Sunny Summer Days in Croatia

August 2019

After a whirlwind visit back to the States we decided to spend the last days of our summer break in sunny Croatia. We packed the car and took off for the Munich airport ready for some sunshine and the salt of the Adriatic Sea. The flight from Munich to Split is a quick up and down at a little over an hour.

I booked us to stay one night in Split at the Hotel Slavija before taking off for a week on Hvar. The hotel arranged a transfer for us which was great because parking in the city center of Split is very limited and the hotel was located smack dab in the city center. The drive from the Split airport to Old Town Split is about 30 minutes and before we knew it we were checked in, bags were dropped and we hit the streets of Split to start exploring. After wandering the white stone streets for a bit we settled into dinner at the Brasserie on 7 located on the Splitska Riva (the promenade overlooking the harbor). I had pre-booked a table since it was August and high season in Croatia and can be tough to walk in as a family of five. Nothing gets my crew off on the wrong foot more than wandering around and around for a place to eat on our first night! Our table and view were perfect along with our first bites of Croatian cuisine and tastes of the delicious local wine. After dinner we had a nice stroll along the Riva and walk through the open air markets and then the boys headed back to the hotel for some r&r. Scott and I weren’t ready to call it a night so we got the boys settled in and headed out for a night cap. The narrow winding streets of Split were packed with people, tables and holiday energy. We made a pit stop at The Black Dog Craft Bar which serves fancy craft cocktails and a lively crowd. Satisfied with our first day we decided to call it a night and rest up for our morning of sight seeing.

After maybe enjoying the craft cocktails at the Black Dog a bit too much our morning didn’t start out quite as early as planned but was easily given a nice push along with the traditional Croatian breakfast served at our hotel and nice strong coffee. Split isn’t that big and can easily be toured in a day which was great for us because we were scheduled on the 4:00 ferry to Hvar. Here are the three main sites we saw while in Split (all were very doable with our timeline)…

Marjan Hill, Diocletian’s Palace & St. Domnius Cathedral

We set out for our hike up Marjan Hill. The idea was to get some exercise and check out Split from a different angle. It was hot and we probably didn’t pack enough water but the beauty of the forest and view of Split were well worth it. We went all the way up to the highest peak called Telegrin and then made our way back down to the midpoint restaurant Teraca Vidilica and stopped for some ice cream and cold drinks. Diocletian’s Palace was next on our list and can’t be missed once back in Old Town. The Palace was built in the the 4th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As we arrived at the Peristyle (the inner courtyard of the palace) a wedding party was there celebrating. We took at seat on the steps and watched the newlyweds and their families toasting and cheering. It was a special to experience the joy of the families in the magical setting of the historical palace. After a nice break we queued for the climb up the bell tower of St. Domnius Cathedral. St. Domnius Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Catheral in the world and located in Diocletian’s Palace. The wait was only about 20 minutes and the narrow climb up the tower steps provides a great view of Split.

Wrapping up our site seeing for the day we walked out of the Palace via the cellars through a little market full of shops selling art, jewelry and trinkets. We didn’t have time for a tour of the cellars but will put that on our list for next time. After popping back by our hotel to grab our bags we headed towards the port to grab our ride to Hvar looking forward to exploring the Croatian Islands.

After a quick 10 minute walk to the ferry port we boarded our catamaran and 50 minutes later were dropped off in the port of Old Town Hvar. There is also an option for a car ferry that goes to Split to Stari Grad on Hvar but that wasn’t necessary for us as we were on foot and didn’t plan on driving on Hvar but good to know for future holidays. There are a few different ferry companies that run the route. We booked through Krilo but I think they are all good and sell tickets online and at the ferry port.

We made our way along the promenade to our home for the week the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort. The Amfora is perfectly located right beside Old Town Hvar perched on a hill overlooking the Adriatic. It’s the biggest resort in Hvar and a really nice setup for families. Our plan for the week was pure relaxation but it’s probably pretty obvious by now that we aren’t super great at sitting still and with three boys it’s a good idea to keep busy and energy flowing. It always works best for us to have one “adventure” per day planned and then play the rest by ear. Here’s what made our list during our stay on Hvar…

Explore Old Town and tvrdava Fortica

Falling in love with Old Town Hvar is easy to do. It is a walkable and lively town with cafes lining the port and alleyways. As you make your way up up up through the town and stairs you are greeted by the Tvrdava Fortica, the grand 16th century fortress that sits above the town and keeps an eye on things. At the top you are rewarded with views of Hvar and surrounding islands. We spent about three hours round trip through town and up to the fortress which was voted as plenty of time. It was pretty stinking hot that day so Scott and I woke up early on another morning to do the hike again and enjoy the views.

