Hvar or Braç: Which Croatian Island is Right For You?

hvar or brac

Hvar and Brac are two of the best-loved Dalmatian Islands. They sit in the glistening Adriatic Sea between the Roman-era town of Split and the walled city of Dubrovnik, offering a slow pace of life, plenty of dining and drinking, and picturesque beaches aplenty. But which is better suited to your style of travel, Hvar or Brac?

Hvar, for its part, is a cosmopolitan hub, where luxury hotels, romantic vineyards, chic nightclubs, and medieval fortresses all coexist. Go there to spend your days cycling through lavender-scented backcountry and your evenings drinking champagne in hip marina bars. Brac is primarily known for its award-winning south-coast beaches – the iconic Zlatni Rat especially – but also boasts quiet Dalmatian port towns and umpteen hidden coves.

This guide will weigh up and compare each destination by taking a look at several key aspects of each. The aim is to help you decide between Hvar and Brac for your trip this year, although we’d always say that the best option is to go to both – regular ferries run the route between the two neighboring rocks each day, or you can sail it yourself in a charter yacht in just an hour or two.

Hvar or Braç: The General Vibe

hvar at sunset
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The island of Hvar has established itself as one of Croatia’s leading party destinations. On top of that, it’s got incredible beaches, jaw-dropping sunsets, and a thriving culinary scene. It’s a vibrant place throughout the whole summer, with the main ports of Hvar Town and Stari Grad offering the most action. The vast majority of travelers will base themselves in one of those to enjoy the buzz of it all, but there are quieter escapes to be had on the eastern side and southern coasts of the isle.

Meanwhile, Braç might not have quite the same bubbly atmosphere or culinary scene, nor the same bumping port, but it houses a slew of idyllic mountainous landscapes and it’s well worth visiting if you’re an adventure enthusiast. It’s fast becoming a favorite among hikers and cyclists thanks to the island’s beautiful pine forests and undulating coast roads. Most of all, though, Brac is the island for beach lovers, thanks to an array of stunning coves and sands on the south shore. 

The biggest difference between Hvar and Brac is the nightlife on offer. Hvar hosts some of the world’s top outdoor EDM festivals – mainly Ultra. It also had a diverse selection of lively nightclubs and bars in Hvar Town. Brac is altogether more relaxed, less about partying the night away, more about chilling on secret sands.

Winner: It’s different. Hvar for hedonists, Brac for beach lovers.

Hvar or Braç: The Beaches

brac famous beach
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Brac lays claim to arguably the finest beaches in the whole of Croatia – nay, the Adriatic region as a whole! One stands out more than any other: The iconic Zlatni rat, or Golden Horn. A spit of golden sand threaded with coastal pines that pokes out from the side of Bol town on the south coast, it’s a regular on the covers of postcards and travel brochures.

Of course, you’ll have to go there, but don’t go thinking that the Zlatni is the only beach to see in Brac. There’s also Murvica, a few miles further west, which is a seafront settlement with only around two dozen inhabitants, housing sites like the Dragon’s Cave, where you’ll find strange murals dating back to the 14th century. There’s also uber-quiet Sutivan beach, which offers the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day out. Or there’s pretty Milna, fronted by a glistening snorkeling lagoon.

Don’t underestimate the pebbly shores of Hvar, though. Go there and you’ll find several incredible sandy beaches to the north of the island. For starters, there’s Dubovica beach. It’s only reachable via a fairly steep footpath, but it’s well worth the effort, as you’ll be greeted by crystal clear waters and picturesque blue skies as far as the eye can see. It also houses a homely beach bar with a unique atmosphere.

The enchanting Pokonji Dol beach is another highlight. From the inviting waters to the breathtaking views of the offshore church nearby, it’s certain to melt any beach lover’s heart and unsurprising that it’s one of the island’s most popular beaches. One of the real joys of a trip to Hvar is renting a car or a cycle and hopping the hidden inlets and coves – there are oodles to get through.

Winner: Brac – mainly for the Golden Horn beach in Bol, one of the most famous in Croatia!

Hvar or Braç: The Cost

narrow street croatia
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They might be neighbors, but Hvar and Brac still have disparities when it comes to price. Comparing the day-to-day costs between the two could help you make an informed decision on which island you want to visit and how you want to travel. So, let’s dive in…

Hvar has cut its teeth as one of Croatia’s hottest A-list and celeb destinations; much more so than Braç. The upshot? It’s a slightly pricier travel option overall. The day clubs, upscale restaurants, and chic resorts can all command some serious cost, and day trips, transport, and reaching the island are all going to set you back. 

