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Hvar has a well-deserved reputation for being a chic, jet-setting party town. As parents of two small kids (aged 2 & 4), we are not exactly party animals and weren’t sure if Hvar would be for us. We knew it’d be beautiful, and it was well connected by catamaran to our other Croatian destinations, so we decided to give it a shot. After city life in Zagreb & Split with a brief interlude in Plitvice Lakes National Park, we were ready for island life!
Here’s how we spent 2 1/2 days in Hvar with our kids…
THINGS TO DO IN HVAR WITH KIDS
The Fortress (otherwise known as Fortica or Spanjola) is one of the first things you see when you arrive in Hvar. Sitting dominantly on a hill behind the Old Town, this fortress must have been formidable back in its day. To get to the Fortress requires walking up a series of steps from Old Town. Once you cross the road called Ul. Higijeničkog Društva, you enter a park through a gate, where the stairs graciously end and the path becomes paved leading gradually uphill. The walk up is very enjoyable with excellent views of Hvar Town and its harbor, along with many beautiful plants and flowers. It’s an effort, but if you are in reasonable shape, you won’t have much trouble. Our kids were able to walk to the top themselves without much help.
The kids loved the fortress. They had a ball running around exploring, climbing on stuff, playing with the cannons, etc. The views are incredible and make the walk up worthwhile. The views are why you visit the fortress, but there are a few other things to do while up there. The fortress has a prison deep in its bowels which is fun to walk down and explore. There is also a small museum (mostly ceramics – yawn) and a cafe which sells ice cream and smoothies. The fortress is a reasonably small place and you can see it all in under an hour, but you can take as long as you’d like to soak in those amazing views.
See the Fortress on a Hvar City walking tour.
Hike to Milna Beach
This morning we were out the door at 7:30 am. We had the kids in the carriers and we were hiking to nearby Milna for a morning at the beach. The hike to Milna is one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever done. It hugs the rugged coastline nearly the whole way, offering amazing views of the Adriatic Sea and the surrounding islands.
The walk begins from the town harbor and is on a paved seafront promenade until shortly after you pass the Franciscan Monastery. Here the path ends and you transition to a quiet residential road for a while. Before long you begin walking on an actual hiking trail, through trees which provide some much needed shade from the southern exposure of this hike. The quality of the trail varies quite a bit from flat dirt to jagged, uneven rocks, so it’s best that you wear your most robust footwear (flip flops will not cut it on this hike).
Along the way you pass multiple beaches, many of which were deserted on the day we hiked this trail. It’s hard to describe the tranquil beauty of these beaches, with their stunning crystal clear water. It was a hot morning and it was soooooo tempting to stop and jump in, but we had heard Milna has a good family friendly beach, so onward we marched. We let the kids walk for a little bit, but we carried them most of the way as we wanted to give them as much time on the beach as we could.
As we neared Milna, we passed a couple really beautiful beaches and we were getting excited to see the one nearest town, which was our final destination. When we got there, we were shocked to see a backhoe in the middle of the beach, grooming the pebbles. We were there the first week of May, so they must have been preparing the beach for the upcoming tourist season. Even after grooming, the beach wasn’t nearly as nice as any of the others we’d passed, but the kids didn’t care and they ran off to play, but we were quite disappointed knowing the quality beaches we had passed up to come here.
Being so early in the season there was hardly anything open, but we went to a nearby hotel for some ice cream and cake. Then we walked back to the second closest beach to town, which was significantly nicer than the in-town beach – it even had a section of the beach which was real sand, so everyone with small kids congregated there.
The hike itself is not too hard, with very little vertical gain, but the footing was challenging at times and slowed us down. The 4.7 mile (7.5km) hike took us about 2h15m, about a half-hour longer than this distance would typically take us. Given the hike took us longer than planned, we abandoned our plan to hike back and asked at the hotel for information on the bus schedule. As we were waiting in the hot sun on the side of the highway for the bus, an enterprising taxi pulled over and asked us if we’d like a ride. After a little negotiating, we agreed on a price and hopped in the cab. This was money well spent as it gave us extra time at the beach and still got us home for our little guy’s nap.
If we were to do it again, we would have stopped at one of the excellent beaches along the way and then had lunch in Milna, before taking a bus or cab back to Hvar. The beaches in Milna are nice enough, but the ones along the way were much nicer.
If hiking is not your thing, you can visit many spectacular beaches in this area on a speedboat tour.
After our son’s nap, we went for a slow walk through Old Town. We didn’t push the kids too hard and let them set the pace. We walked through many of the charming side streets behind the harbor. The kids liked running ahead exploring, smelling flowers, climbing stairs, finding new alleys, etc. We walked back through Saint Stephan Square before looping back up to our Airbnb apartment.
Hike to Mekićevica Beach
Taking a water taxi out to the Pakleni Islands for fun on the beach is a very popular activity in Hvar, but we elected not to do this for two reasons: 1) It seems like most of the beaches on these islands are ‘naturist’ beaches and our 2 year old son is a little too ‘verbally honest’ right now… 2) We start our outings at 7:30am and we doubted there would be a water taxi operating that early in shoulder season.
So, we decided to guarantee ourselves an awesome beach day by going to the most beautiful beach we saw on our hike the previous day, Mekićevica Beach. It took us an hour to walk there from central Hvar. (Side note, Google Maps directed us to walk through the residential part of town as a more direct route. In the end, it was way less scenic than the waterfront route we took the day before, plus it didn’t save us any time. We recommend taking the waterfront route).
We arrived at 8:30 and we had the entire beach to ourselves. This small beach is postcard worthy – it’s exactly what comes to mind when you think Croatian beach. It’s a small beach, set in a protected cove created by dramatic rock formations on either side. The beach itself is mostly rocks, with small pebbles close to the water and get increasingly bigger as you go back – water shoes are a must for everyone with tender feet.
There are many benefits to this beach for families with little kids. The beach is in a well-protected cove, so the waves tend to be small. Being more remote, it will be less crowded than the beaches closer to Hvar – we had the place to ourselves for almost two hours. Our kids spent most of their time outside the water, playing on the large outer cove rocks, playing with the beach rocks, looking for shells, playing in tide pools, etc. We didn’t see a single sea urchin here – which are common around Croatia (keep an eye out for black circles in the water).
When it was getting close to lunch, we decided to walk back to Hvar Beach and let the kids play there for a while. Being much closer to town means this is a much busier beach and doesn’t have a fraction of the charm of Mekićevica Beach. We played for a little bit, but it was getting close to lunch and we were tempted by the prospect of seafront calamari at the nearby Mustaco Restaurant. Despite the reasonably good reviews on TripAdvisor, we thought the food here was awful.
Hvar’s Oceanfront Promenade
In the afternoon, we could tell the kids were dead tired after two days of hard playing in the sun, so we decided to keep them at home for the afternoon. Celine and I took turns going for a walk. We each walked for 20-25 minutes down the oceanfront promenade on the west side of the harbor. This is a very nice family friendly walk, which passes several beaches and a playground.
Up next, we take a ferry over to Korcula!