Trying to decide between Hvar or Korcula? Read on to see which Croatian island will best suit your holiday.
While researching my trip to Croatia, what islands to visit was a tough decision. With only a few days, how would I decide between Hvar and Korcula.
I’ll start by saying a trip to the Croatian coast should have time allocated to both islands. While both have their advantages, I would be hard pressed to suggest one over the other. Ultimately you should decide what’s most important to you, and one island might be more suitable. Ideally though, you’d visit both of them!
Hvar town is easily reached from Split by high speed passenger ferry taking about an hour. If you only have one day, it makes for an easy day trip option from Split. You can leave in the early morning (between 7 – 8am depending on the season), and return in the late afternoon.
There is also a car ferry that travels between Split and Stari Grad (another town on Hvar Island), with the journey taking about 2 hours. This option, while cheaper, requires a bus ride that takes about 20 minutes if Hvar Town is your destination on the island.
If you don’t have a car and you can get tickets on the fast ferry (they sell out in summer, so buy a few days prior if possible), I recommend you take the fast ferry if your final destination is Hvar Town. All the ferry operators have booths at the terminal in Split where you can get further information.
Layout of the town centre
Arriving in Hvar Town on the ferry, you are welcomed by the wide waterfront promenade lined with restaurants, shops and bars on one side and yachts on the other. Hvar Town’s centre is focused on a grande piazza, lined with cafes and restaurants. For more options, there are laneways off the main piazza with more restaurant and bar. Accommodation is spread out throughout the old town, with many less expensive options found on the hillside overlooking the town.
For our two night stay, we chose Apartment Iris. It’s located about 10 minutes of relatively steep uphill walking from the bus station. The station is located just past the church (see pic below) along with a decent size shopping centre. This was a good option for us as the apartment was fairly cheap, had a kitchen and a balcony looking down at the town. The downside was that multiple trips back to the apartment was out of the question. In the midday sun, the the walk uphill was hot and tiring and not worth the trouble! The owner was lovely and picked us up and dropped us off at the bus station when we arrived.
Bars and restaurants
Compared to Korcula, Hvar seems to have many more options for dining, especially fine dining. You can find pretty much any cuisine you want if you stroll down the streets leading off of the piazza. On the downside, we found the prices in Hvar to be the most expensive of the four places visited (Split, Hvar, Korcula and Dubrovnik).
To avoid any nasty price-related surprises, most restaurants post menus near their entrance. Some have staff outside trying to convince you to dine at their restaurant. With options in all price ranges, you’ll be able to find a spot to eat that fits your budget.
As for drinking options, bars are plentiful, with many lining the marina. Sipping on a cocktail while watching the sunset with views of the harbour and the multi-million dollar yachts was one of the highlights of my trip.
Hvar’s day trip options
In our two days in Hvar, we spent one day walking along the waterfront towards the Hula Hula bar and one day exploring the fortress. There are many sightseeing options available including trips by boat to the nearby islands, visiting other beaches on Hvar island or renting a scooter to explore at your own pace.
Along the walk towards Hula Hula Bar (about 15 – 20 minutes from the town centre), there are several places to swim. The beaches with sand require payment for the rental of a sun lounger, which makes a great option if you’re planning on spending a few hours swimming and suntanning. Alternatively, you can lounge on the concrete / smooth rocks nearby for free. While this may not sound appealing, if you have a towel, there are plenty of comfortable spots to stretch out on and soak in the sun. And don’t worry, you won’t be alone as it’s a very popular option.
Visiting Hvar’s Fortress
On our second day, we trekked up the hill to the fortress that overlooks Hvar Town. This is a relatively easy ‘hike’ that takes about 10 – 20 minutes depending how quickly you walk. It starts up from the old town (with lots of steps) and then it turns into a dirt trail with switch backs up to the top. It’s also reached by car if you happen to have one or want to pay for a taxi.
For a small fee (35 kunas), you can explore the fortress at your leisure. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s also a cafe. The fortress has a museum, access to the old prison cells and has better views than those from outside the paid area.
To make sure we had energy to make our way back down, we bought snacks at a cafe in the town centre and had our picnic overlooking Hvar.
My tip – go on an overcast day, early in the morning or late in the afternoon as it can get very hot (even in late September!).
If you’re looking for nightlife, Hvar wins hands down. While there are many options on the island itself, there are excursions by boat to parties on the Pakleni Islands. In September, there was a poster for a ‘last party of the season’, which I believe only started at our usual 11pm bedtime. Needless to say, we gave it a miss!
Generally speaking, the average age seemed much younger compared to Korcula. As a result, Korcula had a much more laid back vibe in the town centre.
If you’re coming from Split, Korcula can be reached by either ferry or bus. Most of the ferries that go to Hvar continue onto Korcula, arriving in Korcula about 2 hours later. This makes for a total travel time from Split to Korcula of 3 hours. If you’re coming from Dubrovnik, Korcula is much closer than Hvar, taking about two hours by catamaran (fast ferry).
If you can only go to Hvar or Korcula, your starting and ending destinations may help you choose.
Korcula’s town centre
Korcula is sometimes referred to as a mini-Dubrovnik as its town centre is surrounded by walls and is set on the water. The compact, pedestrian only centre, has a main ‘street’ down its middle, with alleys to both sides leading to its walls. Looking at a map, it looks kind of like a fish spine.
For our two night stay, we chose Apartments Luka, which is located 15 minutes walking distance to the Old Town. Set on the river and in a quiet area, the apartment provides lounge chairs so you can relax or hop in the water for a swim. It was a bit of a walk, so a perfect choice if you have a scooter and want to stay outside of the centre. Despite the distance, I enjoyed the walk into town.
Korcula’s bars and restaurants
While less options than Hvar, Korcula still has many dining options. For a meal with a view of the surrounding bay, there is a row of restaurants with tables hugging the eastern wall. We ate at Amfora Pizzeria, one of the restaurants with its tables lining the alleyways off the main street.
Outside the Old Town’s walls you’ll find many more less expensive options providing a variety of cuisines. If you want a place for pre-dinner drinks and views to die for, there’s a bar located about a 10 minute walk west of the Old Town called Maksimilijan Garden. It has plenty of outdoor seating, with views looking back to the Old Town. At sunset, it was pretty amazing!
Korcula day trip options
Having visited the old town during our first day, we rented a scooter to get out and explore. We spent most of the second day travelling around the nearby bays and swimming in the super clear waters. Driving and navigating was pretty easy as there wasn’t a lot of traffic. There are only a few roads leading out of the old town area, so it’s fairly easy to navigate, Though having a map of some description is handy in order to find the beaches. Several places outside of the town centre walls will be happy to rent you a bike or scooter.
After an exhausting day of driving and swimming, we had a lovely pizza at a restaurant overlooking the bay called Pizzeria Torkul (highly recommended, if only for the view). It’s located near Lumbarda (about 7km from Korcula town – reached by car, bus or water taxi).
Hvar or Korcula. Which one to pick?!
I don’t think you can go wrong with either option, though one might be more suited to your holiday style. If I had to choose again, I might lead ever so slightly to Hvar, just because there were more people around, more dining options, and our evening sipping cocktails at a bar lining the marina was one of the highlights of our 10 days in Croatia. Though as you can see by the photos, the beaches just outside Korcula are amazingly beautiful!
If you’re interested in learning more about Croatian coastal towns check out my other posts.