EXPLORING HVAR ISLAND

Location: Jelsa, Croatia

When I first visited Hvar as a young 20-something-year-old I was on a boozy sail Croatia tour that stopped in every party port on the southern Dalmatian coast. Fast forward ten years and I find myself driving a hire car onboard a ferry with my husband and two of my best friends for a climbing trip to the island. Late nights drinking sessions were swapped with early dinners, and hungover mornings switched to being on the rock at the crack of dawn. I know what you’re thinking, ‘there’s more to Hvar than partying?’ Indeed there is, in fact, the party scene in Hvar is minuscule in relation to the natural and adventure options that the island has and should be included without a hangover.

How to get there and around

Unless you have your own sail boat you’ll most likely jump on a ferry to Hvar island. If you’re arriving with a car there is a car ferry (2 hours duration) that will drop you at the terminal outside of Stari Grad where you can be on your merry way. If you’re arriving on foot, then you have two options of arrival towns as the passenger ferry goes to both Jelsa and Hvar Town.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling like making a rock star entrance there is seaplane that flies between Split and Jelsa – but wouldn’t you rather save your money for more eating? 

Siu On and friends getting ready to drive on the ferry to Hvar

Getting between towns can be a little challenging if you’re on a tight schedule as buses don’t run too often or everywhere, though you’ll be able to link up the main towns using the local bus system. Čazmatrans bus lines make the journey between Stari Grad, Hvar, Jelsa Vrboska, Dol and Vrbanj everyday, whilst the bus for Sućuraj departs three times a week. And if in doubt duck into an information office and the staff will be able to assist. 

A view of the Ferry leaving for Hvar

Towns on Hvar to check out

Stari Grad

The drive from the ferry terminal at Stari Grad to the town itself was less than 10 minutes, and like many other coastal towns on Hvar, the old town is car free and you’ll find a small marina with pretty much everything you’ll need. Stari Grad’s claim to fame is that it is the oldest town in Croatia, and is the historical heart of the island. We had lunch here and wandered the old town’s streets to stretch our legs after the ferry ride, and explored the town’s backstreets. For a few hours and a meal, it makes for a nice stop.

Hvar's Stari Grad marina

Jelsa

For our four day stay on Hvar island, Siu On and my friends opted to stay in a self contained apartment in Jelsa. Here the price of accommodation was lower than in Hvar Town, and it was located midway between the ferry terminal in Stari Grad and the climbing area we were planning on visiting.

Jelsa’s old town is much larger than Stari Grad’s though is smaller than Hvar Town, however it has the same laid-back coastal charm and abundance in food and drink options. We especially enjoyed the takeaway pizzas we got from Pizza Kogo, the waiter even put some additional toppings on my pizza since he felt sorry for my dairy free pizza consisting of only ham, tomato sauce and olives.

A good thing to note is that if you’d rather cook your own meals there is a larger Konzum supermarket on the outside of the car free zone, which has more food than the supermarket in the old town.

Looking at Jelsa's Old Town in Hvar

Humac

As we drove to the climbing area we passed a sign for Humac and decided to investigate on our way back. As we wandered around a deserted collection of old stone buildings, I realised that Humac was less of a town and more the well preserved remains of an old way of life on Hvar’s rocky interior.

Human is kept as an open air museum with many restored rural stone buildings that includes a musuem, gallery, tourist information and a souvenir store open on certain days of the week depending on the season. There is a Konoba (traditional Croatian restaurant) located here though it was closed as we had visited out of season. Despite its lack of human life, we still found it to be a nice place to wander around, take silly photos, set up a guerrilla silks installation and play with the local cats.

Christina doing silks in Humac

Hvar Town

Driving from Jelsa to Hvar Town will take you along some tight and windy roads, through the rocky interior, and out along the beautiful coastline of the island. Hvar Town is the most popular spot to jump on a boat tour to the nearby caves and island, which is just what we did.

Our tour took us to visit the Blue Cave, Stiniva Bay and a nearby island for swimming, snorkelling and eating. Unfortunately for us the weather wasn’t playing nice and the wind and large waves made it difficult to sit on the speedboat for long, and had the weather been better we would have visited more caves and islands. If I had to do this over again, I’d only do a boat tour on a good day and instead spend my time exploring the area around Hvar Town, such as walking up to the Fortress and exploring the nearby parks.

Looking out of Stiniva Bay

Since the boat tour took us the entire day we decided not to hang around Hvar, which in the off season was still extremely busy, and make the drive back to Jelsa before it got dark. I have to admit that I enjoyed my second visit to Hvar island much more than my first, and that may have more to do with the lack of a hangover and holes in my memory of the night before than it does with the early nights and no partying. It was refreshing to experience a different side to an island that is known for it’s wild parities and abundance of expensive super yachts.

Hvar Town at Sunset looking at the super yachts

Rock climbing on Hvar

There is actually quite a lot of rock climbing on the island, with lots of limestone features and cliffs overlooking the blue Adriatic Sea. Siu On, myself and our friends spent our time at a crag named Vela Stiniva that was a 20 minute drive to the outskirts of a hill-side village named Zastražišće. We spent two days ticking off just about every single climb in sectors A and B, which was a good mix of beginner and intermediate grades.

The crag is mostly shaded and there is parking for a few cars at the crag if you get there early enough. The only problem we had was realising the potential and variety in routes and locations for climbing on the island, that we were kicking ourselves for not spending more time here to climb! Ah well, there’ll be a next time for us I’m sure.

Zastražišće's Bay and cliff face

TIP: If you don’t have a Croatia climbing guidebook then definitely check out the Hvar Climbing website which has lots of information on crags and routes.

Siu On and I definitely want to return to experience more of Hvar’s natural surroundings and take in more outdoor activities. Next time I’d like to camp on the island and go hiking, climbing, kayaking and visiting the local producers to really get under the skin of this beautiful place.

Siu On pats a local cat in Humac

If you’ve been to Hvar and have a different story why not let us know about it on our Facebook page. Alternatively, if you’re thinking about a trip to Croatia and want some suggestions, check out our other articles from our recent trip exploring this amazing place.

Keep on exploring,

Jelena and Siu On