Goa, apart from being famous for its laid-back beaches and cheap beers, has many hidden getaways and offbeat things to do. Over multiple road trips to Goa from Pune, I spent time at different beaches of Goa and also explored Goa beyond beaches. Here's a list of my favourite things to do in Goa:
1. Beachside Shacks in Goa
The shacks of Goa are very inviting for beers and food. I have learnt to cook some of the most creative dishes out of the menus of Goan shacks. While I’ve tried various shacks on various beaches, this shack on Patnem beach became my favourite just because of its sheer uniqueness. This was the only outdoor shack in Goa which wasn’t covered by the colourful umbrellas, but with green trees. The tables are set up between the trees and the hammocks which are tied up next to the tables. I chanced upon this shack for my breakfast and it just made my entire day. I have learnt some of the best breakfast recipes from the these shacks!
2. Beach Gym in Goa
If you are health conscious and were avoiding Goa because you thought it was only about beers and tasty seafood, you didn’t know that the beaches care enough for us. The fantastic beach gym that I discovered on Ashvem beach in North Goa completely blew me away. The wooden equipment completely blends into the beach ambiance. It was the most scenic gym I have seen till date.
3. Paragliding In Goa
Arambol beach at Goa offers paragliding with a beautiful bird’s eye view of the beach. The gliders take off from a cliff top near the beach and land on the shore of the Arambol beach. It’s an experience very different to gliding in the mountains.
4. Spa in Arambol Lake
Arambol Lake is the only fresh-water lake on a beach strip of Goa in close nearness to the Arabian Sea. The lake is remarkably placed at the bottom of a hill from where the paraglider takes off. The mud of the sweet water lake is believed to have a healing effect on the skin. Arambol beach offers a remarkable experience of a swim in the sea and then a mud bath in the stream near the lake followed by a bath in the sweet water lake.
5. Local Fish and Spice Market
Goan fish and spice markets is an ideal place to watch the daily life of the Goans. Everyday these markets are setup with heaps of fish and dried fish, spices and pork-hangings. I just walked around the markets and stood in a corner to observe some action.
6. Living in old Portuguese house with Goan family
I had once stayed in a 500 year old Portuguese house with a Goan family in Siolim. The house had huge wooden doors, antique artefacts and furniture. The Balcõe of the house was very inviting every morning for teas and chit-chats. I was here during the Christmas days and I got to relish the local Christmas sweets and cakes with the family. I would love to have such an experience again.
7. Traditional Museums in Goa
Some passionate Goans (artists, sculptors, restorers) have put tremendous efforts to preserve the dying quirks of Goan lifestyle through museums. The various facets of life of Goans beautifully depicted in the form of statues and collection of traditional farming implements and other ancient tools of trade. Though I'm not a museum person at all, I learnt a lot about the lifestyle of Goans in olden times through these.
8. Portuguese Colony in Fontainhas
Fontainhas is a heritage Portuguese colonial quarter in the centre of Panjim, where the influential Portuguese rulers lived. The Portuguese style old villas and buildings with overhanging balconies in the narrow and winding lanes reflect the old European architecture. The blue, yellow and green coloured houses make up a vibrant and cheerful locality. A heritage walk in Fontainhas, the Portuguese colony of Goa, was a journey back in time.
Goa is home to many species of birds. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Chorão Island is located on the Mandovi River. The backwaters and the river islands of Goa had fascinated me for a very long time. The boats take you around the island, through the mangroves for spotting. Migratory birds are often found in winters.
10. Spice Gardens
Goa has various Spice farms and they have some best quality of organic spices as well. Some spices were brought in India by the Portuguese too. It is a wonderful experience to learn about varieties of spices at one place.
11. Authentic Goan Cuisine
Goan dishes are flavoured with special goan spices which give a very unique taste to the food. I would not let go of any chance to experience the Goan culture on my travels. Goan food topped up with Feni and Cashews can be one of the best experiences there.
12. Parties in Goa
Who wouldn’t want to party when in Goa? It offers variety of options like beach parties, club parties, casino parties, cruise parties, private parties, music festivals and some secret parties in the hidden areas. I managed to get an invite to some secret parties, where I danced barefoot on the cold sand for the entire night on trance. I must confess those were the best parties I’ve experienced in Goa.
13. My Favourite Beaches
Lastly, let me talk about the beaches. On my every visit to Goa, I’ve stayed at different beaches. After I found my favourite ones in Goa, I stopped wandering around to pick one. Ashvem beach in North Goa and Patnem beach in South Goa are undoubtedly my favourite beaches. Go there to find out why I say this.
Best Time to Visit Goa
Winter months (October - February) are the most pleasant. Summers (March-May) are extremely humid in Goa. Water activities and shacks are closed in the monsoons (June-September), but it is still a pleasant time to visit Goa as the entire state becomes lush green. I have made numerous trips to Goa in all seasons.
Where to stay in Goa
There’s no dearth of hotels in Goa. Tourism being the largest occupation of the state, the facilities for tourists are taken care of really well. For the budget-range, there are a lot of local hotels and guest houses at every beach. For the economy hotel chains like IBIS Styles Goa have their presence in Goa. The heritage Portuguese houses turned into guest houses in Fontainhas is also a great option. For the luxury category, all the luxury hotel chains like Marriot, Hyatt, Taj, have grand properties with private beaches. Apart from these, there are boutique hotels, hostels and beach huts for different accommodation experiences.