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Dreaming about your next vacation destination? Take a step off the beaten path and discover Sveti Nikola—also known as Hawaii Island—not in the middle of the Pacific, but the heart of Europe, right in Montenegro.
Located off the coastline of Budva, Sveti Nikola is a sight not to be missed. With incredible turquoise blue waters and towering cliffs, this is one of the most beautiful islands I’ve experienced on my travels.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll show you how to get there, what to do there, and explain some of the history of the island.
Getting to Sveti Nikola
To reach this hidden gem, you’ll, first, need to get to Montenegro. Many major European carriers offer service to Montenegro’s two international airports—Podgorica Airport (TGD) and Tivat Airport (TIV). Alternatively you can fly to Dubrovnik in Croatia and organize a car transfer from there.
Once in Montenegro, Sveti Nikola Island is just 1 kilometer off the coast of Budva – one of Montenegro’s best-known resort towns. Regular taxi boat services from Budva to Hawaii Island operate daily during the summer season.
Just head down to Slovenska Plaza (the main long sandy beach in the town). Here you’ll see signs for “Magic Stars” water taxis to “Hawaii, Sv. Nikola”. The journey usually costs around €5-6.
Remember to check the schedule and price with local tour operators as boat services may vary.
About Sveti Nikola
Located in the Adriatic Sea, just a kilometer from Budva’s coastline in Montenegro, lies the charming island of Sveti Nikola. Covering an area of 36 hectares, it’s the largest island on the Montenegrin coast captivating with its beautiful landscapes and turquoise blue water.
Sveti Nikola harbours a colourful past and distinctive identity. Named after the Church of St. Nicholas, located in the middle of the island, it often goes by the tender nickname “Hawaii” amongst locals for its natural beauty and serene beaches. It’s also sometimes called Školj by locals, which comes from Italian scoglio or from Venetian scogio meaning islet or reef.
Historically, Sveti Nikola served as a key defence point for Budva. It was a refuge for people during the numerous invasions that targeted the mainland over centuries. The remnants of fortifications on the island are a testament to this significant era.
Nature poured its heart into the creation of Sveti Nikola, sculpting it into an expansive, verdant paradise. Rich Mediterranean vegetation covers Sveti Nikola – pine, cypress and olive trees cover the island, offering shelter to a wide array of fauna such as deer, rabbits and birds. Its beaches, adorned with beautiful pebbles and warmed by the Adriatic sun, are a favourite amongst both locals and tourists alike.
Presently, Sveti Nikola serves as a natural reserve, a place to escape the pressure of modern life, a haven of tranquility in the dynamic pace of the coastal town. The island carries its historical narrative with pride, while simultaneously embracing the promise and allure of the present. Sveti Nikola – the island of beauty, history and mystery – awaits your arrival, ready to share its story.
Dancing with the Adriatic Waves
Upon setting foot on the island, you’ll soon see why they call it Montenegro’s Hawaii. It’s beautiful.
There are three public beaches on the north part of the island, which are all a mixture of pebble and sand. It’s difficult to know what the names are because there isn’t much information online, but Google Maps labels them as “Four hooves beach”, “Halfmoon beach” and “Small Beach St. Nikola”. The beach area faces north, towards Budva and the old town.
I’d recommend bringing flip flops or some sort of waterproof shoes with you because it can be quite uncomfortable on the feet trying to walk over pebbles when you get in and out of the water. The day I visited it was pretty wavy, so the current was quite strong.
If you’re a keen swimmer, you’ll love the crystal-clear turquoise waters perfect for snorkeling and diving. Don’t miss your chance to discover the rich marine life of the Adriatic Sea!
There are sun loungers on the beach, so you can lay down and relax for a few hours. There are also a couple of places for drinks and snacks – “Restaurant Hawaii” and “Captain Morgan”. We brought our own food and drinks, since we weren’t sure what would be available on the island.
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours here just swimming and sunbathing.
On the southeast side of the island there’s a cave, which is only accessible by boat. Some people climb onto the rocks and jump into the water. On the northeast there’s a beach called “Laguna Beach” which is the only sandy beach on the island. If you want to go to this beach they offer free rides for guests, and the sun loungers are 20 euros.
History and Culture
In its heart, you’ll discover the small church of St. Nicholas, from which the island derives its name. Though small, the church is rich in history. It’s a beautiful example of the blend of Byzantine and Roman architectural styles typical of this region’s religious buildings.
According to local legends, the small graves surrounding the diminutive, pristine St. Nicholas’ Church (Crkva Sv Nikole) belong to crusaders who succumbed to a mysterious disease during their encampment in the vicinity. The origins of the church may trace back to as early as 1096.
Future of Sveti Nikola
According to this article, the tourist organization of the municipality of Budva is installing 3km of paths on the island, as well as picnic areas and cameras for monitoring animals. It also looks like they are adding more wildlife to the island.
Venturing around Sveti Nikola by foot is the only way to experience the island, as motor vehicles are not allowed. Also, while traveling to this amazing island don’t forget your essential beachwear, sun cream, and a hat to cope with the summer sun.
Keep in mind that accommodations are not available on the island, but Budva is full of options suitable for all budgets and preferences.
A Final Word…
Visiting Sveti Nikola—or Hawaii of Montenegro—is a unique experience. It’s an ideal location for nature lovers, those seeking peace, serenity, and some fun in the sun. Adventure awaits—be sure to take it!
Quick Tip: Always respect the local flora and fauna and leave as small a footprint as possible to help maintain the island’s natural beauty for generations to come.