Goa, India :
Goa, India: The Ultimate Guide with Kids
There are so many things to do in Goa for fun, rest or culture seekers. Goa , a former Portuguese colony, boasts a culture, food and history distinct to its own state. Goa has also been the destination of choice for hippies and ravers from all over the world. Finally, Goa is India's most popular beach destination for families, with its sprawling coastline, beautiful resorts and laid-back lifestyle.
Getting to Goa:
Goa's Vasco da Gama airport is easiest accessed by plane from one of the major Indian cities. Mumbai is the closest at one hour away but Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Cochin are also easy flights. Goa is also connected to the rest of the country by train. Driving to Goa is not recommended.
Getting Around Goa:
Intrepid souls will make their way around Goa on scooters and mopeds. The rest of us will call taxis. Be warned that distances in Goa can be quite large and traffic congestion can make going anywhere a nightmare in peak season. Therefore, it's better to stay close to the places you'll want to visit. If you plan to be on the go a lot, it's best to rent a car and driver from your hotel for the day (8 hours costs around USD30).
Where to stay in Goa:
You will see a very different side of Goa depending on whether you stay in the North or South, and they split essentially at the airport. South Goa is home to most of the big hotels and is perfect for families looking for resort holidays. South Goa tends to be quieter and visitors stay between their hotels and the beach.
North Goa in comparison is where all the current hotspots are. Here you will find famous Baga beach, the white sands of Ashwem and the hippy culture of Anjuna, along with a host of boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, and nightclubs.
Going from North to South would take a couple of hours so choose what kind of vacation you want and stick to it.
Where to Eat in Goa:
Goan food is something to write home about with its mix of Portguese and Indian flavors and its use of fresh seafood. It is quite spicy and if you are traveling with little ones with sensitive stomachs, you should be careful about where you eat. Luckily, Goa is so familiar with the needs of international travelers that you won't have a hard time finding something to meet your standards, and most places will have at least fish fingers or a pasta if you feel like laying off the spice. Here are some of our family-friendly favs:
1. Calamari Bathe and Binge: Sunday Brunch is the thing to do at Calamari, for a most authentically Goan experience. Known for its great food, Calamari churns out everything from Goan specialties like butter garlic crab to North Indian curry to a Chinese fried rice, if your heart so desires. Tables are bumped against each other to accommodate all the revelers but the vibe is fun and relaxed. Dance with the band, dig into some prawn balchao and then get a henna tattoo and massage on the beach. It's no wonder everyone loves Goa!
2. Cavala: This charming hotel on Baga's busy stretch serves up great seafood in a fun, laidback atmosphere. Sunday brunches see the mojitos flowing while the band dishes up classics like "Feeling Hot Hot Hot" and "Brown Girl in the Ring". Friday night retro night is great as well for music-loving families who want to boogie to the band in shorts and flip-flops.
3. Cafe Lilliput: A typically Goan shack on Anjuna, Liliput on the beach will offer you anything you want, although we can't guarantee that the pastas and burgers will taste totally western. If you want a real treat, go for the Goan prawn curry and rice. Chairs are free as long as you order something to eat/drink. Make sure to sit under umbrellas.
4. La Plage: La Plage caters to foreigners and well-heeled Indians who come to enjoy owner Gobind's delectable fusion menu and the white sands of Ashwem beach. Make a reservation early and spend the day at La Plage.
5. BomRas: Take a break from all the Indian spices to the similar yet different tastes of Burma. Bomras in Candolim has an elegant terrace and is particularly delightful at night.
6. Thalassa: Thalassa is the hottest restaurant in Goa currently serving authentic Greek cuisine overlooking a beautiful patch of Vagatur beach. The menu has a great selection of kebabs and other flame-cooked meats, as well as burgers and a delicious dessert menu. Thalassa has a casual vibe and it suitable for the kids at lunch or dinner, although it is more of a party scene at night. Reservations a must.
1. Martin's Corner: Doesn't get more authentic and home-cooked than Martin's. The restaurant has a warm, casual atmosphere, great for the whole family.
2. Casa Sarita: For a more upscale and innovative take on Goan classics, head to Casa Sarita at the Park Hyatt. The elegantly decorated dining room may be a nice change from all the shacking you'll have been doing in Goa.
3. Zeebop by the Sea: If fresh seafood, beautiful sunsets and flip flops are your scene, Zeebop is a great place to visit for a long, leisurely meal on the beach. Zeebop is closed during the monsoons (June to September) so make sure to call if you are visiting off-season.
4. Lobster Shack: For those too squeamish to eat at a beach shack, rest your fears at this 5-star shack at the Taj Exotica. You'll pay four times the price as at a regular restaurant but at least you can be sure little tummies won't be upset.
Top Things to do in Goa with Kids:
1. Eat Goan fish curry and rice at a beach shack (see above)
2. Shop at the Anjuna flea market on Wednesdays and Saturday nights
3. Explore the old town and learn about the Portuguese influences over Goa
4. Indulge in some beach relaxation with a henna tattoo, foot massage or hair braid.
5. Spend a day at La Plage and shop the Indo-French collections at the Designer Village (Nana Ki has a particularly adorable range of kidswear)
6. Take a boat out to see the dolphins from Candolim, Calangute and Palolem Beach.
7. Spend countless hours in a pool until your skin gets all wrinkled!
8. Enjoy the water sports at Anjuna, Baga, Candolim, Morjim and many other beaches
9. Go on a crocodile safari
10. Visit the gallery of Mario de Miranda, one of India's most celebrated cartoonists and illustrators, and a Goan resident till his passing.
Tips for Traveling to Goa with Kids:
1. Roads are narrow and crowded. If you are in a rickshaw or on a bike, make sure to wear a helmet and keep your hands to yourself.
2. Taxi drivers will inflate prices all the time. Bargain or have your hotel book you a car and driver for the day so you know you are paying the going rate.
3. Bargaining for goods at stalls and markets as well as water sports is expected.
4. Mineral water always.
5. Goa has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Stay in areas you are familiar with and stay off quiet streets at night.
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