Last updated on April 26, 2023 by Wandering our World
Heading across Europe to the Croatian coastline, you’ll discover a lesser-known paradise tucked into the Adriatic Sea. The Dalmatian Islands is an archipelago consisting of 79 islands and nearly 500 islets. It spans over 12 000 km2 and forms part of what is known as Dalmatia, a historical region of Croatia.
For a long time, Croatia was a gem for budget travellers and backpackers, and while the economic climate has changed, Croatia is still a relatively cheap way to experience a Mediterranean getaway without breaking the bank.
And you can start by visiting two of the largest Dalmatian Islands, Hvar and Brač.
Similar yet different, both islands offer a host of unique traits that make them attractive holiday destinations.
For example, Brac feels quieter, has exceptional beaches and lots of nature to explore. In contrast Hvar has a more lively, upmarket vibe and is known for its food and nightlife scenes.
But that’s only the start when it comes to how different these gorgeous Croatian islands are….
There’s a lot to discuss, so we hope you’ve got your pen and notepad ready as we guide you through which has the best beaches, culture, history, things to do, and lots more. Let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Has Better Beaches?
- Which Has Better Natural Attractions?
- Which Has Better Cultural Attractions?
- Which Has Better Cuisine?
- Which Has Better Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Adventure-Seekers?
- Which Is Better For History Buffs?
- Which Is Better For Family Vacations?
- Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- When’s The Best Time To Visit?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
Hvar vs Brač: A Quick Overview
Brač and Hvar are both islands that form part of the Dalmatian Islands Archipelago in the Adriatic Sea.
Hvar is a particularly well-known island with a thriving and well-structured tourism industry, making it an appealing getaway for people across the world.
It’s a place of stunning natural beauty, cultural charm, and rich history. The island’s important role as a key region of commerce in medieval times has heavily contributed to Hvar’s modern society, shaping the cultural roots and villages of the island in ways that still reflect today.
Now, unlike neighbouring islands, Hvar boasts a cosmopolitan atmosphere, offering a fair amount of luxury with its upmarket dining, shopping, and bustling night scene.
In contrast, Brač is the largest island in the Adriatic archipelago and is known for its more traditional way of life.
The tourism industry is far less developed than Hvar, but the island continues to see steady growth in popularity thanks to the many wonderful aspects it offers tourists.
Brač is a place of immense natural beauty, with visitors flocking to the island to explore the rugged landscape and stunning beaches along its shores.
It’s the destination of choice for anyone seeking to integrate into authentic island life.
Which Has Better Beaches?
Hvar: The Beaches
Hvar’s beaches are one of the island’s most sought-after traits and are generally lined with amenities like beach bars, taverns, and restaurants that bubble with activity day and night.
This may just be Hvar’s saving grace, as their beaches, while gorgeous, don’t offer much more than sunbathing as an activity.
But don’t let this stop you from chartering a yacht or doing some shallow snorkelling.
Unfortunately, the beaches are generally windy with strong currents making them fairly unfavourable for watersports, not to mention how crowded the waters are during peak season.
The most popular beaches are Dubovica Beach and Pakonji Beach, with their pebbly shores and picturesque surroundings. And they are both definitely worth visiting.
The island is also home to a few naturist beaches, which should probably be avoided if you have young children with you or object to public nudity. Each to their own, we guess…
Brač: The Beaches
Brač’s beaches are the epitome of serenity, surrounded by lush greenery. They’re relatively uncrowded and are among some of the most stunning beaches in the Dalmatian islands, spanning over 180 kilometres of folded sandy beaches.
Most famous is the Zlanti Rat beach, a tongue-like sand bar that offers a wonderful place to sunbathe, catch some waves, paddleboard, snorkel, and so much more.
In fact, most of Brač’s beaches are ideal for water activities, and watersports are some of the most popular things to do while visiting the island. Luckily, there are plenty of little rental stations to rent a board and get started.
Brač’s unique shape creates versatility amongst the sandy shores too, which means you’ve got plenty of wonderful beaches to choose from.
From Murvica to Sutivan Beach, you’re bound to find a stretch of beach that suits your needs, whether you’re seeking solitude, a long afternoon walk, or the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
There’s an undeniable winner in this category for us: step aside Hvar, Brač takes the prize.
