11 Best Things to do in Goa, India

Goa is a place in India that is part of the earliest hippie trails. People from all across the world come here. When I first came here, a photograph shocked me. A very old photograph which was taken in a cafe near Mapusa had a board on which bus details from Goa to Berlin were written.

People from all over Europe traveled all the way to Goa in the '60s and '70s itself. The RV life we dream about in recent times is embedded in Goan culture for a long time now. People from Goa call the '70s as the golden time for tourism. Goa is all about beaches and forts when it comes for sightseeing.

If you want to enjoy a beach holiday, Goa is the best place for this. This small Indian state is world-famous for its frilled palm trees and water sports. The attraction of sun, sand, and the sea will never disappoint you in the temptation to roam. Experience fresh seafood on the beaches. Travel to the serene beaches of South Goa, such as Colva and Palolem. Join exciting water sports like water skiing, sailing, parasailing, etc.

Numerous forts and the beauty they have to offer will make you fall in love with Goa. Enjoy the best nightlife with its beach shacks, cafes and trendy bars. Also, relish the exquisite seafood. River rafting, scuba diving, bungee jumping and other adventure sports are the main things to in Goa.

Goa pops images of warm beaches, parties, and Konkan food. While living a beach life is fun, staying inland, exploring the Goan culture, kayaking in the backwaters, lunching with locals, crashing into the laid back music concerts and jam sessions for suppers, church and art gallery hopping all while kicking off at the pretty shacks watching the beach sunsets can be an experience in itself.

Goa will be among the best monsoon destinations to visit in India. The land of the beaches is definitely worth a visit during the monsoons to enjoy sand, drizzle and picturesque scenery. It's the perfect place to soak in the rains and enjoy delicious Goa delicacies.

Goa is known for the parties and crowd but there are several hidden gems that you can go exploring at this time to avoid the crowd, because there’s more to Goa than Baga, Calangute and Vagator. If you are looking forward to a relaxing vacation or even a workation to break the monotony then Goa is the place to be!

Coming to the quaint places that you can visit, we have curated a list for you. All the places listed are less crowded and will give you all the ‘chill vibes’ that you have been craving for. Read on to know about these lesser-known places to make your next trip to Goa a memorable one.

best things to do in Goa travel guide

So What is Inland

Anything that is a little far (>10km) from the shoreline is considered as in-land in Goa. Why there is no place like Goa is because here the jungle meets the beach. some famous inland villages are near Anjuna beach and Vagator beach which are Assagaon, saligaon and siolim and even further are the villages of Olaulim, Socorro, bicholim, charo islands

Most of these villages are laid back, quaint with narrow alleys of pretty colorful houses and a lot of trees.

Adventure and Activities in Inland Goa

1. New years eve in Chorao

There are many other things to do in Goa with friends besides sipping on a beer can during parties in Goa Christmas eve. Goa is also one of the best places for the new year eve celebration in India. If you are in India for new year party, then do not forget to enjoy Goa New Years Eve celebrations.

The ocean is not the only water body that makes Goa a traveler's paradise. It also has intricate river network crisscrossing through the land, both feeding to and from the ocean, which is the home to various kinds of birds that you can keep watching for hours, even under scorching sun.

Chorao islands is surrounded by Mandovi river and backwaters, there is a beautiful church here to explore. Events, community gatherings, music concerts, and festivals are celebrated in the church grounds. The main local festivals of Goa are Christmas, Easter, Carnival, Diwali, Shigmo, Chavoth, Samvatsar Padvo, Dasara etc. One can reach these islands by a ferry from Ribander or Pomburpa.

2. Scuba Diving in Green Island

Choose a valid dealer who have proper booking shops for these activities. Get their phone number and be in touch with him till you activities ends. Bargain as much as you can reduce the price. For this, they will take you to an Island called Green Island. While booking your activities, ask them to pickup you from your hotel.

Since there will be no proper parking facility at boat check-in area from where you need to take a boat to Green Island to perform Scuba. So by early morning 6 or 7 AM, they will pick you at your door step with a car or van. They will take you to the scuba professionals. And you need to take 2 hours of boat journey to the Island.

They will ask you not to have breakfast. On the way to the island, they will provide you some lite snacks which is included in the activities tariff. Around 9.30 AM, we reached the Island, they will take around 20 people in a boat. After reaching the island, they will separate you in batches of 6 members to each batch. And scuba will be taken part in batches.

Though the sea water is not so clear, you must experience scuba diving at-least once in your lifetime. Bring out the fear for water from you. After Scuba, they will take you to a restaurant for lunch. There, they will be providing you the photos and videos of scuba activity. Sample video will be included in the tariff so you can get it for free.

If you want a movie like kind of video, you need to pay separately and they will provide you a scuba diving completion certification if you pay. You can bargain as much as you can for this. Then, they will drop you at some point and will give a contact number of a person to take part in the other activities. It will be mostly done in Candolim beach. Parasailing, speed boat and other mentioned activities will be done there.

