On my first trip to India, I first flew into Mumbai then caught a flight to Dabolim airport in Goa after travelling for over 20 hours. It was so much cheaper to opt for long stop overs in Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi that I felt like I couldn’t turn the opportunity down, however with hindsight I think it could be worth paying more for a shorter journey.
Even with the best intentions of keeping to a budget whilst traveling, airports are so damn expensive you’ll end up paying silly prices for food, bottles of water, coffee etc that you say you won’t need but then 12 hours in you’ll change your mind! In my experience, the less time spent in an airport the better.
The host of the beach hut in Arambol where we’d arranged to stay for the first few nights had emailed us beforehand and offered to send his own taxi to pick us up. After a day and a night travelling we were glad to take him up on the offer. The driver was waiting for us and introduced himself as Samson.
It takes about two hours to drive to hippie Arambol. The sun had already set and we turned down narrower and narrower roads, until we were on a dirt track and the lights on the houses we were passing by became fewer and far between. The road became bumpy and the driver suddenly turned off the track altogether, and we were lurching along on sand dunes in the dark. When the taxi stopped and the Samson announced we’d arrived, I really thought there’d been a mistake. He just laughed at me and led us up over a steep dune, and there was the ocean lapping the shore just a few metres away, and six little bamboo huts right on the sand. There were little lights strung up and reggae music playing softly from somewhere nearby. Welcome to Arambol.
Despite the many Russian tourists and hippies staying by the beach there is still a real authentic Goan culture there. Arambol is a tiny place, with some apartments and villas but mainly variations on beach shacks, bamboo huts, creatively constructed bars and restaurants built right on the sand offering cocktails or fish caught that morning.
The beach is long and wide with plenty of room for everyone even in high season.
You have to wake up early in the morning to see the best that Arambol has to offer. Around 6.30am at sunrise the beach is slowly spattered with people arriving quietly to meditate or to practice yoga facing the pale blue ocean. As the sun appears and the sky changes colour it’s the most perfect time to walk along the beach while the air is still cool and fresh.
Who knows what else you’ll see at this time in the morning – definitely a few people dancing happily alone. Probably a few people walking home bleary eyed and vaguely confused after being awake all night long at a Goan trance night or beach rave.
Groups of local fishermen are wading in, pulling the colourfully painted fishing boats in with ropes from the high waves along big wooden rollers.
The many packs of Goan beach dogs are strutting up and down the shoreline, making friends with as many humans as they can. The sky is always soft pink at this time.
It’s safe to swim in Arambol as long as you pay attention to the flags. There can be a dangerous riptide so it’s not as good for swimming as other Goan beaches such as Patnem or Anjuna. But Arambol is much less crowded and there isn’t the constant danger of jet skis or motor boats in the water like there is in Anjuna! There is a surf shack at the far end of the beach that hires out surf boards, and sometimes the waves are tall enough to surf.
It’s also a great place to spot dolphins, the earlier in the morning the better. Spot them from the shoreline or ask one of the many fishing boats to take you out when they’re done fishing – many of them also do dolphin tours and for a reasonable fee you can go out and spot dolphins pretty far up and down the beach. You’ll definitely see some.
There is also a wonderful, colourful market that seems to wind on and on for miles along little streets leading up from the beach. You really can get lost in it. Here you can find bright patterned clothes and throws, lanterns and incense, and other beautiful things. I could spend hours there at night just soaking it all up.
Sunset is a big event every single night in Arambol. As the sun goes down, there is a big drumming circle in the middle of the beach and everyone is welcome to drum or dance themselves into a frenzy. The sun sinks behind the ocean and everyone comes out to watch it disapear. People come down to the beach to practice juggling, fire poi, acrobatics, or just to play instruments. A makeshift market appears as a long line of hippies and expats come to sit on the sand and sell their handmade jewelry and crafts, displaying what they have to offer on blankets.
Nightlife in Arambol isn’t as trance orientated as neighbouring Anjuna, and it isn’t so famous for having a party scene. But this is why some people love Arambol so much. You’ll definitely find some good live music if you explore the little bars hiding in the market streets. It’s very atmospheric slipping down a little fairylit alleyway in the market to find people sitting on cushions, drinking chai or smoking shisha, relaxing and listening to music. We discovered Organic Vibes cafe which was painted with beautiful artwork and often had musicians playing a fusion of Indian instruments and electronic music all night. We also stumbled across musicians playing hang drums, singing…all kinds of wonders to discover.
Down on the beach the bars light themselves up as brightly as they can with fairylights and neon strips, with chairs and tables on the sand or little raised platforms with cushions to chill out on. It all has a laid back, happy feel to it.
Our host at Cabo Wabo beach huts put on a bonfire party for us on our last night, just for the people staying with him. It was one of the best nights we had.
If you have time, walk around to ‘Sweetlake’ and swim in the lake there or chill out in the sheltered cove. There are lots of birds and other wildlife to watch there.
Arambol is definitely a ‘grower’, the more time you spend there the more you will grow to love it and see all the quirky things it has to offer. Give it some time and properly explore. I’ve been back a few times since and I always stayed in the same place, at Cabo Wabo beach huts with the wonderful host Jamaica and his little family, who have become good friends and make me feel like I’m at home.