When you visit Hvar town, you should absolutely plan to get to know the rest of the remarkable island of Hvar, as well as visit some nearby islands.
- Pakleni Islands
- Around the island of Hvar
- Best day trips from Hvar
- Main Hvar town page
- Getting to and around Hvar
- Split to Hvar 2021
- Top Hvar town experiences
- Enjoying your stay in Hvar town
The Pakleni Islands are a natural extension of the town itself and an essential part of any Hvar visit. Several are easily accessible to regular and affordable water taxis. But while some of the 16 Pakleni Islands are bigger than others, they more or less look the same. Are they? Absolutely not!
Here’s a closer look at one of the most idyllic parts of the Adriatic Sea – which island will be your first choice on your next visit?
Sveti Klement (Palmizana)
The combined area of the 16 islands is 7.16 km2, most of which (5.27 km2) is located on the biggest island of them all, Sveti Klement. Also known as Veli Otok (Big Island) and Palmizana by some, Sveti Klement is the most popular destination, with plenty of diverse – and unusual – attractions on offer.
It was here in a southern bay called Vinogradisce (but more commonly referred to as Palmizana) where tourism began back in 1906, when local landowner Eugen Meneghello opened his villa to tourists. More than 100 years later, the Meneghello name has become synonymous with high-quality Hvar tourism, a relaxed shelter from the paparazzi for many A-list celebrities, as well as one of the most interesting places to visit on the Adriatic. Today, Dagmar Meneghello continues the tourism tradition started by her grandfather-in-law, and she has dedicated more than half a century of life to build one of the Adriatic’s most inspiring places. In addition to her Meneghellos restaurant and luxury accommodation, and nearby Toto’s run by her son Djenko, the Meneghello complex is a place of high culture, which its own art gallery, rich cultural programme, even an arboretum. A natural paradise where turtles and peacocks room.
Vinogradisce is a spectacular bay and the best place to head to for restaurant choice. From fashionable Zori’s in the centre – one of Hvar’s top wedding locations – to more rustic fare among the impressive olive trees at Bacchus, to Laganini – cocktail bar turned top fish restaurant under the innovative culinary creations of Hrvoje Zirojevic. So good in fact, that U2’s Bono shared his appreciation of a 10-course extravaganza on the official U2 page before returning the following year.
Bono visits the Pakleni Islands
Tourism actually began on Sveti Klement almost 2,000 years before, as one can discover on a visit to Vlaka (Vloka, say the locals) on the island’s northern shore, also accessible by regular water taxi in season. For here, in this tiny hamlet with the only full-time Pakleni resident, one can find the remains of a Roman villa rustica, as well as a bay which still has some of the healing mud which made it so attractive. It is also home to Dionis ,a slow-food rustic experience which many locals will tell you is the best in the area. Wine lover? Meet the lowest vineyard in Croatia, just 1m above sea level, which was until recently the grape source for the popular Andro Tomic Sveti Klement white wine.
Sveti Klement is also a haven for sailors, being home to the main ACI marina for Hvar (there is another in Vrboska). The marina is the connecting point for the water taxis to the restaurants on the southern side, a very pleasant 200 metre walk through the pine trees until you are presented with your choice of paths to each of the five restaurants.
The second biggest island also suffers from something of an identity crisis, with perhaps the majority of its visitors not even knowing the island’s name. That is because the island of Marinkovac is better known for some of the Adriatic’s most high-profile nightlife, which takes place in the bay of Stipanska, home of Carpe Diem Beach. Carpe Diem, which has been one of the main brands of Hvar since its arrival 20 years ago, operates a bar on the Hvar riva, as well as a popular beach club by day and one of the Adriatic’s hottest nightspots after dark.
And yet… Head to the other side of the island by water taxi to idyllic bays such as Zdrilca and Mlini, and experience a tranquillity and slow-paced Dalmatian lifestyle and excellent local cuisine in top restaurants such as Tri Grede and Patak.
Much smaller, as well as one of the closest by water taxi, is the island of Jerolim, a naturist and chill paradise. Such a paradise, in fact, that it was named by CNN as the world’s number one naturist beach back in 2011. The island is not just for naturists, however, but for those who just want to chill. It also has a reputation for being gay-friendly. One of the most relaxing spots on the Pakleni Islands is at Mare’s Place, on the other side of the island. From the water taxi, head to the left of the restaurant there and walk through the woods for less than 100 metres – the thinnest point of the island. Here is magical Kordovon Bay, sometime photoshoot location for the likes of Vogue Magazine, but always overseen by wonderful hostess Mare. One of my personal favourite spots in Dalmatia.
The closest island to Hvar Town is Galesnik, a divine spot which also has a most romantic story about donkeys. As with all but one of the Pakleni Islands, Galesnik is uninhabited by humans, but until a few years ago, it had rather a famous resident – a donkey named Mercedes. Although I never actually met Mercedes, she starred on the cover of my book, Lavender, Dormice and a Donkey Named Mercedes – An Expat Decade on Hvar. For years, Mercedes was the only permanent resident of Galesnik, and she was partial to the odd rakija from the local restaurant.
But life was very solitary until one day about 6 years ago, an Englishman decided to answer his girlfriend’s concern that donkeys are not meant to live alone by buying a male donkey companion and transporting it to Galesnik for a new life with Mercedes. All was well for a short while, but the new company seemed to wear out poor Mercedes, and she is sadly no more.
Donkeys aside, Galesnik has an excellent eco-ethno restaurant in the low-level stone building facing the town – one of the very best views, especially when combined with the excellent food. The building has previously been used as an arsenal and quarantine station, and its latest use is definitely an upgrade. To book the restaurant and arrange transport to Galesnik, ask at the Port Authority on the riva close to where the catamaran comes in.
