When one mentions Goa, there is quite the stereotypical image — beaches, shacks, nightlife, and local beers. Come to think of it, the idea of a snooze holiday for most people in the landlocked parts of the country is Goa. It is almost difficult to put a finger on any one particular reason for the state’s popularity — whether it is the laid back vibe or the plenty of the sandy beaches. However, an alternative approach to experiencing the state lies in its nooks and crannies. There is much to do in Goa beyond its sandy beaches, shacks and boozy evenings. We got in touch with some locals to find out the best experiences for you to have while in the coastal state:
With the increasing number of environment conscious travellers, ecotours in Goa are now well up to speed with their counterparts. Exploring small hamlets within the state as well as discovering tiny, local eateries are becoming increasingly common in Goa. Samarth Kholkar, 43, says, “Tourists have started enjoying the simplicity that Goa has to offer, and hence ecotours are becoming popular. People now rent cycles and e-bikes to explore the interiors of Goa.” Kholkar is a part of the community and runs many such experiences in the state that can be availed via Airbnb, or his venture, Blive. For those who wish to experience the state beyond the crowds, via the eyes of locals, these ecotours are a great way. “Whether your focus is culture, nature, or simply food and lifestyle, tours can easily be curated accordingly,” says Kholkar.
Hiking and Trekking
While trekking is commonly associated with summits in the northern part of the country, with snow-laden mountains as companions, the coastal state is not far behind when it comes to offering treks. As soon as the monsoon hits Goa there are numerous waterfalls that appear offering ample opportunities to undertake a trek. For Karen Tewari, founder and director of Kidventure Camps, “Goa has a whole different vibe during the monsoon, waterfalls suddenly appear everywhere. Hiking on the plateaus has always been a favourite.” She also adds, “Sometimes the kids will take their cycles during the day and wander inland close to home, discovering new plateaus, lakes and creeks.” Cheryl Gonsalves, a software engineer by profession and an Airbnb host by passion, says, “ Many waterfalls in Goa come to life when it rains. One of them is the Shiva waterfall, offering a jacuzzi like experience as it is nestled amongst rocks that lead to the main beach in Cabo de rama. Just like club hopping in Goa, waterfall hopping is a new trend that has emerged since the lockdown during the rains. The trek to Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary, traversing the locally made bridge and leading to the beautiful Jalavane waterfall is another beautiful escapade in Goa.” Both Cheryl and Karen strongly advise to keep the surroundings clean and carrying back all the trash.
Boat ride to the Mangroves
Adventure sports at the beaches in Goa are not unheard of. Right from parasailing to jet-skiing to a banana boat ride, the options are aplenty. But if you’re looking for a serene experience to absorb Goa’s tranquillity, then a boat ride through the mangroves is a must. “A boat ride at the mangroves in Chorao island is the most therapeutic experience to witness in Goa,” says Gonsalves. Apart from this, during shorter weekends Karen and her family and friends prefer taking a boat or a kayak upriver, “to explore untouched, quiet spots, or drive out into the wilderness to explore the forests.”
Visit Cashew Distilleries
Goa bound travellers have extremely high hopes when it comes to alcohol. Some would even say that a Goan holiday is incomplete without overflowing alcohol. While many enjoy the local feni,only a few would venture to visit a distillery. One such experience in Goa is Fazenda Cazulo, by Hansel who created Cazulo Premium Feni. “To get there, you must make a prior appointment with them and only then will they reveal the location to where you need to go. The experience includes a tour of their charming centuries old traditional feni distillery, a feni tasting and an eclectic food pairing accompanied by cocktails which are served outdoors,” shares Karen.
Spice Garden Visits
Seasoned travellers and food connoisseurs will bear testimony to the fact that authentic Goan cuisine is rich, flavourful and a perfect blend of spices. If you’re the one to cherish these spices and are constantly on the lookout for them, then Karen recommends touring a spice garden. “There are many tours in Goa to choose from and most will serve an authentic Goan meal as part of the tour,” she says. She also recommends visiting Mystic Farm, which along with a spice farm is a fossil museum and a butterfly park. “Earlier it was just a private space but now they offer a guided tour of their butterfly sanctuary and farm with a unique insight on how they live in harmony with nature,” she says.
Observe Marine Life
One of the simple pleasures of being in Goa is the proximity to nature and the marine biodiversity. With a vast stretching coastline, there are plenty of mesmerising moments that are created simply by observing. Talking about Goa’s beauty Karen says, “Goa has a whole different vibe during the monsoon — everything turns green, the sunsets are spectacular and the nights are cool and filled with the songs of frogs and crickets and lit with millions of fireflies. We drive out to sit on a beach or by a river to soak up nature in all its abundant glory. There are two regulated, turtle nesting beaches — Galgibag and its neighbouring Talpona, which are far south. You won't find bright lights and loud music here, and very few shacks. They're less crowded and chaotic, but because there is less human disturbance in the water, the sea-life here is abundant, with the low tide rocks thriving with colourful marine animals and dolphins swimming just offshore.” Samarth on the other hand derives utmost joy at the second largest island of Goa — Divar. “One of my favourite things to do over there is watching the otters swim,” he says.