Each and every time I arrive in Goa, I instantly feel better about life, my tan makes me feel skinnier, my budget for pretty things is bigger than it is anywhere else in the world, and my oh my, there are armies of gorgeous men wandering around with not too many clothes on. Bliss. Although spending a few weeks lying in the sunshine and sipping on mojitos is essentially my idea of heaven, there’s so much more to Goa than just beaches and booze…
One of the first things I’d recommend doing in Goa is checking out one of the many spas around. This is one of those things that you rarely (if ever) do at home thanks to the costly price tag attached to pampering in most parts of the world. In Goa however, you’ll find some of the most impressive and luxurious spas for less money than you’d normally spend on a bottle of wine. There are countless spas to choose from in Goa and the majority of them are pretty good. There are a few that stand out however, and you’ll be sure to find one that suits both your preferences and your budget. My first choice would be SNIP, located in both Candolim and Panjim. They offer a range of treatments including waxing, facials, body scrubs and massages which start from around Rs600. I recently treated myself to a Balinese Deep Tissue massage which set me back Rs2000 for an hour of complete and utter bliss. The spa itself is calm, soothing and clean whilst the staff and extremely professional and full of beauty tips and words of wisdom. I was slightly dubious about getting waxed in India, but for Rs300 I got better service than I ever have in London, as well as a good giggle with my beauty therapist. If I were really planning on treating myself and could afford to then I’d definitely head to Sereno Spa, which is part of The Park Hyatt Hotel, Arossim Beach. This gorgeous oasis of calm and tranquility has been voted India’s best spa several times over the past few years and offers massages from just under Rs4000. The spa sits in beautiful gardens overlooking the ocean and really is the definition of tranquility and luxury. I realise that this is a pretty pricey pampering session, but I really think that it’s worth it!
If you really are on a budget then you can always enjoy a manicure, pedicure, threading or a massage from one of the lovely ladies selling things on the beach. If you’re anything like me and don’t bother so much with plucking your eyebrows or shaving your legs very often then you’ll find them extremely willing to get to work or any excess hair whilst they jokingly compare you to Ali Baba or an ape… Depending on your bargaining skills you can have your legs threaded for around Rs200 and enjoy a friendly chat without having to leave your sunbathing spot. They’ll also do you some beautiful henna designs if you fancy it, although most of them work with orange henna so make sure you ask first if you’re after the less traditional (but prettier) darker henna.
There are so many options when it comes adding to your wardrobe in Goa that it’s hard to know where to start. You can find so many bargains that you’ll regret not bringing an extra suitcase to carry all of your new things back home in, but don’t worry, you’ll be able to pick up a new one somewhere along the way. One of my favourite places to shop is the Saturday Night Market in Arpora. Each week seemingly the entirety of Goa turns up to drink, dance, eat and shop in this maze of colourful stalls selling a huge variety of beautiful things. You’ll find local goodies for extremely cheap prices, as well as more expensive jewellry and clothing made by expats and the hippie residents of Goa. The market is quite the night out, everyone dresses up and prepares for an evening of partying. There are two main bars with fun dance floors, as well as a stage hosting live bands from various parts of the world. You’ll be sure to see some of the most wonderful (and most questionable) outfits that you’ve seen in Goa, which will provide you with some handy inspiration whilst you’re browsing the stalls.
Another great spot for shopping is the Mapusa Friday Market, which is a far less touristy affair selling everyday items and food as well as colourful souvenirs and plenty of jewellery . It’s best to head here in the mornings to avoid the midday heat and enjoy wandering around without being drenched in sweat.
Goa’s beaches and towns are full of stalls and shops selling most things you will need during your stay, you can pick up beautiful beach dresses, funky hippie trousers and questionable slogan t-shirts all for next to nothing. There is also another side to shopping in Goa with some seriously cool boutique shops popping up every now and then. One of my favourite places to go if I have some spare cash is Le Souk, just behind La Plage restaurant on Ashvem beach, where you’ll find a selection of cute boutique shops selling some of the most beautiful and high quality items which I’ve found in Goa. However, as you might have guessed, the price tags here match the quality of the clothes and are not suitable for anyone sticking to a small budget, but there’s no harm in a little window shopping right? Ashwem Beach is the place to go if you’re looking for authentic designer gear as just a few metres from La Plage, you’ll find Jade Jagger’s beachside boutique, which I’ve had to ban myself from due to my total lack of self control when it comes down to such beautiful clothes and jewellery (oh my god, the jewellery!).
Goa’s a great place to do some strategic shopping, as there are plenty of things you can buy here cheaply which tend to be pretty expensive back at home. One of the things which I always stock up on during my stay is essential oils, which are available in plenty of places in Goa. If you take a trip to a spice plantation one day then you will learn all of their health benefits and be able to make an educated choice as to which one you need in your life the most.For example, did you know that tea tree oil is great for getting rid of unwanted spots or that peppermint oil can soothe feelings of nausea? You’ll find also that plenty of the shops stock natural beauty products, such as organic moisturiser, natural soaps and cheap vitamin tablets.
