Family Hotel Review: Vivenda dos Palhacos, North Goa, India
A quirky and charming home best enjoyed when hired with a group of friends.
Best for: Friends and families travelling together; kids of all ages.
Reviewed by: Katja Gaskell
Why You’ll Love It
There’s a lot to love about Vivenda, the design, the food, the service, but we’ll start with the property itself. This seven-bedroom hotel is part Portuguese mansion, part Hindu house. It’s quirky – one of the bedrooms sits where the kitchen once did – but it’s charming in its eccentricity. The decor is highly covetable; a mixture of Indian antiques and art deco pieces with delightfully British flourishes.
The owners, Simon and Charlotte, are excellent hosts. They’re a brother and sister team who spent time growing up in India (their family owned Haywards brewery, made famous for its gin during World War II) and they know the area – and seemingly India – intimately.
There are no sea views here but pretty Majorda beach is just one kilometre away, and Vivenda has its own transportation to ferry guests to the sand. There’s a lovely swimming pool on the property and it’s an ideal place for a group of families to rent together.
Why The Kids Will Love It
Vivenda was not necessarily designed with children in mind however, it feels very much like a family home; laid back, welcoming and with the occasional rule thrown in. In this case the rulebook states that ‘only immaculately behaved children are welcome in the sitting and dining rooms’.
Tongue-in-cheek edicts aside, this is a really wonderful place for families, especially if you rent the house as a whole. The layout works well, with plenty of space to roam, and there’s a fantastic chlorine-free swimming pool (with a stepped shallow area) ideally situated near the Altar Table where breakfast and lunch are served.
Outdoor activities at Vivenda are limited to swimming and playing boules but there is plenty to do in the surrounding area and the hotel has bicycles to borrow. Little kids will love Majorda Beach while older children are spoilt for choice; river trips, elephant rides, horse riding, go-karting and more can all be arranged, simply ask Simon or Charlotte.
Vivenda sleeps sixteen in perfect comfort and more, in emergency. There are seven bedrooms and an additional tent, Chanpara.
The rooms vary in size, style and design and each one is named after the places where Simon and Charlotte have ‘lived in and loved’ in Bengal and Tamil Nadu. They all have fans, air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms. They don’t have TVs or phones. Although Simon does say that “either of those menaces can be easily rustled up for children or major sporting events”.
There are two rooms in the Portuguese part of the house:
Konnagar: the master bedroom has an old four-poster and its own balcony. The large bathroom next door has a shower and a cast iron bath tub saved from the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.
Alipore: has a window seat that is either a love seat or prayer spot, overlooking the next door coconut plantation. So if you hear a small explosion overhead every now and then, it is more likely to be a coconut hitting the tiles than the Taliban. It has a simple teak antique double bed and a long, narrow ensuite bathroom hidden between the two houses.
The rooms in the older, Hindoo part of the house are as follows:
Madras: is a large double room with French doors leading out to the garden from its open-air bathroom.
Ballygunge: has two large single beds in it that can be attached together and a distinctly Gujarati bathroom.
Ooty: Enjoys its own private entrance from the courtyard, has a built-in double bed and sitting area and a mirrored ensuite secret bathroom.
Chanpara: is a huge tent with a queen sized old four poster bed and some of our camp furniture including a Thunder Box and an early version of a mini-bar. It has a private entrance and young garden of its own, in a coconut plantation by the pool. It is fully plumbed and air-conditioned.
The Chummery: is a large, air-conditioned cottage with two verandas.
Darjeeling: the latest addition to the property is this old garage where Simon lived for five years. It has a Mezanine floor for extra beds and its own private garden.
The house is also available to rent in its entirety. However, any individual reservations already standing can not be cancelled. If you would like to book the house in its entirety then best to book early.
Best rooms for families: The rooms with the most space for extra beds or a cot are Konnager, Madras, The Chummery and Chanpara. Ballygunge, the twin-bedded room, is ideal for older children and teenagers although it is right next to the dining room, which can get noisy. Simon is happy to arrange spill-overs at various price points, round and about.
