Hopping beaches, riding rented scooters in your ganjis and shorts, lazying at the shacks with cool beers for company, partying at Club Cubana or Mambo’s, and coming back home with a new tattoo – that’s the quintessential Goa holiday in a nutshell. But when your travel party comprises four generations of a family, in the age group of 70 to 4 years, mainstream Goa adventures don’t quite cut it.
This unusual travel plan compelled us to look for offbeat experiences in Goa for a recent trip and led us to discover that this dainty little state has a lot more to offer than a coastal vibe and a wild party scene.
Based on our explorations, here are my top picks for offbeat experience in Goa for a fulfilling, fun-filled holiday:
Dolphin Spotting has of late become one of most sought-after offbeat experiences in Goa. In North Goa, you can take a dolphin spotting tour from Fort Aguada or Sinquerim. Even Panaji Jetty has quite a few cruise operators offering this service. However, nothing beats the experience of witnessing these exotic creatures in action in the quiet, serene environs of South Goa. If you are staying in this part of the state or even close, picking a Dolphin Spotting tour from the banks of River Sal is highly recommended.
This is a fairly early morning activity, as that’s when the chances of spotting dolphins are the highest. If you really want to savour the experience, do not plan it the morning after a night of partying. The exhilarating boat ride especially at the point when the river meets the sea and you ride over the rides, the picturesque surroundings, and pods of dolphins popping in and out of the water, this offbeat experience in Goa is sure to bring out the child in you.
Cruises and Casinos on River Mandovi
The sun taking a dip beyond the horizon, the sky painted in hues of orange, turning the calm waters of the Mandovi river into liquid gold, gentle breeze soothing your skin…Sounds like the ideal outing? Well, you should certainly add a cruise ride on the Mandovi river to your list of must-explore offbeat experiences in Goa. The Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) operates different cruises from the Panaji Jetty and you can just walk to the decks, buy yourself a ticket on the spot and hop onboard. They also organise musical events, live music performances, folk dances, DJ nights and more to liven up the experience further.
If you really want to take your revelry a notch higher, follow up your cruise ride with a trip to one of the floating casinos by the Panaji Jetty waterfront. Maharaja Casino, Casino Pride and Deltin Royale are your options for a night of playing roulette with some beer and music for company. Don’t go overboard with the money though. It is all about the experience after all. As long as you win some and lose some, it’ll make for a memorable outing.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you’ve got adventure on your mind, look beyond the done-to-death speedboats, parasailing and banana boat rides and give yourself a real adrenaline high with a hot air balloon ride in South Goa. Imagine floating over deep blue waters and lush green landscape, floating at a height of nearly 4,000 feet, taking in a bird’s eye view of one of the most scenic destinations on India’s map. This somewhat recently introduced offbeat experience in Goa makes for a wondrous thrill beyond words. The hot air balloons are navigated by a trained pilot and facilitators authorized by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), so you know you are in safe hands as you check one experience off your bucket list. Hot air balloon rides in Goa are somewhat steeply priced at around Rs 11,000 per person or Rs 21,000 per couple, but the larger-than-life experience is totally worth the splurge.
Big Foot Museum
Want a glimpse of the Goan way of life? Plan a day outing to the Big Foot or Ancestral Goa Museum – a miniature version of a Goan village that recreates that rural way of life in the olden days. This unique destination is the brainchild of artist Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares. A tribute to the complex heritage of Goa, this museum has an assortment of clay mannequins, handmade artefacts depicting state’s traditional occupations such as Feni distillation, sea salt making and culture. The highlight of this destination, however, is the Big Foot – a 14-feet-long rock carving made by the curator Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares as a tribute to Sant Mirabai, single-handedly.
The creation has won many national and international accolades and is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring attractions in all of Goa. This privately run museum has something of interest for people of every age, which makes it an apt place for a day-long outing with your family. From a handicraft centre to a dance floor, restaurant, bird habitat, spice yard, rubber plantations and more and a model village with miniature houses, farms, village markets, Feni distillery and a church, the Big Foot Museum brings every unique aspect of Goan culture and heritage under one roof.
Spice Plantation, Elephants and Butterflies
Spice plantations are a unique offbeat experience in Goa to soak up if you love close-to-nature experiences. Spend your days walking through the fresh plantation of aromatic spices and learn about various farming techniques for growing a healthy crop of different spices. Sahakar Spice Farm and Savoi plantations are the two top destinations for this experience. In addition to unwinding in the midst of raw natural beauty, you also get a chance to hang out with the majestic tuskers. Give one a bath or have it bathe you with a splash of water from its trunk as you enjoy a ride on its back.
On your way back, make a stopover at the Butterfly Conservatory and spend some time in the company of these colourful and vibrant fluttering creatures. You can also feed these delicate beings some juicy fruits and watch them in action as they go about gathering nectar. If you are travelling with kids, you must add this offbeat experience in Goa to your itinerary and watch your little one prance about in gleeful excitement as they watch hundreds of strikingly beautiful butterflies fluttering about.
Have you explored any of these offbeat experiences in Goa? Share your experiences with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.