Goa is well known as a holiday destination and is particularly known for its wonderful beaches. What is not so well known is that Goa is much more than a backpackers destination with a beach shack culture. It is now becoming increasingly appreciated for its boutique hotels set away from the tourist hot spots, either on the beach or inland amongst the paddy fields and spice plantations. It is these hotels, together with the unique cuisine, the history and culture that we are excited to offer you.
Beach Shack under construction for the season on Cova beach
The gilded high alter depicting St Catherine – Se Cathedral
One of the wonderful pools at Alila Diva Hotel
Fishermen bringing in the daily catch
Room at Tiracol Fort Hotel
Hotel pool at Ahilia by the Sea
Alila Diwa, pool and paddy fields
View from Tiracol Fort Hotel
Dredging a river bed for sand near Tiracol Fort
Pool at Coco Shambala hotel
Panjim Inn Hotel
Cassa Susegad, Hotel
Muril in a Panjim market
Fresh fish for sale!
Church of Francis of Assisi, Old Goa
Basilica de Bom Jesus, Old Goa
This small, former Portuguese colony has a rich cultural heritage that sets it apart from the rest of India, in fact it only became part of the Indian Union in 1961 well after India gained its independence from the British in 1947.
Goa has some of the best beaches anywhere in the world making the whole Goan coast a popular tourist destination. There’s a beach to suit everyone from the lively, happening Anjuna Beach in North Goa to the isolated, peaceful Agonda Beach in South Goa.
Panaji or Panjim became the capital of Goa in 1759 after a series of epidemics hit the original capital of Old Goa.
Panjim has a number of leafy avenues with the original colonial buildings, many with balconies and painted yellow, ochre, green or indigo with a white trim – in keeping with the old Portuguese building code.
We can recommend staying at the Panjim Inn Hotel and a number of wonderful places to eat. Cruises along Panjim’s Mandovi river are also popular.
This is the original capital of the Portuguese colony with a magnificent complex of cathedrals, churches and monasteries in a small area. The central area contains two of Goa’s most important religious monuments: the Basilica de Bom Jesus and the grand Se Cathedral, thought to be the largest church in Asia.
Goan cuisine is distinctive and delicious. Fresh fish and seafood is widely available and transformed into hot fiery curries with spices grown locally in the inland plantations. Vindaloo originates from Goa and do try chouris pao (local spiced pork sausages served in Goan bread). Wash this down with feni, a local spirit made from either cashew or coconut and end with a delicious Bebinca layer cake served with vanilla ice cream. Divine…
Ahilya by the Sea
This gem of a hotel has a unique and glorious setting at the east end of Coco Beach, on Dolphin (Aguada) Bay, with waves from the Arabian Sea/Indian ocean tumbling into the sea wall that separates the hotel from the beach (not a swimming beach). It is tucked away, just a 10 minute stroll from the calm and quiet village of Nerul, at the confluence of the Indian ocean/Arabian Sea and the Mandovi and Nerul rivers.
These waters provide excellent local fishing and fresh daily fish. Guests may watch the locals draw in the catch from beach nets every morning, or even cast for delicious pomfret or kingfish themselves (bait and tackle available upon request). There are 8 spacious rooms (1 with balcony, 7 en suite) in total with 3 and 4 in each of 2 separate villas and 1 Tower Room. Built on the site of the old Portuguese custom houses, each room boasts stunning views of the sea entrance to Old Goa. The hotel itself consists of 3 Portuguese style villas (the family reside in one) made of hand hewn local red laterite rock and one Tower Room which is intertwined with an ancient beachfront banyan tree. Outside comprises lush gardens with 2 lap pools, one next to the sea wall – the ultimate infinity pool – and one surrounded by the garden. There are ample shady verandahs for relaxing with a book, or cosy nooks created for lying back to admire the views and let the sea breezes waft over you. Meals are taken in different places according to the weather, the time and the amount of people but suffice it to say that whether you eat inside in the airy dining room or al fresco in a carefully chosen spot, dining here will always be a treat and an event to savour! It is only 1 hour from the airport and just a few minutes away from bustling Calangute, Candolim and Baga beaches with all their fun restaurants and shops, not to mention long stretches of sandy beach. Ahilya by the Sea is a lovely place to end a holiday (2 night minimum stay), proving a warm, intimate, authentic base from which to explore this fascinating state. This is Goa at its best!
