Goa has long been a place that has enticed visitors. Latin influences, leftover from more than four centuries of Portuguese rule, pervade the culture, architecture, food, language and lives of everyday Goans. Locals will tell you it’s a place entirely separate from the rest of India–complete with its own mixed heritage that’s part Indian, part European. And, it’s expansive beaches and laid back, hospitable attitude have continued to draw visitors after independence.
In the sixties, it was hippies from America and Britain. Today, it’s everyone, including wealthy Indians from Mumbai and Delhi who have joined the trend of vacationing to Goa. Even celebrities flock to this tiny western Indian state, and where do they stay? At any of Goa’s wonderfully small luxury hotels.
Each hip hideaway has its own personality and taps into a different facet of Goan culture, environment and style. Hidden from the throngs of tourists that flock to Goa’s irresistible beaches, these secret pearls of hospitality are secluded and luxurious. Here are a few of the best boutique hotels where celebrities in Goa stay:
In Sanskrit, Nilaya means “abode in the blue” or simply, heaven. This hotel is a remote getaway with an eclectic mix of style that combines cozy French design, local Rajasthani natural elements and Moorish architecture. This was Goa’s first boutique hotel, opened in the 90s by hotelier Hari Ajwani and his French stylist wife, Claudia Derain. In their early years, they hosted stars as big as Mick Jagger. Today, visitors come to Nilaya to experience nature, wellness and spiritual bliss in a quiet, off-the-beaten path boutique hotel. (from 280 $, 11 rooms)
Pousada tauma translates to “resting place” in Portuguese. Designed by Architect Dean de-Cruz with local laterite stone, this boutique hotel is nestled into its natural surroundings with local colonial style. Lush gardens, open-air spaces and intimate suites surround the tranquil hotel pool, perfect for adult-only getaways to rejuvenate the mind and body. (from 250 $, 13 rooms)
Siolim House is a classically restored Goan Portuguese mansion built in 1675, refurbished in traditional colonial style. In 2001, the hotel–which boasts of being “unlike a hotel in every way”–was a finalist in the Asia Pacific Awards for Restoration by UNESCO and received an Award of Honor. Siolim House maintains its identity as a true heritage house, attracting discerning travelers including super model Kate Moss. (from 70 $, 10 rooms)
Presa di Goa
Edouard Speck from Luxembourg, retired from his job in the hotel industry, runs now his own Boutique Hotel as your friendly host. Designed in refurbished Indo-Portuguese style and furnished with traditional colonial furniture, this hotel is reminiscent of the complex and beautiful Goan history. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop at I95 Restaurant & Bar, which is a short five minute walk from Presa di Goa and is famous for their prime filet steak. Yes, they sell beef in India, but perhaps it’s only possible in the cultural melting pot of Goa. (from 80 $, 11 rooms)
Elsewhere is a dream location right on the beach, cut off from the mainland by a salt water creek where otters and baby sea turtles can often be spotted. Owner Denzel Sequeira restored the four beach houses: The Captain’s house, the Priest’s house, the Bakery and the Piggery. Recent celebrity guests include Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, alias Brangelina, with their children and world renowned author Amitav Ghosh. Location is secret until booking, but we know where it is :-)
(From 800 $ per week, 4 beach houses and 3 otter creek tents)
For travelers ready for a transformational detox, this is the hotel for you. This hip hideaway is home to four of the best yoga teachers in the world. The combination of daily yoga classes, sleeping under canvas tents and the delicious organic food makes it a true escape from the busyness and toxins of everyday life.
(from 150 $, 7 tents and 2 suites)
For more tips and insight into meaningful travel experiences in Goa and other Indian destinations, take a look at one of our favorite guides: Love Travel Guides by Fiona Caulfield.