21.6.12

Our Hvar, Croatia Favs

Hiking down to Dubovica Beach - Hvar, Croatia
We initially planned to spend three days in Hvar, but after our first full day of exploring, we extended that to five. Lucky for us, the super affordable place we were staying at (Pansion Lacman) could accommodate us for a couple more nights. I think we could have stayed for 55 days without getting restless. Okay, maybe not that long, but really there is so much to do in Hvar! We found a helpful tourist office on the harbor called Atlas Travel Agency and they listened to what we were interested in doing and then pointed us in the right direction. The owner of the agency grabbed an island map and circled his favorite vineyards, hidden beaches, bars, and hiking trails. We visited almost every place he suggested and even booked a tour through him to see the mystical Blue Cave. Our trip to the Blue Cave was one of our most memorable experiences from this past year. I am going to beg Chris to write about that excursion in a later post. *Hint hint, Hubby . . . You're just so good at story telling!

Over the past years, charming Hvar Town has earned a reputation as a coastal party spot. It seems that celebrity sightings and lavish yachts have done quite a lot to boost tourism. Adriatic cruise ships frequently unload 1000's of tourists, and British youth spend part of their "gap-year" (it's a new fad to take a year off in between high school and college) drinking the summer away at hip beach bars. Chris and I walked past the famous Hula Hula Hvar and Carpe Diem bars, but we were more interested in exploring hidden treasures on the island known for lavender and wine. 

Breathtaking Dubovica Beach just for us!
We hiked around Hvar Town quite a lot, and while we found several remote and romantic beaches, my favorite beach was Dubovica. You have to drive about ten miles east from Hvar, park your vehicle near the road, and hike 20-ish minutes down to the beach. The beach is marked along the road, so it's pretty obvious where you have to park and hike. It was totally worth the trouble! Chris and I were some of the only people on the beach, but apparently it gets more crowded in high season.

Taking in the silence on Dubovica Beach.
Mustaco Beach and beach restaurant. 
Checking out the beach from inside Mustaco beach restaurant. 
There is only one small beach in Hvar Town (in front of Hotel Amfora) and other than that, there are beach chairs (for rent) precariously set up along the jagged rocks overlooking the water. We decided to take a hike and check out a more proper beach. We left Hvar Town and made the 20-minute walk to Mustaco Beach, and we really liked the vibe. On Mustaco, you can rent chairs and umbrellas, and there's a good mixture of families, elderly couples and young people soaking in the summer rays. I think it's a clothing optional beach because a lot of ladies had their tops off. The little seaside restaurant is rustic and "beachy" and the pizzas are pretty tasty. I was surprised that they will let you enjoy your beer or cocktail down on the beach.

On one afternoon, we took a $5 round trip boat-taxi to Mlini Beach on one of the Pakleni Islands. You can choose to taxi to several of the islands in front of Hvar - some FKK (nudist) and some not, some with hopping beach bars and some totally remote. We chose to check out Mlini Beach and it was a relaxing and quiet (but rough and rocky) beach. 

We took a water taxi to Mlini Beach on one of the Pakleni Islands. 
Beach Bar Mlini is owned by a family that lives on the island. 
You cannot go wrong with pizza in Hvar! We always split one!
After you've spent the entire day roasting your skin, swimming in the clear water, and sweating like a pig, the only thing you really want is a good meal with an ice cold pitcher of water. As I said in my last post about Hvar, the food is a blend of Balkan and Italian. Of course you're going to find pizza and pasta and tons of seafood, but you'll also see more traditional Croatian dishes like mixed meat platters and goulash. On our first night, Chris and I had dinner at Dalmatino . . . and we loved it so much we went back two more times! I know, I know, we're already like a totally boring old couple; but we found something we loved and we stuck with it. The restaurant is tucked away from the hustle and bustle, and everyone sits out on a covered terrace. The service is the clincher! The whole staff works as a team to make every single dining experience superb. They start your meal with a shot of traditional brandy (rakija), give you a little appetizer and then finish you off with a sweet, dessert wine. Their attention to detail is spot on and they are friendly and engaging. The food is amazing as well. Chris tried their Filet Mexico the first night, and he loved it so much . . . guess what. . . he had it two more times! I cannot fault Chris, I ate their homemade gnocchi every single time just with different preparations. They take credit cards and that was another plus!

Our favorite restaurant in Hvar - Dalmatino. 
The most handsome date in the world!
Homemade black gnocchi with shrimp at Dalmatino.
On one evening, Chris and I had dinner at a fancy restaurant called Giaxa. The setting is so romantic. Giaxa is housed in a 15th-century palace and the architecture and design of the place are so classy. I could not stop taking pictures! Unfortunately we were a little disappointed with the service after our experience at Dalmatino. It was not bad, but it was nothing special. The food is very tasty and artfully designed, but the portion sizes were sort of small for the price. Our meal was about double what we had paid the night before for a similar meal at Dalmatino. I would absolutely recommend seeing this place, but maybe just go for a post dinner drink and dessert. And to take a bunch of pictures of course!





Octopus salad starter at Giaxa Restaurant - Hvar. 
Sea bass with grilled local veggies. 
Good bye Hvar! This time - next year??