First published by theIndusparent
Are you on the lookout for a family vacay destination that offers plenty of entertainment, yet is also educational for your kids? Then, look no further than that fun state of Goa to head to with your little party animals!
What makes Goa so attractive? Its spectacular golden beaches kissing the palm-fringed coastline of the Arabian Sea, its beautiful churches, temples and magnificent forts, and its delectable local cuisine and sweet-natured people. Weaving all these together is a rich, unique history and culture.
Regardless of season, there is plenty to do in Goa!
Come with us as we guide you through Goa, and tell you about fun-and-learn opportunities that provide uniquely enriching mini-adventures for families.
Important: Choose your season wisely!
When planning your trip to Goa, you have to pay attention to one very important detail: the time of year. Here’s why.
There are two main seasons in Goa: monsoon and tourist season (off-season). Mid-November to late March is the best time to visit Goa (tourist-/ off-season), when the sea is warm and daytime temperatures hover around 30 degrees Celsius.
From April onwards, heat and humidity engulf the fun island as monsoon season thunders in. There is a special beauty in the monsoon season, and if you see it too, we’ve still got you covered in terms of family activities.
Of course during the monsoon period, the beautiful beaches of Goa are not suitable for little ones. But there are plenty of other enriching activities that you can enjoy as a family, as you will find out.
The beaches of Goa beckon!
Tourist season edutainment in Goa with kids
1. Life is a Beach in Goa!
We’re going to let you in on a secret – avoid the more popular, yet over-crowded popular beaches, and head to these three hidden gems that are tucked away from the mad rush of tourists.We’re going to let you in on a secret – avoid the more popular, yet over-crowded popular beaches, and head to these three hidden gems that are tucked away from the mad rush of tourists.
Kakolem or Tiger Beach:
The easiest way to reach Kakolem is by renting a boat to travel to and fro from the Cabo De Rama Beach. Here, parents can lounge on the beach as their little beach bums frolic around. Activate your child’s PLAY system by playing in the sand with them. Continue your family bonding experience by splashing around in the small spring nearby that gushes down a hill and then flows into the sea.
The only way to reach this pretty beach named for the numerous butterflies that flutter by, is by water. Hop on a boat from Agonda or Palolem Beach. Once there (and you’ve run out of beach games to play with the kids!) go on a two-hour trek in the nearby forest. Young wildlife lovers will enjoy this jungle adventure. Remember to encourage them to take notes in a nature journal, which will sharpen their observation skills. We also hear that Butterfly Beach is one of the best places for seeing wild dolphins!
The beach, also known as Turtle Beach, is famous for Olive Ridley Turtles. These marine animals are named for their greenish shell, and are the smallest of all sea turtles. If you visit between December and February, your child might be able to observe the nesting and hatching habits of these turtles! If you are lucky enough to see a turtle, remember not to disturb them, and do not take pictures with your flash on.
You can also pick up some treasures in the many flea markets around, like the one at Anjuna Beach held every Wednesday. Exploring these markets is not just fun, but you’re also teaching your child about the importance of helping the local economy and small businesses. You can also give your kid some money to buy something for themselves, so they get to practice their maths (and bargaining!) skills in the process.
- Help your children stay safe on the beaches while swimming or playing in the sea. Watch for signs of dangerous rip tides, such as a calm patch in rough waters.
- Be careful of fishermen’s rejects. These are discarded from hand fishing nets on the sand, and may be attractive (but dangerous) to curious little ones.
- Never let your kid touch washed-up jelly fish or sea snakes (especially the black and white striped variety). They could be very poisonous!
- Dogs are very common on the beaches in Goa and are generally friendly but there have been cases of biting, especially among toddlers. A rabies injection is necessary in case of a dog bite.
- Mosquitoes pose a great danger to kids—there is a risk of contracting malaria. Always carry a mosquito repellent.
The best time to visit the gorgeous beaches of Goa is between October and January.
The mesmerizing view of the Doodhsagar Falls.
2. Visit lakes, springs or waterfalls
Apart from its popular beaches, Goa is also home to many gorgeous lakes, springs and waterfalls. We recommend visiting the Doodhsagar (sea of milk) Waterfall that gets its name from its foaming milk-like water. It is one of the largest and most popular waterfalls that’s great for exploration in India.
