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I don’t know what I was expecting from Goa but I’m not sure it was Candolim or Baga Beach.
After booking a last minute winter getaway with TUI to India I found myself pleasantly surprised with what was soon to be my first Indian adventure.
We flew from Manchester to Goa and travelled to Candolim Beach, the British-loving resort located on the North Goan Coastline.
After the first few hours, a paneer butter masala and a large Kingfisher I was already sold on India. From this point, I knew my love affair with India had just begun.
Here’s my Goa travel guide featuring North and South Goa and recommendations of things to do in Candolim and Baga Beach.
Goa Travel Guide
Goa with TUI
I booked India with a friend through the tour operator TUI extremely last minute. The deal was good and for £500 we’d spend 8 days in India and I was quietly confident the trip would be a budget one.
I hadn’t actually fully decided I’d be going to India until about an hour before booking. After Mexico and Belize earlier in the year I was sure my work trip to New York would be the last of my 2019 trips.
Anyway, I booked India as I do and my trip to Goa with TUI would become my second experience of ‘holidaying’ with TUI after a trip to Playa Matapalo in Costa Rica.
Overall, I like travelling with TUI, but on the whole I kinda dislike tour operator travel as someone who prefers to travel more independently.
You’ll find the state of Goa located on the west coast of India on the Arabian Sea. Goa is actually India’s smallest state, which when you look on a map of India is quite obvious.
Compared to the rest of India, Goa is regarded as a more wealthy state for numerous reasons including its links with Portugal after the colonisation of India and tourism.
Goa was a Portuguese territory for almost 500 years, until it won independence in the 1960’s.
Since then, Goa has become an extremely popular holiday destination for Europeans (mostly Brits and Russians) as bodes year round great weather and the most welcoming of atmospheres.
Map of Goa in India
In terms of holidaying to Goa, most people refer to visiting either North Goa or South Goa – rather than the smaller resorts in each area.
As mentioned above, we did Goa with TUI and Candolim is one of TUI’s top Goa resorts.
We’d be staying in Candolim, which is located in North Goa. Candolim is possibly one of the most popular destinations in the North Goa region.
Candolim Beach, as most tour operators refer to it popular due to its prime location between Calanguate and Panaji formerly Panjim.
Candolim Goa Weather
The weather in Candolim is mostly always warm. There are three main seasons in Goa one of which being monsoon season due to the states location on the Arabian Sea.
The climate in Goa is mostly hot and humid with May being the hottest month to visit.
From June to September you can expect the peak tropical monsoon season. However, a lot of tourists choose to spend ‘post-monsoon’ season (European winter) in Goa.
During my time in India, the Candolim Goa weather was mostly hot with some overcast days and not as humid as I had anticipated. I visited in December which is the post-monsoon season.
Candolim Goa Hotels
There are a lot of hotels in Candolim and a lot of rental properties for people staying for longer than a traditional holiday.
Most accommodations are basic, however you can find a Novotel, DoubleTree by Hilton and other well known hotel brands in Candolim and Calangute which if further north.
Personally speaking, and in all due respect, I was happy to stay somewhere more authentic and down to earth given where I was.
Silver Sands Holiday Village, Candolim
We stayed in the Silver Sands Holiday Village in Candolim, booked through TUI as part of our package.
The hotel is one of the oldest and nicest buildings in Candolim. The hotel has a welcoming reception, clean large pool and spacious rooms. Facilities at the hotel also include a bar (Chicago) and restaurant.
From my experience, the staff and service were incredible. I have never felt more welcomed by a friendlier group of people in my life.
I’d 100% recommend the Silver Sands Holiday Village to anyone heading to Candolim. It’s also one of the closest hotels to the beach too, just off the main road.
There is another hotel named Silver Sands Sunshine Hotel in Candolim, not to be confused with Holiday Village, although I suspect it is just as nice.
Things to do in Candolim
I was shocked at how much there is to do in Candolim. From your traditional water sports and beach bars to traditional touristy tours of the region.
There’s also a stack loads of non-traditional things to do in Candolim too – like get plastic surgery, a tattoo or a new set of teeth. Although tempted, this wasn’t for me.
Some of the best things to do in Candolim Goa include;
- Watching the sunset at the beach. I’m a lover of sunsets, so you’d catch me here every single night. Grab a seat on the sand and a large Kingfisher and enjoy the amazing Arabian sunsets.
