Hvar (pronounced V-AR) is only the fourth-largest of the Croatian islands in the middle Adriatic, but it's the chicest to emerge on a new Riviera flush with luxury hotels and upscale nightlife for the global jet set.
The toughest part is getting there. Once you figure out the logistics (There's no airport, and access is by ferry from Split or Dubrovnik.), you realize why billionaires like Jeffrey Katzenberg and Bill Gates prefer to arrive in Hvar via yacht.
Welcome to Split
Hvar is best experienced as a five-day add-on to a trip to Dubrovnik, Montenegro or Southern Italy.
One way to get there is by taking a flight into Split's Soviet-era airline terminal.
Taxis are impossible to find and usually not air-conditioned, so spend the money for a decent rental car from an international chain. You'll drive 30 minutes into town, where you'll likely smell the harbor before you see it. Heed the city name and "split" on a ferry as fast as you can.Hvar at First Sight
You'll likely catch your first glimpse of Hvar on the top deck of a rickety, smoke-spitting ferry, amid a crowd of elderly locals and teenage tourists carrying their weight in backpacks. The city surrounds a small harbor lined in regal yachts attended by deckhands in fresh white shirts.
The seafront is recently renovated and lined with nautical flags. There are polished marble streets, and a fresh coat of paint covers most of the renovated buildings in a rugged-stone spin on that iconic waterfront in St. Tropez.
Finding a Good Hotel
This isn't Hvar of 2005, which was the first time I visited the island: Then, I discovered weary communist hotels and filthy campers quite content without essentials like air conditioning or one good restaurant.
Hvar has cleaned up its act, and essentially recreated itself as a luxury beach destination, even though there are very few sand beaches. This year we can recommend three hotels, all owned by Suncani Hvar, which has single handedly renovated each of island's legendary historical hotels.