We are back, and you probably didn’t even notice I had left! Unless you follow my Instagram, if so I can only apologise for the onslaught of social media post and stories which flooded you all whilst I was away.
Last week, the first week of August, Fliss, Niece, Pip and I made the long, transport filled journey over to a small island off Croatia called Hvar.
Hvar is a Croatian island located in the infamous yacht filled Adriatic Sea most popular as a summer tourist spot. The island is most famous for its prominent fortress positioned above the town, the main square and Cathedral along with its iconic crystal clear waters and beaches surrounded by the Paklinski Islands. The island has gained popularity in recent years due to a number of reasons, predominantly because of the sailing and the private coves yachts can settle in, especially when somewhere so tranquil is also a tax haven for yachts situated in the rest of Europe, but over the years visitors such as Prince Harry, Beyonce, Tom Cruise, all of Game of Thrones and sadly yes I am going to say it the Made in Chelsea cast who filmed their Croatia series in Hvar has meant that tourism to this small island has rocketed.
We booked Hvar on a last-minute whim, having missed June and July, the only weeks we had available were in August, which caused concern about the inflated prices during the school holidays but Hvar seemed reasonable regardless. We were toying with Ibiza again but were concerned Ibiza in August wouldn’t be our vibe and that we would also try to recreate the Ibiza trip we had last year when someone suggested Hvar to us and then it kind of all fell into place.
I am following this blog up with my highs and lows of Hvar but when we were booking Hvar we found it really difficult to figure out the logistics. We didn’t know where the best places to stay were, or how much things would cost and how to actually get there etc so I wanted to do a quick run-through of what we learned and how we did our Hvar trip. If you are potentially visiting Hvar and have any questions please feel free to ask me.
I won’t bore you with the whole journey from Leicestershire to Hvar but we chose to fly from Stanstead. The most remote airport in the whole of the UK I think unless the Shetland Island has one? I swear it doesn’t matter where you are travelling from Stanstead is not close by yet they have all the cheap flights to the places you want to travel to at the times you want to leave. We settled for a 6 am flight out which in retrospect was not our strongest idea. It meant leaving London at 2:30 am. We were, however, grateful for the early start when we finally arrived in Hvar Thursday Lunchtime.
We flew with EasyJet directly from Stanstead to Split airport which is the nearest airport to Hvar. The flight took just over 2 hours making our arrival at the airport just after 9 am. We knew we had to get a ferry over to the island which costs around £15 each way and takes around one hour but we were unsure of timings between the airport and the port and whether to book the ferry in advance or not in case the flight was delayed. There is an express ferry which runs from the airport to Hvar but it only runs twice a day at obscure times, instead, we took an Uber from the airport to Split Port.
The ferries are easy to navigate but are very busy. We decided against booking our ferry in advance which meant we missed the first ferry we could have taken by about 4 people and consequently then had to wait an hour for the next. There are a few places to sit and buy a drink whilst you wait for the ferry but we did find an ok-ish rooftop bar about 5 minutes up the road and grabbed some food from a street bakery so it wasn’t much of an inconvenience but my tip would be to book the tickets on your phone when you know your flight is on time or at least when you are on your way to the port. There are a few different ferry companies available but we used Jadrolinija Ferries, they were easy and you could book online.
We arrived in Hvar just after 2 pm ready to find a taxi to take us to our apartment. The taxi park is the other side of the port to the ferry drop off but is probably less than a 10-minute walk with your suitcase. We were ripped off by our taxi driver because we had suitcases and we had no idea where we were going. The currency always made me feel as though we were spending a lot as 100 Kunas was around £13 but it was just getting your head around the exchange rate.
Our apartment was roughly around 7 km from the taxi area and cost us 200 kunas on the day we arrived which was around £25 and then anything from 100 – 150 kunas after that. We did learn by the end to just say 100 kunas and they usually settled with that. The best taxi driver we had was a woman. Email me if you want her number, she was really reliable and very cheap and also incredibly informative and lovely.
