Dream destination Hvar in Croatia: Many years ago, I was responsible for some of Switzerland’s most renowned travel websites. That was when the elegant Hotel Riva on Hvar Island time and again caught my eye.
I imagined the wealthy and the beautiful having an outrageous amount of fun in the hotel, which is fashionably located on Hvar’s seaside promenade. Though I am neither, I finally did make it to Hvar. But, I did not check into the Riva!
Hvar is reputed to be one of the most beautiful Mediterranean islands. In the old days, it was still a well-kept secret, but now Hvar has become one of Croatia’s trending destinations. Even today’s jetsetters are not above visiting the island in their opulent yachts.
It’s not for nothing that Hvar is also known as the St. Tropez of Croatia.
Rocky coves, crystalline water, blue emerald hues and vast olive orchards all help to make the little island the popular hot spot that it is.
Hvar is also called the “lavender island,” because in early summer the island’s many lavender fields come into bloom. So, naturally, you will find all kinds of lavender products for sale — from lavender soap to lavender oil and lavender blossom sachets.
Heaven for lavender lovers!
Hotel Adriana or Hotel Riva after all?
Two of the most famous luxury hotels in Hvar City are the Hotel Riva — as I knew from way back — and the Adriana.
Typically, it is Katja who does our travel bookings. But totally untypically, this time she ignores my nostalgic wish and billets us in the Adriana!
Or, had I just daydreamed about it perhaps, so that she couldn’t possibly have known? In any event, I find myself in a room in an unfamiliar hotel — and, wouldn’t you know it, we have a fine view of the Riva! Of all places…
The next morning, the selection at the breakfast buffet is all that much bigger! I can’t recall the last time I saw so many breakfast cereals on a buffet… for an insane “cereal killer” breakfast on the harbor promenade!
It’s the perfect backdrop for our photo in the “Breakfast in Paradise” series!
A word to the wise: As cool as the hotel location is… it sits right by the city’s nightlife area, where the young and wannabe young enjoy themselves into the wee morning hours. You’ll be way ahead of the game with earplugs!
The more heavenly is the peace and quiet mood that prevails on “the morning after” ;-)
Hvar and its restaurants
All along the promenade there are chic designer bars and restaurants, but it pays to peek behind the promenade’s facade into Hvar’s labyrinth of narrow streets where you can choose from plenty more bars and restaurants.
The bottom line: You will never starve or die of thirst in Hvar!
The Hvar beach clubs
Bonj ‘les Bains’ Beach Club (often fully booked for weddings), Hula hula Beach & Bar and Carpe Diem Bar are the places to be if you want deep bass sounds with your coffee and cake.
How Hvar’s clubs stack up against those on Ibiza, I’ll get into soon in a separate beach club article. There’s plenty to say on the subject…
“La Španjola” Fortress high above Hvar
One of Hvar’s star attractions is Španjola Fortress. It was built in the early 16th century when Venice ruled the island. Today, the fortress houses an amphora collection and more exhibits from antiquity and the Middle Ages.
Alone the view is worth a visit to the fortress — even if it does take climbing a few steps to get there!
That said, it’s wise to be an early bird: the fortress is a popular excursion goal and latest by noon overflows with tourists. We considered ourselves fortunate to have gotten there early without knowing ahead of time when it opened…so, be advised, the gates open at 9 o’clock in the morning.
Here’s a tip! Do not miss the dungeon! Take a left as soon as you pass through the fortress gate. After emerging from the subterranean jail again, you’ll feel like you’ve been reborn! And you’ll enjoy breathing in “the air of freedom” that much more. Go ahead, take a deep breath of that pure Hvar air…
Oh, about the redoubt’s name: naturally, back in the day it was constructed with the help of a couple of Spanish engineers. Obviously.
Stari Grad and Jelsa fishing villages
If you arrive by rental car, plan on driving to the picturesque fishing villages Stari Grad (“old town” in Croatian) and Jelsa. Like other well-known Croatian towns, these charming old hamlets with their white cobble stoned streets shine in the sun. And with the occasional obligatory white yacht thrown in…
A side trip to the island of Pakleni Otoci just offshore and its Zori Restaurant & Lounge could be worthwhile. Regrettably, it was fully booked on this trip.
Also sold out was the restaurant in the Littlegreenbay Hotel. Very small and very popular.
Getting there by car…ferry, that is
Many routes lead to Hvar…all over water, of course: From Split, catamarans travel frequently either to Hvar City or Jelsa. The car ferry from Split goes to Stari Grad, however. It sails 4-6 times every day.
For those – like me – who want to take a car to Hvar but easily go astray online, be sure to look under Stari Grad on the website, not Hvar…
The crossing takes about 2 hours. All schedule and price information can be found on the Jadrolinija website.
You can also book your passage online. However, be aware that a ticket does not get you a reserved slot on the ferry. Jadrolinija has a first come, first serve policy. So, get in line early (60-90 minutes before departure is advisable). Particularly during high season, Hvar draws a lot of visitors and on weekends year-round as well.
The ferry holds 200 cars. That doesn’t sound like much when you see the huge car park lined up before the ramp. But it worked out for us in both directions. We clearly lucked out.
Tip! If they direct you to drive down to the ferry’s lower deck, it pays to pull in your side mirrors. The ramps are extremely narrow, so that a small rental car is the preferred way to go!
Katja, for one, broke out in a cold sweat as I spiraled down the ramp with millimeters to spare on either side of the Renault Mégane. Beats me how the big sedans made it down unscratched…
Oh, and what about the Riva, you ask?
Well, so we strolled past it all right, but somehow the old magic no longer had me in its spell and we didn’t even go in. Mistake maybe?