- Check out some of the water sports on the beach, whether you want to parasail or go on a banana boat you’ll be spoilt for choice on Candolim beach.
- Get to know the locals on Candolim beach. The beach is packed with locals all working hard to ensure the beach is clean, tidy and mostly to keep the tourists happy. Spend some time chatting to the locals and getting to know a little about Goan culture.
- Shack crawl. Not the most cultured of things to do in Candolim but why not do a shack crawl? With so many beach shacks on the sand and so many people to chat to why not spend the afternoon checking out all the amazing shacks up the beach. The best shack is Sugar Shack – don’t forget to try it out!
- Check out the other beaches up the coast. Anjuna Beach as a personal favourite of mine and although not something to do specifically in Candolim, it’s one of the highly recommended things to do in North Goa.
- Go shopping. Why not go shopping for some gifts or crafts? There are a lot of tacky souvenir shops in Candolim, but among them you’ll find some amazing woodcraft and jewellery shops.
- Alongside the regular shopping visiting Anjuna Market is rated one of the top things to do in Candolim. The night market is on a Wednesday and runs through the main tourist season.
- Head into Calangute, it’s hectic and looks a bit daunting from the outside, but once you get used to the cows, traffic and smells you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the mismatch of culture, history and tourism in one place.
- Check out the nightlife. You can stay local or head to Calangute or Baga Beach two of the popular nightlife spots in town.
- This one is a no brainer, but whilst in Candolim you really need to indulge and enjoy the delicious food on offer and check out some local treats.
All of the top rated things to do in Candolim should feature in any Goa travel guide.
Goan food in Candolim
Okay, I love Indian food so much and no Goa travel guide would be right without a mention of the amazing cuisine on offer. The thought of paneer right now is actually making me hungry.
If there is only one thing you do when in Candolim it’s try some of the traditional food and curries on offer.
Traditional Goan fish curries can be found everywhere from the beach shacks to the more up-market restaurants. You can find a mix of veggie and non-veggie options at all restaurants too.
All breads are cooked fresh in front of you as all restaurants have a tandoori oven and the rice is always plentiful. All curries are to be washed down with a large Kingfisher, I don’t make the rules!
Some of our favourite and highly recommended restaurants in Candolim were;
- The Mango Grove
- Angaara – attached to the Silver Sands Sunshine I mentioned earlier
I should probably mention, after hearing so many horror stories about getting ill whilst in India I was pretty nervous before my trip. However, everywhere we ate was exceptionally clean and the food was truly delicious. I didn’t get ill once so don’t always believe the horror stories.
Eating local food should be top of your list of things to do in Candolim, no excuses.
Cost of eating in Goa
Generally eating is one of the cheaper things in India, from small local restaurants that charge 200 rupees a course to more touristy restaurants where you can expect a feast for under 1500 rupees.
For the most part, we’d order a 2x curries, 1x rice, 2x breads or sides and drinks and our bills were usually between 1000-1300 rupees. Which I suspect is quite high vs. the rest of India and less touristy places.
If you are travelling on a budget then you can certainly keep your costs down by eating at traditional restaurants. Veggie options are always less pricey and usually just as delicious.
As mentioned earlier and quite obviously Candolim Beach is where I spent most of my time in Goa. If you know me, you know I’m a much better person when I can feel sea and sand on my toes.
The beach in Candolim is quite clean, but can be loud and busy. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle you can easily walk 10-20 minutes down the beach to find a more peaceful spot.
Don’t be alarmed when you arrive at the beach and EVERYONE wants to get you the best sun lounger. Generally, all the people working on the beach are super friendly and just want to make sure you are enjoying your time in India.
Once over, when I was budget travelling for 6 months – the amount of sellers etc would have irritated me, but maybe on a shorter trip and less of a tight budget I have more perspective.
In terms of safety, I’d always be cautious of theft on any beach although I never experienced anything during my time on Candolim beach. The beach does have lifeguards but the waves are heavy and there are a lot of currents and rip tides.
We did see a man get into some trouble swimming out of his depth on Candolim beach to be extra careful – even if you are a dolphin.
Baga Beach Goa
15 minutes from Candolim you’ll find the town of Baga Beach. Baga Beach Goa is the central nightlife hub and party town. Baga is infamous for its late nights and loud music.
As one of the recommended things to do in Candolim (and because I’m a party gal) we took the 15 minute tax ride to Baga Beach on not one, but two occasions to check out the scene.
