Anyone who knows me will always joke that I go to Goa way too often. To be fair, they’re not kidding. Goa has been a favourite of mine ever since I was about 16 years old and went there for the first time with my best friend of many years. We had just met, but little did we know that Goa was going to bond us in unimaginable ways and become the very place we hold closest to our hearts. It gave us everything we needed, through the years as we grew up and our interests changed. And anyone whose been to Goa enough times will tell you the same, it has something for everyone. Whether you want a high activity vacation with water sports, treks, and sunset swims at beautiful beaches, or you prefer to just relax in gorgeous swimming pools, get massages, and eat long, leisurely (amazing!) meals, Goa is the perfect getaway. A quick 50 minute flight from Bombay will put you straight in the lap of palm trees, a balmy breeze, and the true Goan sussegado (loosely meaning “taking it easy”) state of mind. Since I’m here every excuse I get, I decided my first travel guide was was going to be for my beloved second home, the place that never disappoints, never gets old, and never wants me to leave (or is it the other way around?), Goa!
Goa has two main “seasons”, which basically means season time and off-season. All of Goa is open for business in full force for about 6 months of the year from mid October through April, and for the other 6ish months (during the extreme heat and then monsoon) most of Goa closes down. Season time in Goa can be very crowded, most of all during Christmas and New Years, but there are still places you can find where you feel isolated from the crowds and at peace. Here’s a list of my favourite places to eat, chill and party! P.s- all the image sources are clickable links incase you wish to learn more about the places I’ve mentioned. Now go find your next spot to eat, drink, & be merry!
In recent years, Goa has become the playground for many remarkable chefs and wonderful people from all over the world. Goa is famous for its cosmopolitan crowd, people who have moved there from all parts of the world after falling in love with it, and for this reason you can find world class food here at Goan prices. Ranging from Japanese, Greek, French, and Italian, to Russian, fusion, Burmese, fine-dining and even experimental. Here you’ll find some of my favourite restaurants, but the thing I love most about Goa is that every season there are new fantastic restaurants to try and hence this list will keep evolving and growing! Some of these places, however, are perennial favourites.
Thalassa- Mariketty’s Place (Greek), Small Vagator
Everyone, and I mean everyone, has eaten here. From Bollywood superstars and models to teenage party goers, locals, and everyone in between. Its become a bit of a Goa rite of passage, you don’t know Goa until you’ve gone and stuffed your face with lamb gyros, fried calamari, moussakka, the most succulent kebabs and washed it all down with some delicious cocktails. Ive been going to Thalassa since it first opened, and in fact stayed the the little huts there countless times through the years. The owner Mariketty, a dear friend now, is a flawless host. She’s good natured and social, and goes to great lengths to make every guest feel at home. Her staff is well trained and courteous, and Jimmy, the chef has been there since it opened, hence the food has maintained its taste and flavour. A couple of nights a week they do greek dancing and plate smashing (a greek tradition for celebrations), which is always fun to watch with a drink in hand. The atmosphere is relaxed- all white decor, diaphanous curtains dancing in the wind, candle light, greek music and laughter. Although I do have to say that they’ve recently started bar nights Friday-Sunday so expect loud music and a social vibe on those nights, but if you prefer a quieter night then go any other day of the week or for lunch. The star attraction of Thalassa, apart from the food and ambiance, is the location. Perched upon a cliff above Small Vagator or Ozran beach, the open-air restaurant offers sweeping views of the sea and a truly magical sunset view, which makes it an ideal choice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Go here for slice of Greece right in the heart of Goa.
Image Source- Thalassa
Lamb Gyro and a Mojito followed by some white wine
Baba’s Wood Cafe (Italian), Panjim
Craving authentic wood-fired pizza, handmade pasta, REAL delicious cheese and some delicious vino? Look no further than Baba’s. Located near Miramar beach in Panjim is this gem of a restaurant. The owner is a sweet Italian lady, who also sells one of a kind home decor, clothes and curios. Try the mushroom, cream and parmesan fettuccine, the spicy salami pizza, beef carpaccio, and tiramisu for a truly unforgettable meal. Finish your night with a shot of homemade limoncello or grappa and leave with warm, happy bellies. The best Italian food I’ve tasted in all of goa, despite there being many other places on offer.
