A Picturesque, Budget Getaway to Goa
Spend a breathtaking vacay across the Arabian Sea!
At last, I had my vacation in two years since the pandemic started. Took two doses of vaccines, lot of planning, talking, and precautions to make up my mind. I think out of all the amazing places in India, Goa has a different vibe altogether. Though it is the smallest Indian state, it caters to all moods — whether you want to party hard with your friends, or spend a few romantic evenings with your partner, or go backpacking on a solo trip, or enjoy a fun-filled, adventurous vacay with family — there is a Goa for everyone.
Goa offers you everything from breath-taking sights, astoundingly cheap liquor, adventure sports, happening nightlife, to golden sunsets sprawling through the sea waves, and not to forget yummy food places. It’s certainly a must-visit if you love coastlines.
Traveling to Goa — Air Tickets
I always book my air tickets from Makemytrip or Skyscanner. Both are trusted and also give me the option for free canceling/rescheduling. Although a Goa trip is valid for all seasons, however, the prices tend to hike especially during December & January. If you wish to travel around Christmas & New Year, I’d suggest buying your tickets at least 2 months earlier. I traveled at the beginning of November and it cost me INR 7800 ($105) for a round trip (not bad right!).
There are also buses and train routes available if you are traveling domestically. However, I like to spend more time “exploring the place” than “traveling to the place”. Hence, I always prefer flights.
North Goa or South Goa — The Dilemma
One question we all mull over is where to go first — North Goa or South Goa? Well, I visited both in a span of 6 days. Both are beautiful in their own way.
North Goa was more about groovy, nightlife, shopping at the flea markets, relishing the sea breeze sitting on the beach shacks, savoring Goan-curry, and being amidst a lively crowd. Whereas South Goa has more untarnished beaches, scenic drives, offers you water activities like surfing, kayaking (and even trekking to some of the beaches), and most importantly, is so serene.
North Goa is home to the best parties. It exudes a hippie vibe and is ideal for water sports, like parasailing, paragliding, scuba diving, and much more. If you are a party animal or an adrenaline junkie, I’d say North Goa is a wallop of unending excitement.
In North Goa, I stayed in Treehouse Sonnet at Anjuna beach, for 3 nights. Treehouse Hotels are pretty reasonable on the pocket and their service is very hospitable. I booked it a month earlier and got the room at (approx) INR 16500 ($220), which was inclusive of breakfast. You could also request room service every day (this is important for me because I like my room clean and organized — OCD things!).
The food menu was not at length, but good enough. It worked for me perfectly because I was hardly in the room for those 3 days and was mostly munching someplace nice with a view. The best part of this hotel was its location — Vagator beach was only 1 km away and Anjuna beach was around 1.5 km away.
I was also able to avail Scooty by simply requesting it at the hotel reception. it charged me INR 350 ($4–5) per day. This holds true for almost all the hotels across Goa. If you need a ride, just let the hotelier know and they will arrange it for you. You do not have to go looking for it elsewhere. Overall, it was a pleasant stay and I’d definitely recommend you for a short stay.
Coming back to the travel stories — there are numerous spectacular attractions in North Goa. Here are a few to definitely not miss —
1. Colossal view from Chapora Fort
2. Amazeballs Sunsets at Vagator beach
3. Anjuna beach — Impeccable view from Purple Martini
4. Early morning tranquility at Sinquerim Fort and Sinquerim beach
5. Take pleasure in yummy seafood at Baga beach shacks
6. Groove in the technicolor of a Calangute night
7. Relax on the beautiful beach shacks at Candolim beach
8. Enjoy the stunning view of Agoda Fort — a well-preserved seventeenth-century Portuguese fort, along with a lighthouse.
Tucked away from the hustle of busy beaches of Candolim, Calangute, and Baga, there are four more alluring beaches in North Goa famous for their quiet atmosphere, peaceful setting, and delicious local food — Morjim, Mandrem, Arambol. and Ashwem beaches — I couldn’t get that far in 3 days.
Arambol has an amazing bohemian vibe that attracts foreigners of all nationalities to it. Look out for Olive ridley turtles and dolphins at Morjim. Mandrem is a white sand beach that lies between the twin beaches of Morjim and Arambol. Ashwem, located between Morjim and Mandrem beach and very close to the capital city of Panaji, is popular for its extensive stretches of white sand, exotic palm trees, sprawling cashew plantation, and a thriving fishing and sea-food culture.
