If you are a traveller (and not a tourist), you must be well aware of TripAdvisor and their coveted 'Travellers' Choice Awards. We rely and contribute heavily on TripAdvisor so, when they announced 2019's top spot holders we wanted to make sure we visit at least one of them from the list right away. We love to visit beaches and were very happy to find that two of the top 5 Best Beaches in Asia were from India - holding the top spot on the list was Radhanagar Beach (Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands), with Agonda Beach (Agonda, South Goa) coming in at the fourth spot.
We found a long weekend in April and decided to hit either of the two beaches. Considering the fact that travelling to Andaman and Nicobar Islands for just a weekend would be futile, we decided upon Agonda Beach - the best beach of mainland India - as our destination. In this blog we pen down our experience during the 4 days' stay in Goa, and a breakdown of the transport costs, in case you want to follow our itinerary. In the next blog of this series, you will find reviews of the property that we stayed at and the restaurants that we ate in.
Day 1: Experiencing Goan Culture, with a magnificent Sunset as the backdrop
We took a direct flight from Kolkata at 11:00am and reached Goa around 2:30pm, which was followed by a 2-hour drive to Agonda beach. We booked Orange Sky Beach Huts at Agonda beach for our 4 day stay. We had asked the property to arrange transport for us so the taxi driver was waiting right outside the arrivals gate. The taxi transfer price quoted to us by our property was Rs. 1,800, but we did not ask whether it was for AC or non-AC as we assumed it must be for AC since we were travelling in the April heat. Well, we realized once we were in the taxi that it was the cost for non-AC and the driver said we would have to pay Rs. 200 more for using AC. It was extremely hot and not possible to bear the heat for a 2-hour drive, so we agreed with the price.
Since the last meal we had was breakfast in the lounge at Kolkata airport (and we were too busy writing our Shantiniketan blogs in the flight and did not grab a bite there as well), we asked our driver to stop at any bakery on the way. We treated ourselves to some Goan delicacies like beef croquettes, chicken vindaloo puff, chicken patties, chocolate rum balls and bebinca. We also bought some drinks on the way, the prices of which were much lower that what we get in our state - no wonder Goa is the drinking capital of India :-).
The drive to Agonda was beautiful. Goa has a small town and old world charm to it, which we absolutely loved. We saw many churches (and graveyards!) every now and then. The old houses looked gorgeous (the abandoned ones looked haunted though!). Once we started entering South Goa, the whole landscape changed. There was so much greenery all around. At one point it looked like we had come to a hill station – our mobile networks were gone and we were driving through a lonely, narrow, hilly road. The drive was scenic and amazing! We reached our hotel around 5:00pm, and were glad to see that our beach front room was really right on the beach, with the sea just some meters away in front of our room!
We checked-in at our hotel and rested for a bit, watching the sunset from the porch of our beachfront cottage. Since we were there on the Good Friday – Easter weekend, we were lucky enough to witness penance being performed on the beach right in front of our room as part of Lent.
We planned to just laze at our hotel that evening and grabbed some snacks and drinks at the in-house restaurant. Roshan, the manager of Orange Sky Beach Huts guided us on how to get around for the various activities that we had planned during our stay - a day trip to North Goa, a boat trip on the sea and a boat trip on Agonda river. Roshan connected us with the driver and the captain, and our next couple of days' itinerary was set.
Not very satisfied with the quality of "fancy food" at the in-house restaurant, we went around looking for a place to have dinner and ended up at Dunhill’s. After a great dinner, we had some drinks sitting on the porch of our room. It was breezy and listening to the ocean was a delight.
Day 2: Checking all the boxes to a "typical" Goa trip
We love our morning walks on the beach so we got up early morning and took a stroll at the completely empty Agonda beach - dipping into the sea occasionally. It was very refreshing and prepped us for the day trip to North Goa that we had planned this day.
We skipped breakfast at the in-house restaurant and had planned to grab it at the popular and most talked about Fatima’s Restaurant of Agonda, but unfortunately, it was closed due to Lent. We decided to grab something on the way and stopped at another quaint bakery soon after entering North Goa and relished on some goodies – patties, croquettes, samosas, burgers, cashew tart, blueberry cheesecake, avocado shake and cold coffee. We were famished and the bakery lady had a great morning sale!
After that scrumptious breakfast, we headed to our first stop – Basilica of Bom Jesus. We were dropped in front of the gate which leads to the Archeological Museum and Church of St. Francis of Assisi. We decided to give the museum a skip and admired the beautiful church of St. Francis before crossing the road over to Basilica of Bom Jesus. The Basilica is gorgeous and a must visit when you’re in Old Goa.
Our next stop, Fontainhas. Since we reached Fontainhas at mid-day, it was extremely hot to walk around, so we decided to grab an authentic Goan lunch at Viva Panjim.
Third stop – Fort Aguada. Climbing a fort at 3:00pm on a hot April day can be exhausting, but the views are worth the climb.
Last stop – Fort Chapora. We were completely exhausted by the time we reached this fort. The climb looked steep from the ground and to add to that misery, the vendors at the starting point of the climb scare you by saying that it’s a half an hour climb and you will probably die if you don’t buy a bottle of water from them! Ha! Didn’t buy anything from them as we got a hint that they were trying to fool us and climbed to the top of the fort in 10 minutes! The view from the top is breathtaking with Vagator beach on one side and Chapora beach on the other. According to us, this fort had better views than Fort Aguada.