Image Source- Baba’s Wood Cafe
Bomras (Burmese, Asian Fusion), Candolim
I had been meaning to go here for the longest time but didn’t make it until very recently, when we went for someones birthday. Man was I missing out this whole time or what! This quaint little place with a discreet sign in busy, flashy Candolim could easily be missed if you aren’t looking for it, and once you’re inside you never want to leave because the food is just that good. The cuisine is Burmese & Asian fusion, and Chef Patron Bawmra Jap serves up things like pork, pomelo and pomegranate salad (MUST!!!!), fried mackerel with a tamarind soy sauce (again, you have to try this!), green papaya salad, tamarind pork curry, seared tuna with wasabi, and Bomras Special chilli crab among many, many other truly enticing options. They also serve my favourite cocktail in all of Goa. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you- the tamarind margarita. This delicious concoction is sweet & sour & cold, comes with a punchy chilli salt rim, and a whole tamarind dunked in the glass, and boy do they go down easy. I would go here just for this drink (on second thought just give me all of the food ever). The hospitality is warm and friendly, and for most people who have been here, its now become a regular haunt. Go for food that will stay in your soul long after you’ve left, and a cocktail you’ll want every time you have a drink.
Tamarind Margarita, Seared Tuna, & Chilli Crab
Cafe Nu (Fusion), Mandrem
Cafe Nu may be a little hard to find, but once you’re there you’ll be in food heaven. Its located at Mandrem, close to Dunes Holiday Village. Ask any local shopkeeper and they will point you in the right direction. Its set in the ground floor patio of a small three story building, with colourful decor and dark wood furniture. The food is to die for, and it is hands down my favourite restaurant at Mandrem by a long shot. Try the warm beef salad, tuna tartar, chicken limon, the tuna steak with wasabi mash, beggars purse, and the chocolate bonbon dessert- all for a a very reasonable price. Spend a lovely day swimming and sun bathing at Mandrem beach and get a well deserved meal before calling it a day.
Image Source- Cafe Nu
Puttu Cafe (Breakfast), Vagator
This newly opened breakfast spot is as good as it gets for your first meal of the day, with a menu that covers everything from chia pots and smoothie bowls, to eggs benedict, avocado toast, breakfast burgers, breakfast burritos, great coffee, and fresh juice. The chef and owner is in the kitchen herself prepping every plate that comes out, and its truly the freshest tasting brekkie in Goa out of everything I’ve tried. Its only open from 9-3 so wake up on time, fill your bellies and head out to the beach feeling healthy & refreshed.
Image Source- Puttu Cafe
Raspberry Chia Pot
A Reverie (Experimental), Candolim
This has got to be one of the most interesting places to eat in Goa, located in the small lanes of Candolim, it has a high thatched ceiling, multi-level seating and live music during season. The food and cocktails here are experimental, playful and delicious. You can expect to be served in all sorts of things from a salad in a flower pot, to chicken wings on a tree branch, and wasabi prawns served in a diya lamp. I would say just try the whole menu, but some personal favorites are the All Onions No Tears soup, Father of the Brie-d, Diya Lamp Wasabi Prawns, Zen Garden Chicken Lollipop, The Little Japanese BBQ (cook your own meal at the table), and the Eggs But No Eggs coconut and mango dessert, that looks like its made of eggs and eggshells. A super fun place to eat that not only tickles your tastebuds but also your humour.
Image Source- A Reverie
Go With The Flow (Fine Dining), Baga
Go With The Flow is really special place for more than one reason. Apart from world-class food, all the profits go to Samarpan Foundation- a non-profit organisation that provides humanitarian, ecological, and environmental aid. This restaurant has tables placed in a beautiful garden setting with interesting white furniture and dim blue lights, there is also is a shop called Samara where you can buy handmade scarves, jewellery, home decor and trinkets, with all proceeds going to charity. The menu is to die for and anything you order is sure to be delicious- my favourites are the goat cheese terrine, sushi, roasted Belgian pork belly, and the melt-in-your-mouth steak dishes. Go here for a relaxed but chic vibe and amazinggg food, all while helping a good cause!
