skor Square.
Also stroll along Stari Grad’s waterfront promenade. Maybe stop for ice cream.
Afterwards, check out the Petra Hektorovic Tvrdalj Castle. This well-preserved Renaissance fortress is known for its beautiful courtyard and terrace.
You can also visit Stari Grad Plain. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its olive groves and vineyards, dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks.
Sun-seekers can take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of nearby beaches like Maslinica and Lanterna, while adventure enthusiasts can hike to the peak of Glavica Hill for 360-degree views over Stari Grad.
If you’re interested in a bicycle tour, this bicycling Hvar tour is a great option to see a lot from two wheels.
You’ll cycle into the heart of the Stari Grad Plains and through the quaint fishing village of Vrboska (see #17) and Jelsa (#10), before looping back to Stari Grad. The total distance is about 16½ miles.
After a day of sightseeing, savor local cuisine at one of the waterfront restaurants. Many of the menus feature fresh seafood, regional wines and traditional Croatian desserts.
16) Eat great food in Hvar Town
This family-owned fish restaurant in a residential location (about a 10-minute walk from the center of town) serves good food at reasonable prices.
We sat outside on the pleasant terrace, munching on fresh-baked bread with tuna paté and sipping their homemade wine while perusing the menu.
We ended up pointing to the fish we wanted that was on ice in a display case. Perfectly cooked on a grill, it was moist and tender, and served just the way we like it, with big fat French fries and a side of grilled veggies.
Warm crepes, sprinkled with icing sugar and topped with cherry jam, finished off our very pleasant meal at Lungomare.
This very casual place, with tables strung along a narrow cobbled alley, is so good we ate dinner here twice!
You have to go for the flatbread, with dollops of goat cheese and figs and sprinkled with arugula. Their pulled pork chili bowl and bacon-and-blue cheese salad also hit the spot – especially if you’re looking for a change from the traditional fish restaurants.
Be prepared for a wait when you get there, however. Reservations aren’t accepted, and Fig is very popular.
Serving traditional Croatian food, Konoba Luviji is a lovely rooftop restaurant, with views of the red roofs of Hvar town and the Spanish Fortress lit up at night.
When it started to rain unexpectedly, staff rolled out the awning. But it was still blustery, so they offered that we could leave without paying – even though we’d already eaten and drunk a fair bit. How many restaurants would do that!
Heavens, no, we said. We were happy to stay and eat the lamb chops we were waiting for on a covered little terrace instead, the spot where the cook usually sits and takes his break. And it was a fine meal too.
17) Discover Vrboska, Hvar’s “Little Venice”
Still wondering what to do in Hvar? Visit the sweet village of Vrboska on the island’s north coast, halfway between Stari Grad and Jelsa.
It’s nicknamed “Little Venice” for its stone arch bridges that cross the canal slicing through the town. And it’s a far cry from Hvar Town – Vrboska’s serene streets, lined by traditional limestone houses, are serenely quiet.
Pop into one of its wine cellars for a wine tasting. Admire the 15th century Church of St. Lovre (with its priceless art collection inside) and the unique fortress church of St. Mary of Mercy. Shop for homemade lavender soaps and gifts.
For a swim, walk to nearby Maslinica Beach, tucked away in a secluded cove. Spread your towel out on a stone slab afterward to soak up the sunshine.
Where to stay in Hvar Town
The 5-star Palace Elisabeth is a heritage hotel and historic landmark in the heart of Hvar Town. It’s the best hotel in Hvar Town.
It has 45 guest rooms featuring hand-painted murals on the walls and white marble bathrooms. Most rooms have sea views.
An indoor pool opens onto an outdoor deck, furnished with lounge chairs for soaking up the Hvar sunshine.
Heritage Hotel Dea Hvar
This family-run heritage hotel is all about hospitality. It may have small rooms, but it’s big on charm.
Heritage Hotel Dea Hvar is run by three brothers who are passionate about Hvar and keen on sharing it with their guests.
