Hvar, Croatia has become a travel fad. Ever since it was on the front page of the New York Times Travel Magazine, this “mountainous, lavender-scented isle set in the blue, sun-blasted Adriatic Sea” has experienced a new level of tourism. It’s no longer just Italians on summer vacation; now the square is full of travelers from all over the world speaking a variety of languages, ready to party all day and all night in paradise.
But there is a different way of experiencing Hvar! The locals choose not to partake in the drunken daytime debauchery, and know where the least crowded beaches with the most shade are. I was lucky enough to visit the island with Brad, who is half Croatian, and a wealth of knowledge about local secrets.
Brad has been visiting his Croatian family in Hvar each summer for the past 15 years. The first few years he came with a skateboard, which gave the local eight-year-olds reason to approach him and ask him where he was from. They thought his American ways were funny and his skating gear was cool, and they’ve been friends ever since.
The first night we arrived, we went out to enjoy the best pizza I’ve ever had at Alviž. This family restaurant by the church has a beautiful outdoor seating area underneath hanging grapevines, and wonderful service. Order a mushroom pizza with a tomato salad, and don’t forget a side of traditional blitva.
Full of food and wine, we went to one of the many corner stores and bought a couple beers to enjoy on the Riva, the walkway along the harbor. Serendipitously, Ivek, Brad’s oldest friend from the town, walked by casually. We called his name and exchanged hugs, and he demanded we come with him to meet up with the rest of the group at Kiva Bar. A young local favorite, this place makes up for its weak drinks with a fun crowd and loud American pop music from the 90s.
After a short nights’ sleep (it’s hard to get much shut eye when there’s so much fun to be had) we stopped for our late morning cappuccino at Cafe Loco in the main square. Carrying some mats for the rocky beaches, lots of water, and a towel, we jumped in a taxi boat. For 30 Kuna (about 6 bucks), these taxi boats will take you from the main square of Hvar to either Jerolim or Stipanska, two smaller islands with beautiful bays and awesome swimming. Many tourists like to pay for expensive sun chairs and wade into the water on the crowded bay beaches, but the more adventurous folks (and locals) take a stroll and find a piece of flat rock to lounge on away from the masses. Once we found a good spot, we spent the day soaking up the sun and jumping in the bright blue water, feeling like we were the only people on the planet.
In Hvar, while enjoying local secrets, make sure not to miss a few more mainstream activities:
- Walking up to the fortress to watch the sunset. Bring 2o Kuna for the entrance fee, some wine and cheese, and grab a bench. You can see the entire town and a breathtaking view of the smaller islands off shore.
- A daytrip to a secluded beach. Take the bus toward Stari Grad, but tell the bus driver you’re getting off at Dubovica. Walk down the path (bring good shoes) and you’ll end up on a pebble beach where you can rent umbrellas for shade and buy an espresso from the nice family that runs a small shop from their home.
- One night at Veneranda. This nightclub is absolutely ridiculous, but they have fun dance parties and serve fancy drinks within the walls of an old fortification. Always crowded, always a good time.