Image Source- Go With The Flow
The Black Sheep Bistro (Fusion), Panjim
I discovered BSB while looking for a new place to get dinner one night a couple of years ago, and the farm-to-table philosophy at this restaurant had me intrigued immediately. Everything is sourced from within 100 miles of the restaurant, ensuring not just the freshest produce ever, but also helping local farmers and land to survive and flourish, and what’s not to love about that? Its located in a beautiful old Portuguese bungalow in the heart of Panjim, and offers indoor & outdoor seating. The owners are warm hosts, personally going to each table to meet their guests, and the menu looked so good that we tried almost everything (we were a large group, but ordered 5-6 rounds of dishes we liked). The drinks are handcrafted and equally delicious. Their menu changes seasonally while retaining some favorites, so be experimental and try something new!
Image Source- The Black Sheep Bistro
i-95* (European), Saligao
Situated in a little palm grove in the front lawn of a cool Goan bungalow, i-95 serves modern European, Italian, and French inspired food. They have fantastic cocktails (my favourite being the fresh fig caipirinha) and truly delicious plates of food. The co-owner, Sunil Singh, has a lot of experience in the hospitality industry, having worked onboard a cruise ship for 11 years. This experience took him to all parts of the world, something that definitely reflects in the finer details of the food here. Some of my favourites include the goat cheese, apricot and rucola stuffed chicken, thai charred squid, crab cakes, crisp mashed sweet tuber, and beef carpaccio, but really I love everything on the menu. I go here at least a few times on every trip so you could say I’ve tried most of their food, pick anything without fear of disappointment. There’s a dessert here that comes to me in my dreams quite frequently, floating down from the heavens above like a sugary angel with wings- and thats the divine Berry Pavlova. It consists of a perfectly made meringue- crunchy on the outside and sugary melt in your mouth air on the inside, topped with fresh whipped cream, berries, and a few splashes of mint. Your life is seriously not complete until you’ve tried it, no jokes. Go here for a relaxed outdoor vibe with warm lighting, super chill music, and of course some lovely food and drinks!
Image Source- i-95
*i-95 has closed down permanently after completing this season, so if you missed your chance then I’m truly sorry. I will still leave it on this list because it was hands down one of my favourite spots.
ZeeBop By The Sea (Seafood), Utorda
ZeeBop is one of those places thats been around for ages, and is the epitome of great Goan beach shacks. Located on the lovely and quiet Utorda beach, about 28 kilometre south of Panjim, ZeeBop is an old-school shack where you can sit with your feet in the sand (which they clean throughout the day so it remains as powder soft as possible) and be served some truly fresh and delicious seafood, alongside your poison of choice. Once you’ve taken your pick from a tray of todays catch you can decide how you would like it prepared- steamed, butter garlic, rawa masala fry, in a curry with rice, recheado masala etc. and they are all equally divine. Im actually salivating while typing this FYI, so I suggest you go here as soon as possible!
Gunpowder (South Indian), Assagao
To say Gunpowder merely serves south Indian food would be an understatement, you won’t find your run of the mill dosas and idlis with the same boring old sambar here. Instead you can expect things like Andhra prawn masala, Idukki pork, squid masala fry, Kerela beef curry, Kerela backwater prawn curry, flaky malabari parathas and the fluffiest appams ever! The location is great too, on a quiet Assagao street sits the elevated bungalow, with courtyard style seating and multicolour flags strung crisscross overhead. They have a store on the property called People Tree, where you can find eclectic clothing, curios and home decor. The owners of Gunpowder describe their restaurant as “The peninsular kitchen: covering the south Indian peninsula which includes Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, and parts of Maharashtra.” Put this at the top of your list- STAT! And don’t plan any other big meals for that day, you’ll want a full blown appetite for this restaurant. Finish off with a glass of chaas to clean your palatte, and find a spot to take that blissful nap you’re going to start feeling in 3..2..1.