Don’t expect to pay much in taxi fares between Candolim and Baga, usually the drivers set the rate but anything around 600-700 rupees is the normal tourist price.
Baga Beach Goa Nightlife
Baga Beach is fun. If you like wild nights out in hectic countries then you should definitely check it out.
There are a lot of bars and restaurants in Baga, some of which are way more relaxed than others. The main ‘strip’ in Baga is a street called Tito’s home to Tito’s bar, which you’ll probably see advertised everywhere in North Goa.
If you are looking for a fun time, check out Cape Town you can grab a drink and some food here and they also play Premier League football which is usually on late-late in India given the time difference.
Goa Travel Guide: North & South Goa
So as mentioned the one thing to take note of, is that Goa is technically split into two. North Goa and South Goa.
North Goa is home to most of the ‘resorts’ whereas South Goa is more authentic and home to smaller accommodation for tourists with no large hotels.
Most people and all Goa travel guides will tell you South Goa is nicer and less touristy. But if you have time why not see both?
You can easily travel between North and South Goa. And when I say easily, I mean easily but with the slight risk of being involved in a mid-speed collision.
Road safety in Goa
The roads and traffic in Goa and probably India in general are rough. I’ve experienced Colombia traffic but that has nothing on India.
This wouldn’t be an accurate Goa travel guide without the warning, so prepare yourself to witness a thing or two and be on the edge of your seat during any long distance car journies in India.
South Goa Tours from Candolim
You can book a South Goa tour from Candolim, Calanguate or Baga Beach.
Most hotels, tourist information centres and tour operators offer South Goa tours. Tours vary in both price and quality so shop around to find the one to suit you.
We booked our South Goa tour with Goa Green our guide Charlie was incredible. The tour was fun and literally packed with information we wouldn’t have gotten from anyone but a local.
Our tour group was small with only 3 people, our guide Charlie and our driver. This made the tour a lot better as we were able to ask loads of questions and get to know a bit more than we would have if we were in a bigger group.
South Goa Tour with Goa Green
Our South Goa tour from Candolim consisted of the following;
- Margao market to look at a local fruit and fish market.
- A tour through local villages from Margao down to South Goa.
- Traditional Goan rope making, where we were able to help and check out the traditional Goan way of making rope from coconut husk.
- A palm feni distillery in a local property, where we were able to check out the entire palm feni process from start to finish and try some palm feni.
- Holy Cross Chapel Baradi and it is amazing view point.
- Cabo-de-Rama Fort and view point – catch some dolphins swimming in the bay.
- Agonda beach – which is so chilled.
I thought the tour was brilliant, the 3 of us got to see some great sights and I genuinely learnt a lot about North and South Goa on the tour.
If you only have a week or so in Goa, I’d recommend this tour or the Old Goa tour. I suspect a lot of future Goa travel guides will feature Goa Green as they were fab with us!
We booked out trip to Goa with TUI who also offer loads of specialist tours for anyone booking through them.
As mentioned above, the final stop on our South Goa tour would see us at the quirky, hippy beach resort of Agonda.
I fell in love with Agonda Beach almost instantly. It’s much quieter and calmer than Candolim, during my time on the chilled sands I only regretted not visited sooner.
The waters in Agonda are much smoother than the waves of Candolim. Some of the beach at Agonda sits in a small and silent bay, meaning the waves break much further out and a it’s safe enough to swim.
The beach of Agonda is sprinkled with tree top properties and hippy hostels, meaning the quiet town attracts a certain type of crowd. The main street is packed with vegan, veggie and some Russian and Israeli menus catering to Agondas clientele.
If you are looking for recommendations of places to see in South Goa then be sure to check out Agonda, no Goa travel guide is complete without a mention of the hippy hub.
Frequently asked questions
As mentioned, Candolim is fun and safe with lots of things to do. Agonda in South Goa is much more chilled and Anjuna beach is also a great place to stay in Goa.
However, where you should stay in Goa all depends on what you want. South Goa is less touristy but North Goa has most of the resorts.
It depends on what you want. If you like resorts and want to be around the comfort of lots of other tourists then North Goa is probably more for you. If you want a more authentic India experience then try South Goa where there are no big resorts.
Well, isn’t that the million dollar question. The journey should take approximately 2 hours. However, the traffic in India is very unpredictable so let’s just say you’ll get there when you get there.
Always set off early in India.
Monsoon season in Goa runs from June to September, the following season is classed as post-Monsoon season in Goa.