There are some travel myths that need to be debunked. Everyone is not rude in Paris. The food is not terrible in England. Barcelona does not have a pickpocket for every tourist. And Hvar Town, where most people land when they visit beautiful Hvar Island in Croatia, is not just a glitzy resort destination for the European party crowd.
Admittedly, there are some places that, if they were all you were to see in Hvar Town, make it seem a bit of a luxury destination. Such as the Adriana Hotel, or the cabanas you can rent there.
On this side of Hvar Town, there are more bars and clubs and I am sure on a Friday night in the summertime, it is overrun with a hip crowd. In the apartment I stay in Hvar Town, there is a picture of one of my favorite bars, the Hula Bar, taken from above. The photo shows a crowd of partying young folks during sunset. I am sure it would be fun, but I prefer the Hula Bar when it is like this:
Just me, a few other quiet travelers, and the beautiful blue sea. Though I have been there when the place was crowded and it was a lot of fun, thankfully there are times of the day when you can have it to yourself.
In this view of the cabana area of the Adriana Hotel, you can see the other, more residential part of Hvar Town. This is where I always stay, and where we stay on a GrapeHops Tour.
I do not want to be in a big hotel that could be in Las Vegas. I want to stay with the local people who have become friends. On the other side of town, there is a football field where you can watch a practice or a game; there is a little harbor where many of the locals keep their fishing dinghy, there is a butcher and two supermarkets. It is a only a mile from the Hula Bar, but it is worlds away from a fancy resort town.
In the main harbor in town, there are a couple of pricey hotels, and plenty of places to drop a wad on a fish dinner. But above that is a remarkable fortress, built when the Venetians occupied Hvar Town. Walking to and from the fortress, you see no signs of glitz or glamor, and just outside you are rewarded with stunning views.
I do have to admit, I have never been to Hvar Town in July or August when I know is wall-to-wall people. I have been there in May a few times, and it is never crowded; in June and late September it was more crowded but certainly manageable. And on October 3, you can see a procession of locals on St. Stephen’s Day.
I saw many familiar faces in this procession. Despite the reputation Hvar Town has developed over the past few years, it is still a town of locals, some of whom have never seen the Hula Bar or even the Adriana Hotel. But ask the delightful Eva, taxi driver extraordinaire, or her husband Tihi and they will take you anywhere you want to go. They live next door to the Komazin apartments where we always stay, and if you are in Hvar Town for any length of time you will run into Eva or see Tihi drinking a coffee.
We see a lot of Eva on the GrapeHops tour in Croatia. She has a great playlist of classic rock that she plays in the van as we make our way to various spots on Hvar Island, and she is only one of the wonderful locals we meet.
A favorite evening in Hvar Town, is the one where we have an “epic picnic” at our apartments. We cook in, eat and drink the wine and specialty foods we have picked up along the way, and enjoy “being home” at our home away from home in Hvar Town.
And Hvar Town is only part of the experience. There is also the rest of the island to explore!
This year, GrapeHops did three tours in Croatia, but in 2015 there will be only one. If you would like to visit Croatia, consider joining a small group of like-minded travelers on the Croatia, Land of Wine & History tour from May 25 – June 8, 2016.
Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.
Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.
When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.