Things to do on Hvar Island – A Guide to the Island’s Best Activities
Hvar is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia. And it’s no wonder, as it’s an island of great natural and cultural landmarks. Although there are dozens of activities to choose from, we’ve managed to cut it down to ten most essential activities to enjoy on your holiday on this beautiful island.
Visit the Hvar Public Theater
Founded in 1612, it’s actually the oldest public theater in Europe and one of the most important cultural landmarks in the area. But it may not seem so when you enter the building; it’s quite small by modern standards and you won’t see the tourist crowds anywhere near it. Perhaps that’s for the better, as you’ll have peace and quiet to enjoy the fracas and the artwork on the ceiling. Be sure to read the wall panels which tell the pretty amazing history of the building and the theater itself.
Visit the Pakleni islands
Just off the island’s southwest coast lie the Pakleni Islands, an archipelago of mostly uninhabited islets (although there are some residents during the summer) known for their preserved, unspoiled nature, pine trees and great beaches. The Croatian government declared them monument of nature and forbade most of the building, and they are a popular destination for both Hvar locals and the tourists. The Pakleni have a number of pebble beaches with some basic tourist facilities. The islands are easy to reach as there are numerous excursions and taxi boats from Hvar town every day.
Visit the Fortica Fortress
The most spectacular sight of Hvar island dates from 1282, but the Fortress saw many expansions and repairs up to the 16th century, when it was uses several times do fight off the invaders such as Ottomans. It lost it strategic importance in the 19th century and the military abandoned it soon after, but nowadays it’s a monument of the island’s long history. The fortress’ walls provide an amazing view of the Adriatic panorama and the nearby Pakleni Islands, and its interior hides many rooms, dungeons, gunpowder chambers and armories where you can learn much about the everyday life of soldiers who once inhabited it.
Enjoy the nightlife
Hvar is known as a great partying destination, perhaps second only to Zrće on the island of Pag. There are several clubs and beach bars with parties going on every night in the tourist season; these often host both domestic and foreign guest DJs, have a lot of dance space, pools and lighting effects. The most popular club is the Carpe Diem, but you should also check out the Veneranda, because of its unique location (in a building which was once a monastery) in the pinewoods just off the coast.
The waters around the islands are perfect for scuba diving: there are no strong currents and the Adriatic is crystal clear, so it’s no wonder scuba diving is a pretty popular activity. There are a few interesting coral reefs, shipwrecks and even an underwater cave; we guarantee you’ll have the time of your life exploring the island’s seabed. And don’t worry if you don’t have any experience; there are plenty of dive sites for beginners and a few for more advanced divers. Anyway, there are a few diving centers, most notably the Viking Diving Center or the Nautica, so check out their websites (or visit their offices in Hvar Town) for prices and details.
Get acquainted with the local wines
The island actually has a strong winemaking tradition and its interior is largely covered with vineyards. There is a significant number of family-owned wineries which produce local delicacies such as Plavac Mali (a rich red wine) and Bogdanjuša (a light white wine). Unfortunately, Hvars winemaking tradition has been somewhat overlooked by the rest of Europe, but a few years ago that started to change as Hvar wine had started to sell in Western Europe. There are even several organized wine tasting tours which will take you deep in the island’s interior where the grapes are grown, and are great fun.
Try the cuisine
To get a true local cuisine experience, find a “konoba”. It’s a traditional Dalmatian tavern which usually serves, you’ve guessed it, Dalmatian delicacies. The local cuisine revolves a lot around seafood, so be sure to try the octopus salad, or the “škampi na buzaru” (which are shrimps prepared with some tomato, garlic, parsley and white wine) and the black risotto, with its cuttlefish ink. There are plenty of konobas on the island, so finding one shouldn’t be a problem, especially in the streets of Hvar Old Town between the St. Stephen’s square and the fortress.
Explore the St. Stephen square
The focal point of Hvar Town is located just next to the harbor. Dotted with cafes, shops, and restaurants, it’s the place where tourists start their exploration of the town. Its white-stone architecture and cobblestoned ground give out a relaxing, Mediterranean vibe, so it’s a perfect place for an evening walk. The streets will most likely be filled with music, dance and street vendors selling souvenirs. Be sure to visit the Cathedral of St. Stephen as well, as it’s one of the island symbols and an interesting amalgam of Renaissance, manneristic and Baroque architecture.
Enjoy the watersports
There are plenty of opportunities for engaging in various watersports on Hvar: jet skiing, wakeboarding, banana rides, tube rides, water skiing and sea kayaking (there are even kayaking trips to Pakleni and back which are especially cool), just to mention a few. It will really kick up your adrenaline! Of course, there are various jet ski or motor boat rentals available.
There are plenty gravel roads and hiking paths on the island; these were once the only roads connecting the south and the north of the island. The paths will lead you through lavender fields, olive trees, fruit orchards and vineyards, as well as the island’s villages and settlements, some of which are abandoned nowadays. You can even hike to the highest point of the island, the peak of St. Nicholas (at 628 meters), from where you can see the neighboring islands.