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Saint Nicholas Island Budva – Montenegrin’s Hawaii

Saint Nicholas Island, or “Sveti Nikola,” is a picturesque island in Budva. This is the largest island in the southern Adriatic, which covers 47 hectares and is 2 km long. Many tourists consider it the most beautiful island on the Montenegrin coast.

Due to its position close to the Bay of Budva, it is an indispensable part of Budva. An underwater sandbank called tunja connects the island to the town.

Sveti Nikola Island offers a unique experience compared to other islands in the Adriatic Sea region. While nearby islands like Hvar and Korčula in Croatia are renowned for their vibrant nightlife and rich historical architecture, Sveti Nikola stands out for its untouched natural beauty and tranquility. The island’s serene beaches, lush vegetation, and abundant wildlife create a peaceful haven for visitors, making it a perfect choice for those seeking a more relaxed, nature-centric retreat. Furthermore, its proximity to the mainland — a mere one kilometer from Budva — makes Sveti Nikola a conveniently accessible piece of paradise.

Multiple names of the Island

The island has several names;

  • Saint Nicholas Island – named after the church built by the Crusaders at the end of the 11th century.
  • Among the locals of Budva, the island goes by the name Školj, e.g., scoglio, which means rock.
  • You can also hear the name “Montenegrin Hawaii” due to its tropical-idyllic beaches and crystal clear waters. The main association with the name Hawaii is because of the restaurant located there for many years. Today, one part of the island is private, and a new restaurant opened on the other part of the island.

Multiple names for one island are a common phenomenon in Montenegro. Almost every islet has at least two names, which can unfortunately confuse tourists.

A photo of Saint Nicholas Island, Budva
Saint Nicholas Island Budva Photo Credit: ShareMontenegro

Ideal beaches for adventurists

Saint Nicholas Island is one of the main examples of wild beauty in Montenegro. Three magnificent pebble-sand beaches, with a total length of 840m, are located on the island. However, only a few remote beaches are accessible from the sea. These beaches, located towards the open sea, attract those looking for peace and privacy, and it is a great idea for a one-day getaway.

In 2019, Forbes included it among Europe’s nine most beautiful beaches.

A photo of Saint Nicholas Island, with a view of the Old Town Budva
A photo of Saint Nicholas Island, with a view of the Old Town Budva Photo Credit: Forbes

The island is overgrown with dense forest, mostly evergreen trees – thick conifers, pine, and spruce. In addition to the flora, the island’s fauna is also characteristic. It is a true paradise for birds, hares, pheasants, and deer, so coming to the beaches before nightfall is not unusual.

Saint Nicholas Island – the Island of Legends

Perched on the island is a petite church, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, who is revered as the guardian of sailors. Legend has it that Crusaders returning to their native lands in the late 11th century, after being afflicted by a deadly plague, built this church. Some of their brethren who succumbed to the plague were laid to rest in the vicinity of the church. The structure nearly succumbed to the catastrophic earthquake in 1979, but it was subsequently restored.

A photo of Saint Nicholas Island

There’s another intriguing legend associated with the sandbank of Sveti Nikola Island and Saint Sava, a revered figure who journeyed from Budva to Palestine twice to visit sacred Christian sites in the Holy Land. The story goes that during one of these departures, a severe storm swept in, causing the ship meant for travel to take shelter behind Sveti Nikola Island. While waiting on the mainland shore, Saint Sava is said to have tossed pebbles into the water. Legend has it that these pebbles formed a pathway to the island, enabling him and his companions to safely reach their sheltered ship amidst the storm.

How to reach Saint Nicholas Island

The entrance to the island is free, and you can reach it by boat. Different boats, speedboats and smaller ships go to the island from the shores of the Old town every half hour or hour from morning to evening. You can buy tickets directly on the beach, at the pier or directly on the boat. A return ticket by boat (valid from morning to evening) costs €4. But be careful to save your return ticket and board the ship of the same company – the company’s name is on the ticket, and the ship leaves you at the same place. Also, be aware the check the correct time when the boat leaves.

Where can I eat and play

No accommodation is available on the island, as the island is perfect for one-day excursions. Hotel Budva in Montenegro comes highly recommended for visitors planning a trip to the nearby Sveti Nikola Island. The hotel’s prime location in the heart of Budva makes it a convenient base, only a short boat ride away from the island. Combining comfort and top-notch amenities, it serves as an excellent resting place after a day of exploring Sveti Nikola’s serene beaches and natural beauty. Whether it’s the warm, hospitable staff, the clean, comfortable rooms, or the fantastic dining options, Hotel Budva ensures a satisfying stay to enhance your overall experience in Montenegro.

The road to the island itself is very interesting. Beautiful view of the endless blue waters, coastal towns and villages – Petrovac, Pržno, beaches – Bečići, Mogren, Kamenovo. There are cafes, bars, and restaurants on the island of Saint Nicholas. But the prices are higher than usual. The most popular and attractive one is Restaurant & Beach Bar Hawaii. This is where you can find everything you need for a relaxing day on the island. From refreshing summer beverages and incredible succulent food to amenities like sunbeds, kayaks, and daytime DJ parties.

If you like islands

Montenegro’s picturesque coastline is dotted with a host of stunning islands that are truly gems of the Adriatic Sea. Sveti Stefan is undoubtedly one of the most iconic, its ancient fortified village turned luxury hotel is a sight to behold. The Island of Flowers, known for its floral diversity and serene monastery, is a haven for nature lovers. Our Lady of the Rocks, an artificial island near Perast in the Bay of Kotor, is steeped in history and offers awe-inspiring views. If untouched natural beauty is what you seek, the twin islands of St. George and Gospa od Škrpjela won’t disappoint. Mamula Island, despite its infamous past as a WWII prison, is now an intriguing spot for history enthusiasts. These islands, each with unique appeal, make Montenegro an island paradise for every type of traveler.

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