Cliff Jumping, Grappa Shots, City Fortress, Castle Clubs, Island Hopping, Clear Water, Great Friends, and the Freedom of Travel. This is what long weekends are made of. Dubrovnik and Hvar, Croatia were next on my list of places to see for the Fourth of July weekend. At noon, on Friday the 1st, I checked into Hostel & Rooms Ana in Old Town Dubrovnik via last minute online booking. On the top floor, at the reception/kitchen/living room, Ana’s daughter and Jason greeted me with beer and Grappa in hand.
Jason was one of the hostel employees and an Aussie backpacker who gave me the city layout and brought me to my living quarters (at Stella’s guest house) where I joined my friends for our afternoon pints. They also told me that all of the restaurants and shops on the main strip were exorbitantly expensive and that I should only travel to the streets that are tucked away from the main lights within this old town. I was welcomed to this beautiful country with this kindness and hospitality during my first hour in Dubrovnik.
We decided to take a dip into the Banje Beach that afternoon, and let me tell you, I have walked the coasts of Peru, Brazil, the Caribbean, Spain, and both borders of the United States; but the coastline and beaches in Croatia were by far the most amazing. After a long week in the office, being free and alive in this beautiful place was all I could have ever asked for in life.
To be bluntly honest, everything after the beach was a huge blur. I recall going to a wine bar, eating somewhere, and then going back to the hostel for a power nap. We recovered around 11 PM and had a few more pints with Jason at the restaurant below Stella’s Guest House on Zamanjina ul. Apparently this was a location where the TV show, “Game of Thrones” was filmed. Disclaimer: Don’t hate me guys, but I have never seen a single episode of “GoT”.
After slamming a few pints, we walked to a club called “Revelin”, located inside the northeast portion of the city wall. This club was quite deceiving; you could not hear a sound from the outside. But the moment you passed through security and made it down the hallway, this place looked like a scene from the Wesley Snipes movie, “Blade.” The club was literally within castle walls and had stone arches along the interior room. The bass from the deep house music rattled your rib cage the moment you stepped foot upstairs. I immediately fell in love with this place and danced my ass off until the sun rose again.
Two hours later, I woke up from my drunken coma caused by the night before, ate breakfast, and toured the old city walls. Just a warning for some of you readers, hydrate hard, especially if you spent the evening partying till sunrise like I did. Partying in Europe can drain you, pun intended. I filled my 32-ounce bottle at Onofrio’s Fountain just next to the entrance of the city wall. Despite being slightly hung-over, the scenic two-kilometer tour along the fortress was well worth it. The walls surround all of old town and have an epic view of the Adriatic Sea. Every few hundred meters or so, there is a café or shop that you can pick up souvenirs or sit down and rest for a drink or two. Words and photos cannot do this justice, I would highly recommend visiting this city. The best view overlooking the old town and sea would be in the Minceta tower, located on the northwest side of the wall. My personal favorite perspective was facing the southern side of the Adriatic, as seen below.
We booked a ferry ride from Dubrovnik to Hvar a couple of weeks in advance (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), since there was only one trip a day. It was definitely a fair price especially for a three-hour speedboat ride in which we could bring our own alcohol. Once we arrived in Hvar, we ate at the first port restaurant we saw. It was pretty expensive, as expected, but WORTH EVERY KUNA. Especially since you had your choice of any fresh caught fish from that day. We walked on the path along the port toward Hostel Villa Skansi and checked in with the friendliest receptionist I’ve ever encountered. The girls that worked the front desk were not only attractive, but they also offered us pizza, desserts, drinks, free pub crawl wristbands, and of course hospitality.
The night slowly started ramping up and we joined the hostel bar crawl to the main square area. This place was packed and comprised mostly of a lot of college-aged Europeans and Australians. It quickly dawned on me that this was their place to go for their summer break or vacation. There were a few solid bars along the street and alleyways with decent priced drinks and good music along the square. You can also buy beer in the pizza shops next to the bars and discreetly bring them into other bars. This place captured my heart at beer and pizza. Around 2-3 AM, our group took a free water taxi to a club called “Carpe Diem” located on an island. The water taxi was filled with futbol fans, which constantly erupted in their home country’s fight songs, it was amazing. Once we arrived to the island, the pub crawl host gathered everyone around for free shots and walked us into the club. To be completely honest, Carpe Diem was a decent club, but with their expensive drinks and a generic type of music, it doesn’t rate too highly on my list. Regardless, I met some awesome people and still had a great time that evening. I don’t exactly remember how I got back, but I know there was no way I could’ve swam across the sea without some help.