They welcomed us with drinks and enthusiastically explained what to do and where to eat. They also went above and beyond helping us deal with a small medical issue.
The hotel is steps away from everything in the Old Town, yet there’s no noise at night.
It doesn’t hurt that the hotel’s breakfast is included and comes with freshly made warm crepes.
Villa Nora Hvar
Experience royal treatment when you stay at Villa Nora Hvar, a hotel built within a 14th-century palace once owned by royalty. Today it’s run by a local family.
Located in Hvar Old Town, it’s a small boutique hotel with a big heart in the middle of it all. Breakfast is included.
If we hadn’t stayed at Heritage Hotel Dea Hvar, we probably would have picked Villa Nora Hvar.
Best time to visit Hvar
Looking for the best time to plan your Hvar getaway?
Late spring to early fall, typically from May to September, is ideal. During these months, Hvar enjoys a delightful Mediterranean climate, with warm temperatures and clear skies.
The summer months of July and August are the peak tourist season. With hot temps, this is the preferred time of year for beach lovers to visit Hvar.
To experience the best of Hvar without the crowds, however, we recommend the shoulder seasons – spring and fall.
May and early June are pleasant, offering mild temperatures and the chance to admire the island’s blooming flowers.
September and October are also good times to go. The weather is pleasant – often hot – and you can still enjoy many of the best beaches on Hvar and other outdoor activities.
Accommodation rates are also typically lower in spring and fall.
Some tourist attractions may not be open, however, in early spring and late autumn. (And concerts are usually only held in the summer.)
Ferries (discussed below) also run less frequently outside of the peak season.
How to get to Hvar Island, Croatia
Ferries to Hvar run from several different places in Croatia. The island has four ferry ports – in Hvar Town, Stari Grad, Jelsa and Sucaraj.
Getting to Hvar from Split
Split is a popular jumping-off spot for a trip to Hvar.
For day trips from Split to Hvar, check out this full-day catamaran cruise to Hvar, the Pakleni Islands, Brac and Solta. It includes a 2-hour guided tour of Hvar Town, along with lunch, complimentary wine and beer – and lots of swimming time.
If you’d prefer a small group experience (maximum 12 people), you’ll like this 4-island boat tour from Split to Hvar. Visit the same islands – Hvar, Packleni Islands, Brac and Solta – but lunch is at your own expense on the Pakleni Islands.
Getting to Hvar from Korcula
Ferries also run from the island of Korcula to Hvar Town several times a day in high season.
We took the Krilo (Kapetan-Luka) passenger catamaran ferry from Korcula Old Town for the 1 hour and 20-minute ferry ride to Hvar Town.
Getting to Hvar from Dubrovnik
From April to October, Krilo (Kapetan-Luka), Jadrolinija and TP Line offer ferry service from Dubrovnik to Hvar. This route takes from 3 hours and 10 minutes to almost 4 hours, depending on the company.
That’s a wrap for our Hvar travel guide!
As you can see, there’s a long list of fun things to do in Hvar.
Sprinkled with natural wonders and no less than six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Hvar is like a living postcard, with dreamy scenes around every corner.
You can explore historic landmarks, then kick back on pristine beaches. And after you’ve ticked off all the top Hvar sights on your list for the day, you can watch the sun set over the azure waters of the Adriatic, while sipping on a glass of local wine.
Hvar is the perfect destination in Croatia if you’re looking for a mix of history, beauty and culture.
More Croatia travel information
In case you missed them, see our other Croatia travel guides:
- The Perfect 14-Day Croatia Itinerary (Dalmatian Coast)
- The 15 Best Things to Do on Brac Island
- Visit Trogir: The Tiny Croatian Town Nicknamed “Little Venice”
- 21 Delightful Things to Do in Split
- Visiting Diocletian’s Palace in Split
- 15 Best Dubrovnik Beaches
- Get High! Walk the Dubrovnik City Walls
- 33 Delicious Croatian Desserts You Must Try!
Photo credits: 3, 5, 6 to 8, 11 to 19, 22, 24, 26, 32 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase