Goa is the most family-friendly state in India. What could be better than taking the kids to the beach every day? Goa excels as a holiday destination on many fronts: its short travel distances, wide range of foods, reliable climate, and range of activities for kids…even away from the beach.
Best Regions for Kids
Goa's beaches are all a little different in character and some are more family-friendly than others.
The calm, shallow waters in this crescent bay are the safest for swimming in all of Goa and the beach is clean. You can also hire kayaks, boogie boards and stand-up paddleboards, or go on a sunset boat trip.
Good paddling on calm days, Patnem has fewer people than Palolem and a more relaxed vibe, as well as Goa's best drop-in kindergartens and a school.
- Baga & Calangute
Goa's busiest beach strip has lots of bucket-and-spade vendors, water sports and plenty of other children to make friends with.
There are shallow seas popular with long-stayers, safe swimming in Sweetwater Lake and paragliding from the hilltop.
- Mandrem & Aswem
Lovely white-sand beaches with few hawkers, sophisticated hut accommodation and a surf shop.
Goa for Kids
Though India’s sensory overload may at first prove overwhelming for younger kids, the colours, scents, sights and sounds of Goa more than compensate by setting young imaginations ablaze. With a little planning and an open mind, travelling with children will open up a whole new world for you too.
Goa's beaches are excellent for playing in the sand with a bucket and spade, and for paddling and water sports, though strong currents make swimming at most beaches risky, even for adults. Beaches are patrolled but children may feel safer swimming at a hotel pool or water park.
At the busiest beaches you'll be surprised by how many kids and families are around – mostly Indian families holidaying from outside Goa. Foreign children, especially fair-haired ones, can be quite a novel attraction. Don't be surprised if groups of people ask to pose for photographs with your child. Generally it's good-natured attention but if it gets too much, offer a polite 'no'.
Away from the beach kids should enjoy boat trips on calm local rivers, trips to spice farms and wildlife sanctuaries, shopping at markets or a day at the movies.
Feeding even the fussiest children in Goa is possible with standard traveller menus of toast, pancakes, pizzas, porridge, spaghetti and falafel.
Local foods, always with some spice, will appeal to the slightly more adventurous child: the South Indian dosa (a paper-thin lentil-flour pancake), chapatis and plain rice are a good start, while mango or banana lassis (yoghurt drinks) beat milkshakes. Paneer (unfermented cheese), mild dhals (soupy lentil curries), buttered naans (tandoori breads), pilaus (rice dishes) and Tibetan momos (steamed or fried dumplings) are all firm favourites.
Most salads these days are washed in filtered or bottled water, but it pays to check, and avoid ice in drinks and shakes if in doubt.
Throughout Goa, it is almost always easy to track down a doctor at short notice (most hotels will be able to recommend one), and prescriptions are quickly and cheaply filled over the counter at numerous pharmacies.
Heat rash is common – if not inevitable – in Goa’s warmer months, while conjunctivitis spreads like wildfire in October, and impetigo is rather rampant in April. All you can do is treat these things topically, and see a local doctor if you’re concerned. Diarrhoea can be serious in young children; rehydration is essential, and seek medical help if persistent or accompanied by fever.
School & Kindergarten
With lots of long-staying foreigners, Goa has a number of seasonal child-care centres – look for notices locally. The Palolem region, with a large expat community, have recommended schools, as does Anjuna.
What to Pack
Most things you will need can be bought locally, usually for much cheaper prices than you would see at home. Disposable nappies are widely available though the environmentally friendly move may be to switch to cloth nappies; any hotel can arrange laundry for you. Formula is available in Goa in local and Nestlé brands.
- Essentials Hat, sunscreen and tropical-strength mosquito repellent.
- First-aid kit Heat-rash cream, plasters, paracetamol etc.
- Lightweight portacot These are hard to find in Goa.
- Baby or child carrier Or do as locals do and carry your baby front-side in a sarong. Prams are a pain but a lightweight stroller can be useful for tired toddlers.
- Electronic distractions For teenage kids, a tablet or smartphone loaded with apps and music can be a godsend and free wi-fi is common in hotels and cafes. Don't forget chargers and plug adaptors.
- Splashdown Water Park Water slides, pools, fountains and waterfalls to entertain everyone from toddlers to adults.
- Spice Farms Central Goa's commercial spice farms are a surprisingly entertaining family day out: there's a hint of jungle adventure on the spice plantation tours, and a thali lunch is included.
- Dolphin-spotting Trips Charter an outrigger fishing boat and spot dolphins on a trip from Candolim (or from Coco, Baga or Palolem).
- Goa Science Centre & Planetarium Most kids will enjoy the planetarium and simple science exhibits on a rainy day.
- INOX Cinema Panaji's modern cinema shows mainstream Hollywood (as well as Bollywood) films. Check the website.
- Caculo Mall Timezone arcade, 7D cinema, play centre, bowling alley, fast food and boutique fashion stores.
- Cooking classes Get the kids involved in a spicy cooking class.
- Ask your local doctor or travel clinic about immunisations and anti-malarials.
- Pack loose-fitting, lightweight clothing (with long sleeves and pants) for evening mosquito protection.
- Most hotels and guesthouses are child-friendly and will supply a spare mattress or have a family room. Kids will love staying in beach shacks.
- If you've got fussy eaters, don't fret. Beach shacks and restaurants can prepare non-spicy pizzas, pancakes, toast, eggs or tasty rice and dhal. Supermarkets in Candolim, Panaji and Anjuna stock all sorts of Western foods.
- There are loads of taxis for day trips around Goa (none have child seats) but families should consider using the women's taxi service.