Typically, you can expect a modest three-star hotel room for two to cost around $172/night on Hvar, but you’ll pay more for luxury accommodation and a better location (over $780/night isn’t unheard of in the peak season for a five-star pad). Compare that to the average nightly rate for a hotel on Brac, where you’ll pay about $167/night for that midrange hotel but only $550 or so for a five-star hotel. 

Transportation will set the average tourist back about $40 per day in Hvar, a high expense for such a small destination, but tour guides know how in-demand taxis and boat trips are. In contrast, you can spend as little as $9 in Brac. 

When it comes to food, the daily expenses for an average traveler to Hvar’s come to around $33, while day-to-day meals in Brac cost closer to $26. This all depends on your spending habits and it’s true that Hvar does have more variety, but Braç has cheaper restaurants that are run by locals.

Winner: Brac.

Hvar or Braç: History

brac church
Photo by twenty20photos on Envato Elements

Many of the islands and cities of Croatia have rich histories that go back centuries and millennia, with a diverse range of cultural influences being clearly visible in the architecture that’s on display. 

Hvar’s heritage is particularly interesting. Human habitation here dates back to the early Neolithic period. What’s more, many of the isle’s most iconics landmarks have been around since the 15th century. It’s that rich past that’s earned Hvar the moniker of the UNESCO island – the rock is home to not one, not two, but six separate World Heritage Sites, including: 

  • St. Stephen’s Square – A sight to behold itself, anchored by the 17th-century St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its white Romanesque facade. 
  • Hvar Fortress – A true highlight when it comes to points of interest. Elevated high above the city, 10-minutes up a meandering slope from the city walls, the Spanish fortifications offer sweeping views of the Old Town and Pakleni Islands.
  • The Stari Grad Plain – This fertile plain outside of the old port town of Stari Grad still has the fields that were laid out by Greek settlers some 2,800 years ago!

Although quieter, Brac doesn’t fall short when it comes to history. You’ll want to be certain to visit the Blaca Monastery and Hermitage. Located atop a headland with sweeping sea views, it houses everything from ancient Greek coins to famous paintings, with monks maintaining its picturesque gardens. Another option is to marvel at the remnants of mosaic flooring and Venetian Renaissance art in St. Peters Church, which dates back to the 17th century. 

Still not enough? How about a visit to the time-stood-still village of Selca, where you can hit the strangely named Park of Gratitude to see statues of three of Croatia’s national heroes. Then there’s the Rasohe Roman quarry located down the coast from Supetar. It’s from there that the old empire sourced the stone to build the great palace of Diocletian back in Split.

Winner: Hvar – it’s not called the UNESCO island for nothing!

Hvar or Braç: Getting There

bol from boat
Photo by MatthewWilliams-Ellis on Envato Elements

In terms of location, Hvar and Brac are even contenders. Venturing to both islands will probably involve ferries or boats. Don’t worry, though, crossing these waters is easy.

Brac is widely regarded as one of the most accessible islands in the Croatian Adriatic, while Hvar is well served by ferries and catamarans that run regularly between Split Town and Stari Grad, or even straight to Hvar Town on the western end of the isle. 

The closest large international airports to Hvar and Brac are in Split and Dubrovnik, with Split being slightly closer to both. Brac has its own airport as well, although its use is generally reserved for light aircraft – the only commercial international flights are seasonal and come from a few niche European cities (Luxembourg, Bolzano). 

Really, the most popular way to arrive on either island is by combining flights and ferries via Split. That’s because Split airport is just 18 miles away from the Split ferry port. From there, a 55-minute crossing gets you to Brac or a 50-70 minute crossing gets you to Hvar. Tickets cost between $5-18, depending on the type of boat you choose.

Winner: Brac is ever so slightly closer to the port in Split so wins, but don’t let this be the decider!

Hvar or Brac: Hotels

Hotels in Croatia
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We’ve already mentioned how both of these islands often figure close to the top of a Croatia travel bucket list. The bad news is that means you’re probably going to find plenty of other people (for empty islands, choose somewhere more unknown like Pag or Krk). The good news is that you should find plenty of accommodation options on each…

Hvar probably stands out for its array of very cool boho boutique hotels in Hvar Town. But there are also plenty of super-chic villas and seaside hotels in these parts. Here’s a look at a few top options from every category…

  • Luxury Apartment Bifora ($$-$$$) – Get yourself a very slick stay on the side of Hvar Town marina. The pad has cool artworks, a plush lounge with flat-screen TV, and space for up to six people at once.
  • Villa Perka ($$) – A set of self-contained apartments with an infinity pool overlooking the rugged south coast. Affordable, charming, and neatly away from the hubbub of party-mad Hvar Town.
  • Apartments Rubin ($-$$) – Simple but clean and comfy with an unrivaled location near the coves of the north coast, this one shouldn’t break the bank, even by Hvar standards.

