So you're heading down south in India to Goa, the popular party/hippie destination. It's a beautiful state, India's smallest, that begs to be explored, not just partied away. When we visited Goa in February 2016, we sought to do things besides party. Here are a few suggestions for your trip.
Mackie's Saturday Night Market
It's free, and it's only once a week are reasons enough to go, but don't set your expectations too high, especially if you're a seasoned backpacker.
It's a bit of a spectacle. So, if you're anything like Nick and I you might have more fun people watching than anything else. There's some decent shopping if you need new Goan clothes or souvenirs, or an awesome hammock chair! But the shops and the interactions with the shop owners become repetitive.
And then there's the music and the dancing. We saw an Indian cover band playing American hits from the 70's. When we first arrived, no one was dancing. When we left, the entire dance floor was full of drunk, middle aged Russians and Europeans. #peoplewatching
Visit the Anjuna Wednesday Flea Market
There is a LOT to see at this weekly market. Endless stalls selling everything from leather jackets (it's too hot to even glance in their direction), to tapestries, perfume, barbecued corn, hammocks, and musical instruments. You can find just about anything of interest (and plenty that isn't of interest, like beggars and aggressive shop keepers) at the Anjuna flea market.
Bargain hard, the prices are even more inflated than normal. We went just before closing time, sunset, and got some pretty good deals. One shop keeper followed me down the road lowering and lowering the price of the hammock I was sitting in because he hadn't made a sale all day. His desperation made me sad, and so did the fact that the hammock chair wouldn't fit into our backpacks. Otherwise we would have scored.
If you're not staying in Anjuna, use this opportunity to also explore a little of the town and the beach. It's a neat place.
SCUBA dive in Goa, India
For 5000 rupees you can experience the underwater world in a discover SCUBA course at one of Goa's 8 or so dive shops. We originally chose to go with Barracuda Divers, located in north BAGA, but they were booked for days and referred us to SCUBA Evolution located 20 minutes south in Candolim.
As certified divers, the price of two dives was also 5000 rupees, and we shared the boat trip with four people doing a discover SCUBA dive.
There's only one dive area off Goa: Grande Island, about an hour boat ride from where all the boats launch in Siquim. The main attraction at Grande Island is SS Rita, a 120 meter long ship that sank in 1942 after hitting a nearby rock. Fortunately every passenger but one made it out alive, and now it is serving as a popular dive site.
The average visibility in this area is 5-6 meters. We had about 4 meters on the first dive, and 2-3 on the second dive. And we dove the same spot twice at the advice of the dive guide saying the other spots, only having a max depth of 6 meters, would no longer be good that late in the day.
We appreciated our dives in India, especially having never dove the Arabian Sea. The Discover SCUBA people on our boat loved it. But the lack of good visibility convinced us to leave India with only these two dives.
Float on an innertube in the Arabian Sea
Excellent option for the budget traveller. Many of the beach shops sell inflatables. Pick a day where the water isn't too surge, lather on the sunblock, (grab a Kingfisher beer), and head out for the ultimate relaxation.
Nick and I spent a few hours in front of Sunset Restaurant in Anjuna floating in the perfect water, people watching from a different perspective, and getting too much sun.
Learn to Kitesurf in Goa
This is a bit of a pricier option, and only good if you have more than a few days or you've done some kiting before. The guys at Vaayu in Ashwem beach are awesome! Note: if kitesurfing isn't your thing, they offer surfing and stand up paddle boarding as well.
We got to do the first lesson in their 10 hour course, but the timing of our trip didn't agree with Mother Nature. It wasn't windy enough to complete the course. But what we did gain is a new found passion for a sport we never even considered trying before being in Goa. We finished our course in Koh Phangan. You can see the video here.
Learn to Surf in Goa
The waves aren't too extreme in Goa, so it's a good place for beginners. I took my very first surf lesson from a Bulgarian man named Paval who comes each season to Silent Resort in Ashwem beach. At the time he charged 2300 rupees for one 1-hour lesson. If you do 2 or 3 then they are 1600 rupees each.
I honestly wish I had loved it. But deep down I knew I wouldn't. I mean, I grew up in Southern California and never tried surfing in 36 years. So trying it in India was a huge stretch for me, and got me so far out of my comfort zone it's crazy. I'm glad I did it, and wouldn't trade the experience for anything. And who knows, maybe I'll try it again, but next time with a full SCUBA mask because I'm a wuss.
Stand Up Paddleboard in Goa
Stand up paddle boarding, or SUP, is incredibly popular in Ashwem and Mandrel area due to the peaceful river that runs along the coastline. You can also go out past the waves and get an epic view of Goa. Grab a hat and some sunblock and give it a try. Maybe even try a yoga class on the board. Both are available at Vaayu in Ashwem.
Take a Jewelry Making Class in Goa
Arambol has a great hippy vibe and even better shopping down the main road. It has a handful of shops where they make gorgeous jewelry and also give lessons.
Macrame is the art of tying knots into different patterns. Thin waxy strings are turned into necklaces, earrings, anklets, and bracelets.
Nick and I took two lessons from Netu who owns a shop on the main road in Arambol. We loved it so much we purchased materials to begin making our own jewelry.
The prices are negotiable, but we paid 200 rupees per hour plus the cost of material. The pride to wear the necklaces we made is so fun!
Are you planning a trip to India? Check out the other guides we've written about India.