While most tourists head to the Pakleni Islands for their beach time, there is an exception – the easternmost island of them all, Pokonji Dol. One of the most photographed things on Hvar due to its picturesque lighthouse in the middle of the small islet, the island lies in front of one of Hvar Town’s most popular beach spots, a bay of the same name. The lighthouse, built in 1872, has played an important role in guiding shipping through the islands since its construction, but it was powerless to stop a luxury yacht which ran aground a couple of metres from the beach a few years ago. Take a look.
There are 16 islands in all, and we have covered the five most important ones above. It would not be correct to reveal all the secrets, as then there would be nothing to discover. The Pakleni Islands are a sailing and kayaking paradise if the water-taxi or speedboat transfer option is not for you. Nice little tours such as the half-day sailing and kayaking sunset tours.
Some people call them the Hellish Islands. I can’t think of many better versions of Paradise.
There is much more to Hvar, the island, than Hvar, the town.
The first capital of the island and home to the main ferry terminal, Stari Grad – or Faros – as it was first known after being founded by the Ancient Greeks from the island of Paros 2,400 years ago, even has its very own UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its pedestrianised old town is exquisite, and recent investments in luxury hotels point to a brighter future. Learn more about this lovely town in the TC Stari Grad in a Page.
A little further on past Stari Grad on the northern shore is the very pleasant town of Jelsa, which was my home for 13 years. A lot more laid back (and much cheaper) than Hvar Town, Jelsa is a family destination with great beaches and a pretty old town with the best ice cream, as well as some of the best winemakers in Dalmatia. Learn more in the TC Jelsa in a Page.
Home to the ACI marina on the island, Vrboska is a sailing hub which is known affectionately as Little Venice after its small canal. Learn more about its amazing fortress church and 24 other things about one of the prettiest settlements in Dalmatia.
Don’t miss the inland villages that form the spine of central Hvar, as they are all unique and have something to offer. Velo Grablje was once the lavender capital of Dalmatia and hosts an annual lavender festival, for example, while Malo Grablje below has been completely abandoned for 50 years, and all property owners have the surname of Tudor.
Dol is home to the edible dormouse festival, while Pitve is the oldest village on the island, dating back 2,000 years. Walking through them is a journey back in time, and you are likely to end up in interesting encounters with the locals.
Milna, Zarace and Dubovica
The southern coast on the fast road to Stari Grad has three gems worth exploring. Milna, the closest has some of the best fish restaurants on the island, as well as family-friendly beaches. Zarace also has good beaches and great restaurants, and it is shielded from the wind by unusual rock formations. And one of the picture postcard shots of Croatia is the magnificent stone house jutting out into the water at Dubovica beach.
Through the Tunnel: Sveta Nedelja, Ivan Dolac and Zavala
The Pitve tunnel is not for everyone. The Yugoslav military drilled through the rock in 1963 to bring water to the south of the island, and the 1.4 km drive is an adrenaline rush for many. Three fantastic locations await on the other side, as well as some of the best beaches on the island – Zavala, Ivan Dolac, and Sveta Nedjelja. And this is also wine country, with the steep Plavac Mali vineyards contributing to some of Croatia’s finest wine.
There is plenty to explore all over the island, but if you would like to take in another experience as well, here are our top 5 day trips from Hvar.
An hour away by catamaran, Split has become one of the hottest destinations on the Adriatic. The magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian’s Palace is the centre stage, of course, but there is plenty more to explore and enjoy. Learn more in the TC Split in a Page guide.
The birthplace of cricket in Europe outside the UK, home to a submarine base and secret military tunnels, the tiny island of Vis is fascinating. Your best way to visit is on a speedboat tour such as this one. You can learn more about this amazing island in the TC Vis in a Page guide.
The island south of Hvar is one of the most beautiful on the Adriatic, and I often wonder what made Marco Polo leave such a divine spot to go on his travels. You have an affordable way to find out more about the island of Korcula as it has regular catamaran connections to Hvar Town throughout the year. Learn more in the TC Korcula in a Page guide.
A must-see when in Hvar! Witness the magnificence of the Blue cave on Bisevo island. Take a dip in emerald waters inside the Green cave and float in Stiniva cove. Strap on your diving mask and explore a thriving underwater world of Vis island, before nibbling on local specialties in Palmizana bay. Learn more.
There are no prizes for guessing which is the most iconic beach in Croatia. Zlatni Rat in Bol on nearby Brac takes that accolade, and it is a magnet for day trippers. Bol is a fun destination in its own right, and what better way to see it than a speedboat tour?
The island’s beaches have achieved world renown, and CNN named Jerolim beach the top naturist beach back in 2012, describing it as a place of „untouched nature, rocky shores, and crystal clear sea.“ Did you know that Jerolim, the island of the same name, was also the first naturist island in Croatia? As one of 16 Pakleni Islands, Jerolim has been welcoming naturists for a long time.
Most of Hvar’s beaches are rocky or with small pebbles. There are some sandy beaches (Perna on Pakleni Islands, Mina and Grebisce in Jelsa), but they are rare. However, with so many bays and coves to choose from, you will have no problem finding the perfect beach. Here are our top 5 beaches on this gorgeous island. Now take a tour of the entirely island’s beaches in the video below.
Beach Club Hvar
Nestled just a short stroll from the town centre in one of the most picturesque parts of Hvar, Beach Club Hvar boasts eye catching architecture and unbeatable sea views. Established in 1927, Beach Club Hvar is the synonym for luxury, lavishness and style. Completely renovated in 2021, this timeless club provides a haven for those seeking unpretentious luxury. With its prime location and rich history, it is considered the quintessential Hvar landmark since its inception.