By 5 or 6 PM all the activities will be over. Then you can go back to your room, have some 2 or 3 hrs of rest. If possible try full body massage in a good spa to come out of the body pain after the adventure activities.

3. Get lost in the mystery of Harvalem Caves

Situated in a small village called Rivona, these caves carry a rich history within them. Historical carvings on the walls carry the legacy and culture into the village even today. It is said to be founded by Buddhist monks in the 6th century! If you are a mythology geek, then this is the place to be.

Also known as the Pandava caves, it is said the Lord hanuman had once visited this place. You will also find a Hanuman Temple, a popular place of worship here.

The Pandava Caves or Harvalem Caves and Lamgao Caves near Bicholim can be visited on the same day. Both of them have historical prominence, Goa being an ancient town. The origin of these caves dates back to the 6th century. They are plain mysterious rock cuts with no intricate carvings but if you are curious to trace back the mythological stories from these places they are worth a visit.

4. Watching the water ripples in Mayem Lake

Located in Bicholim, Mayem is a serene freshwater lake. The sleepy countryside is perfect to relax, read a book or sip coffee while watching the water ripples.

5. Kayaking through the Backwaters of Bardez

Olaulim is a humble, green and silent village, a place where Goan locals reside. This is a heavenly place in Olaulim village. There is a river where you can get a clay bath, swim and Kayak. Its an eco stay with a farm and friendly animals including a donkey and a pony. The local food here is delicious.

It's away from the tourists and crowds yet not far from the beaches in Goa, Panjim and popular attractions. Every beach is unique in Goa, so it is recommended to visit at-least the popular ones. Some of the activities include walk/cycling in the forest trails, scuba diving and coral ecology and experiences related to ocean biodiversity.

Tito's remind of the busy part street near Baga but this is no way similar. Tito's White House is really maintained well. Head there if you are a creative person. They organize art shows, and you can attend classes, watch plays, meet like-minded people and much more. Check ahead what they are up to.

6. Walking Tour in Panaji

Apart from these activities, one can always part take in the cycling and walking tours in Panjim like b-live tours and mangrove boardwalk. Watch the sun setting on the Arabian sea from a shack while the waves hot your feet, Drive to the Panjim conservation area, the old Latin quarter - Fountainhas and Old Goa to admire the Portuguese architecture, visit the beautiful churches and soak in some Goan charm.

In Goa, take the scooter if you are comfortable riding it. This is the best way to see Goa and very cheap too. The best way to see the sights and soak up everything India’s smallest state has to offer is on a bike/scooter. The roads in the state are well-maintained and safe, so biking around won’t be a hassle. Even otherwise, Goa is a very comfortable destination for a tourist.

Panjim is the central place and market hub of Goa. Panjim is a fantastic place to stay as it is the happening market location, the river cruise on the Mandovi river especially during the night it’s a great experience and the major attraction here is the wide range of all big and famous casinos.

7. Biking To Margao

Curdi village, in western India, is visible only during one month of the year. During the remaining eleven months it remains submerged under water.

8. Visit the heart shaped lake in Bogmalo

Visit the heart shaped lake to have one of the most peaceful and uninterrupted jolly time with your lover.

9. Taste Goan Food in Saligao

Choose a nice restaurant through some online review sites and taste the delicious foods of Goa. Sea food is cheaper in Goa so try sea food. You can easily find a full diet under 150 INR. The quality will be fine. Head to Gunpowder or Saligao for authentic Indian food, Thalassa and Soro for partying and nightlife, and the Project Cafe and 7 Short 1 Long Restaurant to chill. For beer and wine use wine shops which are open from 10 am to 10 pm. Don't try bar and restaurant for beer as cost are expensive there.

You cannot travel to Goa and not try the exotic seafood like Goan Fish Curry, Fish Recheado, Prawn Balchao, Solachi Kudi, Sorpotel, Balichao, Sanna, Bebik, Vindaloo and more. Spend a relaxing day by the beaches, sipping on feni and trying some of these delectable dishes. Visit some of the recommended food joints, like the Black Sheep Bistro, La Plage, Ourem 88, and more.

You may also try some other Goan specialties, including the multi-layered cake Bebinca, the thick coconut gravy dish Crab Xec Xec, the delicious spicy gravy dish Ambot Tik, the rich pork stew Sorpotel, mushroom xacuti, the spicy coriander dish Chicken Cafreal, and the white and fluffy cake Sanna.

10. Shopping in Assagao

Apart from the Anjuna Flea Market, The Goa Collective Bazaar, Saturday Night Market at Arpora, Mapusa Friday Market are great places for shopping. Assagao area has some really nice boutiques and local studios for shopping knick-knacks, clothes, home decor, art, and jewelry.

11. Walks towards Salcete

Missing Goa this summer? Anyone would - even though the beach heat these days has become unbearable. But what about a different side of Goa? A side of small villages and the meandering Zuari river, walks towards the sunset, and old Portuguese architecture.

