Laze on the beach by all means, and party your brains out too. But then what? Most people don’t realise how much else there is to do in Goa, and it doesn’t even take going far out of your way to do it.
Whitewater rafting: Veteran adventure sportsman John Pollard and his experienced team conduct thrilling rapids-surfing trips down the Mhadei River (only during the monsoon) and the Tillari River Gorge (October to April) just north of the state border. For 14-year-olds and above, this is decidedly one of the most fun things in Goa. Two tours daily. +91-9421514493; www.goarafting.com
Heritage walks: Since its inception in 2000, the Goa Heritage Action, a non-governmental organisation that is “dedicated to the preservation of Goa’s priceless heritage,” has undertaken festivals to showcase various neighbourhoods, listing of heritage properties and sites, and restoration of threatened monuments and markers. Now, it is taking all that expertise public with guided heritage walks across various parts of the city, led by experts in architecture and history. +91-8605626644; www.goaheritage.in
Bespoke wildlife tours with Rahul Alvares: When Rahul was a baby, his mother reports, a cobra was seen fanning its neck above his crib before gliding away silently. That kind of uncanny relationship with wild animals has been sustained into adulthood by the award-winning herpetologist, wildlife photographer and author, who also makes himself available for outstanding day trips to view birds, animals and butterflies. +91-9881961071; www.rahulalvares.com
Luxury boat cruise: Even when Goa is at its most crowded and the state population more than doubles to 40 lakh at the peak of high season, all those sweaty bodies stay crammed on the beach belt. That leaves the backwaters of the state serene and empty, pure molten gold when the sun dips low to the horizon. Treat yourself to an unforgettable evening cruise on the luxury yacht Solita (morning dolphin-spotting trips are also available daily). Cocktails, dinner, starlight and the sound of waves against the prow add up to pure magic. It’s an experience that’s not to be missed. +91-9822180826; www.solita.co.in
Crocodile watching: Panjim is located on an ancient island, Tiswadi, which has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years and is bounded by the Arabian Sea in the front, and lined by the Zuari and Mandovi rivers on each side. The rivers connect via a broad channel, which is easily reached from the bridge that leads to Dabolim airport. Here, just minutes from the city, is another Goa: lush mangroves filled with birdlife, traditional fishermen in dugout canoes, and whopping big marsh crocodiles. Relax, no attack has been recorded in Goa for hundreds of years. They’re just cool to visit. Rs 1,500 per head. Trips via Canopy Goa (www.canopygoa.com) or other operators.
Dive Goa: Preternaturally calm marine engineer and naturalist Ajey Patil is widely considered India’s best SSI and PADI-certified diving instructor, and is especially effective with children and teens. His diveshop and training centre focusses on personalised attention and small groups, with no compromise on equipment and safety. One of his specialities is overnight trips to Netrani, the island 200-odd km south of Goa, which is considered one of the best diving locations off the coast of India. +91-9325030110; www.divegoa.com
Kayaking: There are few better and easier ways to see Goa’s interiors up-close than on a near-silent smooth-flowing kayak ride. It takes absolutely no experience: a child can clamber on top of an “unsinkable” and scoot off in a few quick strokes. Goa Kayaking leads carefully guided tours along the rivers, backwaters, and coastline of the state, which is in many ways the ideal way to get right into the landscape alongside birds, mangroves, and—if you’re truly lucky—even the occasional dolphin. From Rs 3,000 per person. +91-9422056037; www.goakayaking.com
Surfwala: Hang ten instead of taking five at the legendary hippie hangout of Arambol beach? That’s what’s up at Surfwala, where a group of international surfers who now live in the state have dedicated themselves to “promoting and facilitating surfing here.” The pan-global team proudly boasts its members speak the combined languages of “Russian, English, Japanese, Marathi, Konkani, Hindi, Hinglish, Patois and Gibberish.” Basic surf lesson (for 90 minutes) Rs 2,000; more intensive surfing course over five days Rs 8,000. +91-9623001810; www.surfwala.com
Casa Museu Figueiredo: The most extraordinary living document of the heyday of Goa’s aristocratic gentry is the palazzo of the Figueiredo family in South Goa’s Loutolim. Still a family home, but now also a museum, it displays exquisite taste: magnificent furniture, porcelain, draperies, artwork, libraries. Best of all, if you call in advance, the regal octogenarian Dona Maria de Lourdes de Figueiredo de Albuquerque will prepare a Luso-Indian lunch to be served in her family dining room. Museum entry: Rs 200. Call +91-832-2777028
Trindade gallery: Tiny Goa has had an outsized impact on modern Indian art. Francis Newton Souza and Vasudeo Gaitonde were key figures in the Progressive Artists Movement. Angelo da Fonseca was a Santiniketan exemplar. But before them all was Antonio X. Trindade, a star faculty member at JJ School of Art in Bombay, whose portraits earned him the title ‘Rembrandt of India.’ See many of his best works in the heart of Panjim’s Latin Quarter. Fundação Oriente, Fontainhas. Entry free 10am–6pm, Sundays closed. +91-832-2230728, www.foriente.pt