“ Location: South Goa „
In January this year I went to Goa for a week with a friend. We knew we wanted to stay somewhere quiet as neither of us is interested in night life. After a lot of research we settled on H2O Agonda. We loved the look of the substantial beach huts just metres from the sea. We were also convinced by the positive comments we read on Trip Advisor.
Getting to Goa.
After much price checking we parted with just over £600 each for our return flights to Dabolim with Monarch air flying from Manchester. The flight takes around 10 hours. If you book with a budget airline as we did I would advise you to book and pay for an extra leg room seat! The airline is question is another review!
At the time of our booking we also requested that H2O collect us from the airport and agreed a price. I even phoned the day before we left to ensure this was in hand. However on our arrival there was no sight of anyone from H2O. A phone call established that we had been forgotten *so sorry *. This meant we needed to find a local taxi. This was easy as there were dozens of taxis trying to get us into their cabs! We agreed a price (£30) and climbed into the back. If you have never been to India then you are in for a culture shock! The Taxi had no seat belts and we were told they were not needed! The standard of driving leaves a lot to be desired! To say it was a one and a half hour white knuckle ride would be an understatement! I have never been so scared! After several near misses with cows, scoters and large trucks I asked the driver to slow down! In fact I insisted saying we would not be giving any tip if he continued! He seemed surprised but it seemed to work. The journey took us past humbling sights of people living under tarpaulins at the side of the road and real poverty at every turn. The sides of the roads were knee deep in rotting rubbish and stray dogs scavenged for food. There were also several dead dogs; obviously they had been hit by cars. This is how it is in India! When we booked our return taxi, I ensured I talked to the driver and told him we wanted him to drive slowly and no overtaking! I also promised a large tip! This worked!
We both arrived feeling tired, hot and stressed. However the beauty of the place blew us away! Compared with the sights we had just experienced Agonda beach was heaven! The main street is little more than a dirt road that runs parallel with the beach. It is lined with covered stalls selling all manor of tourist goods. However the place still retains the feel of a genuine fishing village. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants most with seating on the beach. There are also a couple of basic shops selling food and fruit plus an off licence. About half way along the main street is a large church and school. As someone who enjoys shopping I knew I would be spending several happy hours walking along the street.
The reception desk is just beyond the parking area and the staff were welcoming if a little inefficient! Our booking was found and we walked along through the open bar area onto the beach. Our hut was just passed the bar. There are both beach huts and garden huts available. We opted for a beach hut as we wanted a view and also thought the cooling sea breeze would be good! We paid 7,000 rupees per night in January (about £80) This is very expensive for India but as the cost was shared by 2 of us it was affordable. The cost does go down later in the season as January is the best time to visit.
The hut is access via a few wooded steps that lead to a private veranda with sofa seating. There was a low table on the veranda. The view of the sea was stunning! Inside the hut is a large bedroom area with double bed, bedside lights and a couple of tables. There were two bottles of water and these were replaced every day. There is a ceiling fan; although we didn't need it was never too hot at night. There is also a mosquito net over the bed but again we didn't need it.
Beyond the bedroom is a dressing area with hanging space (no hangers though) There is space for suitcases and a lockable safe. Another steeper set of wooden stairs leads down to the very large open air bathroom. The bathroom has a shower, loo and hand basin. There is also some useful storage. I loved being able to take a shower and look up at the amazing stars above me! The main sleeping area has doors that can be pushed right open giving a wonderful view of the sea as you lie on the bed! In the evening it was lovely to sit on out private veranda sipping a cocktail and watching the beautiful sunsets! I had packed lots of insect repellent, but we were pleasantly surprised at how few mosquitoes there were! The staff also provided us with mosquito coils to burn.
The main front door can be secured with a padlock (key provided).We always locked the door when we were not in the hut although Agonda feels like a very safe place to stay. The hut was cleaned every day and we were given clean sheets and towels.
