Not much beats a lunch of espresso and gelato on vacation (the caffeine/sugar combination is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up and tide-me-over until a dinner location is decided). And no destination fulfills the gelato-n-espresso gorging bill better than sunny Hvar, a long, narrow island off the coast of southern Croatia.
There are two main ways to reach Hvar City. The first begins with two hours via ferry from Split into Stari Grad (at the northern tip of the island), then a 30-minute drive to Hvar City, where we were staying. The second is a 30-minute ferry ride from Drvenik, south of Split, into Sućuraj at the southern tip of the island, followed by a 90-minute drive the length of the island to Hvar City. We opted for the latter, keen to explore (and spend as little time as possible on a rocking ferry).
From the moment we docked in Sućuraj the water swirled with varying shades of aquamarine, cerulean, azure, turquoise, lapis, and teal. And we actually needed every one of those “blue” variations for our brains to mentally process what we were seeing.
The air was hot and crisp with a tinge of salt on the wind – our Mediterranean vacation had officially begun.
Hvar has been inhabited since the ancient Greeks settled the area, at least as far back as 384 BC. Its been a major player in Adriatic trading for most of its history, and its tourism industry has been actively cultivated since the mid-1800s.
It’s no surprise Hvar City has become one of Croatia’s premier good-time destinations. Here the ultra-affluent dock their yachts and party with shoe-string backpackers until the wee hours of the morning.
But in early June we had just beat the crowds and had no problems spreading out on our chosen beaches or getting tables in fancy restaurants.
Our first excursion from Hvar City was just a few kilometers east to Milna Beach, a tiny bay with three beaches, each just a few minutes walk from each other, of smooth, white pebbles descending into crystal clear blue water.
Eleven o’clock in the morning was considered an incredibly early time to start the day, making us the first ones on the beach with our choice of lounge chairs.
We also spent the afternoon driving around the western side of the island, from the north shore to the south, cutting through mountain villages and making our way around dirt roads clinging to ocean-side cliffs.
While days were spent exploring and lounging on beaches, evenings were spent in Old Town Hvar, window shopping and partaking in the excellent, local cuisine (seafood for me, everything else for Brendan).
Our second excursion involved a water taxi to one of the many tiny islands off the Hvar harbor, then a five-minute hike to “secret” bay, Mlini Beach.
I couldn’t get over the water clarity! No matter how far out we swam, we could easily see the sea floor.
Tall, short, long, round, old, young (too young, it seemed, to be running around party town Hvar without chaperones – gah, I’m old), punk rockers, amazon queens, and biker dudes – Hvar City draws people of all sorts. The only thing everyone had in common was a complete lack of concern for, well, much of anything (grown men strut around in pink seahorse print swim trunks – love it!). Give these people hot sand, blue waters, and a cold drink and a casual, swaggering confidence emerged. It was infectious.
Hvar Island is covered in forests, vineyards, olive groves, orchards and lavender fields, and benefits from freshwater springs. And its one of the sunniest locations in Croatia – is there no downside to this place?
We stayed Saturday to Tuesday, and I would have hung on by my fingernails if we tried to leave sooner.
I usually fill up vacations with activities, making sure not one minute is wasted. But this one was all about downtime. Books, books and a few more books. And spritzers.
I can’t believe we live so close to this gem! We will definitely be back.