WE said goodbye to Split and ferried over to the party island of Hvar, specifically to the popular destination of Hvar Town (there are other, more “relaxed” towns on the island). The mega yachts docked in the marina and reputation for exceptional nightlife had visions of St. Tropez dancing in our heads. After a couple of weeks of “roughing it”, we were looking forward to having mojitos and sunning ourselves by the pool, while house music wafted through the air above the whirring of daiquiri machines.
We had decided to put aside culture, food, history and just make sure an umbrella’d drink was in hand at all times, take a lot of naps, and dance until sunrise at least once. We booked a reasonable priced and hip hotel, Pharos Hvar Bayhill, and the accommodation was well worth the price per night. A nice boutique with lots of personality and all the amenities you could ask for. While it’s not centrally located per se, it’s perfectly positioned between the marina (party ground zero), and some of the beach clubs west of the center.
AFTER the requisite pool time and nap, we headed out for our first night in Hvar expecting to just follow our ears and groove from chic party to party around the harbor. We could feel the energy as we approached the buzzing marina, but something felt off. As we got closer we discovered that it wasn’t just the hordes of shrieking cicadas that had come to infest the island this time of year, the waterfront was packed full of teenage backpackers chugging 2 liter beers and expelling said beers from one orifice or the other. To make matters worse, not a dope beat to be found. The first tune we heard blaring from Kiva (one of the recommended “hot spots”) was Backstreet Boys….the kids were loving it, but we were a bit dismayed.
Lets be clear, we are not saying we’ve never stumbled out of the hostel in a far-off land with a handful of our newest “friends forever” to go lose our hearing at a pub blasting familiar tunes. We will surely even do it again. The thing was, it was just about as far from what we were expecting as it gets. We were ready for Santorini, but found ourselves in Seaside Heights.
“Backstreet boys?!? I was expecting Fedde le Grand…” d.
“I feel myself judgy…and old! Get off my lawn punkos!” a.
FOLLOWING the marina through the hordes of drunk kids, past the assaulting Hooter’s playlists, and over the mountains of discarded beer bottles we found Carpe Diem. Conveniently located directly across from the fanciest yachts’ docked in the harbor, Carpe Diem is the spot to see and be seen. Finally we felt the border-line-douchey vibe we were desperately searching for. Good (expensive) cocktails, exclusive table service, chill house music, and all the pretentious yacht people you could shake a stick at. And yet it felt better.
“the party got us excited, but eventually the thought of our bed in the hotel won for the night!” d.
“This douchey lounge feels better than a grimy backpacker bar?? what tricks do you play on me father time?!” a.
After having a few drinks, we decided to call it an “early one” at 2 AM. We got the impression that the party was just getting started as we left Carpe Diem. We retraced our steps past Kiva, Nautical, Aloha and all the jam-packed bars in the center, and decided to have a go with them. It must be noted that after a few drinks it was out more fun to dance with the sweaty hordes, but as it seemed the masses started to migrate to the next phase of the party, these two old folks strolled home arm in arm, excited for air conditioning and tomorrow’s breakfast.
THE next day we strolled around Hvar after enjoying said breakfast spread. Hvar by day, is almost a different world. The bones of the place are an elegant curve of Venetian handiwork, built around a sapphire bay, with a mountain rising straight up to a fortress looking down from above. Its doesn’t take long to explore the center, but in the blazing August heat we were eager to retreat to the safety of mojitos by the pool.
AFTER the pool and a power nap, we headed away from the center of town to the Hula Hula Beach Bar, and finally we had found the party we were looking for. As the sun dipped and eventually disappeared into the Adriatic, house music undulated from this outdoor lounge on the shore. The place was crowded, and table service was the only way to have a comfortable place to dance, but the staff seemed to just be there to party themselves, so we elbowed our way to the bar, bought a bottle of proseco and commandeered a nice unoccupied table. Culminating in the epic sunset, Hula Hula was what we came here for; chic hedonism, EDM and ocean views.