In Brač there’s versatility, plenty of activities, and enough room to breathe during the peak season. What could be better?
Which Has Better Natural Attractions?
We’ve already mentioned that Hvar has a cosmopolitan vibe. That’s because the island caters more towards luxury vacations, and while it is a stunning expanse with immense natural beauty, that isn’t the focal point for attracting tourists.
However, if you find yourself around Hvar in early summer, you’ll welcome the sight of blooming lavender fields and enjoy a temperate climate that allows you to visit to the nearby Pakleni Islands and Green Cave for a glance at some of Hvar’s gorgeous marine scenery.
You can also hike St. Nicholas Mountain to reach the summit and gaze over at panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea.
But when it comes to Brač, you won’t find another island with a natural aesthetic to match it.
The island has long negated the traditional tourist niches and left itself to naturally flourish in culture, history, and of course, the natural environment.
The island is well-defined by dozens of hiking trails that intertwine and wrap through old and new villages, from the sandy shores to the inland olive groves.
Most famously is the Vidova Gora Trail, which winds up to the highest peak of Croatia’s islands.
While the stunning beaches we’ve already taken about, and the agricultural sectors of Brac make the island seem like a floating garden.
All in all, while Hvac has its own natural quirks that are worth seeing, Brač is undeniably one of Croatia’s most beautiful islands.
Which Has Better Cuisine?
Part of Hvar’s multiple UNESCO statuses is its Mediterranean cuisine.
That has to speak for something, right? Especially since the island of Hvar is so jam-packed with restaurants, bars, and tavernas, you aren’t able to throw a stone without hitting a hostess!
Simply put, the cuisine served on this Dalmatia island is some of the best in the country.
Like most Mediterranean-style cuisines, Hvar cuisine relies heavily on the influence of seafood, which makes dishes like Gregada and Buzara some of the island’s most sought-after delicacies.
You’ll mainly find traditional Dalmatia cuisine served at the local taverns, where lamb on the spit is served still sizzling alongside a glass of Hvar’s famous wine.
Brač differs only slightly in that the island’s central focus is on traditional Dalmatia cuisines.
There may be some minor Mediterranean influence, but for the most part, the cuisine is served by locals whose recipes have been part of their families for centuries. The rich agricultural inland also bodes extremely well for the impeccable quality, if only it weren’t for the lack of variety.
Winner here? Hvar. The island’s approach to cuisine has put them on the top of travel lists for years, and with the abundance of restaurants around the island, you’re sure to find something you’ll love.
Which Has Better Nightlife?
Hvar is known as the party destination of the Dalmatia islands, with a vibrant nightlife shaking the shores throughout the year.
It’s not just nightclubs, though. The entire island booms with activity after sunset.
The tavernas start blasting traditional music, beach bars open up sandy dance floors, and restaurants fill to the brim with hungry patrons.
This island is as alive by night as it is during the day and, if anything, can be likened to a calmer Croatian Ibiza.
In contrast, Brač has never been particularly well-known for a rip-roaring nightlife scene.
Sure, the restaurants and tavernas might offer night owls some form of entertainment in the wee hours, but there’s no major party atmosphere to speak of. Unless you visit Varadero every night for the duration of your trip.
This one’s a no-brainer. Party animals, Hvar is this way!
Which Is Better For Adventure-Seekers?
Hvar’s rugged coastline is primed and pristine, waiting for urban explorers to wander the narrow streets in search of the ultimate souvenir.
But we’d hardly call this an island for adventure seekers. Hvar’s cosmopolitan atmosphere suits luxury vacationers just fine, but when it comes to thrill seekers itching to make their heart race, the island comes up short.
However Brač is more of an island built for adventurous and wild souls.
The island’s rugged terrain is packed full of outdoor activities, from the watersports available on most beaches to rock climbing, kayaking, and scuba diving around old shipwrecks.
The towns and villages are scattered around the island like a little treasure hunt, with trails leading here and there.
Hvar might be upmarket, but we’re going to Brač to get our hands dirty!
Which Is Better For History Buffs?
