14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (2023)

This beachy bohemian paradise is something of a wild child as far as the rest of India is concerned. It proudly marches to the beat of its own drum when it comes to its famously laid-back lifestyle. The history of Goa and its sense of identity are unique, too; nearly 500 years of Portuguese and Indian influence rattle around together, maintaining their identity while bringing out the best in one another. It’s a postcard-perfect tropical idyll — all swaying palms, champagne sands and the Arabian Sea’s sapphire waters — but what you do against that backdrop is entirely up to you. One thing’s for certain: whether it’s switching off for a restorative Ayurvedic retreat or switching on for a full-moon party, Goa is a place where you can rewrite the rulebook.

Main photo: Ahilya by the Sea

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14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (1)

1. Coco Shambhala, Bardez

Best for groups
You wouldn’t know you were a stone’s throw from busy Calangute and Candolim; these four ultra-luxe, two-storey treehouses, a few hundred yards away from Coco Beach, feel like a Goan Garden of Eden. Your fellow guests are fiercely private types, but you can catch a glimpse of them — a mix of creatives and discreet financiers — sipping mango daiquiris by the resort’s freeform pool, hidden among acres of jungle. Management will call ahead of your trip to discuss dietary preferences and create entirely bespoke menus; meals are served by butlers in the villas, all of which also have a standalone kitchen (should the urge strike to make your own cuppa.) The best thing? They walk the walk when it comes to sustainability; all labourers involved in constructing the hotel stayed on and trained as operational staff.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price £££

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (2)

2. W Goa, Bardez

Best for parties
Make no mistake, this is Ibiza-meets-India. At Vagator Beach, you’re close to the beer-swilling full moon parties that North Goa has made a name on — but, crucially, not too close. The W brand’s signature aesthetic — loud, unapologetically brash — is tempered somewhat by local bohemian sensibilities: here, Indian modern art hangs against hilltop views of palm, cashew and mango trees. Although the emphasis is on sunshine and good times — even the welcome drink is a beer — it’s the food that truly makes a splash; the salmon tataki truffle pizza at glam pan-Asian restaurant Spice Traders is excellent. Ask for “The King of the World” when booking a table at the glitzy RockPool bar — it’s internal code for the best cabana in the house and comes at no extra cost.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price ££

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (3)

3. Leela Goa, Cavelossim

Best for families
One of the longest-running luxury hotels in Goa, The Leela has made a killing over the years among old-world travellers who rate the opulent Indian hotel group’s sprawling outpost in Cavelossim for its more traditional approach to hospitality. This is the kind of place that encourages its guests to spend their holiday on site: there’s a huge and thoroughly decent spa; four restaurants; two swimming pools; a kids’ club; bars and a separate club space; and countless sports facilities. The 206 rooms are serene and secluded enough to avoid the kind of claustrophobia that can affect visitors at larger resorts. In other words, it’ll go a long way towards keeping the whole family happy.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price £££

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (4)

4. Cinnamon, Agonda

Best for budget
There’s an unassuming charm about this quiet spot in South Goa. While it’s just three minutes’ walk from Agonda beach and the restaurants that line it, it’s the kind of barefoot idyll that manages to make you instantly forget your worries. Here, within a lush tropical garden, sit 19 basic but beautiful cottages— each with its own veranda and bathroom — framing a palm-lined pool. Plus, there’s an outdoor restaurant among the trees, where guests snack on stuffed parathas and masala chai, as well as a spa hut staffed by a phenomenally talented Ayurvedic therapist. The best thing? The four-seat bar, where, if you’re lucky, the genial staff will let you free-pour gin and tonics and cue up your own playlists.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price £

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (5)

5. Ahilya by the Sea, Nerul

Best for couples
Much like exploring a bohemian aunt’s eclectic old house, there’s never a dull day at this chic hillside haven in Nerul. Our favourite of its nine rooms is the tranquil Trindade Suite — which has a cracking view of the sea from the bed — but all of them are stuffed with antiques, indigenous artefacts, crucifixes, hand-carved religious sculptures and abstract art. There’s no restaurant; here, guests dine on hotel grounds from chef-set menus that highlight Goan and Mediterranean specialities, including one of the tastiest prawn curries in the region. Use the daily happy hour to try the boldly named gin that’s distilled nearby — “Better Than London”. Make the most of the resort’s free laundry which, on receipt, actually smells of roses. Also, if you’re an early riser, make sure to look out for dolphins on the horizon.

Spa N
Pool Y
Price ££

6. Alila Diwa, Majorda

Bestfor spa
If a brilliant bar is what swings a hotel decision for you, there are few smarter than Alila Diwa: people flock to this swanky spot over in Majorda for sundowners and small plates at its signature bar, Edge, which overlooks miles of lush paddy fields beyond the resort’s spectacular infinity pool. The vibe here is tropical luxury; think 153 open-plan rooms — dotted around an array of soothing water fixtures, Balinese-style statues and a private path that leads to the beach — each with a balcony, a large bath and lashings of dark wood fittings. Beyond the onsite library and cinema, you’ll want to spend ample time in the huge spa.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price ££

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (6)

7. Cabo Serai, Canaguinim

Bestfor sustainable stays
This gorgeous eco-resort is set on a stretch of near-private beach accessible via electric golf cart and it’s the sort of spot you’ll desperately want to keep to yourself. Its seven rooms, made largely from reclaimed wood and surrounded by lush jungle, are perched 100m above ground — and are so close to the sea you’ll hear the waves crashing from inside. With minimal impact on the surrounding vegetation during construction of the property, an energy-efficient approach to operation (including no fridges in rooms) and a total ban on single-use plastic throughout the property, this joint is as responsible as it is paradisiacal.

