When we were searching for a suitable accommodation around Split for July - one of the busiest tourist months - Hvar unexpectedly came up. One AirBnb apartment had a roaring five star rating with a reasonable price, which qualified to be a winner. Our instinct said that Hvar would not be a good choice due to its party town reputation and high cost of living. However, being adventurous and keen to secure a good deal, we went against our instinct and made the AirBnb booking.
So here we are, spending four weeks on the island of Hvar in July! Although having previously travelled in Croatia before, we had never been to Hvar. If truth to be told, we deliberately avoided Hvar because we always prefer a quiet sanctuary to a loud party town.
We thought the four week stay on Hvar would be an interesting experience to share. We will provide an update once a week on the highlights, lowlights and those in between.
Here we go...
It was a bit of blow when we checked into our Airbnb apartment. It was like walking into a quirky dusty overstocked secondhand shop, which is definitely not set up for long stay or any stay in terms of cleanness. I don't know how this place was rated five out of five on Airbnb. Luckily it has an A/C so that at least we didn't have to spend the next three hours dripping sweat while cleaning and decluttering to make it inhabitable.
After getting over that initial hiccup, we started to get the lay of the land and found each day passed surprisingly fast. Here are the major activities we carried out - bear in mind so far our experience has only been limited to Hvar Town and its surroundings.
There are a few supermarkets nearby including Konzum, Tommy and Studenac. Compared to Split the product range can be small, but prices are more or less the same. We quickly worked out that mornings are the best shopping time to secure quality fresh produce. If you wait until later in the day, they are either sold out or the quality has deteriorated. Each supermarket has their own weekly special sales so that you can pick and choose some good deals from each of them.
The Green Market and Fish Market just outside Konzum are very disappointing. Maybe we were spoiled by the size, quality, and price at the Split markets, but here on Hvar there are only a few stalls with lesser quality and more expensive products. So it's really not worth shopping there at all.
Swimming in Hvar's incredibly transparent enticing waters is pure joy. There are numerous swimming coves to choose from along the harbour front. For a quick swim, our favourite is the cute cove in front of the Franciscan Monastery, which is only five minutes down the hill from our accommodation. From there, a couple of minutes along the water front towards the south of the town are some hidden tranquil swimming spots which we love. One kilometer further down south lies a popular beach Polonji Dol which is surrounded by green hills with a view of an incredibly picturesque island with a distinctly Croatian lighthouse.
We've hiked up to the 16th Century Spanish Fortress a few times so far both before sunset and sunrise. It's a great spot to watch the sunset with a panoramic view of Hvar town and the Pakleni islands.
The Napoleon Fort is further up from Spanish Fortress and offers a better view. If starting from the center of Hvar town, it's about 3km return. The trail is well marked with some rocky sections and quite easy to conquer.
We wanted to find an alternative way from the Spanish Fortress to hike up the Napoleon Fort, but it turned out there wasn't any. After climbing up the Spanish Fortress, you have to go down the hill and back towards the town and reach the trailhead from there. But the two combined hikes offer a nice slightly longer morning workout with a commanding view if you are into hiking.
Although the 14km return Hvar to Milna Coast Walk is mostly flat, more than 60% of the track is rocky, which requires sturdy hiking shoes and strong legs. Gorgeous beaches and hidden swimming coves dot this coast walk in pine forests and exposed rocky areas. We had a few swimming spots all to ourselves including the peaceful secluded Mekicevica beach. For a shorter and more scenic walk, you can make the Mekicevica beach as the destination before returning, which is about 7km.
As soon as we arrived at the island, we've got into the habit of getting up at 5:30 every morning to explore without the sun beating down at us. Hvar town seems small, but you can spend hours exploring without getting bored: going up and down the steep stairs and discovering what is hidden in those narrow lane ways, walking in the pine forests, following the coastal trail to Milna, hiking up the Spanish Fortress and the Napoleon Fort.
Sleeping and eating
We try to spend time outdoors in the mornings and evenings to minimize sun exposure during the peak day time. This means getting up early and going to bed late. Consequently sleeping has been pushed and shoved. But we do have a siesta every day to make up for some lost sleep.
We also have swapped our meals around: instead of a normally quick light lunch, we cook a main meal for lunch and have a light dinner. This way, we spend more time outdoors when the sun is more friendly on the skin and hide inside when the sun is the most vigorous (and can have said siesta after lunch!).
Hvar town is very quiet at the moment during this recovering stage from COVID-19. We've heard only 66 registered guests staying on the island now, compared to over 4,000 same time last year. A lot of restaurants and bars are still closed. The ones that are open hardly have any customers but empty tables and seats. All night clubs are closed. Most hotels still seem to be closed. Beaches along the harbour only get a bit of buzz in the evenings with local families out playing and chilling. 30-40 boats including luxury yachts can be seen parking at the harbour each day, which probably is the busiest scene in the whole town.
A few people actually said hello or zdravo to us during our morning walks, which was surprising because as per our previous experience in Split, the Croatians were not that interactive with strangers on streets and trails. Maybe the Hvar locals are more friendly as it's a small community.
The concept of personal space really doesn't exist in Croatia. We have been experiencing this again and again both in Split and here on Hvar. You may as well be invisible as people just walk or swim towards you or into you. In supermarkets, they stand closer to you than your partner does. We've noticed this habit in all ages and sexes, incredible!