We’re determined to disprove the assumption that Goa family holidays revolve entirely around the coastal exploits the region’s famous for. Yes, the beaches are sand-strewn playgrounds that come with stunning views. But there’s also a healthy crop of activities inland to help families decide on a cracking list of things to do while they’re in Goa. Forts, flea markets and themed attractions play a big part, but Goa’s nature reserves shouldn’t be overlooked. If we had one overall tip? The spice plantations may have once provided a reasonably fun day out, but time hasn’t been kind. In terms of value for money, the foodie finds across Goa’s restaurants, shops and stalls are far more fun.
You could spend your family holiday flitting between the best beaches in Goa and find something new and exhilarating at every single one. A bold statement, but considering Goa’s coastline comes with forts, dunes, markets, watersports, beachfront seafood shacks, birds of prey, boat trips, yoga and more it’s not an exaggeration. Of course, some bays and beaches are more family friendly than others. The pick of the bunch? Benalim Bay. It somehow combines the best of every niche beach well – without attracting beachgoers in their thousands. For those with little ones who love to dip their tiny toes in the ocean, Ashwem beach has paddle-safe shallows. For older kids who want to ride the waves, Agonda beach is the surf and boogie board stuff of dreams.
Do you want to build a snowman?
Fear not, this isn’t the option to join a rousing sing-a-long of Disney’s Frozen. Snow Park is the imaginatively titled Goa theme park made entirely from … snow. The ice slides, snowball fights, snowmen, sledge and tube rides, ice sculptures and a snow covered dancefloor have all been designed with visitors of all ages in mind. Nothing illustrates this more than the ice bar. Wrap up warm, set the kids loose in the snow and enjoy a tipple straight from an ice glass. We’d say it’s fair to file this one away for emergency use. An interesting gimmick that’ll give you respite from the summer heat, if you’ve packed your hat and gloves that is.
Watch dolphins breach from the beach
Budding marine biologists will no doubt have researched the local cetacean population, long before you’ve booked your Goa family holiday. To keep them, and your holiday budget happy, swing by Betalbatim beach with a pair of binoculars – or two. When the local dolphin pods come close to shore you can see them breach and play right from the sands.
Orbzii tip: Dolphin sightings are common here and, helpfully, local fishermen sell places aboard their boat to take you a little closer to the dolphins. Though, whether they’ll have the necessary life jackets on board is another matter.
What about the water parks?
Not all of Goa’s gorgeous coastline is swim-friendly. Strong currents – and few lifeguards on quieter stretches of sands, may leave you looking for a safer way to enjoy the sunshine. Disappointingly Goa’s water parks are definitely small in scale and could be a little overwhelming for smaller children – especially when the parks get busy. Of the 6 or 7 parks in Goa, perhaps only Froggyland comes close to replicating what you’d expect from a typical waterpark. With that in mind, consider booking accommodation with a swimming pool that can keep waterbabies of all ages happy.
Scamper around Goa's forts
Delve into Goa’s history with a look at the region’s forts. With over 15 locations to choose from – some handily right on the beach, there’s plenty of scope for slotting these into a family day out. Once sites for battles, aristocratic whimsy and defence from invaders, there’s lots to fire up imaginations of all ages. Some are in ruins – hello Betul Fort, and some still stand strong as the day they were built. Sinquerim Fort’s still in pretty good nick and divides up the beach where it once served as a lighthouse.
Feast on new flavours
Not an activity for fussy eaters, admittedly, but Goa family holidays are the ideal chance to try new foods. The lunchtime thali usually comes with a few small curries, rice, chapati and pickles – ideal for those that want to try a bit of everything. If you are travelling with little ones who aren’t quite ready to nibble on spicy foods, Goa’s family friendly restaurants and food shacks cater to all diets. Everything from mild curries to pizza and pasta is available – right on the beach.
Take a seat at the cinema
Rarely would we suggest an hour or two in a cinema, especially somewhere as gorgeously tropical as Goa. But, an air-conditioned cinema with comfy seats, unusual snack options and the whole family occupied for a fraction of the cost of a UK cinema outing? It’s got winner written all over it. Frazzled parents will probably be glad of a nice sit down, and the kids? Well they might be enthralled by the cultural insights Bollywood has to offer. Or, more likely, you’ll be in the queue for the latest family blockbuster. There are four INOX Cinema locations across Goa to rest up in.
Spend some pocket money
Goa’s flea markets, shacks and supermarkets appeal to every age group. Little ones can practice haggling for souvenirs, candy and toys while parents can do the same. Though, you’re more likely to be browsing for a unique, statement piece for the living room, rather than some brightly coloured friendship bracelets. The flea markets in Calangute and Anjuna can get be among the more hectic things to do in Goa – so it’s best to hold hands with little ones who like to stray. For a more casual shopping experience, with less sensory overload, stick to the beach shacks.
Go in search of big cats
Goa’s largest nature reserve deserves a little of your time. There’s the chance – albeit small, to spot some of India’s largest cats, but also to take a little hike, do some birdwatching and generally keep your eyes peeled for a huge number of mammals, insects and reptiles. Tigers have been recorded here, but you’re more likely to see a small Indian civet. In the exotic animal stakes – tick a slender loris, flying fox, panther, sloth bear and the colourful pompadour pigeon off your list and you’ll be doing well.
Sneak in a little STEM action
It’s hard to imagine you’d ever get bored of Goa’s beaches. But if that day comes, consider nipping along to Goa’s Science Centre. Here, they take edu-tainment seriously. Hands on exhibits, 3D shows and work shops all bring science to life. It’s aimed at ages 10-18 – but there’s likely little to wow anyone in the upper age tiers, so think 5-12 and you’re probably nearer the mark. The Planetarium shows will appeal to everyone from 6 months up, so there is, at least, something for everyone. File this one under ‘something to pass the time’ rather than a must see.