Spa Y
Pool N
Price ££

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (7)

8. Anahata, Mandrem

Best for adults
Rather appropriately named after the heart chakra, this glamorously rustic idyll near Ashwem Beach is beloved by the jet-setting bohemian crowd associated with sceney North Goa. But this isn’t the place for full-moon parties. There’s fresh, healthy food at L’Atelier restaurant; every kind of class going, from power yoga to dance and tai chi; and even a great-value Ayurvedic spa. Here, it’s about balance and fostering human connection over an electronic one — whether that happens with cocktails or qigong is entirely down to you.

Spa Y
Pool N
Price £

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (8)

9. SwaSwara, Gokarna

Best for yoga
Yogis, look no further. In exchange for a minimum five-night stay, this gently holistic wellbeing resort — far from the madding Goan crowds, amid 26 lush, clifftop acres — will give you the kind of glow that would turn even Gwyneth Paltrow a kale-toned green. But this isn’t a Western approach to yoga — run by CGH Earth (who run 11 yoga retreats in southern India that focus on the destinations and communities around them), it’s authentically Indian, meaning you’ll come away with the kind of physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation that was intended by the Vedanta (yogic texts). Expect healthy organic food, Ayurvedic therapies, cliffside walks, interactive art sessions and yoga nidra under the shade of the banyan trees.

Spa Y
Pool N
Price £

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (9)

10. Kahani Paradise, Karnataka

Best for foodies
While technically in Karnataka rather than Goa itself, this hillside hideaway is best reached by flying into Dabolim airport. It feels almost ethereal in its tranquillity; here, through an antique door that opens into an open-air oasis with a panoramic infinity pool and six phenomenally chic suites, your immediate neighbours are the monkeys and parakeets that reside in the surrounding palm forest. Meals are either served communally at the enormous Balinese-style table (carved from a single tree), or on your private terrace — and might just be some of the best southern Indian cooking in the country.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price £££

11. Elsewhere, Mandrem

Best for the beach
This low-key, unhurried slice of paradise is literally one of the state’s best-kept secrets; its exact location — somewhere in the northernmost part, in one of Goa’s last remaining remote corners — is only revealed to guests upon booking. A mixture of beautifully decorated Portuguese houses and luxury tents, it’s owned by a fashion designer who is passionate about conserving the land as it was intended; life here, on a champagne-coloured, bewilderingly tranquil stretch of sand, is pure escapism.

Spa Y
Pool N
Price ££

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (10)

12. Taj Exotica, Benaulim

Best for service
Here, in sleepy South Goa, 56 acres of manicured tropical gardens and a nine-hole golf course run alongside sandy Benaulim beach. This is the place to people-watch: families catching up at dressy dinners, glossy Indian girls sneaking glasses of fizz between Ayurvedic treatments and couples ignoring each other at high tea. Beef is a speciality in Goa and happily, one of the best steaks around can be found on property at smart Portuguese outfit, Miguel Arcanjo (although there are five other restaurants to choose from, including a dedicated lobster shack on the beach). Attention to detail is reliably strong — you know what you’re getting with the Taj group — but customer service here is genuinely a masterclass. Our tip? Ditch the resort buggies to walk around the property. You’ll get from A to B in half the time and the waiting around won’t kill your holiday vibe.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price ££

14 of the best hotels in Goa - Times Travel (11)

13. Nilaya Hermitage, Arpora

Best for views
The creation of a fashion stylist in partnership with a local architect, this peaceful retreat sits high on an otherwise uninhabited hillside where the lapis and aquamarine mosaics of the pool shimmer for miles. Such privacy, then, may explain why it’s been frequented by many an A-list model over the years. That, and its shoot-worthy interiors; a mix of Rajasthani jewel tones, Gaudi-esque pillars and Mughal-inspired domes on a backdrop of mango and papaya trees and coconut palms. You can see the sea glittering in the distance, too; if it feels like a world away, it’s because here — up in the gods, where even the closest village, Arpora, feels too much of schlep away — it probably is.

Spa Y
Pool Y
Price ££

14. Vivenda dos Palhaços, Majorda

Best for solo travellers
Off the beaten track in sleepy South Goa, this place is a short stroll from Majorda Beach, the area’s loveliest white sands. Here the vibe is less hotel, more like staying in a pal’s holiday home — alongside four house pets, chatty fellow guests and a 24-hour bar. Nine unique rooms, ranging from an amethyst-hued master suite to a moon-and-stars fantasy tent, are named after the owners’ favourite places in India (ask for the terracotta-toned “Madras”). The food won’t set the world alight, but you’ll find home comforts (anything from chicken nuggets to lobster thermidor) and a decent nightcap. The warm and welcoming atmosphere is a boon for solo travellers; co-owner Charlotte lives five minutes from the house and is on hand for any questions. Just make sure to request supper by 6pm — otherwise there are limited options.

Spa N
Pool N
Price £

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