Within minutes of leaving town on my newly rented scooter, I'm cruising the old mountain roads. Vineyards, olive groves and villages and rusting Skodas rush past and I’m transported back through time to the former days of Yugoslavia.
I meander through the sleepy town of Stari Grad, the perfect antidote to busy Hvar town, with its sun-dappled Renaissance squares and choral music floating down from the Dominican monastery. Barely a dog yawns as I bounce over the cobbled streets, past shuttered townhouses and old timers sipping ruby red Prosek (sweet wine) by the waterside.
I stop off at Jelsa for an ice cream. Walking its backstreets - salt-crusted piazzas opening up unexpectedly - it's like walking through a little slice of Venice dredged up from the sea. As I sit by its pretty harbour an old woman gazes wistfully at the distant white mountains of Brac Island – home to a sugar-fine spit of sand known Zlatni Rat, allegedly the finest beach in Croatia.
For me part of Hvar's charm is its hidden rocky coves. Zavala beach, on the south coast, is the perfect spot to rest up for a few hours. The afternoon sun paints cobalt blues in the sea. The rock face behind the beach glows a rich ochre. No sign of the striped t-shirt brigade here - I'm sharing my patch of paradise with a water-loving Labrador.
Back in Hvar town, I seek the famed Sensori Spa in the Adriana Hotel. This is unquestionably the swankiest pleasure-dome in Hvar town, from its uber-comfy, contemporary rooms to its South Beach-style rooftop bar and sleek facade. I step from the elevator into a paradise of pampering – my own private wood-panelled therapy room steeped in soothing sounds and semi-lit darkness.It’s an hour of heavenly escapism: my masseuse unknots my shoulders in a cloud of lavender-scented serenity. She almost had to slap me to wake me up.
My final night in Hvar I dine at local favourite 4 Palm Cafe, near the Arsenal. It looks out at the harbour and the lights on the tips of masts flickering like tea lights; it's the perfect place to unwind (as if I need to!) with a steak and glass of local red Mali Plavatz, the old boys next to me still singing folk songs. Yes, I will be back.