So, if you have time, I'd suggest not missing them.
Food & Shopping
- Definitely visit Artjuna Cafe at Anjuna. It’s perfect for a delicious brunch, surrounded by a garden, has a lifestyle shop, and is definitely worth an artistic visit.
One more Cafe I’d suggest is Prana at Anjuna. It’s good for brunch too, however, I’d prefer it in the evening, during/after sunset — quite quaint, decorated aesthetically with dim lights and dream catchers, and very pocket friendly.
- Brittos is a must-visit for me in North Goa — some of the best sea-food cuisines with an amazing sea-view.
- Purple Martini perhaps offers the best view of Anjuna beach while you sip into your beer. However, I didn’t like their food menu too much. Felt everything was pretty over-priced and limited options. But full marks for the view!
- For a romantic evening with your partner or a long-pending catch-up with friends, I’d absolutely prefer Bomras at Anjuna — dim, cozy lighting, dark wood furniture, a solitary flower for a table centerpiece — elegant and minimal.
- If you really want to have good quality food, come a little away from the beach and you have Square Sparrow at Anjuna. Totally loved their Tequila Golden Prawns and Daiquiri! I also liked The Fisherman’s Wharf and Fat Fish at Calangute.
- Some of the best places to party all night long — Titos, Las Olas, and Cafe Mambos at Baga, and Curlies at Anjuna.
- There are plenty of flea markets in North Goa. Some of the big markets are at Baga, Anjuna, and Mapusa. You would find the streets brimming with shops that sell everything from clothes, accessories to handicrafts, souvenirs, handicrafts, liquor, and local products at dirt cheap prices. I did end up buying a couple of Goa fridge magnets as souvenirs.
And in between, there’s the beautiful capital of Goa, Panaji. Unlike other capital cities, Panaji has a pretty peaceful and laid-back vibe, laced with majestic churches, Portuguese-style alleys, terracotta roofs, and the flavor of Goan culture.
HuI traveled to Panjim early morning while my stay in North Goa. At 7 am, it took me around 1 hour to reach there from Anjuna.
1. Stroll through the beautiful narrow cobbled streets of Fontainhas — The Latin Quarter and soak in the charm of the colonial architectures, painted in fluorescents and pastels
2. The bustling Miramar Beach
3. Visit Basilica of Bom Jesus — the home to the tomb and mortal remains of St Francis Xavier
4. Soak in the beautiful blend of the Portuguese and Baroque architecture with a dash of Goan style at the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
5. Enjoy sunbathing or parasailing at the Dona Paula Beach — a vibrant spot for the hopeless romantics — its name is derived from the tragic love story of Dona Paula, the Viceroy’s daughter.
- I was so hungry walking around, that’s when I stumbled upon — Bombay coffee roasters at Fontainhas — a perfect place to chill, feel cozy, grab a cup of coffee and a couple of sandwiches, and recharge.
- For Lunch, I headed to Jamun at Assagao. It was pretty much closer to North Goa and a must-visit place if you are heading back from Panaji. Absolutely loved the food and the ambiance — a vintage Portuguese Heritage-style villa with a beautiful Balcao, a spacious backyard full of lush green trees, walls adorned with art, and one of the very few restaurants in Goa offering only Indian cuisine! Although the prices might seem a little exorbitant to some, it’s worth a visit for an experiential dining experience.
Finally, on the 4th day, I headed for South Goa around 11 am in a cab which I booked with the help of the Hotel again. And it was a looooonnnngggg journey (literally). It was about 95 km from Anjuna and oh my god, felt very exhausted by the time I reached Agonda. But the hilly roads and lush-green-coconutty sights on my way to South Goa were so rejuvenating.
South Goa is known to be the home to secluded, rustic, and untouched beaches that offer serene environs, relaxation, and natural beauty. And my visit proved me no other. Although the sad part is I had only 2 days to explore Southern Goa and a lot of it still stays unmapped for me (definitely parking it for next time!).
In South Goa, I stayed in Cinnamon Agonda at Agonda beach, for 2 nights. You get to stay in a Balinese-styled, air-conditioned cottage sitting in a lush tropical garden with swaying palm trees all around. I booked this one as well a month earlier and got the room at (approx) INR 8800 ($120), which was inclusive of breakfast. Although room service is not a daily thing here (don’t know why!), but you can still request it if needed.
