The thought of going to Goa is always exciting but I had my doubts about visiting the beach haven during the monsoons. But if you are a travel enthusiast who enjoys greenery and leisure, then Goa in monsoons is just right for you.
My wife Surbhi and me reached Baga, touted to be the most popular beach in India, on one lazy Saturday afternoon. We took an afternoon flight of GoAir and then took a taxi from Panjim airport to Baga (cost us Rs 900 in an AC Omni). It takes about an hour to reach the Colonia Santa Maria resort in Baga, a three-star resort with colonial villa-style rooms. Yes, like any seasoned traveler, we had booked our rooms earlier after reading its reviews online. Calling them up directly and booking gets you the best deal (Rs 2800 per night). As it was off season, we were able to get a beach-view room with a balcony. The rooms were large with a separate sit-in area and the beach was just 50 feet away.
The resort is family-run but very efficient (or may be it was because of the off-season). After resting and freshening up, we just walked along the beach and checked out the restaurants. Sadly, we found most to be under renovation for the coming season. Finally, we had dinner at La Shack, a restaurant right on the beach and with a great view. This restaurant is part of another resort named La Calypso. The staff were courteous and served us outdoors; luckily it was not raining and the gentle breeze was nice.
The first half of the next day we spent walking along the beach. The greenery is great at this time of the year. However, one needs to be careful walking through it. We crossed a hill and reached Anjuna beach in about two hours. It was a great walk to work up our appetite!
Anjuna beach during the rains seemed to be a pretty dull scene — there was one shack which was open though. But we decided to take a taxi back for Baga and have lunch in small restaurant on the beach. It served good Goan fish curry. We enjoyed the spicy curry and rice and it was reasonable and the total bill came for Rs 1,000.
Our friends, Anup and Nidhi, joined us in the afternoon (they flew in from Delhi ) and we spent time on the beach together. It was great as we frolicked in the sea with bottles of beer in our hands. Beer is freely available on the beach and is pretty cheap (bought them from the resort for Rs 330 for four pint-sized bottles). It was my first experience of having beer while getting soaked in the sea. And then, to top it all, it started raining. If you enjoy rain, this is the ultimate combination.
After all the play, we cleaned up at the hotel and went to a restaurant named Souza Lobo on the Calungute beach for dinner. It serves great seafood and has a live band. The best part about Goa is that it is not expensive, so you can indulge and experiment with different types of food. I tried baked crabs and they were great.
Next day we went to Amboli, 120 km north of Goa in Maharashtra. There are cabs from Baga that would charge you roughly Rs 2,400. It is a hill-station and the best season to go there are the monsoons. We hired a cab and all four of us packed in and left at 2 PM. It was raining along the way and the scenery was very nice. It took us roughly three hours to reach. The best place to stay in Amboli is the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) hotel in terms of best location though not the best rooms in terms of cleanliness and maintenance. They, however, had a good canteen where they serve excellent vegetarian food. We trekked around the hotel and vegetation was quite dense so you have to walk on the road.
We went sightseeing the next day. We hired another cab (the hotel arranged it for us and it cost us Rs 2700). We came across a lush-green valley where we saw eight to nine waterfalls. It seemed the whole place was dotted with waterfalls! The main falls was quite crowded so we avoided it. We reached a place called Tarkali by lunch time.
About 110 km from Amboli in Maharastra, Tarkali is a small village which has a MTDC beach resort. In season, it has facilities for all kinds of water-sports, including snorkeling and scuba time. Of course, at this time in the season it is a super place to be in with the whole beach practically ours for the taking. The sand on the beach is more on the clay side than beaches of Goa but the waves were high. It is okay to go into the sea and catch them as they will not sweep you off your feet. It was good fun catching the waves here.
Now the best part of this place was the MTDC resort canteen – it serves authentic Malvani cusine. Of course, if you are a pure-vegetarian, there are not many options but for people who love seafood this is the place to be. I enjoyed all varieties of seafood — fish, crab and prawns… you name it and I gorged on it.
Next day we went back to Goa along the old highway. We hired an Omni and it cost us Rs 2,400. This time, we took the route that passes via rural coastal Maharastra; it was very wet and green and we caught the view of sea at some parts. But it is better to take the new highway as it saves a lot of time. We reached Goa around 3 pm after a four-hour journey and had lunch at one of the restaurants in Taj Fort Aoguda resort. Fort Aguada and its lighthouse is a 17th century relic from the Portuguese era on the Sinquerim beach overlooking the Arabian Sea. The Tata group now owns the land around the fort and has a resort called Fort Aguada Beach Resort.
It was the day of our return and we rushed to Panjim airport. Our 8.15 pm flight was booked on SpiceJet Airways. We flew back to Delhi in a plane full of noisy groups.
All in all a great experience, got to see really good places and enjoyed the great Goan and Malvani cusine.