“ Address: Bokeljska 16, Dubrovnik, Croatia „
There are a lot of places in Dubrovnik that show up on Hostel World, but this one looked the loveliest (and the closest to the beach) which was why my friend booked it for her trip. The only way to get over the jealousy of someone else having a holiday is to have one of your own, so I invited myself along. She had booked a bed in a dorm but with me tagging along, a private twin was in order, so she fired off an email to change the booking, and we were all set. Villa Divine is only available online through Hostel World currently, but they're a website I know well, and I like their policy of taking a deposit only rather than the full amount on booking.
A Divine Location
We flew into Dubrovnik and rather than navigate the two busses and seemingly complicated walk that would be required to get us to Villa Divine, we jumped in a taxi instead. This cost a somewhat extortionate 270 Kuna (currently just under £30) made only slightly better by the fact the driver didn't have enough change, so let us have it for 260 kn. Located in Lapad, Villa Divine is closer to the beach than the old town, and in quite a nice residential area. Getting around was easy (without luggage). We could stroll to the beach in 15 minutes, were a minute's walk from the waterfront and the area where the cruise ships docked, and could be at the local bus stop in 10 minutes if we wanted to head further afield. You could technically walk to the Old Town in about 45 minutes, but it was roasting hot when we went in June so we never went for this option.
The bus stop was outside the Post Office which was also a place where tours picked up from and dropped off, handy for us when we decided to pop over to Bosnia for the day. Going into the Old Town on the bus took about 20 minutes and the route was straight forward, ending at Pile Gate so you could stay on until the end and wait for the mass exodus even if you weren't quite sure where you were going.
Going back to the airport alone, I decided to get a taxi to the old town and then the airport bus from there, but as I went to ask about the former, the owner's husband offered to drop me off and drove me to the centre, where I could catch the 35 kn bus direct to the airport. Kirsty, travelling home a few days after me, was driven to the bus depot by the hostel's owner - just one example of the way she and her family go out of their way to be Divine hosts and cater to guests' every whims.
We were greeted, and I do mean greeted, at the door by Renata, the owner of the hostel. I had read all about her in other people's reviews of the place, and she certainly lived up to her character. It was about 8pm but the place was deserted apart from our host - we soon discovered it had been shut for a few days so we were the only guests. As such we had a choice of rooms across two floors and after being given a tour, we were directed to the kitchen area, given cold drinks and sweets, and told to relax. While we enjoyed the sit down, Renata came out with a massive wodge of information for us - maps and booklets and restaurant flyers. On the standard tourist map she marked on all the key things we might need, explaining them as she did so we soon knew where the best beaches were, where the bus left from, where the supermarket was and so on. It was a very personalised welcome which at first I thought was down to us being the only guests, but as others appeared over the next few days it became clear everyone got the same service.
Over our stay the welcoming feel continued. We were given a simple, hand drawn map for our first night as she didn't want us to get lost - it showed the highlights on the walk to the main restaurant drag with all the things you never get on normal maps (turn right at the bakery, go past the university and so on). When we got back that night after tea she had laid out juice and fresh fruit for us. The next morning she casually asked what we had planned and when we said the Old Town, she insisted on driving us in so we didn't have to bother with the bus, dropping us at the cable car having clearly remembered my comment about the wonderful things the night before. When we fancied a trip out we asked her advice and she not only recommended somewhere but also rang up to book it for us and then wrote out the details. It really was an exemplary service of the kind you never normally get in hotels or hostels, and she couldn't do enough for us and the other guests.
The Secret To Divine Rest
As if the service wasn't enough, Villa Divine turned out to be one of the most comfortable and best equipped hostels I've ever stayed in. Set across a 3 story house (with Renata and family living on the 1st floor, and guests on the 2nd floor and ground floor) it included everything you would want in a home away from home. We chose to stay downstairs and this was a self contained unit that I imagine could also be let out as a whole too, to larger groups. It included 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a kitchen/living area and an outside terrace.
