Family Hotel Review: Olaulim Backyards, North Goa, India
Nestled into a bend on the backwaters, shaded by palms is this family-friendly homestay that offers a very different kind of Goan holiday.
Best for: Seeing a different side of Goa; big kids and teens (but all ages welcome)
Reviewed by: Victoria Westmacott
Why You’ll Love It
Nestled into a bend on the backwaters shaded by palms is this family-friendly homestay that offers a very different kind of Goan holiday. This is the place to come if you’re looking for a complete break – both from urban life and the more developed sandy coastline.
Olaulim is very much a back-to-basics kind of retreat; where mobile phone reception is patchy at best, animals (albeit tame ones) roam the grounds and accommodation is charmingly rustic. With just three cottages, it’s an excellent choice if travelling with other families or with grandparents (just make sure they’re the outdoorsy, adventurous kind).
Your hosts are an incredibly welcoming Finnish/Goan couple, Pirkko and Savio and their two young children. They will happily help organise activities including nature walks, visits to Old Goa and the flea market at Anjuna and spice plantations. Bird watching here is excellent and there are also kayaks, canoes and a rowboat for guests to use. If that all sounds like too much hard work however, then you can simply sit back and soak up the gloriously tranquil environment instead.
Why The Kids Will Love It
Olaulim Backyards is a wonderful place for children, particularly big kids and teens who can make the most of all that the great Goan outdoors has to offer. The location on the edge of the backwaters, provides a near-enclosed, lake-like space for swimming, kayaking and canoeing in waist-high waters (parents with infants and adventurous little kids should note that the river is not fenced-off).
Animal lovers will be in their element here; meet Caio the horse, Manta the donkey, Kisu the cat, Sibu the Great Dane and their adopted street dogs Laku and Max. The animals roam freely around the property and are happy to play with kids (although obviously no tail-pulling!).
For more active children there’s the river to be explored by canoe or kayak, or try fishing with a local and learn to catch dinner Goan style. There’s a small pool on the property and the surrounding countryside sees minimal traffic, making it the perfect to place to discover on two wheels. The area is also home to dozens of species of birds; visit during the monsoon and you may even spot flocks of peacocks dancing.
There are three basic cottages positioned around the grounds, each named after local birds. They have all been built using local materials including bamboo, local stone and palm leaves. The cottages all differ in size and décor, are air-cooled and the bathrooms are partly open to the elements allowing you to shower under a Goan sky. The rooms come with tea/coffee making facilities and a safe.
Best rooms for families:
Sun Bird is the most popular room for families as it is level to the swimming pool and dining area. It has an antique four-poster double bed and can fit one or two extra beds. It also has a lovely private sit out overlooking the river.
Partly built into the rock, Hornbill has a charming Hobbit-like quality to it. It houses a king size bed and a loft area with a double bed where two children can sleep. There’s a small balcony overlooking the garden. The cottage is located slightly uphill and is accessed by a short flight of uneven steps and so is best suited to big kids or teens.
The smallest of the cottages, Golden Oriole works best for a couple, as there is no room for an extra bed (although you could squeeze a cot in). It’s also located at the top of a hillock and has steep stairs leading from the bedroom down to the bathroom.
The laid-back open-air kitchen and dining area sits near the pool. Pirkko, Savio and their staff conjure up delicious meals using a variety of traditional cooking methods – BBQ, wood oven and a ‘hay fire’. The cuisine is mainly Goan; expect plenty of fresh seafood, home-grown vegetables and a variety of garden fresh fruit including papaya, banana, chickoo, pomegranate and mango. There is no menu as such and you should inform Pirkko or Savio of any dietary requirements or special requests in advance.
Breakfast Breakfast features fruit, cereal, toast and freshly squeezed fruit juices (papaya and grape comes highly recommended). Eggs can be cooked to order.
Lunch & Dinner Goan dishes form the basis for both lunch and dinner and fish and curries are staples. Mackerel wrapped in banana leaf and cooked on a pile of hay is a speciality and absolutely delicious. We also enjoyed barbecued prawns during our stay, as well as a wonderfully indulgent chocolate cake. Pirkko and Savio also grow cashews and add these freshly roasted to many dishes.
Kids’ Menu There is no dedicated kids’ menu but Pirkko and Savio are happy to try and accommodate requests. It’s worth remembering that this is a small hotel with limited kitchen stock, so requests should be made well in advance. Most baby monitors can stretch to the dining area.
