- October 1, 2021
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A room at Maslina
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Maslina, a new resort on the Croatian island of Hvar, is the check-in desk. It’s a massive piece of rough-hewn white stone, weighing in at 12 tons. Quarried on the neighboring island of Brac, it was brought over by special boat, and then the hotel was built around it.
That pretty much sets the tone for the place, which bills itself as a haven of “mindful luxury.” Nothing about it is opulent. Rather, it’s organic and elemental, all natural materials—terra-cotta, glass, wood and that local stone—and perfectly framed Adriatic Sea views.
The phrase they like to use is “mindful luxury,” a nod both to the fact that it’s attuned to a more contemporary, nuanced definition of luxury—natural beauty, along with time and space to slow down and appreciate it—and to the fact that there’s a subtle wellness component. It’s not a spa resort, but there are meditation or movement classes every morning, and the spa follows Croatia’s traditions of using herbs as medicine, many of which are grown in the hotel’s own organic garden.
A villa at Maslina, with the main resort in the background
Of course, if your idea of mindfulness and wellness is simply chilling out by the water (or staying in a lovely small hotel near the sea, as mine often is), there are plenty of ways to do that. Along with the dedicated pebble beach (which will have a small beach bar next season), there are secluded spots with sling chairs and hammock nets among the rocks that line the crystal-clear sea in Maslinica Bay.
Many of the 50 rooms also have sea views, and a few have private plunge pools. But the main pools are deeply inviting, whether to go in for a dip or simply to enjoy a light lunch beside them. Between the hotel and the sea, they have lovely views of the ocean. (In fact, guests see them before they see that stunning reception desk, and I suppose they start to set the mood.)
The rooms also have supremely comfortable organic bedding and towels, smartly designed custom furniture and private terraces. The smallest are a grand 450 square feet (I actually said that travel writer cliché, “bigger than my apartment.”) and have ample space for a couple who want to enjoy Maslina’s romantic side. They go all the way up to a five-bedroom suite, designed, of course, for families or groups of friends.
Being in the heart of the Mediterranean, Maslina, whose name means “olive tree,” showcases the Mediterranean diet. The house olive oil, is, of course, superb. Beyond that, the kitchen is led by Michelin-star chef Serge Gouloumès (Le Candille in Mougins, France) and, unsurprisingly, embraces local and seasonal ingredients. Standout dishes include sea bass with tomato, clams and gnudi pasta, and 28-hour-cooked lamb confit with roasted carrots, apricot and cinnamon confit. It’s no wonder the hotel was welcomed into Relais & Châteaux less than a year after opening.
The lunchtime poolside menu is less complicated—caesar salad, beef or tuna burger, chicken wrap—but still prepared with attention. (The beach bar was closed for the season when I visited.) Breakfast was another highlight, with dishes like the Maslina omelet, with greens, tomatoes and just a touch of Hvar goat cheese, and the creamy scrambled eggs with Croatian black truffles and mascarpone.
The food is good, and there’s enough on the dinner menu to get you through several nights at the hotel, But nearby towns like Stari Grad and Jelsa have plenty of casual, seaside fish restaurants and typical bistros called konobas, and it’s worth venturing out. (Coincidentally, a standout of those is also called Maslina—no relation—in the hills above Jelsa, where the family of owners turn out simple grilled seafood and meat, the hospitality is warm, and the views are dreamy.)
Island life in Hvar
It’s also worth venturing out to visit Stari Grad, a five-minute drive or a beautiful coastal walk away from Maslina. (As well as Hvar Town, a longer drive across the island, particularly if you’re interested in yacht-world nightlife.) The city—whose name translates as “old city”—is one of the oldest in the world, with a history that dates back 2,400 years and was marked by Greek, Roman, Venetian and other influences. International archaeologists are currently working on small digs all over town to unearth some of that history.
On the surface, there’s still much to see—so much that it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the architecture is medieval, and beautifully preserved. The narrow, cobblestoned street are lined with cafés, shops selling local products, and that eternal Mediterranean show-off, bougainvillea.
A tour guide told me Stari Grad is a good town for people who are falling in love. I asked why. It has only two steps in the whole town, she replied, so it’s safe for people who have their head in the clouds and don’t watch where they’re walking.
That may come in handy. It’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with Maslina.
I’ve been an award-winning travel writer and editor for 19 years – including several as a senior editor at ForbesLife – and I’ve written about nearly 700 luxury
I’ve been an award-winning travel writer and editor for 19 years – including several as a senior editor at ForbesLife – and I’ve written about nearly 700 luxury destinations and hotels in 98 countries (and counting). I know the difference between what’s merely expensive and what deserves its high price tag. I’m discerning but not jaded, and I appreciate the hard work that goes into crafting experiences as well as crafting luxury goods. (I’ve written about those, too.) I’ve shared that wisdom with readers of Forbes, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, Robb Report, Afar, National Geographic Traveler, Islands, Hemispheres, Brides, Modern Bride, Luxury SpaFinder, Well + Good, and other publications. In the name of lifestyle journalism, I’ve gotten a tattoo in Bora Bora, been bitten by a massage therapist, and flown small aircraft above three continents.