Hvar’s rich history has certainly left its mark, with the island boasting multiple UNESCO World Heritage Titles, both tangible and intangible.
The residents may live a modern and moderately Westernised lifestyle, but they have held fast to their heritage, which can easily be seen by the Stari Grad Plain.
This agricultural centre has been unchanged in its entirety since the Greek empires occupied the shores in 300 BC.
Not to mention other cultural traditions that still stand today, such as the “Following the Cross” precession, Klapa singing, and old-style gastronomy.
Brač holds no UNESCO title but offers visitors an authentic cultural experience thanks to its underdeveloped tourism industry.
The island brims with beautiful medieval structures, from fortresses to castles, and has an entire museum dedicated to old tools, art, and more.
You will also be mesmerized by the monasteries that sit in prime locations around the island, notably the 15th-century Monastery in Bol.
And don’t forget to spend as much time rubbing shoulders with the locals as you can. They will regale you with stories of myths, lore, and Brač’s incredible history.
Both islands are unbelievably rich in cultural heritage and historical landmarks, and we’d like to say they’re on par. But we think Hvar just wins, thanks to the UNESCO status.
Which Is Better For Family Vacations?
Hvar is an island that thrives on tourist activity and as such, has created what can be likened to a paradise for visitors to enjoy.
Obviously, in saying this, it means that the island is built for all sorts of vacations, including family trips.
Its relatively large size and diversity means that each corner of its coastline offers something unique for families of different ilks.
There’s plenty to explore, see and learn, which will keep older kids on their toes for the duration of your vacation, whereas littler ones can enjoy wading in shallow waters, seeing the bright colours of local markets, and watching local buskers sing and dance to traditional folk music.
Not to mention that the gastronomy in Hvar is well-established and features restaurants that will be able to cater to your fussy toddlers with ease.
So you can rest assured that a family vacation to Hvar is going to be filled with unforgettable memories, just be sure to keep your cameras at the ready!
And while Brač may be beautiful and filled with its own type of magic, the island is more suited to a niche selection of travellers.
Let’s face it when picking somewhere for a family vacation, especially with toddlers in tow, you aren’t going to opt for the quieter island.
Brač is stunning and offers a host of activities that mainly centralise around the incredible nature and wilderness around the island.
For older kids, this means exploration and plenty of energy spent on outdoor activities, whereas younger children may struggle with hiking and the coordination needed for some of the water sports.
Not to mention that as an island, Brač is a lesser-known tourist attraction and is better known for being a cultural hub than anything else.
You won’t get the same versatile experience as with Hvar in terms of accommodations, activities and restaurants simply because the island hasn’t had a need to be lavish and excessive in its offerings.
It’s a pretty easy choice that Hvar is the better destination for family vacations. There’s enough versatility and activity to keep you, your broody teen and your hyper toddler preoccupied for days on end.
Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
Romance on Hvar is easy to achieve when you’re strolling arm-in-arm through the narrow streets of the quaint seaside villages there.
The island is everything you could dream of for your royal-style honeymoon, simply without the crowns.
Beautiful, panoramic views ensure that you and your partner are enraptured in some of the Dalmatia archipelago’s most stunning scenery, with the added bonus of a network of hiking trails for romantic treks across the island.
You can also lounge on any one of the many versatile beaches and discover serene coves to escape the bustle of the main beaches.
Perhaps pack a picnic with a bottle of Hvar’s finest local wines to enjoy while watching the sun dip below the horizon. Or, negate the beach entirely and head straight for the vineyards.
The only thing that may be tedious for loved-up couples is the sheer abundance of people, especially in peak season.
Hvar’s reputation as a thriving tourist destination is both good and bad, and in the case of sweeping your lover off their feet, you’d rather not be rubbing shoulders with the Brady clan while popping that once-in-a-lifetime question.
In that case, Brač would be the better choice for an island setting that’s peaceful, scenic and oozes romantic energy.
Brač is like the mirror image of Hvar, but without the mass crowds of tourists, which may bode better for a romantic, peaceful escape.
You’ll be able to traverse through the quaint and charming villages and admire the culture more intimately as if you yourselves were locals.