THE inevitable side effect was early drunkenness so shortly after nightfall, as the party started thinning out and people began to transition into whatever the next stage of reveling was, we swerved back to the hotel for another really damn good meal from the surprising menu. We were feeling a little guilty for only eating at our the hotel (usually a cardinal travel sin), but the food there is really really good and we’d already let go of the desire to do anything “local” that weekend.
“why would we leave this place. we’ve earned some comfort and laziness!” d.
“We are ALL ABOUT this hotel life!” a.
WE were pretty much done after the beach party, but ambled back into the center of town to digest dinner and see if there was anything else to get into. We stopped into Ka Lavanda, a packed upscale lounge spilling out into one of the stepped alleys. The mojitos and music were right on point, but at this point the bad, almost mean, service everywhere was harshing our mellow on Hvar. Not to harp on the negative, but between the obnoxious butt-chugging youngsters and the extreme lack of any hospitality anywhere (let alone the fancier joints), it was getting hard to like it here.
To be fair, we assumed everyone living and working in the town was absolutely fed up with reveling tourists demanding their services in this late part of the yearly high season, but to give an honest assessment of our experience it must be noted.
THE next day we hiked to the top of the bluffs overlooking Hvar Town and checked out the old fort known as Fortica Španjola. It’s a pretty impressive citadel, built up over time to protect the locals from those various potential conquerors. It is a reminder that these islands and fortified ports scattered about the Adriatic coast were once their own city states with their own cultures and identities. Even after being batted around over millennia by the Romans, Venetians, Turks, Napoleonic forces, Nazi’s, Allied forces, Communists, it seems each destination in Croatia has its own distinct flavor held over from the times that they were isolated.
AFTER the fort we grabbed a water taxi below in the marina to check out an adjacent island called Jerolim. Jerolim is a known for its nude beaches and we checked out the closest beach to the dock called Kordovon. It’s much less private than Vis’ Bilibok, but if you just keep you eyes on the rocks, and don’t think about it too much it’s easy to enjoy the cozy half-moon of beach au natural. We didn’t have much time before the sun went down, but it quickly became a top 5 beach of the trip. The water was warm and calm, there is a bohemian beach shack with ice-cold beers nestled in the mangrove, and the loose dress code is something one can get used to.
“I’m falling for this no shame kind of life!” d.
“I’m basically a nudist now…” a.
FOR our last dinner on the island we decided to finally leave our hotel for a meal and eat in town. After wandering the lanes above the marina, we ended up stopping at an al fresco option called Gurme. The service was the best we’d had in Hvar and the food was excellent. The ambience and experience reminded us of the magic of Croatia, even as the imperfections of our time in Hvar town were starting to grate on us.
While a man strummed his guitar, echoing through the orange lit lanes, we had great wine and a divine selection of Dalmatian delights. Local calamari, grilled local tuna, Croatian focaccia, fried eggplant and Hvarian Quiche.
“…when the crazy kids and ruthless servers move to the next ‘hip’ island, I’ll come back…” d.
“on this pleasant night, with great food and company I’m reminded that Hvar would be a great place without all the people…the guy with the guitar can stay.” a.
THAT night was the night. We were going full on. Ready to dance until the sun came up at a world renowned club that also happens to be its own island; Carpe Diem Beach Club. The satellite spin-off of the aforementioned lounge on Hvar proper was a boat ride away to the nearby island of Stipanska. We shelled out for the cover/transpo charge, and it must be said it’s pretty damn sick. A raver wonderland of a club sprawled out over an island off an island. Under full moon, we enjoyed the music and vibe, but alas we started to run out of steam at 3am.
As we climbed onto the ferry back to Hvar town, again it seemed the party was just getting started, and we could only imagine how sublime the sunrise from Carpe Diem Beach would be…but high thread counts awaited us…
IN the end it seems our all-nighter days are over, and after a nice air conditioned sleep nestled in our comfy hotel bed, we were ready to take the ferry ride to our next, highly anticipated, stop-