Agonda beach is still unspoilt and when we were there in January there were few tourists. The beach is 3 Km long and backed by palm trees. There are fishing boats along the beach and some local fishermen offer boat trips to see the local dolphins. We took a trip on one of these traditional boats and saw several Dolphins. We were also taken to a few secluded beaches along the coast. The trip was really enjoyable and cost around £20 for several hours. I really enjoyed walking along the beach in the early morning before it got too hot!
There are several establishments along the beach all offering accommodation. There are also lots of places to eat and grab a cool drink. H2O provide covered sun loungers for guest and these were really comfortable with thick padded cushions. Sitting on a sun bed and sipping a cool drink really is the way to go!
The beach also has a large population of dogs; both stray and pets. The dogs all appear fairly well fed (thanks to the local restaurants) and were never any problem. During the heat of the day they all seemed to disappear to sleep! There are also lots of cows roaming the beach, adding to the character. The beach is kept clean by local women who sweep the sand every morning with branches.
We were approached by beggars most days on the beach although they were never aggressive. It is sad to see young children looking ragged and thin whilst we in the West live relatively pampered lives. I think it is a good idea to take a few sweets to give to the children.
The Arabian Sea is not the idea place to swim! The sea here is always rough with lots of surf. There are life guard patrolling the beach every day, but this is not a great place for children or weak swimmers! There are also strong currents to contend with. However the sea was really warm and if you could manage to avoid being knocked off your feet by the waves, it is lovely to be able cool off! There were several people attempting to surf and a body board would have been fun! These are available to buy in the town.
I really enjoyed lying in the shade reading my book and sipping a cool drink! Just remember to pack lots of sun cream!
Before we left home, I had been worried that I would get ill in India. However Goa is very used to Western stomachs and I was fine! In fact I tasted the best curries I have ever eaten and all for just a few pounds! There are several good places to eat along the beach and the hardest part was deciding where to eat each day. H2O serves food all day and we ate breakfast and lunch there on a few occasions. The breakfast menu included things such as porridge with fruit (delicious and creamy) pancakes and eggs. You can also eat curry for every meal if you want to! The lunch menu included fish, sandwiches and salads. The prices were low when compared to this country, although H2o is very expensive when compared to its rivals along the beach. The service is slow, but then you are in India where things often do not run smoothly!
We opted to eat most of our meals away from H2o as there were cheaper places with better food on offer. I loved the variety of curries and the fresh fish. Meals averaged about £2 each. There was always beer on offer and this too was really cheap! I would particularly recommend eating at Simrose's where there is live music on a Friday. Most places serve gorgeous cocktails and sipping one of these whilst watching the spectacular sunsets was real joy!
If you tire of doing nothing but soaking in the sea views, then there are lots of trips you could take from Agonda,. I recommend you don't book any trip through H2O but walk along the main street and find negotiate a price with a local taxi driver; you will get a much better deal and be able to see what you want! We visited Dudhsagar water falls (see separate review) and had a wonderful day. We also paid just a few pounds for the 10KM ride to Palolem in a tuk tuk. Palolem is far more touristy than Agonda and also more expensive.
If you want to venture further then there is a bus and rail station in Canacona about a 20 minute drive away.
The season in Agonda runs from October until March with June until August being monsoon season when the huts are all taken down for the season. It is recommended that you take malaria tablets but that is a decision for you!
H2o also offers various treatments and I opted for a neck and head massage. This was very relaxing and I loved the oils that were used. I think I paid about £20 for an hour.
The beach huts may not be suitable if you have a disability due to the steep steps.
In India there are often power cuts and water shortages. Goa is no different! We experienced several powercuts every day but luckily they didn't last long! At times there was no hot water or any water at all! Again this was soon resolved!
Finally a word on tipping. We found all the staff at H2o really friendly and helpful. They earn very little and really do rely on tips! Tipping also seemed to ensure we received great service! I would defiantly return to this H2O and would love to take my children!