Sailing in Croatia: Hvar and Pakleni Islands
My blogging has taken a nose dive last week, so I have been behind on my Croatian sailing holiday adventures. For those that follow regularly, you will know that I was studying for some examinations that are now (hopefully) fully wrapped up. So without further ado, let me introduce you to one of my favorite spots on the Dalmatian coast, Hvar and Pakleni Islands of Croatia.
Hvar was a welcome harbor that we sailed towards, escaping the storm that descended on us in Scedro. After a few hours of motor-sailing in the early morning we reached our destination. The Marina Palmizana was jam-packed with sailing yachts and catamarans of all shapes and sizes, given its proximity to the very popular town of Hvar. FYI, if you do need to remember the name of the said marina, do NOT bring to mind the famous cheese because I promise you, it will stay as “Parmesan” forever. Surprisingly enough, not too many locals find that funny…
Palmizana is a car-free island and boasts fantastic nature to match. A lush green canopy of trees frames the marina and provides a scenic setting for such activities as kayaking, enjoying outdoor massages in a specially set-up gazebo, hiking and more. We, of course, ignored all that and just zoomed towards the water taxi stop to take us to Hvar town, immediately. And this reminds me that Palmizana is another place in Croatia that I must re-visit (along with Dubrovnik), as soon as is humanely possible.
Hvar greeted us with sunshine, peeping from behind steel gray clouds, which allowed maximum comfort to explore the old town at mid-day. After a stroll along the sea coast to see the quaint Franciscan Monastery, we took one of the stairs to ascend to the heart of the historic city of Hvar. For those that have visited the Greek islands before, the historic center is somewhat similar in the way the streets seem to haphazardly twist and turn, without a discernible structure and you constantly find yourself changing direction, following this or that scenic route. The ups and downs of the pedestrian-only roads make for lovely photo opportunities and add to the overall charm of the old town. Small rustic restaurants and numerous souvenir stores are interspersed with specialists shops, selling locally produces food and clothing items. Before we knew it, we reached the main square of Hvar town, which is nestled under an imposing hill with the Spanish fortress overlooking the many cafés it houses.
By then, having suitable worked up an appetite, we braced ourselves for the assaults by the many restaurant hosts’ and hostesses’, working the typical tourist town hustle. Armed with no further guidance than ‘do not go into any place that has photos of their food plastered outside’, we delved deeper into Hvar. Having successfully battled off advances from many of the said hostesses, we found ourselves prey to the most ingenious marketing technique I have yet to encounter. Upon approaching the restaurant ‘Luna‘, we were swiftly told by their host to go a few meters ahead to another establishment altogether. I, of course, will NOT be told what to do and have immediately decided that my lunch will be at ‘Luna” and no place else will do.
No regrets, guys. Beautiful patio on the roof top, excellent white wine by the glass, the most tender poached calamari I have tasted in a while and attentive service is what awaits you in ‘Luna’ restaurant. Trip Advisor is a tad confusing with this place, citing it as ‘closed’ (must be a mix up with multiple entries) but I have attached a link to their website right here, so you can bookmark it for later.
We then stopped over for some coffee at the popular seaside bar ‘Carpe Diem’, grabbed a gelato and headed back to Palmizana to rest for the evening. As Hvar is known as “the party island” of the Croatian coast, and given our sleepless night before, we needed all the energy to take us through the night.
A few naps later, we made our way back to Hvar town, to enjoy the sunset at the famous ‘Hula Hula Hvar‘. Fantastic cocktails, excellent DJ set and a scenic views is all part of an evening out in this bar. However, what really made it a highlight of the day for me is the crowd. I have already mentioned the camaraderie that permeates the holiday sailing world but another discerning quality is their ability to let their hair down and enjoy themselves. There is none of the pretentiousness that the South of France will greet you with. Neither will you encounter the total hedonistic abandon and excess that you will find in my nearby Ayia Napa or its equivalents in Greece and Spain. The holiday sailing crowd in Croatia rolls out early in the evening to ‘Hula Hula Hvar‘ to enjoy themselves to their absolute best ability and each person’s alcohol tolerance. It bodes well for them to do so, as I imagine holiday sailing in Croatia with a bad hangover could actually kill you.
We then moved on to another popular spot in Hvar town, which was much too crowded and lacking the beautiful vista of ‘Hula Hula Hvar’, Kiva Bar. I was a little underwhelmed with the popular joint but then I have never been a fan of people invading my personal space. The crowd is fun and the service is surprisingly fast for a place that is that full. Yet, I was never a fan of bars that overflow into the nearby street, as a concept. So we finished our Hvar town ‘bar crawl’ and made way back to Palmizana.
The following morning was our time to depart from Pakleni Islands but not before we witnessed the many ‘walks of shame’ and swapped stories with our ‘neighbors’. I was quite content to depart and continue exploring the more peaceful places on our sail Croatia itinerary but noted that Hvar might be one of those places that would make for an excellent ‘girl trip’ and bachelor/bachelorette party destination for the future.
And next on our route was the beautiful Brac and what a sight that was…