And finally, no shopping trip in Goa would be complete without a visit to Fabindia, one of India’s most popular shops. Now, I know it’s a little bit sad to get excited about bed linen, but seriously, Fabindia’s bed linen is to die for. Every time I leave Goa I end up giving a load of stuff away just so that I can fit several bedsheets and pillowcases into my suitcase, and my mum is currently stuck with more bed sheets than The Savoy would know what to do with. They also have a great range of colourful clothing, all of which are made from great quality fabrics and fit beautifully, and gorgeous jewellery, stationery and scrumptious lotions and potions for beautiful skin. There are a few stores around Goa, including one in Candolim, Panjim and Margao, so find the nearest one to you and enjoy browsing through their beautiful stock which is surprisingly reasonably priced.
Ok, so once you’ve been beautified and have a whole new wardrobe to show off, then it’s most certainly time to head out on the town. Goa has so many wonderful bars and restaurants, but there are a few which truly stand out from the rest. One of my absolute favourite places is La Plage in Ashvem, here they serve up amazing French cuisine from a subtly stylish beach restaurant. The food is delicious, the wine is incredible, the staff are amazing, the ambience is perfect and there is a particularly handsome French man working there, whose presence encourages plenty of blushing, drooling and embarrassing attempts at flirting from all of the ladies in the restaurant. Again, if you are keeping an eye on your rupees then this place isn’t ideal, but it’s the perfect place to head to for a special occasion, such as a sunny Sunday lunchtime… La Plage is also one of Goa’s only beach shacks which tends to fill up, so if you want to guarantee yourself a table then booking is advisable, especially during peak season.
A close second in my mind is A Reverie in Candolim, another charming restaurant which has an extensive menu of delicious fusion cuisine. Their cocktail menu is really good fun and has added some delicious Indian twists on classic cocktails, such as ‘The Great Indian Mojito’ which I really couldn’t get enough of last time I visited resulting in a slight headache the next day, totally worth it though! You can really feel the love that’s gone into both the food and the booze in this place, the menu is fun and light hearted and the staff are wonderful, it’s the perfect place to head to for a fun dinner with friends or a romantic date with the tall, handsome man staying in the dorm opposite you.
As well as treating yourself to a few delicious meals during your time in Goa, you absolutely must let your hair down and head out to one of its many nightclubs. One of the few times that being a woman in Goa is actually beneficial is on Ladies Night at Club Cubana in Arpora. Each Wednesday evening ladies can enter this gorgeous club for free and then continue to drink for free until the early hours of the morning, I tend to treat this as my reward for putting up with pervy men on a daily basis and really make the most of it!
After a few nights out on the town you’ll be sure to be in need of a little recovery time, which is the perfect excuse to make the most of what Goa does best; chilling.
There are countless idyllic beaches to explore and enjoy, Palolem and Patnem in South Goa are particularly beautiful and peaceful and will really help towards chasing away that hangover and working on your tan.
All over Goa you’ll find gorgeous spots to relax from and activities to soothe both your body and mind. One of the most popular ways of connecting a little with Goa’s calming way of life is to do a spot of yoga or meditation during your stay. There are an abundance of yoga instructors all over Goa and you’ll have no trouble finding one near to where you’re staying, just ask at reception or if you’re staying at Jungle Hostel then keep an eye on the whiteboard in the common room for yoga timings.
Another great way to unwind and enjoy a little peace and quiet is to check out one of Goa’s fancy hotels for the day. Most of them allow you to pay to use their facilities for the day, whether you fancy enjoying a state of the art gym or a refreshing dip in one of their stunning swimming pools. The Marriott in Panjim is a great place to spend the day and will set you back around Rs1,000 for a day of enjoying their beautiful pool overlooking the river, there are cheaper places to head which will be more convenient also, depending on where you’re staying. Don’t hesitate to turn up at fancy hotels and enquire about their prices as they mostly tend to be very welcoming and friendly.
Goa is the ideal place to get into a healthy lifestyle, with the sunshine, cheap fruit and veg, yoga and plenty of health conscious restaurants. In almost every restaurant you go into you’ll find that they offer a range of fresh fruit juices which are the perfect way to ensure that you’re getting plenty of goodness and vitamins. The fresh coconut water is so cheap, so readily available and so incredibly good for you. Not only is it extremely low in fat but it is also packed full of nutrients, it’s great for hangovers and energy thanks to the electrolytes it contains and it also has high levels of zinc, selenium, iodine, sulfur and manganese. It’s great for your skin and can help to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol. So really, make the most of the fact that you can enjoy fresh coconut water here on a daily basis, and it tastes even better to me when I remember just how expensive it is at home.
The hippie influence on Goa has meant that there are plenty of cafes and restaurants catering to people who enjoy living a healthier lifestyle. One of my favourites is Bean Me Up in Anjuna, which serves delicious veggie and vegan food, fresh juices and mouthwatering desserts.
Goa has so much to offer for us girls and you’ll soon discover that it’s easy to treat yourself no matter what your budget might be, so don’t be afraid to over indulge during your stay, afterall, you are on holiday right?