Boat tour to Ravnik, Biševo and Stiniva Cove

This is a super cool all day boat tour that we booked through our hotel and can be booked by any of the tour companies around the bay. Yes it is very touristy and yes it is very cool and totally worth it. We took off around 10:00 from the Amfora and our first stop was the island of Ravnik where we anchored and swam through the Green cave. Next stop Biševo. Our boat dropped us on shore to take a number and queue for the shuttle boat that would take us into the famous Blue cave. The wait might sound miserable but it really is a nice pause. We had an hour to explore the little cove and grab a beer and snack. When our numbers were called we boarded the shuttle boat for the ten minute ride to the Blue cave. To get into the cave everyone in the boat has to duck down and pass through the what didn’t seem possible tunnel. Once in the cave the blue light from below illuminates the cave and it is mesmerizing. On the way back from the Blue cave we anchored at Stiniva Cove and this was the highlight of the tour. We swam from the boat to reach a small pebble beach and snack shack. No bells or whistles. Just a beautiful untouched Croatian cove that provided a cool swim, cold beer and great end to our day.

Dinner at Zori

Zori Restaurant is located on St Klement island in the gorgeous Vinogradisce bay. It is a 10-15 taxi boat ride from Hvar Town. It was super easy to pre-booked at taxi to leave from the pier by the Amfora and then we just messaged the driver when we were ready to go back. The fish is fresh off the boat and cocktails and wine are spot on. Dining at Zori definitely delivers a great dining experience, the menu is just about as good as it gets and the view is perfect.

Sailboat Tour of the Paklinski Islands

I booked a 1/2 day private sailing tour through the Paklinski Islands through Sailing BARE and it was hands down one of the coolest things we did in Hvar. Captain Edi picked us up in the harbor and we set out on our adventure. He wasn’t so thrilled because the wind wasn’t as strong as he liked, however, we really had no expectations and truthfully were just excited to be on the water. Cruising through the islands on a sailboat is a super cool experience. The world slowed down a bit and we were able to take in the scenery and enjoy the stories from Captain Edi. He was born and raised on Hvar and has a wealth of knowledge and history and is passionate about sailing and the water. Part way through the sail we took a nice rest in Vinogradisce Bay (same bay where Zori is located). Edi provided a huge bowl of fresh fruit as well as snorkel and paddle board equipment. We had a nice swim and took the paddle board to the little beach bar for ice cream and of course a cold beer. Captain Edi was so good with the boys quickly taking to Cal and generously sharing sailing tips and the steering wheel. Honestly if you do anything in Hvar, book a trip with Captain Edi and sail the islands. It is very special and one we will never forget.

Experience Konoba Menego

Konoba Menego is located going up the narrow main staircase connecting Hvar Town and the Fortress. It is a family run traditional Croatian restaurant serving fresh local food and wine from their family vineyard. Reservations are not taken so it is good to get there somewhat early but don’t worry…if you have to wait the stairs become chairs and house wine is served and the wait is never long. The rustic tavern is cozy and service is friendly and warm. You really feel like you are sitting in someone’s dining room experiencing a delicious home cooked family meal.

Sunset at the Hula Hula Beach Bar

The famous Hula Hula Beach Bar is located about a 10 minute walk from the Amfora. We were looking for a fun lively place for a late afternoon lunch/early dinner and this spot is definitely good for that. We were able to grab a table in the bar right down by the water which after a certain time close to happy hour is reservation only and gets very busy. The menu is typical bar food which was welcomed by our crew after a few fancy meals and loads of fresh fish (I know…tough life huh?). We had a chill lunch and then the boys went for a swim in front of the bar and had some fun on the floating mat. As the golden hour approached the bar area got silly packed and we lost our table to a rowdy group of 20 somethings settling in for what looked to be a great night. The boys decided to head back to the hotel for a pool swim but of course because Scott and I still think we are rowdy 20 somethings so we stuck around for the gorgeous sunset and to take in the energy of the party goers who were just starting their night as we were finishing ours.

Falko Beach Bar

A really nice walk from the Amfora is to beach Podstine. It is about 40 minutes round trip on the pedestrian only walkway by the sea going away from Hvar Town. The beach is a great swimming spot with a long concrete dock with for sun bathing and perfecting your swan dive. About half way to Podstine is the charming Falko Beach Bar which is the perfect spot to sip rosé, watch the world go by and sun go down. We enjoyed our time here so much that I don’t have any pictures! Trust me, it is gorgeous with a great vibe and great views.

Sensori and Sensori O Spa

As a little treat I booked a couples massage at the Sensori Spa located in the Adriana hotel located in Hvar Town. The Adriana is Amfora’s sister hotel and has gorgeous views of the bay. The spa was lovely and after we grabbed a bite to eat at The Top Bar at a two top table overlooking the bay and the people strolling by. Waterfront massages are also offered at Sensori O at Bonj ‘les bains’ which is a beach club located next to the Amfora. Scott had a neck and back massage there and gave it a big thumbs up.

 

Departure day arrived and as always was met with a mix of sadness and excitement to see our dog Artie. If it weren’t for Artie and of course those things called school and work I’m not sure we would ever leave the sea. We did the reverse commute – catamaran to Split, transfer to the airport, flight from Split to Munich and within a few hours of leaving Hvar we were back in Germany driving home with sun kissed faces and sand in hair. Croatia is beautiful. The people are warm, welcoming and hospitable. The food and wine are delicious. It was a perfect holiday and I would go back again and again.

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