8 days in Croatia
It's nearing my 5th anniversary with my bestie, my husband, Adam. We'd been taking about doing a trip in November together for our anniversary but it's always a tough time to leave for work. We've never been to Europe in the summer since we usually take advantage of the lower rates in the off season. We decided on August for the warm ocean weather, and Croatia since a few friends who have been have raved about it being a gem for it's famous summer "yacht week."
Now one might think "the yacht week" is a week of summer where everyone hangs out on yachts around the islands. This is what I thought when I first heard the term. In fact, yacht week is an all summer long activity in Croatia where you can sign up to stay on a sailboat and cruise around the islands for a week and party your ass off. Since I get sea sick, and a vast majority of the crowd is about 10 years younger than us, we opted for the convenience of staying in AirBNB's on the islands and catching the crowds and parties when they flocked to dry land. This strategy works quite well, because these so-called "yacht parties" are mostly on the islands, not on yachts or sailboats (more info on The Yacht Week).
Diocletian's Palace (Old Town)
Diocletian's Palace is the heart of Old Town Split. Imagine the glory of 4th century Roman architecture bustling with cafes, restaurants, and museums. Adam and I had a couple of mojitos, got lost in the maze of cobblestone streets and found a cute Bodega for food and wine. We finished the night up at a "yacht party" just outside the walls of the palace. Think large outdoor popup club.
Day Trip to Krka National Park
We took a day trip to Krka Falls from Split. I heard from a friend this was a must-see! They were right, what a gorgeous place to roam around to view all the seafoam green and turquoise waterfalls throughout this national park. A major plus is that you can swim near the main attraction. I recommend jumping into the water early so you can miss the heavy crowds in the afternoon. Also wear water shoes because there are a lot of rocks you can slip on or stub your toe. Ouch!
Hvar Island, Croatia
Sunset at Hula Hula Bar
Hula Hula is a staple of Hvar island. It's a beach bar with lounge chairs facing the clear calm blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. We went early (a few hours before sunset) and managed to snag a few lounge chairs. Near sunset the place gets jam packed and becomes a true beach party. It took me an hour to get some drinks! Definitely prep for this and try and order large drinks before the big rush. I loved the atmosphere here overall!
We got connected with some friends of friends via Facebook, and spent some time with them while we were there. We tagged along for a boat ride to go exploring, since some of the beaches on Hvar are only accessible by boat. Plus it's amazing to get out on the water! We visited a few coves, then went to Laganini Bar & Fish House. We pulled up to dock near stone and wood huts. This amazing outdoor beach bungalow has a magical ambiance. We snacked on fresh oysters, calamari, and risotto and popped a few bottles of delicious dry rosé. Now looking back, I would've loved to spend some more time here! Lounges like this should exist everywhere there is a body of water and good weather!
Scooter around the island to Zarace, Dubovica, Stari Grad, and Jelsa
Adam and I own a scooter in L.A., so we're quite comfortable scootin' around. If you're also comfortable on two wheels I highly recommend renting scooters for a day to tour around the island. Traffic is quite sparse, but there are a lot of steep hills and high cliff edges. First stop, and probably my favorite, was Zaraće Beach. You have to take the scooters down a steep road to park them closer to the coast, then hike down towards the right where stairs lead you down into this stunning cove. The water feels refreshing in the high temps and humidity!
Next stop was Dubovica, a cove you have to hike about a quarter mile downhill to get to. It also has a quaint little beach restaurant. I tried to be bold and order the fried fish, but I wasn't too thrilled when tiny headless fish were served up with bones and fins still attached. The fish itself tasted great, I'm just used to my American fillets, and overall I'm not a very adventurous foodie. Adam and I were dreaming about the house pictured below becoming our holiday villa (wouldn't that be nice!?).
Stari Grad is one of the oldest towns in Europe. The Stari Grad Plain on the island of Hvar is an agricultural landscape that was set up by the ancient Greek colonists in the 4th century BC, and remains in use today (Wiki). We wandered through this old town and it felt like stepping back in time. Stone buildings, green wooden shutters, majestic cathedrals, and silence. There wasn't a tourist or even a local in site inside the cobblestone streets.
Note: There is also really great wine tasting near Stari Grad. We skipped this since we were on scooters.
