Ok so its August, you have no choice, this is the only time you can holiday and you want to go to Croatia. Where do you go that isn’t crazy expensive, busy, loud or all three? This is my secret Croatia guide. Second stop Jelsa, Hvar.
For the un initiated you may have heard the name Hvar floating around as the place for celebrity yacht spotting, partying or last but not least as one of the top 10 island to visit according to Conde Nast Traveler. I’m often put off by “hot spot” destinations but as I know Hvar and that it is truly a beautiful spot so this summer I decided to visit in August (gasp) no less. I did not spend a fortune and I did not pack myself like a sardine on the beach. Here is how I did it.
First if all we avoided Hvar town. This is the hub of the madness and in my experience overcrowded, overpriced and just not great quality in any department. It’s worth a visit though especially if you want to people watch or yacht watch in Oscar’s case.
We decided on the less crowded (yes even in August) seaside village of Jelsa. With its picturesque port, tiny alleyways full of treasures and family friendly beaches its well worth checking out. The village is set in a horseshoe with everything centred around the port promenade which has cafe’s, restaurants and evening market. A great place to hang out, let the kids run around, eat ice cream and sip wine. Jelsa also seemed to have pretty lively event scene with a rock cello concert taking place while we were there. Maybe not everyone’s bag but entertainment all the same. There is also a park which has a few amusements no play ground. While we were there some giant trampolines were set up which Oscar absolutely loved!
Jelsa has a small beach right in the centre of the village. Just stroll to the port and take a right if you’re facing the ocean. Its hidden behind a few marina houses. It attract the baby and toddler crowd as its shallow and shaded all be it very small so come early if you want a spot. If you continue walking along the incredible coastal road through pine groves and past even more restaurants you reach a camping ground with a great public beach. There is plenty of shade and concrete areas to laze around and enjoy the emerald sea. It does get busy here too but there is plenty of space and lots of little rocky enclaves to drop your towel on. We ventured even further round and found that by climbing down to the ocean there were lots of spots to jump into the sea and set up a shaded base camp. Make sure you stop along your walk at one of the bars. The view is very relaxing….
One of my absolute favorite spots was the secret beach at Dubovica. You can easily take a bus from Jelsa and spend the day there. A very special thanks to Frequent Little Traveler for sharing this tip. The restaurant here serves simple food, fish and salad mainly and there is a fresh juice bar too. If you have a fussy eater it may be worth taking along some snacks. The walk down the hill is steep and flip-flops are not ideal. I would bring along sneakers especially if you are carrying small children like me. Other special mentions are a sun – umbrella there is shade but it does move around quickly in this small bay.
Ok back to Jelsa and the important things in life. We covered beach so here are my eating tips. I found the ice cream spots along the promenade all a much of a muchness. The local ice cream is called Ledo and has won many international awards and tastes great. As yet there is no organic or artisinal options although someone should jump on that bandwagon asap. Restaurant wise there are clear winners. There is a reason why Turan was voted number 2 of all the restaurants in Jelsa. Its excellent. Service, food and especially the host are fantastic. Everything here was fresh and delicious and the wine recommendations top-notch. The owner here has a speciality which took me right back to the 80’s and the highlight of going out for looong boring dinners with my parents. One word. Flambé. If you’re not sure what this is because heaven forbid you were too young to dine out in the 80’s then this should be a VERY good reason to visit Jelsa and Turan. Oscar of course loved it. It involves flames after all! My second recommendation is Nono. Nono is the Croatian word for Grandpa and in Croatia this is always synonymous with a good old home cooked, wine soaked dinning experience. Nono’s didn’t disappoint. The food is excellent and the rustic setting with beams and wandering vines has a great authentic local feel. Both meals with drinks and desert were 20 Euros per adult.
I know this is getting a little repetitive but I do my research and Airbnb just always comes up tops when it comes to accommodation. We stayed in a beautiful, spacious two bedroom apartment with a kitchen and two balconies an added touch there were also two bathrooms. The apartment was 45$ a night per room (we shared the apartment with a fellow Well Traveled Friend) including all taxes and cleaning fee’s. Despite the abundance of restaurant I always find that when I travel with Oscar I want a kitchen. I don’t want to wrangle him at breakfast. I would rather have it at home. If you’re looking for a more lux alternative when I win the lottery I will be checking this out too Vertigo Palace. We walked past this place while the gates were open and were invited to look around. It ticked ALL the boxes.
There is a cash point ATM in Jelsa and we never had a problem withdrawing cash. There are lots of grocery stalls, bakeries and convenience stores for wipes, pampers, formula etc too. The bus station has a lot of regular services to ferry ports, other villages and of course Hvar town. It is not essential to have a car. The narrow roads are not the most relaxing to drive in thick August traffic.
Getting to Hvar
Depending on your country of origin you can reach Hvar lots of ways. Easiest is to fly to Split and get a boat. We flew, Zagreb (our long-term base) to Split then took a boat to the old town Hvar and a bus to Jelsa. ( Boat to bus stop 7 minute walk) Next time I would fly direct to Jelsa with the sea plane. Otherwise this way was totally fine and manageable.
How to get there
Sea plane anyone? We loved the boat but next time we are going to be taking this mode. http://www.ec-air.eu/en/
You can reach Hvar from all over the Dalmatian coast ( Jadrolinija is the biggest Dalmatian route provider) however we were arriving from Split (a promise a guide soon!) I decided to try a new private boat company called Krilo (it means wings in Croatian) I chose them because you can book online with very short notice. You DO NOT want to get tickets on the day of travel in August. The stands have no shade it is hot and take forever. Book in advance if you can. http://www.krilo.hr/en/
Jelly shoes. The sea in Croatia can have sea urchins and nothing ruins a holiday like a trip to the doctors. Rashies, sun hats and mosquito spray of course.
So there you go, great quality accommodation, well priced and quality fresh food, less crowds but the charm and beauty of Hvar. If you enjoyed our secret Croatia guide and have any other tips, tricks of spots to share please comment below. We love to hear from you. Happy travel Anna + Oscar
SECRET CROATIA our top 5 family friendly spots, 2 Jelsa HVAR