Hvar or Korcula: Which Croatian Island to Visit?

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by Maggie Turansky


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If you’re considering heading to an island while visiting Croatia, it’s likely that Hvar or Korcula is on your list. However, which island do you head to if you don’t have the time to visit both? Both are popular islands to visit, however, they both offer different things.

In general, choose Hvar if you’re looking for a thriving nightlife and an island that’s easily accessible from Split. On the other hand, Korcula is a great choice for wine lovers, great beaches and for those looking for an escape closer to Dubrovnik.

If you are struggling to choose between Korcula and Hvar and want to know more about either island, then this guide will help you figure out which island is the best for you and your own travel style.

Hvar

Hvar is easily the most well-known Croatian island and it’s located just off the coast from the country’s second-largest city of Split in the region of Dalmatia.

Known for being a bit of a party island, Hvar has far more to offer than simply its notorious nightlife. If you’re interested in heading to Hvar from the mainland, read on to see if it’s the right island for you.

Stari Grad Promenade
Stari Grad Promenade

Accessibility

As mentioned, Hvar is located off the Dalmatian coast, about 40 kilometres from the city of Split. There are a few ways to get to Hvar, but all of them involve accessing the island via boat.

If you’re staying in or arriving into Split, this may be the easiest way to get to the island. There are several ferries that leave from the city that arrive into either Hvar Town or Stari Grad daily and which you take (and how long it takes) depends on if you plan to drive around the island or not.

There are high-speed catamaran ferries that go from Split to Hvar Town in about an hour, however, note that you cannot take a car onto these ferries. If you’d like to take your car from Split, then you need to catch a ferry to the port of Stari Grad and the car ferry takes about 2 hours. You can check schedules here.

Alternatively, thee are more car ferry options available from the port of Drvenik, which is located about 100 kilometres (about a 1.5-hour drive) south of Split.

There are frequent car ferries that sail from Drvenik to the town of Sucaraj on the eastern end of Hvar. The ferry ride here is about 40 minutes, however, it is a further 1.5 hours to drive to Hvar Town.

Once on Hvar, you will generally find that the easiest way to get around is via car. If you don’t intend to venture further than Hvar Town, then a hire car isn’t really necessary, however, as soon as you want to explore more of the island, a car becomes necessary. If you need to rent a car you can browse Rentalcars.com to compare options.

Unlike on Korcula, the island isn’t quite as cycle friendly, either, as Hvar is quite mountainous. So if you’re planning to spend more than a simple day trip to Hvar, it’s best to get around via car.

Sucuraj Lighthouse
Sucuraj Lighthouse

Affordability

As one of the most-visited islands in Croatia and an ever-popular tourist destination, prices on Hvar can be a bit more inflated even compared to the rest of the country. In general, Hvar is also a bit more expensive to visit than Korcula, however, the differences aren’t too significant.

If you book far enough in advance or you plan to visit in shoulder season months like May or September, then you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for accommodation. However, on average, prices are still a bit higher on Hvar vs Korcula and things are certainly more expensive in Hvar Town when compared to Korcula Town.

Depending on where you visit on the island, prices for food and activities can be a bit more pricey and even things like basic wine tastings at a local winery are more inflated on Hvar than on Korcula.

All in all, Hvar isn’t necessarily the most expensive place to visit in Europe (far from it) or even in Croatia, however, it is on the higher end cost wise especially when compared to Korcula.

Spanish Fortress in Hvar Town
Spanish Fortress in Hvar Town

Things to do on Hvar

As such a popular island to visit, there are lots of things to do on Hvar that can keep you occupied for a number of days. Whether you’re simply looking to relax along the Adriatic during the day and party by night or you’re looking for a more mellow stay altogether, Hvar has something to offer everyone.

Historic Hvar Town is well worth taking the time to explore – especially taking in the views from the Spanish Fortress and strolling along the lovely waterfront promenade.

Those looking to take a dip in the crystal clear waters will love heading to the Pakleni Islands. You can take a ferry there or join an organised tour such as this half-day sailing cruise or this private tour.

Alternatively, there are also a number of delightful beaches to lounge on – Pokonji Dol Beach is not far from Hvar Town and Dubovica Beach is secluded and beautiful.