The next morning, breakfast started with an omelet and a few pints. We decided to rent a motorized boat for the whole day for approximately 400 Kuna. The guys and I packed the essentials, eight liters of booze and a bag of ice for the cooler provided by the boat. As we walked to the boat, we ran into a group of backpackers who I supposedly partied with on a previous night. Of course I had a very, very faint recollection of this incident, but they seemed fun, so I asked them to join us. We crammed six people into a small boat that was probably meant for four and sailed out into the sea. The view was breathtaking and looked like something from a vacation magazine. We spent approximately six hours island hopping, partying with other smaller boats, and jumping into the clear blue water. A time I will not forget.
We all got back to the hostel and met up with more travelers at the end of the day. One of the best things about staying in hostels is meeting people with different stories and backgrounds from all over the world. I felt as if solo travelers are never truly alone. What makes us great is that despite all of the negative aspects in life, we can enjoy living in the moment and making every second of it count to the fullest. After dinner with my temporary family, we continued together to night two of the bar crawl. That evening, I once again danced my ass off with an awesome girl, an aspiring photographer, who was also wondering about the world. We tore up the dance floor in every bar/club we touched and never looked back. I feel if we were to meet again, we would dance just as hard as this night and never stop. Maybe Vietnam is next?? Stay with us and find out!!
Croatia travel tips and guide:
- 1 USD = 6.77 HRK (Kuna)
- 1 Euro = 7.50 HRK
- I withdrew about 3000.00 HRK at the airport (400 Euros), which was enough to last me 4 days
- Dubrovnik – Hostel & Rooms Ana, Old Town Dubrovnik. Ana is an accommodating woman who owns the hostel. Her daughter was the same. They treated my friends and I like family the moment we walked in. Jason is an Aussie backpacker who may still be there, he intended on traveling through Eastern Europe by the Fall.
- Hvar – Hostel Villa Skansi, Hvar. SUPER NICE RECEPTIONISTS. They offered us pizza and dessert (MARRY ME PLEASE). The scene was that of a European college aged crowd and very lively. The room and shower accommodations were amazing. To top it off, it sat on top of a hill overlooking the coastline of Hvar. Micki was a great pub crawl host, super friendly and joined in on the partying as well.
- Food and Drinks
- D’ Vino Wine Bar – you can try flights of wine here.
- Stella – good, cheap eats with amazing hosts (Ana and the Hostel crew frequent here)
- Literally anything that is not on the main strip is good. You can never go wrong with the fish or catch of the day.
- Recommended local white wine is “Malvasija Dubrovacka”
- Local drink is “Grappa”
- Local beers are Karlovacko, Ozujsko, Lasko. Average pint of beer costs about 20-30 HRK.
- Fish Restaurant Gariful – Expensive but worth every Kuna. The guys and I had a feast with their house wine for approximately 2000 HRK. I’m not trying to discourage anybody from this place but if you are looking for a meal for the final night in paradise, or a fancy date night, this is your place.
- Lungo Mare – walking distance to the hostel. Great food for a cheap price! We had a party of 11, all ordered drinks and main dishes for about 1700 HRK. I recommend the meat platter and their house red wine.
- Their bus service was cheap and efficient. We paid about 12 HRK to get us from old town to the ferry port in 15 minutes (including stops). A cab would’ve costed us 250 HRK.
- The only time we used a cab was to and from the airport due to time constraints.
- Walking, everything was pretty close by. No need for cabs or public transit
- Water taxi to and from the party island of Carpe Diem (located at the port where the ferry docks)
- Other Information
- Everyone I met in Croatia spoke English and were very friendly.
- There were a lot of tourists from the UK and Australia.
- I felt pretty safe and didn’t worry too much about pick pocketing, room invasions, etc.
- I didn’t feel as if any restaurants or shops tried to rip us off.
- DO SOME CLIFF JUMPING. Near Buza Bar on the southern part of Old Town Dubrovnik.