The shacks that line Anjuna beach have a chilled ambience, serving Kingfisher beer, cocktails, and platters of fresh fish, while at night DJs play EDM and Psy-trance music to energize the young backpackers, yogaphiles and digital nomads who now congregate here during peak tourist season (November – March). Curlies Beach Shack and Shiva Valley are popular party spots. With old-fashioned deckchairs and sunbleached vintage furniture facing the ocean, Eva Café is a more cultivated bohemian choice. Full of quirky, Instagram-worthy details including old Jack Daniels bottles re-appropriated
as drinks menus, it’s ideal for morning coffee, a healthy vegan lunch, or fabulous sunset cocktails.
The authorities have begun cracking down on the infamous full moon rave parties that take place on this and other beaches. Trance groupies may instead wish to head to Hill Top nightclub. Located inland from Ozran Beach in neighboring Vagator, this neon palm grove of glow-in-the-dark coconut trees and psychedelic art was founded in 1983. Despite now having to maintain a strict 10 P.M. curfew, its weekly Sunday parties are legendary. Look out for special raves such as Christmas and New Years as these last a mind-bending 24 hours and attract thousands of international party people, backpackers, and old school hippies.
At their heart, Anjuna and Vagator are still little more than sleepy villages, comprising a handful of old Portuguese colonial houses, ramshackle shacks, paddy fields, and free-roaming cows, but both provide a diverse range of accommodation, bars, and restaurants scattered intermittently within their environs.
Rustic and holistic, Artjuna is an alternative lifestyle hub with a garden café serving fresh and healthy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, plus a store selling handmade leather bags, artesian jewelry, local fashion, art, and handicrafts. Shaded by mango and frangipani trees, there’s also a kid’s playground and an events/workshop space for everything from
yoga classes to outdoor film screenings.
A casual burger joint with upcycled décor in the heart of Anjuna, Burger Factory is a carnivorous favorite (there are delicious veggie burgers too). Overlooking Vagator Beach is a Goan outpost of Mumbai favourite, Olive Bar & Kitchen. For southern Indian food cooked with fiery flair, including prawn masala and Keralan Syrian-Christian beef curry, head farther
inland to Gunpowder, named one of the best in India in the Condé Nast Traveler Top Restaurant Awards 2018.
Much of the accommodations here are simple, inexpensive, and aimed at the backpacker market, although there are some good mid-price options including Casa Anjuna, an old Portuguese colonial villa that’s now a 3-star boutique B&B with swimming pool and tropical gardens. Its sister property, Casa Vagator provides a more contemporary boutique hotel ambience from its clifftop vantage point above Ozran Beach.
But there’s now a new contender, attracting a whole new tribe of global nomads to this corner of India, a tribe more likely to travel first class than follow any hippie trail. The 50th W hotel, and the brand’s first property in India, W Goa opened its doors by Vagator Beach in 2017. Set against a backdrop of the 500-year old Chapora Fort, this new resort is a beachside playground for Bollywood stars and style-savvy travelers. Although luxury hotels do exist along Goa’s coastline, they’re typically reserved and classic 5-star properties such as the Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa. By contrast, W Goa is a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, playful modern design, and a focus on upscale fun.
W Goa’s enormous front doors stand eternally open, and are adorned with lunar-inspired artworks by Goan artist Subodh Kerkar, referencing Goa’s full moon party culture. Those doors lead to a wealth of amenities and indulgencies, including a subterranean Clarins spa, fine dining Pan Asian restaurant Spice Traders, and a total of 160 guestrooms including luxury
chalets and villas. It’s also home to Goa’s newest and hottest party destination, Rock Pool. This open-air venue occupies a stunning clifftop spot, so it’s perfectly positioned for chilled sunset parties. Just remember to take your swimsuit so you can make a splash in the rock pool itself!
With India now flying the rainbow flag, what better time than the present to make a splash and explore India?