Goa in the Monsoon Season: Essential Vistor's Guide

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••• Goa in the monsoon season. Karan Kapoor/Getty Images

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 especially beautiful during monsoon time from June to September, when 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 popular with Indian families on vacation at this time of year.

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 particularly deserted. It's better to head to north Goa, which has more permanent structures. You'll find the most action happening from Candolim to Baga beaches. Baga, especially, is favored by domestic tourists during the monsoon. Unfortunately, some groups of Indian guys do get drunk and rowdy, and women may feel uncomfortable. Instead, consider going inland to experience Goa's hinterland and villages in places such as Aldona, Saligao or Siolim.

Attractions During the Monsoon Season

Goa's picturesque wildlife sanctuaries are open all year round.

The major ones are Mollem National Park and Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. They are harder to reach than Bondla, the smallest and most accessible sanctuary in Goa, though. As well as nature trails, Bondla has a mini zoo and deer safari park, which is great for kids. The imposing Dudhsagar Falls, located on the fringe of the Mollem National Park, is at its best during the monsoon as the water rages down from a huge height.

The acclaimed spice plantations around Ponda are another popular place to visit during the monsoon in Goa. An evening boat cruise up the Mandovi River from Panjim is enjoyable, and Goa’s historic character-filled buildings provide much interest. You can wander around the Fontainhas Latin Quarter and soak up the atmosphere or visit old restored Portuguese mansions. The monsoon season is also the perfect time for white water rafting in Goa!

Festivals During the Monsoon Season

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 up river 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.

Where to Stay

The Wildernest Nature Resort offers enticing monsoon season specials, and it’s an incredible place to stay right among nature. Cottages start from 5,500 rupees per night for a double, including all meals, tax, and activities such as nature walks, eco tours and trekking. This is almost 50% less than peak season rates. You'll also find very enticing monsoon rates at most luxury hotels in Goa.

Where to Eat

Restaurants that aren’t located 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.

Other popular restaurants that remain open include Cantare in Saligao, Gunpowder (south Indian cuisine) in Assagao, and Mustard (Bengali-French fusion cuisine) in Sangolda.

Nightlife During the Monsoon Season

Goa's renowned nightlife is minimal during the monsoon, however 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. The bar at The Park Hotel in Calangute is a hip bar with regular DJs. In Candolim, there is Sinq Beach Club and LPK Waterfront. Live musicians can be heard 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. You may also want to try your luck at one of Goa's Top Casinos.

Getting There

Goa is well connected to the rest of India by all types of transport. However, the bus can be slow and uncomfortable, so try to fly or take the train where possible.

Trains on the Konkan Railway can cover the distance from Mumbai to Goa in less than 10 hours, with the best train being the Konkankanya Express. 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.

Should You Visit Goa in the Monsoon?

The reality is that Goa is pretty deserted during the monsoon, so be prepared for that. However, if you go expecting a beach holiday, you're likely to be disappointed. Instead, make the most of fantastic hotel discounts, delicious food, village life, and interesting Portuguese heritage.