Goa, the holiday capital of India or in other words a place which can be called the “Fursat Ganj” of India. The interesting part is that as soon as you mention you will be at Goa, everyone you know who’s been there has a recommendation on must eat places. Even if I had a week there and did all four meals in the recommended joints, I wouldn’t have been able to cover all. So here’s my version of Goa from a beginner’s lens.
The first filter is whether you should stay at North Goa or South Goa. Here’s my take.
South Goa: If you are looking for a quiet vacation, more space on the beach for a peaceful walk, less intrusion of people around you then South Goa is the place for you. There are many luxury hotels and resorts in South Goa. The only thing to consider is the distance from the airport and other points of interest in Goa. Be prepared for a 1.5 to 2-hour drive to get almost anywhere of interest.
I have stayed at the Leela and would recommend it for the luxurious rooms, the private beach, the spa and the hospitality. Good for stay if you want to spend most of your time at the resort.
North Goa: This is the buzzing part of Goa. Practically everything you have seen or heard of in Goa is in North Goa. Water activities, beaches buzzing with activity, views from Fort Aguada and Chapora Fort, night markets, casinos and clubs all define the thrill of being in North Goa. Distance from the airport is also just 45 minutes to an hour. However, it is quite crowded if you are looking for a quiet vacation. Beaches are not as clean as in South Goa and there is lesser availability of properties with private beaches.
Recommended Place to Stay – A boutique heritage hotel called Shanti Morada. With just about 20 rooms, this hotel offers an oasis in the otherwise crowded North Goa. Unparalleled hospitality, great quality of accommodation and value for money, personal attention and safety make it my number 1 recommendation for staying at Goa. They only allow families and solo female travelers which keeps the ambience of the hotel welcoming and safe. Not for those who are looking at accommodation that allows quick walk on the beach.
So now that the where to stay question is sorted, here are a few things one can do in Goa:
Must eat at –
- Martin’s Corner at Betalbatim in South Goa. Boasting of Sachin Tendulkar as one of its prestigious patrons, Martin’s corner gives you the true Goan feel. The place is a favorite haunt of the elite crowd and is buzzing with live music, cool breeze and authentic Goan delicacies. Try the fish recheado. Don’t look for much on the quality of the music as they were a bit out of sync on the Bollywood numbers but making an earnest effort which made the environment peppy.
- Brittos in Baga Beach, North Goa. While there are a number of shack restobars on Baga Beach, I tried Brittos and wasn’t disappointed. The Chilli Chicken fried Goan Style was amazing though it wasn’t truly fried. The attendants dissuaded me from having this and the Chicken Vindaloo and Chicken Kolhapuri on grounds of them being extremely spicy. Well I do think they underestimate the spice tolerance levels of visitors from Delhi. That said, the Chicken Kolhapuri is a must try. The beach parking is nearby and there are quite a few spas as well as street shopping outlets next to it.
- The Purple Martini in Anjuna Beach, North Goa – This is a buzzy restobar near Anjuna beach. It doesn’t have beach access but has a balcony view that overlooks the beach. The music is fantastic, and food is great. It does not have as spread out seating as Britos or Curlies so looks crowded and you would need prior reservation or wait longer to be seated.
- Curlies on Anjuna Beach, North Goa – One of the older rustic beach shacks, this is a must visit when you are in Goa. Reaching Curlies is no less than an urban legend route but its worth the roundabout. The drinks and food are better at Britos and Purple Martini but Curlies has its own ambience. The beach in front is not as crowded as the Baga beach so it has a much more enjoyable view as you sip your Pina Colada.
- Baga Beach – unlike what I had heard of Baga beach being extremely crowded and dirty, I didn’t find it so. It was buzzing with people no doubt but there was ample space for everyone. As soon as you get to the beach, you would have attendants calling out to you to take a sun bed and a massage on the beach. Well try this at your risk though I did see many people trying and enjoying it. There are many water sports happening on Baga Beach and numerous shack resto bars for you to enjoy a cool drink on a bright sunny beach day. My hotel staff also strongly recommended Baga beach to Calangute. It also has a street market that you can shop around at for beach wear, souvenirs, cashews etc.
- Sinquerim beach – This beach is near to Fort Aguada. A good place to take a 45-minute Dolphin cruise. The boat ride costs INR 300 per person and take a round tour covering the Fort Aguad light house, the Goa Jail, Coco beach and the dolphins. Almost everyone gets to see the dolphins although given the crowd of numerous boats you will barely have to make do with their fins and snouts and would not see them making a full jump. We did have 4-5 sightings of the dolphins though.
- Chapora Beach – This is a quieter beach. You can see some watersports happening here as well specially parasailing. It’s a good beach for a sunset view.
- Vagator beach – If you are staying at a resort with a private beach, the Vagator beach can be a total delight. I did stay at the W Hotel and the soft sand, clean beach provided awesome views in the evening.
- Anjuna beach – There are a lot or food joints, pubs and shacks in Anjuna Beach. The beach is crowded and touristy but not as busy as a the Baga beach. If you are looking for the typical Goa experience and not just a quiet vacation, then its a must visit.
- Fort Aguada and Lighthouse – The portugese construction offers great views. Be prepared to walk quite a bit as it’s a huge area. Typically, very crowded as well. Be prepared to have a few people photobombing your selfies. There is a small market at the entrance so water, eatables, shades, hats etc can be bought if you forgot to carry them. Entry is still 5- 5:30 p.m.
- Chapora fort – The fort adjacent to the W Hotel is famous for the shoot of the movie Dil Chahta hai. It’s a bit of a trek through rocky terrain to get to the top for the views. It offers a beautiful view of the sunset. There are many places to get some good pictures though you can find a lot of people posing in Bollywood style for their Dil Chahta hai moments. Best time to go there is at sun rise or sun set. They stop entry for visitors at 5 p.m.
Must Shop at:
The Saturday Night Market at Arpora is a lively place to get the feel of Goa as well as get a good bargain. Indians and foreigners put up stalls and if you look hard, you can get some really good stuff of export quality and steal away prices. You get everything from apparel to souvenirs to spices. A lot of food stuff and some great live music too. Definitely worth spending the evening. The market starts only at 6 p.m and goes on till about 1:00 a.m. Best time to visit is around 8 p.m.
These are based on my experiences. The next time I am in Goa, I will try a few more adventures and some of the other must be at places like Thalassa and Club Cabana which I haven’t had a chance to be at so far.