Although it is 80 kilometers away from Goa’s capital Panjim, the breathtaking view this place offers is not to be missed. At 600m from head to foot, it is the second highest waterfall in India (ask your little ones to guess its height!).
The approach to the waterfall is set amidst dramatic scenery. Encourage your children to point out differences between beach and mountain terrain, on your way to the falls. We suggest a jeep ride to the destination, for an unforgettable (albeit bumpy!) ride.
- Visitors are advised to carry their own food and water as shops are not available at the site.
- Parents must carry an extra change of clothes and flotation devices to ensure the safety of their kids.
- Older kids may enjoy dipping in the pool at the base of the waterfalls, with close adult supervision.
Seeing dolphins in the wild is an amazing experience!
3. Enjoy adventurous outings, go bird- and dolphin-watching
If you enjoy adventure sports as a family, you should definitely visit the Mhadei River. Here, you can go on a thrilling whitewater ride set in the stunning surroundings of the Mhadei sanctuary.
Not far from here are the equally exciting destinations of Mayem Lake, Conjuem fort, Arvalem caves and waterfall.
You can also wow your kids by taking them for an amazing boat trip to watch the dolphins. Your children will see these playful marine mammals frolicking in the sea! The trip might take 4-5 hours but it will be an unforgettable family experience! This is probably an adventure best for older children.
Another activity for young wildlife enthusiasts is to take them to see the many species of birds at Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary located on the western tip of the Island of Chorao along the river Mandovi. Your kids might also enjoy the mini zoo in the Bondla wildlife sanctuary, which includes a sprawling deer park.
- When travelling in the great outdoors, always carry insect repellent and use it liberally, especially when heading to areas with water, or the jungle.
- Carry a change of clothes with you as you head to sea to spot dolphins. The sea spray can leave clothes rather damp.
- You also might want to bring a pharmacy-approved motion-sickness medication.
- Advise your little ones to be respectful of animals in their natural habitat.
- Bring binoculars for intrepid little travellers!
A black pepper plantation in Goa.
4. Learn about spices and fruits at the Spice Plantations
Goa’s cuisine is notoriously fiery because of its spices. Spices have been exported from this region for centuries. Goa’s spice plantations of cash crops such as cashews, tropical fruit and areca nuts pull tourists in droves.
Take a guided tour at one of the famous spice plantations in Goa with your kids. A perfect day out for children as well as adults, these spice plantations educate visitors about how coconuts, betel nuts, various spices and fruits are grown. You can also taste them and take in their fragrant scents, adding a sensorial element to the whole experience.
Goa’s food is dominated by spices, seafood and coconut.
Most of these plantations are just an hour’s drive from Goa’s capital Panjim and have their own unique features. For example, Savoi Plantation has a cashew nut factory inside it, while the Pascoal Spice Village is surrounded by the tributary of River Mandovi. At the cashew nut factory you can help your child understand the complete production process of these nuts, from farm to market.
- At some plantations, elephant rides are offered as optional extras. While it might seem glamorous and Instagram-worthy to ride an elephant, be aware as conscious travellers about the ethical implications of this.
- You don’t need to book your tickets in advance for a tour of a plantation; tickets can be bought on arrival.
The monsoon season has its own special beauty.
Monsoon season edutainment activities in Goa with kids
As mentioned earlier, Goa has two main seasons: tourist season (or off-season) and Monsoon season. Here are some activities that could be done throughout the year, including in the monsoon season.
1. Get an insight into the local culture through festivals
Goa celebrates all kinds of festivals, but what takes the cake is the Carnival, its biggest cultural event, which involves thousands of performers. Whatever festival it is, you can walk around cities like Panjim to truly experience the electrifying vibe, and thrilling sights and sounds.
Goa celebrates all kinds of festivals but what takes the cake is the Carnival, its biggest cultural event.
Celebrations such as these provide the perfect opportunity to talk to little ones about culture, traditions and folklore, and also bond with the locals as they participate in the festivities.
- If you are in Goa during Christmas – known to be celebrated with great zeal – try the very coconutty ‘Bebik’. This is delicious pudding made during Christmas that your kids are sure to love!