Dubovica Beach on Hvar Island
Dubovica Beach

And if you’re looking for a quiet place to soak up the sun, then head to tranquil Zavala. Hvar’s beaches tend to all be pebbly unlike a couple of sandy beaches that you can find on Korcula.

Along with Hvar Town, there are a few other villages worth exploring on Hvar, as well. The town of Stari Grad is one of the oldest settlements on the island and is a delight to explore. Laid-back Jelsa is also picture-perfect and doesn’t attract high numbers of crowds. And nearby Vrboska has a far more local feel and is home to some great restaurants.

Hvar is also known for its lavender and if you’re visiting in the summer months, you can visit some fields and feel as if you’ve been transported to Provence. There are a few places to take some photos in the purple lavender fields – Lavanda Hvar outside of Jelsa is one of them.

And while Korcula is definitely more well-known for its wine production and certainly has more vineyards and wineries to explore, you can still sample some locally-made vintages on Hvar if this interests you.

You can also find local producers of olive oil, honey and other gastronomic products that make great souvenirs. You can also join a wine tour to learn more from a guide.

Of course, no visit to Hvar is complete without taking advantage of the island’s notorious nightlife. There are lots of beach clubs and bars in Hvar Town where you can party into the wee hours and enjoy the cool island atmosphere.

Jelsa on Hvar Island
Jelsa

Where to Stay on Hvar

Pharos Hvar Hotel – If you’re after a great place to stay in Hvar Town, then this hotel is an excellent option. Located in the town centre, they have a range of rooms to choose from along with easy access to all of the town’s best nightlife.

Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel – For those after luxury on Hvar, this 4-star hotel in Hvar Town is a great choice. Boasting a perfect waterfront location, they not only have a range of rooms on offer but also amenities including a swimming pool and wellness centre.

Anchor Apartments – Located in the town of Stari Grad, this is a great choice if you’re looking for a self-catering option on Hvar. They have a range of fully-furnished flats available along with breakfast on offer each morning.

Hostel Villa Skansi – This hostel is a great choice for budget and solo travellers in Hvar or for those looking for a great social atmosphere. Located in Hvar Town, they also have free pizza in the evening and organise a pub crawl each night.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Hvar hotels!

Hvar Town
Hvar Town

Korcula

Located just off the gorgeous Peljesac peninsula and accessible within about 2 hours from Dubrovnik, Korcula is a lovely island with an excellent laid-back vibe. Known for its beautiful fortified old town (which also claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo) and countless wineries, Korcula is the perfect place for those looking for a mellow island escape off the Dalmatian coast.

Accessibility

Where Hvar is most easily accessed from Split, Korcula is a great option if you’re looking for an island to visit when travelling to or from Dubrovnik. Like Hvar, you need to access Korcula via ferry (or private boat) and there are a few options available to you.

In the high season, there are passenger ferries that run daily between the port of Dubrovnik and Korcula Town. These are ideal for those looking to visit Korcula as a day trip or if you’re not travelling with a car.

If you are driving to Korcula (or are simply looking for more ferry crossings), then your best bet is to grab the ferry from the town of Orebic, located on the Peljesac Peninsula. You can reach Orebic in just under 2 hours from Dubrovnik and then the ferry crossing to Korcula Town is only about fifteen minutes.

Korcula is also accessible via ferry from Split, however, these ferries arrive into the town of Vela Luka on the other end of the island – about a 45-minute drive from Korcula Town. The car ferry journey from Split to Vela Luka is about 3 hours.

In general, a car is not as needed on Korcula as it is on Hvar – especially if you can ride a bike. Korcula is quite a cycle friendly and if you’re keen to only stay around Korcula Town and Lumbarda, then there is really no huge need to have a car.

However, if you want to venture to some places further afield on the island, then having your own vehicle is going to be essential on Korcula.

Driving times between places on the island don’t take long, but having your own car will allow you to reach some more further-flung beaches (especially on the south coast of the island) and smaller villages that you really can’t without one.

Approaching Korcula from the ferry
Approaching Korcula from the ferry

Affordability

As discussed already, Korcula tends to be a bit less expensive than Hvar. Prices for most things ranging from accommodation to meals out to wine tastings and other degustations can be discounted when compared to Hvar.