Local transport in Goa

After your arrival at airport, just ask for the nearby bus stop. It will be around 500 - 700 mts walk from airport entrance. Note: Do not enquire for the bus route options with cab drivers outside the airport. Just walk away from airport for 200 meters and enquire with other local people. Cab drivers will brainwash you to use their cab service by saying that there is no frequent bus options available.

Cab drivers will charge around ₹750 for each to take you to Candolim/Calanguta area from airport. Whereas if you manage to take a bus, you can reach you destination by spending just ₹75 each.

Local transport is definitely not the best in Goa. It connects from one town to another but since the places in Goa are usually far from a bus stop and taxis are very expensive rent a bike or a moped. It comes very economically and handy to commute in Goa.

Although, there are govt and private buses plying, they are not that well connected to every tourist destination. Cab aggregators such as Ola, Uber do not operate here. One can rarely see an auto on the Goan roads. To top it all, the local running taxis charge an exorbitant rate, that can even shoot up to INR 100 per km.

It would be advisable to ask hotel people to arrange pick up/drop for you to and from Airport/Railway station. Most hotels will give you a reasonable deal. For your travel to tourist destinations, the most economical option would be rent a car or a bike. This will definitely be cheaper than hiring a cab.

You would rarely find autos there. Autos will charge you 300 bucks for 5 km and local taxies will charge you 700 for 5 km (excluding night charges). Local taxies literally will rob you with extremely high fares. On the other hand, the Goa government has started a cab booking service called as GoaMiles. It's like Ola and Uber, a similar way to operate and will charge you affordable rates.

But the only problem is it will ask you to prepay and also, it takes 15 to 30 minutes sometimes to get the taxi. Rent a scooty which will cost you 400 INR per day. Take a scooty and go wherever you want. Carry your driving licence with you. Also check if there is public transportation available near to the home stay, so that one doesn't spend much money on travelling.

To wander Goa, you have plenty of options like local cab, buses or hiring a vehicle. Hiring own vehicle will be a better option among these. You can hire a car or bike. Rental vehicles will be available all over the city. You have to submit one original ID proof for each vehicle you are hiring(Which will be returned on returning the bikes). Prefer hiring scooty type bikes over cars or others. It will give you more comfort and more mileage.

You can also book you bikes through internet also. But it is recommended to hire after reaching there, according to your stay location. You can find hiring shops everywhere. And also you can bargain if you hire by in-person rather than hiring through internet.

One may book the Goa government bus sightseeing tour of North Goa and next day South Goa which can cut down the expenses. If you are on a tighter budget and still want to travel by public transport, dodge, private buses and go for public/govt buses. Private buses charge higher than the normal fare to tourists, and charge even higher rate to non-Indian tourists.

Private buses in Goa charge you any rate they desire and in most cases do not give a printed receipt of ticket that you buy. Govt buses in Goa (Kadamba buses) are far less likely to charge a rate higher than the regular fare and you can be certain (to some extent) that you are not being looted. So, if you are traveling by bus, make sure you take Kadamba bus as opposed to a private bus.

Best Places to Stay in Goa

Do you want to explore Goa and you have tight budget? So you might have a lots of question regarding budget? For stay try backpacker hostel where you can find a bed at 200 INR per day. There is a great selection of ecostays and jungle stays on the inland Goa. Stay in one of these or local BnBs in Goa for a unique experience amidst birdsong and wilderness.

You may check various apps for home stay at cheap rates. The best part of home stay is one can cook own meals. It is a home away from home. There are many offbeat places in Goa which offers home stay at less cost, so one can book those. So if you are a young couple and don’t need a lot of luxury, you should go to the Northern-most side of Goa, which is Arambol, Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem etc. where the rates are relatively cheaper than Baga, Calangute and the environs are cleaner and peaceful. Your maximum budget per day should be between 3000–5000 including hotel room.

A backpacker or a solo traveller doesn’t really need much luxury and they should just blindly go to a backpackers hostel in Anjuna, Arambol etc. Hire a scooter to roam around or you could also take the local buses plying between Panjim, Mapusa to Baga, Calangute, Arpora, Anjuna etc. Most local people understand English, Hindi, Marathi and the state language Konkani. Near the touristy places, you could also find hawkers speaking Russian and Israeli.

What to wear in Goa

If planning to travel in summer, pack cool cotton clothes and shorts. Even if you plan to travel during winters, carry lightweight clothing, as the average temperature is 30-degrees Celsius. Don’t forget flip-flops a straw hat and sunscreen. Goa is a chill place and most of the locals are not too conservative when it comes to dressing.

If you are staying in a local village it's better to dress moderately. Carry a lot of light cotton clothes as the climate is humid throughout the year.

When you have so many offbeat recommendations that allow you to stay away from the sea of tourists then why wait to plan your trip?
Kalyan Panja