Brac is great if you’re craving a more traditional Croatian experience. There are plenty of stays that ooze old-school character; B&Bs owned by local Brac families with a konoba (a Croatian taverna) attached to the side. And there are country boltholes and cool coastal pads alike. Check them out…

  • Nono Ban Hotel & Villa ($$$) – Meshing the old-world charm of Brac with cutting-edge mod cons, this chic boutique villa and curated hotel sits in the rugged backcountry of the island. It’s super, duper romantic.
  • B&B Blanc ($$) – If you’re after history and local feels, this B&B can hardly be beaten. It’s got charming rooms and is housed in a medieval building in old Pučišća port.
  • The Ultimate Escape ($$) – The name says it all, this little villa in the olive groves up from the south coast is a rustic Croatian escape like no other. Sun yourself by the pool, cook food in the old-school wood oven, and relax.

Winner: Draw. There are plenty of hotels on each island.

Hvar or Brac: Nightlife

group partying
Photo by Envato Elements

There can only be one winner if you’re looking to let loose and party the nights away. Cue Hvar, the hedonistic kingpin of the southern islands of Croatia. There are clubs, pubs, cool marina bars, and heady EDM festivals here to suit all types. The main party season starts around late May and ends sometime in September, in line with the coming of the yachters.

We love a night out in Hvar. Start at sunset on the west-facing beaches just outside of town. They’re home to Hula Hula, a legendary beach club that serves up fine cocktails and nibbles above its own snorkel cove. From there, move to the marina, where Carpe Diem opens out onto covered terraces right by the yachts. Later, hit Kiva, a rowdy dance bar tucked into an unassuming alley in the midst of the old town. That’s really just scratching the surface, too.

Brac isn’t for full-on partiers, but there’s also lots to keep you going on the nightlife front. Supetar, the main port town here, is the place to head for. It spreads around a halo of rocky coves, each of which has at least one drinking spot, from happening Paparazzo to Benny’s, a major haunt of famous Croatian DJs throughout the summer. Bol, in the south, has options, too, but they’re generally more chilled and easy-going.

Winner: It’s got to be Hvar

Hvar or Brac – our conclusion

Hvar and Brac are hailed as two of the most stunning islands in Craotia for plenty of reasons. From their golden-sand beaches to their crystal-clear coves to their enthralling port towns, they’ve got stacks up their sleeve. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed whichever you go for.

That said, Hvar is certainly better suited to partying travelers. Head over between May and August and you’ll find that Hvar Town is one of the most happening places on the Adriatic riviera. On top of that, Hvar has the history, which comes through in its six separate UNESCO sites and the immersive port of Stari Grad – one of the oldest towns in Europe!

Brac probably wins out for beach lovers. The island not only has a whole north coast that’s riddled with tiny coves and snorkeling spots, but also the oft-photographed beach of Golden Horn, arguably the most famous in the whole Adriatic. We also like Brac for chilled country escapes to villas and locally owned B&Bs.

When is the best time to visit Brac?

The best time to visit Brac for optimum heat is between June and August, when average highs hover in the mid-80s. However, school holiday crowds flock to the island at this time and prices are at their highest. Consider visiting in the shoulder seasons from March to May or September and October for plenty of sunshine and fewer tourists. 

What is Hvar famous for?

Hvar is most famous for its party-mad port town, Hvar Town. That sits on the western end of the island and pumps with life from May to September each year. The island is also famous for its six UNESCO sites and rich history, which comes through in the charming port town of Stari Grad. 

How many days do you need in Brac?

Brac is a wonderful island with plenty of mysteries to uncover and it’s best enjoyed for a week or two. Still, if you’re pushed for time, two or three days will give you a good taste of what Braçc has to offer, making sure you can squeeze in some sights, scenery, and the best beaches. 

Reece Toth

Reece is the creator and editor of Travel Snippet. He has visited more than 38 countries over a 10-year period. His travels have taken him through the majestic mountains of Italy, into the cities of central Europe, across the islands of Indonesia, and to the beaches of Thailand, where he is currently living. He is passionate about travel and shares his expertise by providing the best travel tips and tricks to help you plan your next adventure.

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