Where we stayed and where we wish we had stayed
We stayed in an apartment we booked through Airbnb in a small village called Milna, 7 km out of Hvar. The apartment was great, it was clean, spacious, it had a nice pool, it was close to Hvar and had a small shop and some restaurants at the end of the road. The owners were easy to communicate with and in all, I would stay there again and I would recommend to others but it wouldn’t be my first choice. If you are looking to explore a lot of Hvar and do not mind not being in the hub of it all then this place is for you but I think if I was to stay again I would stay the other side to Hula Hula. Whilst it takes a little while, you can walk from Hula Hula to Hvar port on a flat walkway whereas to get to Milna you always had to get a taxi due to country roads and hills, even with low taxi fares it still ate into our budgets when we were taking on average four taxis a day. The Island is fairly small so I don’t think there is a bad place to stay but I like to be able to walk home after a night out.
One of my highs of Hvar is the beach clubs. I am a big fan of a beach club, I like having a comfy bed by the sea, a bar and a restaurant close by and music, which is why the party side of Hvar really appealed to us. Hvar, in my opinion, had the best beach clubs, the food, drink and music were exactly what I like without the Ibiza, Marbella, Vegas prices, credit cards, inflated appearances and they were all very modest. Both Hula Hula and Carpe Diem charged around £10 – £15 for a bed all day both with drinks service to your sun lounger. Hula Hula also told us to use the little shop down the road if we wanted cheaper drinks which you were allowed to take in. Hula Hula was very chilled in the day, the sea was incredible with a lot of step access, we also ate lunch here which was great albeit a little slow. We decided to stay at Hula Hula all day to see what the party was like in the evening, which was one of the best decisions we made. The sunset was easily comparable if not better to that of Cafe Mambo and the transformation of beach bar to the beach club was amazing. It’s definitely worth going to on a Friday and Saturday and then heading to Carpe Diem island after. We decided to check Carpe Diem out on the Monday after making a quick visit there on Sunday for lunch and it didn’t disappoint. Carpe Diem definitely had the friendliest and most attentive staff we experienced in Hvar. They have music playing all day but it’s not overbearing. I don’t know what it is like at the weekend but on the Monday it was the perfect place to chill out.
My favourite Hvar day is still a toss-up between Jerolim the optional clothing beach (nudist) or the day we hired the boat to go around the Paklinski Islands. I had a few conversations with Hvar boats via email before the trip to work out costs and to see what we could get, bearing in mind none of us had any boating experience. What I learned was that you could hire a speed boat that looked very instagramable, you technically needed a boat license, but the company were willing to let you hire it if you didn’t mind paying a fine if the police stopped you. We had planned to drink on the boat and our driving track record is not great so we settled with the safe option and took a little and very ugly boat out which had a small motor engine at the back. Despite the appearance, the boat did exactly what we wanted it to do and honestly if someone in your group feels confident enough navigating a boat I fully recommend hiring one. The beaches, coves and sea views were unbelievable. We also bought our flamingo float from the market outside the supermarket. It was around £20 and they inflate it for you. Thankfully Florence the Flamingo was allowed on the boat too.
To find the boats head down to the port and take the path towards the right side, you will find a sign saying boat hire. Our boat cost is 600 Kuna which was about £18 each which was really reasonable considering you are allowed the boat all day and especially in relation to how much you get to see. There is cool boxes on the boat so you can take your own food and drink, we forgot to get food in our excitement so thanks to Pip’s driving we managed to dock at Carpe Diem beach and had lunch there.
On the first night we were in Hvar we optimistically went out for drinks. We didn’t care we had been awake for about 24 hours, 12 of those spent travelling we were determined to find some food and cocktails. We didn’t really know what to expect from Hvar nightlife, a few of our friends had visited the island for the parties, others had travelled in couples so it was a mixed bag of suggestions. On our first night we made our way to the backstreets of the town and whilst they are unbelievably pretty, they were not the bars we were after. All the bars and restaurants were really busy and felt very sedate and romantic. We finally stopped at a bar with live music and very limited room found a table and settled on a menu but the service was terrible. We had been seated for over 30 minutes and asked twice and we were still not served. Feeling tired, deflated and a little anxious Hvar perhaps didn’t have the Ibiza reputation we had heard of we made our way home early. The next night we went straight to Carpe Diem bar for a drink to see what it was like, with no intention of staying out for longer than a drink because we didn’t want to be hungover for Hula Hula. Carpe Diem was the sort of bar we were looking for, table service, nice drinks, great music and good looking men.