Image Source- Gunpowder
Sublime (Fusion), Morjim
Sublime is another gem of a restaurant, located on Morjim Beach, it serves fusion cuisine with inspirations from Goa, Asia & Europe. This beachside restaurant has all day dining and a laid-back atmosphere all while serving up world class food that is plated beautifully. Pick from one of their innovative cocktails and wait for your food with your feet in the sand, balmy ocean breeze caressing your skin. The menu changes annually while retaining certain favourites such as the blue cheese stuffed steak, calamari with apricot chutney, kingfish carpaccio, and the sesame tuna. They also do innovative dishes such as saffron risotto with tandoori prawns & clams with local chorizo (delicious), so try away. Make sure to make a reservation as during season its almost always full. Head to Sublime for a truly glorious & unhurried meal by the beach- a must on any good vacation.
Image Source- Sublime
Anand’s (Goan), Siolim
You could say I saved the best for last in a way- Anand’s is is one of those landmark places, and everyone eats here, from the locals and daily wage workers, to Goa regulars and beach-hopping tourists. And theres no denying the satisfaction we feel after stuffing our faces with a fried fish thali each (comes with fried fish of your choice and unlimited daal, sol curry, tisriya or small clams, bhaaji and rice), mussels rawa fry, prawn masala, tandoori fish and round after round of ice cold Mangola- all for a few hundred rupees each! I have been going here for years, and have to go at least once every trip. Dont expect anything fancy, its a local joint with a local crowd on the side of the road with bench style seating, and sometimes even shared tables if you’re not a big enough group. The food is served by hurried waiters in unimpressive steel plates and they usually recite whats available and fresh that day instead of a formal menu, but the food is to die for. Go here for a quick & fuss-free Goan seafood lunch before heading to the beach, and do keep in mind that they close at 3 pm so get there early. Hands down the best local food you will taste!
Image Source- The Hindu
This is probably my favourite beach because it tends to be quieter than the others even in the middle of the busiest season. I remember the day I discovered it, I must’ve been 17 or 18 in a car with a group of friends. We were looking for Arambol and and we got hopelessly lost (ah the days before google maps). Since we were hungry and fed up we decided to stop at a random spot, best decision ever. Lo and behold- Mandrem, even quieter then than it is now! A little north of the better-known beaches of Morjim and Ashvem, this jewel of a beach offers vast expanses of soft sand, clean beautiful water and a warm river running parallel to the ocean. Charming wooden bridges dot the beach and help you cross the small river to the beach, and this beautiful detail is unique to Mandrem. There aren’t too many sun beds either, which I love (I think too many on a beach just ruins the charm). I always take a sheet & umbrella to lay onto the sand since the beds are far back from the water, and sometimes we even take a tent and set it up close to the oceans edge for the day. Its the kind of beach where you can happily wile away your time swimming, collecting starfish and napping in the sun. The water can get a little rough if its a super windy day (fun for water sports!), but generally is gentle, warm and perfect for a float. For snacks and drinks, look no further than the beachside shack at Dunes Holiday Village, where there’s an outdoor shower to wash off the salt water & you can also borrow boogie boards, floats & umbrellas. P.s- they have the most delicious, cold fresh fruit juices- perfect for staying hydrated on the beach, so drink them through the day, like me! I daydream of Mandrem quite often- especially when I’m this big crowded city I call home. Being lulled into a trance by the sound of the waves, the fine sand sparkling in the sun like bronze glitter carelessly strewn on the shore, walking with the wind for hours looking at starfish and tiny hermit crabs in a myriad of different shells. I would have a day like that every day if I could. Ahhh, life is good here 🙂
This is quite a popular beach with a lot of places to eat, drink & party. La Plage is probably the most famous restaurant here, serving up indo-french inspired food in a casual yet chic setting, but shacks line the whole coast. The appeal of this is beach is precisely that- all the comforts of hand delivered beers, cocktails & food, plenty of beds to choose from with bamboo enclosures (no annoying umbrellas to haul all the way), a vast stretch of sand to play, nap, or run around and lovely, calm seas (depends on the weather, but 90% of the time it’s perfect) to take a cooling mid-day dip. You’re sure to bump into at least a few friends who have exactly the same plans as you- eat, drink, swim, nap, repeat. Ashvem beach is pretty long, and further north is definitely a bit quieter, but you can always find a semi-secluded spot amongst the rocks to lay out on your Goa-bought sarong and settle down with a good book. The food options include the more famous La Plage and Marbela Beach Resort, but there are also countless shacks serving alcohol, Goan food, munchies and more. If shopping is your thing, there are some small boutiques on and near the beach & plenty of women walking along the beach selling jewellery, sarongs, and trinkets. There is also a lifeguard every few hundred metres on duty since this is a pretty busy beach, so that makes it kid-friendly as well. This is the beach to go to if you want a mix of clean water, fine sand, lots of food & drink options, and activities such as parasailing & kitesurfing. If you walk a bit further north of La Plage it becomes more peaceful, and I think more beautiful too. As the sun sets a lot of the bars in the area start playing louder music and hosting gigs, so you could come to Ashvem in the day and stay on till the wee hours.