- During the various carnivals, never let your child wander off alone and always hold their hands. It’s very easy for little ones to get lost in such huge crowds in a split second.
- Keep in mind that young children might get overwhelmed by the intense sights and sounds of these festivities.
- Monitor the Goa Tourism Department’s calendar and plan a trip around a festival.
Goa teems with forts—its red-black forts evoke the memories of its colonial past, especially under the Portuguese rulers.
2. Visit historical places
Goa teems with forts—its red-black forts evoke the memories of its colonial past, especially under the Portuguese rulers. Though most of Goa’s forts have fallen into disrepair, they are still worth a visit, especially if your child is a history or architecture enthusiast. Many of them are within an hour’s drive from Panjim.
The history of the establishment of these forts and architectural influences of European settlers in Goa can be an interesting learning for kids as well as adults. These forts also tell the story of the maritime trade and the importance of spice trade and sea routes in the Colonial era.
Popular forts in Goa includes Corjuem, Chapora, Reis Magos, Rachol, Aguada, Cabo Da Rama, Mormugao and Tiracol.
Each fort has a rich history peppered with details from Goa’s colonial heritage, giving young historians a deep insight to the past. But our favourite is the Aguada Fort which also has a lighthouse nearby (perfect to teach kids about nautical navigating) and houses a jail as well.
Tell your child that ‘Aguada’ means ‘water’. The fort got its name from a freshwater spring located within its walls, where tired sea-farers would quench their thirst.
Other than the forts, Cabo Raj Niwas that is the Governor’s residence, the Arvalem caves, and Stone Age rock carvings at Kajur are also historically important sites.
- Keep curious little hands away from touching museum displays and other artefacts as a sign of respect to their historical significance.
- Before going on your historical adventure, tell your kids stories about the places you will visit. This will make the locations so much more interesting when your little ones actually see them.
- Encourage your children to maintain a log-book of everything they see while out and about.
Panjim’s most distinctive landmark, the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
3. Explore Goan art and architecture
From Goan houses and gigantic forts, to simple temples and beautiful churches, architectural beauty and history are intricately woven through all spaces. Tell your kids to imagine they are architects and ask them to draw a picture of building similar to what they see around them. Ask them if they know how brick walls are designed so they don’t collapse (answer: the center of gravity has to be slap-bang in the middle of the central brick!).
You should also take a walk with your kids to Panjim’s heart, the Church Square (also called the Municipal Gardens) and appreciate the baroque architecture of the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 9am to 1pm and 3.30-6pm; Sun 10.30am to 1pm and 6.15 to 7pm.
North of the Church Square are a set of impressive-looking historical buildings: the Secretariat (Panjim’s oldest surviving building, originally the summer palace of Goa’s 16th century ruler, Adil Shah) and Menezes Braganza Institute—a building with an impressive edifice which is now the town’s central library.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9.30am-1.15pm and 2-5.30pm; free entry.
While traveling in Goa, you should definitely cycle around to explore interesting nooks and corners of a city such as Panjim that you may not see otherwise.
Bicycles can be rented anywhere in Goa.
- Sturdy walking shoes for little ones are a must.
- If you are going on a cycling tour, it’s best you bring a safety helmet for your child with you.
- The pavements might not be stroller-friendly so consider wearing younger kids in a baby-carrier.
Final tips and suggestions for visiting Goa with kids
- October to January is the peak season to visit Goa. However, as of late, tourists are falling in love with the enchanting monsoon season due to the discovery of interesting activities such as those mentioned here.
- Plan your trip in advance and check with the local tourism department if you want to enjoy specific activities that are seasonal or festival-based.
- Book your hotel beforehand and check out options that are kid-friendly such as Holiday Inn Resort® Goa.
- Carry essentials like sunscreen and hats as you will engage in lots of outdoor activities.
- Formula milk, diapers and baby food are easily available at supermarkets in the resorts. However, they are not readily available in areas away from the main towns.
Mums and dads, as you now know, Goa is a tourist’s paradise in the true sense of the word. At the same time, a tour of this sparkling state will certainly transform into your kid’s extended classroom with limitless learning opportunities, from its beaches to the fascinating Goan culture and history.