The Top Bar for the view at sunset
The Top Bar atmosphere is what you would expect from an upscale Hotel Bar. It has the best view of Hvar Town on the island. We stopped in to see the sun bathing the city in glowing light over a couple of martinis and it was well worth the visit!
Hike up to Hvar Fortress
Hike through the city and up centuries old stairs to get up to the Hvar Fortress. For the amount of time it takes to trek up to the top this view is worth it. It's only a 20-25 minute walk to get to the top.
Hula Hula Sunset Bar
Top Bar - lounge bar with the best view of Hvar Town
Ka'Lavanda - swanky lounge bar in an alley way just off the main square of Hvar Town
Carpe Diem - day and night club on an island near Hvar, water taxis frequent back and forth. This is THE party mecca of Hvar.
Park Restaurant - romantic dinner location overlooking the square
Fig Cafe Bar - this is a great breakfast or lunch spot, large portions, a mediterranean spin on California breakfast complete with cold brews
Dalmatino - elegant restaurant near the main square, delicious food, great ambiance
Junior - this restaurant feels very authentic and I had the best shrimp risotto here. Adam had the grouper and they kindly deboned it for him, above and beyond for service in my opinion.
You can take a boat to tour the Blue and Green Caves from Vis, and visit some beaches on the island to go for a swim. We booked with Dalmatia Boat Tours, and they were amazing! Nino and Zrinka were our hosts for the day, and they're a delightful Croatian couple who have traveled to over 120 countries together!
We visited several military sites along the coastline. Then one of the first stops to beat the crowds was the famous Blue Cave (Cave Bisevo), where light from under the cave filters through the blue water to emit a glowing blue that fills the entire cave.
One of the other highlights was Stiniva Beach, most accessible by boat, and voted one of the best beaches in the world. Stiniva is surrounded by two cliffs and has a white rock beach surround by two bluffs. You can either boat here or try hiking down. Boating is definitely the preferred route.
Scooter around the island to Komiza, Tito's Cave, Milna & more
We opted for scooters again to tour around Vis. It was off to a rocky start with our scooter rentals. First one didn't start, then another was having engine problems, and one of the replacement didn't have enough gas (always check your gas!). After sorting it out, we went to Komiza first to try some lobster at Konoba Jastožera, which we saw when we were out boating. The restaurant is quite literally right on the water, with lobster traps below. The lobster's were large and delicious but REALLY expensive! If I went back to Komiza I'd look for something way more reasonable.
We continued our scooter journey up and down the cliff edges, enjoying the cool wind and taking in all the scenery.
We stopped at Tito's Cave, formerly a hideout for Yugoslav partisans leader Josip Broz Tito.
The last place we visited was Milna Beach, a beach with water so clear you can see your toes. This place is perfect for relaxing and family time if you have kids. It feels like a pool because the water is shallow for about a quarter mile off the shore. Also it's a sandy beach, a lot of Croatia's beaches are rocky.
Dinner and drinks at Fort George (make reservations!)
The ambiance at Fort George is magical! We were picked up by an old military Land Rover that drove us up the mountain to the hilltop location. When you arrive at the old fortress you find that they've converted it into a majestic restaurant overlooking the water on three sides. The stone walls have vines growing from them, giving it that Secret Garden feeling when you enter into the gates. We relaxed and had a cocktail before sitting down for dinner on the cliff's edge while a live band played elegant music in the courtyard. I can imagine the most beautiful weddings could be here.
Pizzeria Karol - casual place to grab some pizza and beer
Stara Teza - romantic dinner inside a courtyard with great service and amazing food, a bit pricy
Fort George - romantic dinner in an old military first that's been converted into a dinner venue (on the nights when there isn't a yacht party going on)
Senko's - a dining experience where Seiko cooks for you fresh catches from the day, it will take a VERY long time so come prepared with swimsuits so you can swim while he's prepping meals... expect to be here for 3 hours
Fort George - check the schedule for Yacht parties coming through for themed parties
Bring water shoes or buy a cheap pair there. A lot of the beaches are rocky which hurt your feet, and on a rare occasion you might step on a sea urchin which is basically like stepping on a porcupine (we met a guy, it didn't look pleasant).