Come December and all roads lead to the land of sunshine and sand — Goa. What better place than Goa to wrap up the year especially if you love beaches and seafood. And if you're hoping to avoid the crowds, we have a selection of retreats that hit the sweet spot between hotel hospitality and vacation-rental hominess. Not to mention all the relaxation and fun typical of the sunshine state. Here are eight:
Larisa Ashwem, north Goa
This newest entrant in north Goa combines quintessential old-world Goan charm with Balinese influences, providing a contemporary luxury experience. Expect winding pathways lined with swaying palm trees, lotus ponds and birdsong in the air at Larisa Ashwem. The 20 wooden cottages come with groovy-yet-glamorous details such as a soaring ceiling, old world Goan tiles and a veranda wrapped with bamboo bushes. There’s also a serene palm-shaded restaurant and an outstanding spa to scrub off the beach tan or simply surrender to a rejuvenating massage. My favourite feature, however, is the stone bathtub in the veranda. Perfect to wash off the beach induced fatigue. Larisa is only five minutes from Ashwen beach but feels worlds away.
Price: Rs 12000 onwards
Those yearning for old-world charm with modern comforts should bookmark this luxury property close to Anjuna beach. MansionHaus is a 300-year-old Portuguese villa restored to its former glory by owner Kezya De Bragança. Expect a tree-lined cobbled porch, original Portuguese floor tiles brought in from Lisbon, eclectic art, magnificent chandeliers and balcao (a typical Goan verandah for afternoon tea). All the nine suites at this luxury hotel open to private pools and flank a sun-drenched courtyard. Artworks from some the most influential artists in India flank the walls. There’s also a bar and bistro to take you from coffee to cocktails over the course of a typical day.
Price: Rs 52,000 onwards for two nights
Goa Cottages, Agonda, south Goa
Enter the serene and laid-back resort, Goa Cottages, just a few steps from Agonda Beach. There are only 12 cottages, dressed up in wood, limestone tiles and a roof thatched with coconut throngs. Two of which are on the immediate beachfront, while the others have a garden and partial sea-view. The bathrooms are spacious with an "open to the sky" shower. Over all the vibe is tranquil while a sense of privacy hangs in the air. Tables set under coconut trees make for a beautiful and breezy venue for meals or to simply watch the sun go down. Food options range from popular Indian dishes to crowd-pleasing pizzas and pastas. Go for a dip in the ocean, kick ball on the beach or knock back a tropical drink at the oceanfront bar.
Price: Rs 7,500 onwards (breakfast not included)
This eco resort perched on a secluded hill is a stone’s throw away from Cabo De Rama beach in the heart of south Goa. All the thatched cottages face the ocean while being nestled in the flourishing forest. The piece de résistance is the balcony, which is perfect for lounging, watching the sunset or for catching the first rays of sunlight with a cup of coffee. There are tents, too, for those who spring for rustic luxury. At Cabo Serai breakfast can by the beach, lunch in a coconut grove and dinner lit by candles under a star studded sky. My favourite is the sundowner at the edge of a cliff!
Price: Rs 24,000 onwards, tents start at Rs 15000
Wildflower Villas, Candolim
A short drive from the party belt of north Goa up a tree-lined slope in Candolim will land you at Wildflower Villas a hidden gem shrouded by a forest. The gorgeous Portuguese-style cottages are a serious head-turner with four poster beds and sweeping views of the lazy river beyond. There’s a spa hidden away on a treetop, a games room and a pool overlooking a beautiful valley. The meals are home style and carved from vegetables and fruits picked from their own garden. The setting is equally enticing — under a gigantic mimosa tree or on the charming balcão. Or you could opt for a candlelight dinner in the private garden of your villa. The Goan Saraswat fare served at the resort is unbeatable. Do try the cocktails by the pool bar.
Furry friends are welcome.
Price: Rs 50,000 for two nights
Ahilya By the Sea, Nerul
Talk about prime real-estate: this historic property fronts the rocky, palm fringed Coco Beach in peaceful Nerul in north Goa. Its beach-facing position means waves break at the wall of the property. But that’s not all it has going for it. The nine tastefully decorated rooms come with private balconies, loads of artefacts and spectacular views of the sea. There are two infinity pools perfect for a few morning laps or to simply drift about in the afternoon. Start your day with a stroll through the gardens and then spend the days lounging by the beach, drinking sundowners at the bar and feasting on fresh seafood at waterfront candlelit dinners. Portuguese area of Fontainhas, famous for its winding streets and colonial architecture is a half hour drive from the hotel while the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is 50 minutes away.
Price: Rs 31,800 onwards
The Postcard, Moira
Those who appreciate soulful, immersive vacations will love this quaint retreat tucked away in the village of Moira. The nine rooms of this carefully restored 214 year old ancestral home are accented with four poster beds, intimate sit out terrace, brass fittings and statement lamps. Exposed laterite walls add the old-world charm. The lush outdoors are perfect to soak in the early morning rays or tune in to bird song. Meals include such flavourful dishes as rava fried banana snack, solachi kadi and fish uddamethi prepared with fresh mackerels all washed down with some stellar chilli feni margarita. The Postcard is well known for curating memorable experiences. At Moira it includes access to ancestral homes and wonderful people, heritage walk, freshly baked poee with chorizo sausages in a charming traditional home, surf lessons and dolphin safari.
Price: Rs 24,000-27,000 plus taxes for a room for two people
Hotel Amrapali, Goa Velha, Bambolim
Staying at this lovingly restored 100-year-old Portuguese home on the banks of Zuari river is a lesson in slow living. Everything here feels incredibly discreet, from the handsome rooms amped up with Goan wall art, lake views and free standing copper bathtubs to its sexy cocktail bar. There's plenty to do no matter your interests — private picnics at Siridao beach, fishing and crab catching off the veranda of the house, board games and books for borrowing. Bambolim beach is five minutes away and Candolim is 40 minutes by car. Having said that the best thing to do at Amrapali is to spend hours at the breezy, waterfront café nibbling at the freshly made treats with a great cup of mocha or sublime teas from Assam.
Price: Rs 23,000 onwards