For the past few years, I have clung to a conviction that the Park Hyatt Goa is among the top three resorts in India. It has the best food in any resort I’ve eaten at, it had the most impressive and extensive spa (for a non-‘destination spa’) and it offered outstanding service. It was not, however, the most beautiful of the resorts I had seen (that would be the Oberoi Udaivilas), so I was willing to concede that it was not the best resort in the country. Thus, I set off for the brand-new Grand Hyatt Goa curious and confused — how was this sister hotel going to better, or at least compete with, its older sibling, also located in small but seemingly infinitely ‘developable’ Goa?
That Udaivilas has competition in the beauty stakes is apparent even before you actually enter this resort. (Disclosure: I was primed to expect extravagance from the moment I was picked up at the airport in a 5 series BMW; on the other hand, when was lavishness a guarantee of good taste?) As the conspicuous vehicle swept up the driveway I’d already been treated to a view of a collection of stately, whitewashed Portuguese mansions, set amid old Goan trees. Quite breath-taking, reminiscent of the Mandarin Oriental Chiang Mai, another award-winningly beautiful resort.
Enter the fantasy. The architectural conceit around which the Grand Hyatt Goa is built goes like this: once upon a time, a few centuries ago, a Portuguese governor built his holiday home here by the Bambolim Bay, in the grand style of the moment. Over the years, successive governors made additions to the property, in villas scattered around the vast grounds, each according to his taste, each somewhat different from the other. Guests will likely be fed this slightly corny story when they check in but somehow it doesn’t grate. The chief reason for this is that what you see as you walk from the massive central ‘palace’ — which houses the reception area, the lobby, the restaurants, etc — to your accommodations in one of the villas is an extremely attractive, very elegant and, yes, fully grand holiday resort.
The ‘villas’ are set on 28 acres of prettily landscaped gardens, in the centre of which is a large winding pool. In stark — and possibly deliberate — contrast to the make believe-colonial grandeur of the façades, the interiors are contemporary: rooms and suites are a pleasant, unobtrusive harmony of beiges, browns and whites. The room I was housed in seemed mysteriously gloomy, given the generously sized balconies that all rooms come with, till I stepped out on to the balcony. All was made clear then: a gigantic old banyan had been allowed to spread its wings across my balcony. Although a natural-light addict, I was pleased, at the respect accorded to the old tree as well as the fact that I had a choice of private outdoor seating — a lounger as well as two cushioned alcoves, all of which invited me to curl up, light up, drink up and stare out at the quiet waters of Bambolim Bay in the surprisingly near distance.
There’s not much I need to say about the accommodations, other than that they are perfectly luxurious and equipped with everything you’d want your money to be buying you. Because the point of a resort like this is that you shouldn’t be spending much time in your room. There’s just too many reasons to be out of your room than in it. The biggest, for those looking for a beach holiday, is of course to spend time on the beach. And they’re unlikely to be disappointed with that aspect of their holiday: the beach is secluded, the sands are clean and the waters gentle.
Then there’s the spa. If the Park Hyatt’s was impressive this one is staggering. When fully ready (any day now), it will feature 19 treatment rooms including half-a-dozen ‘couple suites’ and a couple of ‘royal suites’, all with private plunge pools. The massive (34,000 sq ft) building also houses an extensive gym, a yoga room, beauty salon, sauna, etc. And, wait: a 25-metre indoor swimming pool. This last is a stroke of genius, apart from being a first even in resort-infested Goa — it’s the perfect solution for the monsoon months, when the beach is a washout and the outdoor pool is less than fun.
Another important aspect of the running ‘grand’ theme is the extent of the resort’s banqueting facilities. Goa was ever the popular venue for weddings, and this one takes the wedding cake. The facilities spread over 32,000 sq ft and feature a variety of options including a 12,400sq ft Grand Ballroom. I was told the resort had, in the short six months or so since it opened, married off a half-dozen or so Punjabi/Sindhi/Marwari couples, who were entertained by the likes of Malaika Arora Khan and Sukhbir. None of this might be of interest to you, the leisure traveller, but it forms part of the core of this resort’s identity — to be all things to everyone. Thus, weddings can be as grand as you want; honeymooners can moon in as much privacy as they desire; children can be happily occupied at the Camp Hyatt entertainment centre with its day-long programmes; and so on.
The catholic aspect of the resort is given full expression in the choice of dining venues too. There are three indoor restaurants, one poolside grill and two bars. The food ranges from a wide selection of international and Indian food at The Dining Room, to a small selection of grills at The Verandah, to ‘fine’ Indian at Chulha. I found the last most interesting; the concept was home-style food (North Indian homes, that is, in the main) and it was genuinely good. The sabzis were light and innovative, the chapatis were honest tawa phulkas and the chutneys and pickles superb. Servings are deliberately small, the idea being that more dishes be tried, and prices are kept relatively low (say, Rs 200 or less per dish) so as to further facilitate greater variety on the table. The bakery, Confeitaria, churns out fantastic biscuits and desserts and also doubles up as a gift shop selling prettily packaged masalas, teas and candy.
To cut to the chase: there are several grand reasons to make a holiday at this resort, and the biggest is that it is truly very good.
Location Bambolim Bay, Goa; 25min from Dabolim airport/15min from Panjim
Accommodation 238 rooms; 59 club rooms; 12 suites; 3 executive suites; 1 presidential suite; 1 royal villa
Tariff Rs 7,000-8,000 (rooms); Rs 9,500-10,500 (club); from Rs 22,000 (suites)