Activities for Parents
Grab a couple of kayaks and race your children down the river or row out into the middle of backwaters and simply relax. More experienced paddlers can meander along to the Mandovi river visiting the Chorao Bird Sanctuary along the way.
Join the local fishermen and try your hand at catching – and then cooking – dinner Goan-style.
Pack a picnic and explore the remote villages, fields and quiet country lanes either on foot or by bike.
Spend the afternoon with Savio and learn all about the birdlife that populates this area. You might be lucky enough to spot a Paradise Fly Catcher, and if you’re really lucky you might even see the elusive white one – remember to bring your binoculars!
Make your way up the nearby hill for beautiful views of the countryside. Time your visit for the monsoon and you might even see flocks of peacocks dancing.
Spend a morning scuba diving beneath the warm waters of the Arabian Sea and explore colourful shipwrecks, exotic marine life and coral bays.
Take a trip to Anjuna to visit the famous Wednesday flea market and stock up on trinkets, clothing, souvenirs and presents for family back home.
Tour Old Goa and admire the grand Portuguese architecture, learn about the Hindu Temples of modern Goa and then visit a spice plantation to see how spices are grown.
Visit the studio of potter Syliva Kerkar who lives and works in a neighbouring village. Her glazed ceramic tableware is sold in Goa and around India, although most is commissioned to order. Her studio is open to visitors by prior appointment and she also conducts classes and workshops.
Do nothing! The location is a wonderful place to simply relax, unwind and re-connect with nature.
Activities for Kids
Splash around in the swimming pool that overlooks the backwaters or swim in the river itself.
Make friends with the local residents including Caio the horse, Manta the donkey, Kisu the cat the assortment of dogs.
Experienced horse riders can take saddle up on the local stallion, although he can be a little feisty, so make sure you know you what you’re doing.
Hang out with Shameena and Manuel (Pirkko and Savio’s kids) and race along the river with them in a rowboat or canoe.
Get to know your cashews from your chickoos by helping Pirkko and Savio to pick fresh fruit. The gardens overflow with papayas, bananas, pomegranates, limes, custard apples, mangoes and cashews. Yum!
The nearest beaches are just half-an-hour away so head out on a day trip to the seaside.
Take a nature walk and learn about local Goan life as well as the colourful birds that live here.
Pack a picnic and pedal your way through the remote villages, fields and quiet lanes of Olaulim village (children’s bikes are also available).
No A/C, babysitting, common room, one baby cot available, doctor and health centre 1km away, extra beds permitted depending on room category, kids’ activities, laundry swimming pool, local stores nearby, WiFi available in the main house.
Rates vary depending on the season and range from INR 4,000 / per night to INR 7,000 / per night. Please contact the hotel directly for an exact quote based on your family’s requirements.
When to go:
The best time to visit is from November to March when the daytime temperatures hover between 25-30 C. Peak season is from mid-December to the end of January; if you plan to visit over this period then make sure to book well in advance and be prepared to pay extra.
From April the mercury rises and by May the daytime temperatures are nudging 35 C. The monsoons arrive early June when things get hot and sticky, but this is also when Goa becomes lush and green.
Location & Travel:
Olaulim Backyards is located on the outskirts of Olaulim village, just 11km from Panjim and 8km from Mapusa, in North Goa.
There are regular daily flights in and out of Goa to numerous Indian cities with a number of domestic airlines including GoAir, Jet Airways and Spicejet. Olaulim Backyards is 42 km (roughly 1 hour) from Dabolim (Goa) Airport and the hotel can arrange transfers for an additional cost (enquire when booking).
The main train station in Goa is Madgaon station in Margao, but the nearest train stations to Olaulim Backyards are Tivim and Karmali, both 20 km (roughly 30 min) away (although not all trains stop at these stations). Goa is linked to Mumbai in the north and Mangalore in the south via the Konkan Railway. A
If you’re planning on travelling around Goa then it’s a good idea to hire a car and driver; it’s a refreshingly easy place to travel around and nothing is too great a distance. Olaulim can organise local car hire.
Contact The Hotel
For more information or to make a booking enquiry, visit the hotel’s own website by following the link below:
Reviewer’s Top Tips!
1) Lifejackets are available for boating activities but it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own, especially if you’re travelling with little kids.
2) Bring some sturdy walking shoes if you plan to head inland and explore the local villages or a spice plantation. Bug spray is also a good idea!
3) Your binoculars and a birding guide to South India will help you identify the myriad species that call this corner of Goa home.
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