We sadly ended up there three nights in a row which confirmed you can do too much of a good thing, and it kind of killed it for me. I think if I return next year I will have left enough time between visits to want to go back. Nonetheless, I would say it was the best bar on the island. Many complained the prices were high but it was less than £10 for a cocktail which was fine with me.
If you are after quiet wine bars you have them in abundance along the winding back streets of the town. Avoid the front row going away from the square to the right, it was the only part that felt a bit Malia ish (not that I’ve ever been but I can imagine).
Carpe Diem also has a club on its own island, the same island where the beach club is. The boats leave outside Carpe Diem bar from 12:30 am and run regularly after that. You don’t need to be in the bar beforehand to get on the boat, anyone can go over. Once at the island it is 200 Kunas to enter the club. We went here twice and I loved it. It’s like nothing you can get in England and I would fully recommend at least going over on a Friday or Saturday. The bars there are very busy so I suggest predrinks before you go over. They do check bags so don’t try to take drinks with you.
Our group of four are notoriously bad at not making the most of food whilst we are away. Often grabbing food here and there or at the apartment whilst we are getting ready to go out. Usually, we are too hot or too busy to eat but this year we made a lot more time however not enough to recommend many places. The small restaurants in the port of Milna all had really great reviews, we stopped at the beach club there when we arrived for burgers which were good but the village is very secluded so unless you are staying there I wouldn’t recommend making the journey for the restaurants (although we didn’t eat at them so who am I to say). We had lunch twice at Carpe Diem, (creatures of habit sorry) once when we hired the boat and the second time when we spent the day there on Monday. The service there was probably the best we had during our stay in Hvar, the food was very good and not too expensive.
On the last night, we went out for an unplanned meal after Carpe Diem. We took a wander around the back streets and settled for one of the only restaurants which still had space left but it turned out to be really good food and quick service which was a shock to us all. These restaurants are all very much the same, offering similar menus so I wouldn’t worry about going to places blogs recommend unless you are really into your food. My favourite part of Hvar food wise sadly was the pizza slices you could get all day in the abundance of bakeries. The best we found was the pizza place/ ice cream shop near the Cathedral. You buy the same pizza slice for £1.50 instead of £4 which the other shops were selling. It really was some of the best pizza I have ever eaten.
We also managed to find a time when L’amore per il Gelato had no queue. If you can handle the wait or arrive there at a good time definitely go, the ice cream and gelato is really good.
Other things to do
Jerolim is the island we went to on our first full day. A recommendation from a friend of Fliss’, it is stil of my favourite days and it’s not because there were loads of naked people. The island where clothing is optional just felt so wholesome, I left feeling the most relaxed and chilled I have felt in so long. The beaches in Croatia are all rocks and pebbles so you could choose to lie on the rocks which I did and it was fine or you could hire a bed for the equivalent of £10. We took a water taxi from Hvar port to Jerolim for £5 which covered the return trip too. The island has toilets and a small bar/ restaurant which is limited but you can get wine and some sandwiches or just take it all with you which we did with a couple of bottles of prosecco. If I could go back to any of the places in Hvar right now it would be this beach so if you are after super chilled, wilderness type vibes, check Jerolim out.
My funniest memory will always be crying with laughter, losing strength out in the sea watching my sister being dragged onto the floating pontoon by a fully naked man who was not ashamed of anything and at a very unfortunate hight for pip. Fliss and I were justing hanging on to rope trying to push her up in fits of laughter. It really was the best day.
The only other thing I will add on from the slow service in Hvar was their strange habit of putting reserved signs out everywhere. We noticed this a lot at Carpe Diem bar, beach club, at Hula Hula and a few other places too. It was strange because no one ever turned up to the beds or tables. If you asked they would let you on them and they would say you can have them until people turn up but no one ever did. I don’t know if its a dated approach to pretend their places are really popular and busy or a way of keeping spaces free in case they need them but just make a note not to be put off if everything looks reserved.
So that was my Hvar advice. I will hopefully post my highs and lows of the trip which will cover how many guys from London use their money or occupational as a chat-up line or how much I hate strangers who don’t leave you alone. If you have any questions about Hvar I am happy to help.