Goa is India's smallest and most liberated state. It was actually a colony of Portugal up until 1961, and a strong Portuguese influence still remains. Goa's coastline stretches for around 100 kilometers (62 miles) and its beaches have become extremely popular tourist destinations.
However, Goa has much more to offer than just the beach! It’s particularly picturesque during monsoon time from June to September. Nature flourishes, the rain brings refreshment and romance, and Goa takes on a more traditional flavor. Travel to Goa during the monsoon and you'll be able to experience it the local Goan way. Most of the party crowd has gone. Instead, Goa is frequented by Indian families on vacation at this time of year.
What's the Monsoon Like in Goa?
Those who are unfamiliar with the monsoon in India will probably be wondering just how much it rains. The reality is that the monsoon is very unpredictable! It can rain heavily for days and then be dry for days. It does rain frequently though. The power often goes out too. July is the wettest month. The rain eases up a bit in August and September, with shorter downpours and more sunny patches. Here's all you need to know about India's epic monsoon season.
North or South Goa?
Something to be aware of is that Goa's beach shacks are packed up during the monsoon season. As a result, lesser-developed South Goa is virtually deserted. It's better to head to North Goa, which has more permanent structures. You'll find the most action happening on the most developed stretch from Candolim to Baga beaches. Baga, especially, is favored by Indian tourists during the monsoon. Unfortunately, many groups of guys do get drunk and rowdy, and women may feel uncomfortable. Instead, going inland to experience Goa's hinterland and villages is recommended, in places such as Aldona, Saligao or Siolim.
Things to Do During the Monsoon Season in Goa
Goa's wildlife sanctuaries are open all year round. The major ones are Mollem National Park (within Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary) in eastern Goa, and Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary in South Goa near the Karnataka border. Imposing Dudhsagar Falls is located on the fringe of the Mollem National Park. Water rages down from a huge height during the monsoon season but the waterfall is off limits to tourists for safety reasons. Tambdi Sula waterfall in Bhagwan Mahavir Sancturary is an alternative. It requires a steep uphill trek though, which keeps most people away.
You'll definitely need a guide because the trail isn't marked. This is one option for a guided day trip. While there, you can also visit the ancient 12th century Mahadev Temple, believed to be the oldest Hindu temple in Goa.
Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary is a lesser-known place in the Swapnagandha Valley of northeast Goa, near Valpoi. An unusual attraction in this sanctuary during the monsoon season is bio-luminescent fungi called Mycena that glows in the dark. White water rafting, and hiking around Vagheri Hills and Chorla Ghat, are popular things to do. There are quite a few waterfalls in the area, with Vazra Sakla Falls at Chorla Ghat being the biggest.
Trekking to Mynapi and Savri waterfalls in Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, in southeast Goa, is possible during the monsoon. However, canyoning and abseiling around the Upper Sauri region are usually suspended.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, the smallest but most accessible sanctuary in Goa, is ideal for families. It's conveniently situated near Ponda and has nature trails, botanical gardens, an animal rehabilitation center, mini zoo and deer safari park.
The spice plantations around Ponda are also open during the monsoon season in Goa. One of the oldest and most acclaimed is 130-acre Sahakari Spice Farm.
If the sun comes out, you may be able to spot some birds drying off at Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary on Chorao Island in the Mandovi River.
Those who are interested in Goa's heritage can wander around the characterful Fontainhas Latin Quarter in Panjim, visit old restored Portuguese mansions in South Goa, explore Reis Margos Fort, or take a tour of the Goa governor's Raj Bhavan Estate palace in Dona Paula (Friday-Sunday afternoons only).
An electric bike tour is an offbeat way of exploring hidden gems of Goa. The tour is conducted daily by B:Ride in conjunction with Goa Tourism.
The rain won't put too much of a dampener on your sightseeing as the Hop-On-Hop-Off sightseeing bus operates daily all year round too. It's a convenient way of Goa's tourist spots including Old Goa.
However, if it's too wet you can fill in the days by visiting interesting museums such as the Museum of Goa (which brings Goa's history alive through contemporary art) and Goa Chitra (with artifacts dedicated to agriculture and traditional Goan lifestyle).
Thrill-seekers can try bungee jumping, flyboarding or paintball. Trip Raja, based in Calangute, offers all these activities plus many more including water sports and boat trips.