You won’t need to fight for the best seat at sunset, as Brač doesn’t attract the hoards that Hvar does, instead appealing to a quieter, more peaceful type of tourist who enjoys the picturesque scenery for hiking, the warm and inviting beaches, and the charming accommodations that Brač has to offer.
Maybe we’ve got romance wrong, but if we’re honeymooning or taking our lover on an umpteenth anniversary vacation, we want to make sure they feel like all the attention is on them, and Brač creates the perfect environment for it.
But honestly, it’s hard to make the comparison as which island is better in this case solely depends on you and your partner as a couple.
Do you prefer a busier, more action-packed adventure together? If so then pick Hvar. Or are you looking for a tranquil getaway? Then choose Brac.
Which Is Cheaper?
Now that you have been given a relatively good idea on what each island has to offer, let’s take a look at the nitty gritty part of travel… Budgeting.
Hvar’s cosmopolitan and luxury tourism industry makes for quite a hefty price tag at the end of the day.
There’s no beating around the bush here. Hvar is, simply put, expensive. On average, guests to Hvar are looking at spending close to €120 per day.
The saving grace is perhaps that the activities on the island are mainly free unless you charter a yacht or rent gear on the beachfront.
But transport, accommodation, food and drinks are a surefire way to drive your average expenditure through the roof.
Of course, there are ways of visiting Hvar on a budget, but that comes at the sacrifice of some comforts, and for an island that bleeds luxury and high-end living, slumming it just doesn’t fit the vibe.
Brač, on the other hand, is a better island for penny-pinchers and budget travellers. An average day on Brač costs around €80, all-included, and can steep even lower than that based on your accommodation choices.
Obviously, Brač has thus far been described as a more rustic and rural island to visit, and so they don’t have all those tourist traps pushing prices exorbitantly high. Yay for us, we guess!
The only issue is you won’t find as much variety in food and accommodation on Brač as on Hvar, but any budget traveller knows that you have to make a few sacrifices for the good of your wallet.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Luxury: Sometimes you just want to be pampered, and that’s exactly what you’ll get when staying at Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel. Set right by the water and complete with rooftop pool and bar, this place feels as classy as it looks. See photos and rates!
When’s The Best Time To Visit?
Choosing the best time to visit doesn’t only depend on the weather, although that does play a big role.
If you’ve done enough research on your chosen destination, you might come across some interesting island-wide events and holidays that might tickle your fancy. It’s like visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras! It’s all part of the attraction.
Both Hvar and Brač share the same climate and similar weather, with highs of 30°C during their summer months.
It’s no secret that between June and September, you can expect an influx of tourists and a hike in prices as both islands hit their peak season. It’s the most convenient time of year for people to visit as most countries observe a Summer vacation period.
But summer is also a time for festivities, and both Hvar and Brač celebrate unique festivals and events that should be added to any avid traveller’s itinerary.
Here are some of Hvar’s must-see festivals:
- Lavender Festival (Late June)
- Hvar Summer Music Festival (Late July to Mid August)
- Hvar Wine Festival (August)
Here are some of Brač’s must-see festivals:
- International Summer Music Festival (Late July to Mid August)
- Brač Film Festival (August)
- Supetar Summer Festival (Throughout Summer)
For the shoulder months, you’ll be looking to go around May to June and September to October when the temperature is still comfortable enough to enjoy a beach day, but most tourists have all gone back home for the season.
Brac vs Hvar: Which Is The Better Choice?
At the end of the day, both Hvar and Brac make for incredible holiday destinations that have plenty to offer travellers of all kinds.
But each island caters to its own specific style of people, from Hvar’s cosmopolitan, upmarket niche, to Brac’s down-to-earth cultural escape.
Your choice of destination depends solely on what you’re looking to get out of your holiday away.
But we’re here to be biased, and unfortunately, between both islands, there’s one we’d always recommend above the other.
Brac may be beautiful, and offer immense opportunity for exploration and cultural engagement, but Hvar has offered more versatility that caters to the many dynamic traveller types that are out there.
So now that you’re clued up, whip out your passports and head for the sunny shores of Croatia’s Dalmatia archipelagos.