The food menu was quite nice and absolutely loved their Xacuti Chicken. You have pretty good options for breakfast as well — I enjoyed a nice English breakfast one of the days, with a steaming hot tea, and Aloo paratha with watermelon juice on the other. Again, loved the location of this resort — the Agonda beach is just a 3-minute stroll from there.
I was able to get the Scooty by simply requesting it at the reception. It was around INR 450 ($6) per day. Overall, it was a refreshing stay and you can give it a shot, especially if you love Agonda and want to enjoy a stay disconnected from work and the chaos of the real world.
The only downside of South Goa is Internet connection sucks a little. Please don’t come here with serious work plans. And if you are someone who intakes medicines regularly or requires medicines for a certain emergency, please come prepared with your own stock because strangely there’s no medical store. Not even the ones that offer a first-aid kit. That was a shocker to me because I had bruised my feet somehow and really needed to get a gauze roll to cover it, and didn’t find it anywhere within 3–4 km from my stay. These stores or clinics are at least 9–10 km away and you wouldn’t get what you need, at least not immediately.
1. Enjoy sunbathing or parasailing at the Dona Paula Beach — a vibrant spot for the hopeless romantics — its name is derived from the tragic love story of Dona Paula, the Viceroy’s daughter.Agonda Beach — Great bars, live music, dim light cafes, water sports — you can have the whole touristy experience here. It is so clean and not crowded, perfect for unwinding.
2. Cola Beach — I fell in love with this beach. It’s STUNNING. There aren’t many people there and you have to trek a little (1.5–2 km) to reach the place. The road leading to the beach is not at all in good shape but once you reach, blimey, the view is breathtaking. There’s even a little lagoon where you can swim in or even go kayaking. I’ll recommend going during the sunset, around 4, the view is mesmerizing at that time and you can be back before it gets dark.
3. Palolem Beach — very famous in South Goa for its calm waters and for its nightlife, including “silent discos” where you party wearing headphones. The beachline is lined with palm trees and colorful wooden shacks, facing Canacona Island, with lots of water activities to choose from.
4. Patnem Beach — it’s super tranquil, secluded, and just five minutes away from Palolem. If you don’t want to be right in the middle of the action and crowd, then Patnem is a great retreat (even offers popular yoga retreats!).
5. Butterfly Beach — explore this hidden land of adventure, peppered with some stunning views. You can reach here by boat ride from Palolem, which cost me around INR 1400 ($18). There will be a lot of ferrymen approaching you at Palolem beach and I’d suggest trying to bargain with them. Don’t miss out on this beautiful spot where you can enjoy your solitude, away from the rest of the world, and also experience the wonderful aquatic life out in the open front of the beach.
There’s much much more to see in South Goa. If you are planning for a longer stay, try out —
Varca beach (golden sand and turquoise waters), Cavelossim beach (black lava rocks against the white sands), Betalbatim Beach (beautiful sunset views), Majorda beach (try fresh poi and Feni at the local bakeries there), Bogmalo beach (give windsurfing and underwater diving a go!), Colva beach (the Menino Jesus statue is a must-visit), and Benaulim beach (visit the spice plantations or St John the Baptist Church atop a hill).
- Didn’t get much time to explore exquisite food places in South Goa. However, I have received some recommendations — Ourem 88 at Palolem, the most amazing place to try continental food. By the look of it, it might not seem posh and feel like you’ve walked into someone’s private party. But I’d suggest please do not judge the book by its cover. They open only in the evenings from 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm and they have a very small number of tables. Their place gets booked well in advance, so during the high season, you have to make a reservation well in advance. But yes, the food is worth the wait.
- If you want to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of waves sprawling on the shore, enjoy smashing cocktails and a mouth-watering Indo-European menu in a quiet spot at the northern end Patnem, amidst the warm charm of bamboos, then Nada Brahma is the place to be.
- Fatima’s Corner was my go-to food place in Agonda. Whether you are going to get a taste of Indian delicacies or seafood, their menu has it all. Their food is scrummy (loved their methi malai chicken and Mackerel fish) and extremely pocket-friendly.
In short, it was a lively, cozy, sunlit, and picturesque 7 days in Goa — a complete skedaddle from the chaos of the everyday world.
Have you been to Goa? Share your experience, comments, or travel suggestions in the comments. 😊