Feeling lucky? Go gambling at one of the offshore casinos in Goa. The casino boats will be packed with Indian tourists and rocking. There's live entertainment at night.
Festivals During the Monsoon Season in Goa
One of the best reasons to visit Goa during the monsoon is the vibrant festivals that take place. The most popular festival, Sao-Joao (the fertility feast of Saint John the Baptist), is celebrated in late June and involves the interesting feat of men jumping into overflowing village wells to retrieve bottles of local feni alcohol. The feast of Saints Peter and Paul, at the end of June, sees people sailing upriver on rafts performing plays and songs. In late August, the carnival-like Bonderam flag festival is held on tiny Divar Island, off the coast from Panjim.
Ganesh Chaturthi is also observed in Goa in August or September.
Where to Stay
Wildernest Nature Resort, one of the best eco resorts in India, offers enticing monsoon season specials. It's an incredible place to stay right in the middle of nature at Chorla Ghat. Cottages start from 5,500 rupees per night for a double including all meals, tax, and activities (such as nature walks and trekking). This is almost 50% less than peak season rates.
Inland, along the backwaters of Goa's hinterland in Aldona, Olaulim Backyards is lush during the monsoon season.
Dudhsagar Plantation Farmstay, one of the top farm stays in India, is not far from Dudhsagar and Tambdi Sula waterfalls. However, the most awesome monsoon activity there is a fish foot spa in the local river. Yes, the fish will come up and nibble your feet!
You'll also find very enticing monsoon rates at most luxury hotels in Goa. Or, check out these irresistible luxury private villas in Goa, villa hotels in Goa, homestays in Goa, and inexpensive places to stay in Goa.
Where to Eat and Drink
Restaurants that aren’t on the beach usually stay open during the monsoon. Lloyd’s in Calangute (after the chapel, on the Candolim Main Road) is the place to be on a stormy monsoon evening. It serves delicious Goan home cooking and is open through the night. The atmosphere is friendly and entertaining, with many people passing by and dropping in. You can also try Britto's on Baga Beach for seafood.
Hugely popular Thalassa is now open throughout the year at its new home, Teso Waterfront in Siolim.
Other popular restaurants that remain open include funky Artjuna garden cafe and lifestyle shop in Anjuna, Cantare in Saligao (it's a tavern with live music), Gunpowder (South Indian cuisine) in Assagao, and Mustard (Bengali-French fusion cuisine) and Morgan's Place (Italian) in Sangolda.
Goa's Latin Quarter has many great restaurants and bars too.
Nightlife During the Monsoon Season in Goa
Goa's famous nightlife is minimal during the monsoon, although the infamous Mambo's and Tito's at Baga beach both rock all year round. Cape Town Cafe, on the same road, is also open. In Candolim, there is hip Cohiba Bar and Kitchen with live music, and Sinq Beach Club and LPK Waterfront with DJs. Bands play retro music on Fridays at the more laid-back Cavala, near Baga Beach. This place caters to an older crowd. Curlies on Anjuna beach stays open during the monsoon season as well, although Anjuna generally wears a deserted look.
Check out the listings on What's Up Goa to see what's on in Goa and when.
Goa is well connected to the rest of India by all types of transport. However, the bus can be slow and uncomfortable (here are the best options though), so try to fly or take the train where possible. Prepaid taxis are available at the airport in Goa.
Trains on the Konkan Railway can cover the distance from Mumbai to Goa in less than 10 hours. Most trains will stop at Margao (Madgaon), which is Goa's main train station. Some, such as the Konkankanya Express, will stop at other stations as well. Here are the best trains from Mumbai to Goa. Do note that a monsoon timetable operates from mid June until the end of October. Trains are forced to reduce their speed for safety reasons during the monsoon, so many are rescheduled to depart earlier than usual to compensate.
You can expect the trip to take at least two or three hours longer than normal.
Should You Visit Goa in the Monsoon?
The reality is that Goa is pretty deserted during the monsoon and a lot of places are closed, so be prepared for that. If you go expecting a beach holiday or parties, you're likely to be disappointed. Instead, make the most of fantastic hotel discounts, delicious food, village life, nature, and interesting Portuguese heritage.