Located in south Goa, about 45 minutes south of Panjim, this beach has superb white sand, clean greenish water, lots of local plants and foliage, and is quite wide and long in size. The water is slightly rougher than some of the others I’ve mentioned, and thats just because of its location. It is swimmable in every way, and many people I know actually prefer splashing around in the waves as opposed to just floating around in calm seas- the perfect spot to bring your boogie board or inflatable floats to bob around a bit. Food wise please don’t go anywhere except ZeeBop (mentioned above). An ideal day at Utorda would be to arrive just before lunch, have a few lazy drinks and your food at ZeeBop and then venture out onto the sand for the rest of the evening. The length of this beach makes it ideal for a morning or evening walk/jog, and you are likely to find far less of the touristy crowds than all the neighbouring, more famous south Goa beaches. Definitely on my list of places to go when I want to kick back and relax (and not bump into a bajillion people I know who are also in Goa at the same time in the north).
Small Vagator (Ozran Beach)
Although I agree with a lot of people who say this beach used to be better, it’s still a nice spot for a sunset dip and beer. A tiny little beach sheltered by small cliffs on all sides, it only has a handful of shacks- and none of them have the greatest food. If you’re looking for food, stay up on the cliff where Thalassa and a bunch of restaurants are located, otherwise walk down the long (long!) flight of stairs for some lazy times by the shore. This beach is shaped almost like a cove, and has many rocks that break the tide and make the water extra mellow. If you come here slightly off-season, you may even luck out and have the entire beach to yourself. This is a good spot to spread out your beach blanket and have a relaxing afternoon drinking with friends. In one corner is a small freshwater waterfall (more like a spout) where you can rinse off after a swim in the sea, although sometimes it is closed. There’s also an interesting carving of Shivas face in one of the rocks on the left of the beach. Avoid this beach on Sunday’s or very busy peak season days as it can feel a bit crowded.
Back in the day when Small Vagator was almost always empty 🙂
Quite a long beach, Morjim is famed for its Russian crowd, extremely soft sand, and because its a nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles. It definitely has many options in terms of where you can park yourself for the day, and my personal favourite is the stretch of sand outside Paros by Amarya- a boutique hotel featuring luxury tents and a small, fresh menu. They have private beach beds for guests of the hotel or restaurant, and they’ll bring out your food straight to the sand. My go to is the grilled chicken sandwich and fresh orange juice, post which I like to settle into a book and let my worries wash away. Walk up the beach till you find that ideal spot for yourself, and don’t worry about food and drinks- there’ll always be a shack close by that will bring you cold beers and fried prawns. One of my favourite things to do at Morjim is to stay on the sun beds well past sunset, grab a flashlight for some light and sit with friends having drinks and wiggling our toes in the soft, luscious sand while enjoying the peace and quiet of this beach at night, when the crowds have left for the day. Do this on a full moon night and the entire beach lights up with a silvery glow and is pretty much as divine as divine can get.
I havent explored much of south Goa and its beaches, but thats next on the list!
Hill Top (Vagator)
This place has been around for ages, and anyone who has partied in Goa has come and partied here at least once. Its famous for its psychedelic trance gigs and legendary parties that have gone down for decades. An open air venue with lots of brightly painted coconut trees, vibrant decor and regular events hosting some big names in the electronic music scene, HillTop is also famous for its annual New Years Eve party that lasts for 36+ hours. If you want a true taste of what kind of nightlife Goa became famous for, then definitely check their schedule and head over for one of the events. They have weekly acts during season, but keep an eye out for some smashing large scale parties complete with massive DJ’s, neon decor, fire dancers, and a free-spirited crowd thats there specifically for one reason- to dance!