Our final discovery in Goa, and what a find. This magnificent Fort has very recently been converted into a luxury Heritage Hotel with stylish rooms that have been finished to a very high quality. But the best part is the location, set majestically on a cliff top with panoramic views over the Goan coastline, you won’t find a better position in all of Goa.
There is a restaurant and bar, positioned to make full use of the amazing views and uniquely, a small, pretty church which is still used by the local village. All of this adds more charm to this wonderful, peaceful property which we are sure is going to become a firm favourite in Goa. There are plans to build a swimming pool in the future which will be a welcome addition. Located on the northern tip of Goa at the mouth of the Tiracol River, Fort Tiracol is reached by a ferry from Querim, 42 km North of Panjim. Its a world away from the busy beaches and backpacker shacks and we absolutely love it!
Rarely have we been so impressed by a property. The unassuming entrance leads to a lush tropical paradise with a glorious pool for swimming or lounging by, and just four fabulous luxury villas tucked into the foliage. Coco Shambhala isn’t just a boutique hotel, it is a complete experience.
Coco Shambhala is located in the tiny fishing and farming village of Nerul, on the southern tip of the Bardez district of north Goa. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from Coco Beach, a few miles drive from Candolim and a 45 minute drive from Dabolim Airport.
Set back amongst the paddy fields but still within easy reach of the magnificent Colva beach, Alila Diwa is a fantastic hotel with huge amounts of style, character and luxurious features. The swimming pool is simply enormous and probably the best pool we have seen anywhere in the world. The views across the paddy fields are serene, best enjoyed from the partially submerged loungers to keep cool.
Alila Diwa is a relatively new resort, opened in 2009. It is located in south Goa, around 20 minutes drive from the airport. It has been built using traditional Goan architecture features but with a contemporary twist. The 150 rooms spread over two levels and two wings are spacious, well equipped and extremely comfortable. Facilities include four restaurants and bar, library, a health spa, two swimming pools, and open air Jacuzzi. A free shuttle bus transports guests to the beach where the hotel provides sun loungers. You really have the best of everything here, wonderful paddy field location, easy access to the beach and a luxury resort that delivers character and style. It’s our favourite resort in Goa, we think you’ll love it too.
If you fancy spending some time staying in Panjim, the capital of Goa, our recommendation would be this Heritage hotel, located in the heart of the Fontainhas Latin Quarter, a UNESCO Heritage Zone. You’ll be transported back in time as you wander past colorful old Portuguese homes, belonging to the last surviving Portuguese families of Goa. Narrow winding streets and lanes, quaint shops, art galleries, bakeries, and restaurants give it undeniable character.
The Panjim Inn was a former Portuguese mansion built in the 1880′s, now converted into a hotel. There are two wings, the old and new. Superior rooms in the new wing have balconies overlooking the river. However, we preferred the more characterful rooms in the old wing, especially the few on the first floor which have balconies overlooking the street. The Verandah restaurant is a great place to eat and has a lovely shaded, first floor terrace. Rich in old-world charm, the restaurant is decorated with antiques and distinctive marble-topped tables. It serves traditional Goan as well as continental dishes; classics such as pork Vindaloo and prawn curry are popular.
Restored villas are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to staying in large hotels in Goa. We visited a number of them during our trip to Goa and Casa Susegad is our favourite. This restored 19th century colonial mansion is conveniently located 30 minutes from Goa airport, in the pretty inland south Goa village of Loutolim. British-owned (Carol & Norman), and rather like a homestay, it has five guest rooms decorated with antique furniture and art.
Each opens out onto its own terrace area overlooking the pool. Delightful! Most of the rooms, but not all, have air conditioning – our favourite was the cosy Rose room. The term susegad is loosely translated to mean relaxing and doing nothing, and Casa Susegad is a laid-back, social place that aims to allows guests to indulge in “the art of elegant idleness”. Guests can either eat together in the magnificent dining room or request to eat privately. There’s a fabulous quirky bar next to the swimming pool for sundowners and evening cocktails where guests can socialise. Activities available include a games room with full size snooker table, a yoga pavilion and a small spa room nestled into the foliage on the hilltop. Wi-Fi is available and complimentary. The nearest beach is approximately 20 minutes away by taxi. There is also a spice plantation close by where it is possible to have lunch and bathe elephants. A word of warning; the owners are great animal lovers – we counted 6 dogs and 6 cats lazing around the property!