Our bedroom was a twin and nicely decorated in a bright, modern way. We had bedside tables and individual lights each, though aside from a stand for suitcases, there was no other furniture or storage space. However, there was a large wardrobe in the corridor I imagine you could have used, and there were small lockers in the main area for valuables, should you want to lock them up.
The bathrooms were family style, rather than the sort you normally encounter in hostels, and each had a shower cubicle, sink and toilet, plus mirrors (something else missing from our bed room). The doors were a bit see through (silhouettes rather than fine details, but still) and the shower curtain in one liked to attack you while you washed, but both had lots of hot water and fab pressure and both were spotlessly clean. We didn't really have anywhere to hang out towels to dry (we were given two each on arrival) but in the end I left mine on the hook in the bathroom since we were the only ones using it at the time, and that helped keep the dampness out of our room.
The main living area combined comfy sofas and chair and a large TV with a ton of international channels, with a cooking and dining area. The kitchen was supremely well equipped and very well done, to the extent that I wish I had one like it at home. We had a big fridge, an oven, hob rings, a microwave and toaster and so on, and if you wanted to rustle up a feast (perfectly possible given what was provided) the table could seat 6 or the one outside on the terrace could seat 8 or more. Everything was clean, everything looked brand new, and everything was stylish and designed with guests' comfort in mind.
Upstairs was a similar story, with more rooms (some small dorms with bunk beds) and bathrooms, and another kitchen/living room combo with a large flat screen. There was also a computer for guests' use - and free, fast wifi was also on offer if you had your own devices - and the reception desk had a mini library with a few books on it. We were given an English language guide book to Croatia downstairs, though I imagine this floated around depending on who had picked it up. It too was new - not one of those scribbled on things with ripped out pages you often get in backpacker places. The 2nd floor also boasted a brilliant balcony stretching the length of the house and stunning views overlooking the water, complete with comfy seating. The dooyoo photo above is the view from that balcony and is as impressive as it looks.
A Divine Feast
Breakfast was included and served from 8am to 10am every day, though on the morning we had to leave early for our trip Renata insisted we not miss out, and brought it all down to our kitchen the night before so we could help ourselves. Usually served upstairs, it was a buffet that included tea, filter coffee and proper juice (not nectar/squash) and a spread that featured toast (with butter, honey, cream cheese and random jams), cheese and cold meat, yogurts (fruit and plain), cereal and muesli, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit and chocolate pudding. Yes, really. It was certainly enough to set you up for the day and there was only one morning where it was a bit busy so we decided not to linger and to leave the table so others could join.
We paid £30 pppn in a twin room, so £60 per room including breakfast. At first glance it's not really hostel prices, and of course it included things like shared bathrooms so you couldn't really call it a hotel instead. But, we felt we got real value for money in what is, it has to be said, one of the most expensive places in Croatia. The hospitality was outstanding, the location good, the views spectacular. We were very comfortable there and felt at home from the first night onwards. Kirsty was supposed to be moving on when I came home, but couldn't stand to leave so ended up booking another 3 nights there instead.
I feared it might be chintzy. At best I was hoping for rustic with a local flavour. Instead, this could have been anywhere in the world, and I mean that in the best possible way. It did not feel like a post-war zone. It did not feel like Eastern Europe (charming as that can be). It did not feel like we'd stepped back in time to 1988. Instead it was a stylish, comfortable place with all mod cons where the showers were always warm, and the electricity never cut out,
Staying at Villa Divine is like staying with a friend or with family. It could not be more different from your typical hostel and we felt personally welcomed and valued as customers. Renata truly wants her guests to have an amazing stay, and you end up feeling like an adopted child for the duration of your residency in the Villa. Any little niggles you might have - not enough mirrors, no drawers, having to leave your room to go to the bathroom - quickly become insignificant and for the stunning service alone, I can't give it less than a full 5 stars.
Villa Divine, Bokeljska 16, Dubrovnik, Croatia