Image Source- HillTop
This place is only a couple seasons old, and in Goa terms that makes it quite a newbie on the block, but the unique and extremely striking feature of this venue is the way its almost carved into the cliffside. It has many levels of seating and bars and at the very bottom is a circular dance floor with sand as the floor. Every level offers gorgeous views of the sea and also keeps the atmosphere breezy, cool, and not too crowded. They have a variety of different genres of music that play here, so its a hit for all types of tastes in music. Definitely one of my favourite spots to check on the regular when I’m in Goa.
Image Source- Chronicle
Teso Waterfront (Siolim)
This waterfront (as the name suggests) resort offers food, stay & entertainment in a beautiful riverside setting on the banks of the Chapora river in the quite, enchanting village of Siolim. The wooden deck overlooking the water regularly hosts DJ’s and live music acts, with private cabanas & tables available for reservation with bottle service. Teso plays hosts to weekly events by Soma Project- which feature well known techno and house DJ’s, and there’s always a great crowd of people there for their weekly music and drink fix. A chic property with an onsite restaurant serving mediterranean fusion cusine, Teso is a must-go if you’re looking for a happening sunset vibe complete with sexy drinks and even sexier beats.
Image Source- Teso Waterfront
Sunset Ashram (Ashvem)
This is a recent addition to Ashvem’s ever evolving party scene, inspired by the Ibiza beach clubs, Sunset Ashram is a 30,000 sq. feet beachfront venue complete with a pool, beach bar & grill. V.I.P cabanas, and performance stage. The music here is in the deep house/techno space and their sessions start early before the sun sets, and continue bumping late into the night. Depending on whose playing, it can be a really fun evening of dancing barefoot in soft, powdery sand with your poison of choice in hand.
Image Source- Sunset Ashram
Marbela Beach Resort (Ashvem)
This is a chic all-white ocean facing resort in Ashvem with luxury rooms & tents, a restaurant, bar, a spa, fashion boutique, and an indoor & outdoor dancing space. From the speakers glides soft Ibiza inspired lounge music during the day, which becomes a full-fledged beach party by night. The walls in restaurant showcase artwork from local artists and photographers. You can take your drink and walk directly onto the beach to lounge in luxurious white sun bed with white curtains while still being able to hear the music, so this place is the one for you if you want a trendy yet laid-back atmosphere.
Image Source- Marbela Beach Resort
Saturday Night Market (Arpora)
The famous night market that happens every week during season in Arpora is truly one of a kind. You can find everything from freshly ground spices and local delicacies, to hand made leather goods, jewellery, clothing, home deocor, and artwork from a slew of talented local designers. This place is massive (3 levels!) and also gets extremely packed, so I suggest you come either early or late (its on till the wee hours of the night, so no rush) and take your time strolling through, visiting as many stalls as possible. There is always a couple of DJ’s or live music acts, lots of amazing food stalls to get some nibbles, and as for alcohol- a beer bar, a wine bar, and cocktails. This is a really fun place to spend a night shopping for unique pieces with an ice-cold beer in hand, and afterwards dance the night away in an unusual setting. Tip- don’t try to find parking near by as you’ll be stuck getting in and out. Instead, park far away and walk or take a cab that can drop you straight at the entrance.
Image Source- What’s Up Goa
If you’re into partying and going out, keep an eye open for gigs and events happening at various other spots. You may find posters or flyers with useful info about things you can do apart from my list. It’s always good to find out what’s happening that night from friends in the know or even sites like WhatsUpGoa.
P.s- I would recommend you either rent a scooter or a car so you’re mobile and can explore, taxi’s are super expensive and a total rip off, whereas renting a vehicle for a more than a few days turns out to be a fraction of the cost.
I hope you had fun going through my list of Goa must-do’s and found some new places to check out on your next trip to the land of chill. If you found this article helpful, do let me know- I’d love to hear from you, or if you have any recommendations that I HAVE to try then write to me with the subject “Goa”! I’ll be back with more travel tips and stories for all my favourite places, till then check out my other posts on fashion and beauty! 🙂
Jasleen Gill is a fashion & celebrity stylist, model, and blogger currently residing in Mumbai, India.READ MORE
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