Meals are served either at the 22-seater Altar Table near the pool or at the 16-seater wooden dining table. The food is superb.
Breakfast Unless you’re visit coincides with the monsoon rains then breakfast (included in the rates) is served outside. Enjoy fresh fruit and fruit juices, toast, and homemade jams, as well as eggs cooked to order, bacon and sausages. The tea and South Indian organic coffee are both highly quaffable.
Lunch & Dinner Vivenda can organise lunch to be served by the pool, on the beach or in picnic form although most guests tend to dine at one of the many beachside restaurants such as Zeebop. Zeebop is a tasty open-air shack on Majorda beach that serves fantastic tandoori prawns, freshly cooked naan bread and cold Kingfisher beer.
The flexible dinner menu is generally discussed and decided at breakfast and all the ingredients are freshly purchased that day. Signature dishes include the Goan Feast complete with suckling pig, iced gazpacho topped with lobster and drizzled in paprika oil and juicy steaks served on caramelised onions with masala mashed potato.
Kids’ Menu Just as there’s no menu for mum and dad, there’s no dedicated kids’ menu. That said, meals can be whipped up and served at almost any time of day providing you give some notice. For kiddie staples including spag bol, omelettes and burgers, simply ask the kitchen.
Bar The convivial bar has been created from the colourful tailgate of an old Tata truck. It’s open throughout the day and evening and serves everything from milkshakes to the potent Hayward’s 5000 strong beer. The current Hayward’s 5000 record stands at six bottles for the ladies and eight for the men – a record you may or may not want to try beat!
Activities for Parents
Lounge by the sparkling swimming pool or laze on a lounger by the beach and then take a break with an ice-cold Kingfisher beer.
Relax with an Ayurvedic massage in your room or rejuvenate with a yoga lesson.
Pedal your way around Fontainhas, the old quarter of Goa’s capital Panjim, on a guided bicycle tour.
Go fishing, scuba diving, bird watching, or play a round of golf. You can even practice your shot with a spot of electronic pigeon shooting. Ask Simon and Charlotte for recommendations.
Splash some rupees at Anjuna’s famous Saturday night flea market or save them all for the local jewellers who can clean and mend old jewellery as well as make new designs and deliver them to your door.
Activities for Kids
Swim in the pool, splash in the waves and frolic on the sand.
Discover waterfalls, raft down rivers, and ride (and bathe) elephants.
Head to one of the local hotels for a game of tennis, squash or badminton, or opt for something more leisurely with a game of boules at Vivenda.
Horse riding, cycling and go-karting can all be arranged, simply ask Charlotte and Simon.
Borrow one of Vivenda’s trusty old bicycles and tour the local neighbourhood.
Air-conditioning, babysitting, common rooms, one baby cot available, doctor on call, two extra beds allowed per room, WiFi, laundry, pet-friendly, pushchair-friendly, shop, massages, swimming pool.
Rates vary considerably according to room type, extra bed requests and date of travel. Rooms start from around INR 5,000 / per night in the low season and can go up to INR 15,000 / per night in the high season. 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 25-30C.
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 35C. The monsoons arrive early June when things get hot and sticky, but this is also when Goa becomes lush and green.
Vivenda dos Palhacos is open year-round.
Location & Travel:
Location – Vivenda dos Palhacos is located in North Goa, near Majorda Beach.
There are regular daily flights in and out of Goa to numerous Indian cities. Domestic airlines servicing Dabolim Airport include Indigo, GoAir, Kingfisher, Jet Airways and Spicejet. Vivenda is less than 20km from Dabolim Airport (30 minutes by car). The hotel offers an airport transfer service for an additional cost.
The main railway station in Margao is roughly 10km away. Goa is linked to Mumbai in the north and Mangalore in the south via the Konkan Railway. The hotel offers transfer services for an additional charge.
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.
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) It’s definitely worth booking the house in its entirety, we went with a group of friends and had a fantastic time.
2) Bring all can’t-live-without beach and swimming equipment for kids with you.
3) If travelling with babies, it’s worth packing all essentials.
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