Ahilya by the Sea will open as a fully functioning hotel in September 2015 with all services and amenities up and running. In the meantime, it is open as a guesthouse with basic staffing levels and serving breakfast only – thankfully there are so many good ‘eateries’ nearby, that this is not a problem. The charming, owning family are in residence in one villa on occasion.
This gem of a hotel emerges as the result of two families merging in marriage with one providing the idyllic location (The Trindade family) and the other providing years of built up hoteliering expertise (The Holkars of Ahilya Fort fame). As a result of this happy union, various family members have got together and created Ahilya by the Sea, therein trying to bring the intimacy, sophistication and family experience so well refined at Ahilya Fort, to this family home in Goa. The Trindade family is famous for its connections to the arts and the idea behind the hotel is to re-create the glorious styles of Old Goa but with a nod to more modern, comfortable amenities. It is a place where guests will experience an authentic, artistic, rich Goan connection and feel like pampered, integrated locals rather than harried tourists. The atmosphere will be relaxed and friendly with a strong emphasis on the arts, music and cuisine – the owning families’ passions!
Situated at the east end of Coco Beach, on Dolphin (Aguada) Bay, with waves from the Arabian Sea/Indian ocean tumbling into the sea wall that separates the hotel from the beach (not a swimming beach), Ahilya by the Sea has a unique and glorious setting. It is tucked away, just a 10 minute stroll from the calm and quiet village of Nerul, at the confluence of the Indian ocean/Arabian Sea and the Mandovi and Nerul rivers. These waters provide excellent local fishing and fresh daily fish. Guests may watch the locals draw in the catch from beach nets every morning, or even cast for delicious pomfret or kingfish themselves (bait and tackle available upon request).
There are 8 spacious rooms (1 with balcony, 7 en suite) in total with 3 and 4 in each of 2 separate villas and 1 Tower Room. Each room is named after a painting by Antonio Xavier Trindade who was considered ‘the Rembrant of the East’ and who was the grandfather of the present owner. The room keys and doors have matching miniature versions of the paintings for which the rooms are named, and for those interested, a private viewing of the entire collection be arranged at the AX Trindade Museum at the Fundacao Oriente in Panjim where the originals, donated by the family, form part of the permanent collection. Music was also deeply ingrained in the Trindade family, with nearly all members proficient in multiple instruments. As a result, and in keeping with Goan tradition, there is a music room where live local music, Fado singing, and painting workshops can be organized.
Built on the site of the old Portuguese custom houses, each room boasts stunning views of the sea entrance to Old Goa. The hotel itself is consists of 3 Portuguese style villas (the family reside in one) made of hand hewn local red laterite rock and one Tower Room which is intertwined with an ancient beachfront banyan tree. Each individual brick of the villas was shaped on site by master masons using only paper stencils, chalk and hand tools—a craft that has all but disappeared. The soul and the art of the builders is evident in every arch, curve and corner – everything about this place is loved!
Outside comprises lush gardens with 2 lap pools, one next to the sea wall – the ultimate infinity pool – and one surrounded by the garden. There are ample shady verandahs for relaxing with a book, or cosy nooks created for lying back to admire the views and let the sea breezes waft over you. Meals are taken in different places according to the weather, the time and the amount of people but suffice it to say that you eat inside in the airy dining room or al fresco in a carefully chosen spot, dining here will always be a treat and an even to savour!
It is only 1 hour from the airport and just a few minutes away from bustling Calangute, Candolim and Baga beaches with all their fun restaurants and shops, not to mention long stretches of sandy beach. Also nearby, for ‘culture vultures’, is the recently restored historic Reis-Magos fort which is the oldest fort in Goa, boasting a stunningly beautiful church and sweeping views towards the sea, Panjim and Old Goa; and in the nearby town of Nerul is the “younger” Nerul Church, built in 1569. A 15 minute drive takes one through pretty Goan villages and past old churches to the Panjim Bridge and the capital city of Panjim, or on to the fascinating area and erstwhile seat of Portugese power, Old Goa. For those wanting a glimpse of ‘hippy’ Goa and an insight into local markets, the famous Anjuna flea market is just 40 minutes drive away. For nature lovers, boats leave hourly to follow the dolphins that hunt and live in the surrounding waters, but for the more sedentary, patience and a keen eye will usually deliver a dolphin sighting right from your room. All this, together with Goa’s rich tradition of hospitality, culture, cuisine and history, is on your doorstep so you never have to travel far (if at all), nor tear yourself away from precious time resting and feasting in the sun, to have what will undoubtedly be a magical, genuine Goan experience - a world away from the madness with which Goa is often associated today.
Ahilya by the Sea is a lovely place to end a holiday (2 night minimum stay), proving a warm, intimate, authentic base from which to explore this fascinating state. This is Goa at its best!
Go for lunch at Zeebop on the beach in South Goa; explore the churches and architecture in Old Goa.
By air to Goa from Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, followed by a 1 hour road journey.
By train to Vasco da Gama, followed by a half hour road journey.
By car from Hampi / Hubli (long drive) or other parts of Goa and the Karnataka or Maharashtra borders.