However, the price difference between the two islands isn’t incredibly significant. That being said, if you’re looking for a slightly more affordable holiday destination, then Korcula is your best bet. There are certainly more affordable places (and islands) to visit in Croatia, though.

Korcula Town Gate
Korcula Town Gate

Things to do on Korcula

Much like Hvar, Korcula certainly isn’t lacking in things to do. You can cover a lot of ground in Korcula Town and neighbouring Lumbarda within the confines of one day, however, allowing yourself a few days to explore Korcula is really ideal.

Of course, no visit to the island is complete without wandering through the lovely Korcula Town. Often described as a mini Dubrovnik, this compact, fortified city has a maze of winding streets, impressive towers and old city walls.

Take the time to walk to some viewpoints outside of the old town in order to take in some spectacular panoramic views. You can explore independently or join a walking tour.

Also make sure not to miss the charming little town of Lumbarda, located about 8 kilometres from the Korcula Old Town. While the town itself isn’t much to write home about, Lumbarda is home to some of Croatia’s only sandy beaches along with a number of wineries.

Take your time to bounce between some local wineries and make sure to sample a few glasses of Grk – the local white grape that only grows in this specific area. You can also join this wine tour or this wine and bike tour.

Korcula is known for its wine and it isn’t just concentrated in Lumbarda. If you’d like to visit some more wineries, head to the inland village of Smokvica – home to the white Posip grape – where there are plenty more vineyards all in beautiful settings.

Along with wine, there are also plenty of other gastronomic products to enjoy and sample on Korcula. There are plenty of local olive oil producers, for instance, and you could also take your time to sample local, organic honey and island-distilled gin at places like OPG Komparak.

In general, Korcula has more beaches to enjoy than Hvar, as well. As mentioned, you can find some rare sandy beaches in Lumbarda, however, there are plenty more pebble beaches scattered along the south coast – one of the most beautiful is Pupnatska Luka.

Vineyards in Lumbarda on Korcula Island
Vineyards in Lumbarda on Korcula Island

Where to Stay on Korcula

Apartments Milion – Situated in the old town of Korcula, this makes for a great place to base yourself on the island. Offering both private en-suite rooms and holiday flats, there are also lots of other great amenities for guests to take advantage of.

Aminess Korcula Heritage Hotel – If you’re looking for luxury while visiting Korcula, then this hotel will be the perfect choice. Situated on the coast in Korcula’s old town, they have a range of rooms to choose from along with breakfast available and other amenities.

Villa Nobilo – Located in Lumbarda, this is a great choice for those looking for a self-catering option in Korcula. They have a range of studios to choose from and an excellent location with access to wineries and the highlights of the island.

Hostel Korcula – Those visiting Korcula on a budget will love this hostel in the centre of Korcula Town. Offering a range of dorms and private options available along with good common areas and self-catering facilities, as well.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Korcula hotels!

Korcula Town
Korcula Town

Hvar vs Korcula: Which Island to Visit?

In general, if you’re looking for nightlife, then Hvar is the place for you. Concentrated in Hvar Town, there are a number of beach bars and venues for party-goers to enjoy and Korcula simply does not have the same kind of offerings.

Conversely, if you love historic walled towns, then consider heading to Korcula instead. While Hvar Town and Stari Grad are nice and great to wander around, they are nothing compared to the charm of Korcula Town.

If you’re after beaches, then Korcula may be the better option as there are simply more beaches to choose from. However, if you’re keen to go on some swimming trips to nearby islands without having to travel for too long, then choose Hvar – the Pakleni Islands are accessible within minutes from Hvar Town.

Where you’re coming from makes a difference, as well. The island of Hvar is closer to Split and Korcula island is closer to Dubrovnik. You can visit either as a day trip from those respective cities, but not vice versa.

Finally, if you’re a wine lover, the Korcula is the island for you. While there are wineries on Hvar, Korcula is almost completely covered in vineyards and even has a few endemic grapes and unique varieties to sample.

Both Hvar and Korcula are excellent islands to visit, it really depends on what you’re after to figure out which is the best for you.

Whether you choose to visit Hvar or Korcula during your Croatian island adventure, note that there is no bad decision between the two. Whether you’re looking for a buzzing nightlife or fantastic wineries, each island has a lot to offer visitors.

Are you visiting Korcula or Hvar? Have any questions about these islands? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

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