Pakleni Islands Explained: Art, Beach, FKK, Food and Party

Total Croatia News

Romulic and Stojcic

June 2, 2019 – They may all look the same, but the Pakleni Islands in front of Hvar Town have an astonishing variety for tourists – taking a closer look.

Hvar Town is one of the most beautiful towns in all Europe, and yet one of its main attractions involves leaving this architectural gem by boat. 

Located in front of Hvar’s idyllic harbour lie a collection of pine-covered islands, whose peace and tranquility have been attracting visitors since Roman times and a growing number of tourists since the first tourist business opened there back in 1906. 

And while they may look very similar when viewed from Hvar’s vantage points such as the Spanish Fortress, the Pakleni Islands offer as diverse an experience as Hvar itself. 


(Photo by Romulic and Stojcic)

In season, the daily water taxis ply their trade between several of the islands, but which one is right for you?

Often mistranslated as Hell Islands (if the Pakleni Islands are a vision of hell, then I wonder what heaven looks like), the islands’ collective name is thought to derive from the Croatian word for the resin of the ubiquitous pine trees, which dominate the nature on the islands. Tourism has played its part in the development of the islands, several of which have developed in very different ways. 

The tourism story dates back to 1906 when the local Meneghello family opened the first tourism facility in the bay of Vinogradisce on the largest of the Pakleni Islands, Sveti Klement. Often referred to as Palmizana and sporting an ACI marina of the same name, this continues to be the most popular destination for day-trippers. 

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Tourism at Palmizana is well-developed these days, but Dagmar Meneghello, who has given more than 50 years of her life to developing the island of her late husband, gave a fascinating interview of life on Palmizana over the last half-century. You can read the TCN interview here.

Today Palmizana is known for its luxury cuisine, and a destination where many A-list celebrities visit to avoid the cameras. Others, who are not so camera-shy, have not only visited but returned, and Bono was a particular fan of the cooking of chef Hrvoje Zirojevic on at least two occasions. 

Palmizana is also a very popular wedding destination, and its five waterfront restaurants have something for everyone. The Meneghellos have also developed tourism in different ways, and at Palmizana, you will find an arboretum, art gallery, roaming peacocks and a rich cultural performance of concerts throughout the summer. 


As this is the most popular destination on the Pakleni Islands, there are regular taxi boats from the Hvar waterfront, which cost around 70 kuna return, and the ride takes about 15-20 minutes. The water taxi drops you off at the ACI marina on the northern side of the island, from where there is a lovely walk through the forest for about 200 metres to the south. Here you are confronted with signs and paths to the different restaurants – Meneghello, Toto’s, Zori, Bacchus and Laganini

Sveti Klement also offers a totally different experience, also available by water taxi from Hvar Town – Vlaka.


Located on the northern shore some distance past the marina, Vlaka is one of the region’s most fascinating destinations. Here you can find the remains of a Roman Villa Rustica, evidence of the island’s popularity throughout the ages, as well as the remains of a Roman mud bath – locals still come here to bath in the mud and swear by its natural healing powers. There is also the lowest vineyard in Croatia, just one metre above sea level, which until recent times produced the grapes for Andro Tomic’s popular Sveti Klement white wine. And many locals will tell you that the best and most authentic restaurant experience on Hvar can be had in Vlaka – Dionis. 

Great food is a constant theme on the Pakleni Islands, and for an altogether different experience, check out Galesnik, the closest island to the town. The low one-story stone building you see from Hvar also functions these days as a great eco-ethno restaurant (you can book by the harbour master on the Hvar riva).


The island was also one the home of a donkey called Mercedes, who had a liking of rakija and was in fact the only full-time resident of Galesnik. A British visitor took pity on the lonely Mercedes and arranged for a male companion to be winched onto a boat and transferred to Galesnik to keep her company. 


After some happy times together, the couple were moved to the Pelegrin forest north of Hvar Town, where food and space were more abundant. Mercedes went missing one day and her male admirer died of a broken heart. Although we never met, Mercedes lives on, providing the inspiration and cover photo for my last book, Lavender, Dormice and a Donkey Named Mercedes.


The Pakleni Islands are also a great destination for FKK naturists. The island for you is Jerolim, which back in 2011 was named by CNN as the top naturist beach in the world. While many get as far as the restaurant opposite Hvar Town, take the path to the left and walk about 100 metres through the woods to the other side and discover what for me is the best place on the Pakleni Islands – Mare’s Place. Perfect chillin’.

And if it is nightlife you are looking for… 

Marinkovic is another very popular island, but one whose name you will rarely see. For it is mostly referred to by three of its bays, all of which are accessible by those all-important water taxis. Locals swear by both Mlini and Zdrilca, both of which have great beaches and food, but undoubtedly the biggest draw – both day and night – is in the bay of Stipanska, home to Carpe Diem Beach. By day, a very popular beach club, by night, the biggest party on the nearby islands. 

While these are the main islands connected by water taxi, there are several others which you are free to explore independently. One of the best ways to do this is by sea kayak, a sport which is growing in popularity each year. Local adrenaline experts such as Hvar Sea Kayak rave a range of great tours to explore the hidden coves close up, and the sunset tour of the Pakleni Islands is magical. 


Sea kayaking is just one way to explore. Sailing tours, including half-day trips to get a taste of what the islands offer, is also popular, and scuba divers will head to another of the islands, Vodnjak, which is home to some of the region’s most popular dive sites. 

A fabulous collection of islands, and once enjoyed by day, the delights of Hvar Town await in the evening – the perfect combination!


Looking for the best beaches on the Pakleni Islands? Your TCN guide.




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