After an exhausting day we were too tired to even head out to any other restaurant for dinner and decided to just grab a bite at the in-house restaurant. We just ordered some comfort food this time around and were pleasantly surprised by the quality and taste, when compared to the "fancy food" we ordered here the evening before. It started drizzling so the weather cooled down and we sat on our porch enjoying a few drinks.
Day 3: The Unknown Side of Goa - Dolphin-Spotting & Bird-Watching
We started the day taking a stroll on the beach and a dip in the sea. We grabbed some breakfast at the in-house restaurant and were ready to head out to sea for a boat trip.
We hardly had any expectation of being able to see dolphins so were strolling on even when the captain of our boat asked us to hurry. We ventured deep into the sea and just after about 5 minutes into the trip saw 4-5 dolphins swimming around our boat - one of them even put up a little show for us. We had zero expectations of seeing any dolphin on this trip, so were overwhelmed upon seeing so many of these beautiful creatures.
Next, we told our boat captain to take us to the supposedly ”offbeat” Honeymoon and Butterfly beaches. He first took us near Butterfly beach but the tide was high and the sea was rough so it meant that docking the boat would be difficult. We took the advice of our captain and did not get off the boat. Next up was Honeymoon beach. The sea condition was a bit better here but there were a gang of about a dozen boys who were very loud and abusive, so we did not feel comfortable getting off. Near the Honeymoon beach, our captain pointed us to a rock shaped as a tortoise. We can’t say whether it was natural or man-made but it was an interesting thing to see.
Overall, the dolphin sighting was brilliant but the Honeymoon and Butterfly beaches were disappointing.
We had read about a river trip down the Agonda river on TripAdvisor and asked the captain whether he could take us for that trip. The captain said that his boat does not sail on the river but a smaller boat does. He was very helpful in connecting us to another boatman for the river trip.
After being out in the sea for about 3 hours, we decided to rest a bit, grab lunch and leave for the river trip around 3pm. We grabbed lunch at Rama Restaurant - thankfully the food was amazing as we had to walk about 5 minutes on the burning sand to reach the restaurant through the beach.
After grabbing lunch, we connected with the boatman for the river trip and he asked us to come to the north-end of Agonda Beach, which is where the Agonda river is located. Since we stayed at the south-end of the beach, we walked to St. Anne’s Church and took an auto-rickshaw to reach the spot.
Though it was hot and sunny, we had a great time bird-watching on the river trip. We saw many birds like Kingfisher, Oriental Magpie Robin, Egret, Cormorant, Myna, Brahminy Kite, Sandpiper, Red Wattled Lapwing, Striated Heron, Green Bee-eater, etc. We also saw a mangrove and tiny white crabs. This lesser known portion of Agonda is a birdwatcher’s paradise. We did not know we would enjoy bird-watching so much until we visited this place. Our boatsman/guide was extremely knowledgeable and knew exactly where to locate birds. He had a great eye and showed us around quite well.
After the river boat trip, we were dropped off at the stretch where the river meets the sea. It was a spectacular place and we even saw a few fishermen fishing over there.
Later in the evening, we decided to go to Palolem beach. Rohit, our taxi driver from the previous day dropped us off at Palolem. We did not ask him to wait because there were plenty of taxis available outside Palolem beach. We found Palolem crowded and did not like it much so we grabbed some drinks and snacks at Dropadi before returning back to Agonda. To be honest, we loved the quiet and laidback atmosphere of Agonda beach so much that Palolem did not catch our eye. We might give it a go during daytime next time we’re in South Goa.
We were back to Agonda earlier than expected and luckily, Fatima’s was open so we grabbed dinner there, which we enjoyed a lot.
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Day 4: Leaving Agonda with a Heavy Heart and Dozens of Memories
Last day, we grabbed some breakfast at the in-house restaurant before heading off to the airport. We had asked Rohit to drop us as we shared a good rapport with him. Moreover, he charged us Rs. 1,800 (instead of Rs. 2,000) for an AC taxi, yay!
Transport Costs in Goa:
Taxi between Dabolim Airport and Agonda Beach (to and from, each way):
Rs. 1,800 (non-AC car with driver)
Rs. 2,000 (AC car with driver)
Day Trip from Agonda Beach to North Goa (9:00am to 6:00pm):
Rs. 4,000 (please note that the itinerary was decided by us, we only hired an AC car with driver)
3-hour Boat Trip (Dolphin-spotting, Honeymoon Beach, Butterfly Beach):
Rs. 3,000 (we could have bargained and paid Rs. 2,000, but we were so pleased with their services that we paid what they asked for. The happiness on the captain’s face was priceless)
2-hour Boat Trip (Agonda River and Bird-watching):
Rs. 2,200 (once again, we could have bargained and paid Rs. 2,000, but the boatman had taken the trouble to take us from one bank to the other to capture the photograph of the Kingfisher so we paid him what he asked for)
Taxi between Palolem Beach and Agonda Beach (to and from, each way):
Rs. 400 (AC car with driver)
Did we miss out on any place that we should have visited during this trip?
Do let us know in the comments.
If you are visiting Agonda and need any help booking hotels to stay in, looking for restaurant recommendations, itinerary suggestions or need to get connected to a driver and boat trips, you can get in touch with us and we will help you with the bookings.
The Gear We Used To Take The Photographs You See In This Blog