Reclining on a pool lounger at Summertime, a Balinese Airbnb in Calangute, I was mulling life choices. Nap or swim? The water in the infinity pool rippled. All around me was lush greenery. Considering how content I was after a glorious lunch at Avozin—a Goan restaurant 20 minutes away—a nap seemed like the right choice.
Rated five stars on Airbnb and awarded “Asia’s Most Romantic Boutique Retreat 2016” by World Boutique Hotel Awards, Summertime is one of the most sought after properties in Goa. Located on a hilltop, the two-acre property is not by Calangute’s touristy beach but in the area’s ‘last green lung’—as owners Hans Tuinman and Sucheta Potnis put it. The couple has designed the property keeping in mind their preferences for a holiday home—lots of space and comfort—which explains the infinity and plunge pools, master suites and bathrooms the size of a studio apartment in Mumbai. “A house that is not lived-in is not a home,” says Sucheta. “And for all its guests, it could perhaps safely be said, Summertime becomes home.”
When viewed from the lens of locals, Goa becomes a new experience—who better for advice on local restaurants and watering holes, or spots for nature walks and adventure sports? Ten such Insiders, some of whom are also Airbnb hosts, have been featured in a 32-page booklet that functions as a mini-guide to Goa, in particular offering suggestions that don’t include tourist traps or invoke that “same-old, same-old” experience. Also in the booklet are six unique homes, curated by Airbnb and Gauri Khan, each offering a different experience. Nolan Mascarenhas, an Airbnb host and food-and-travel writer, is one of the Insiders. Nolan and his mother, Odette, a popular food writer in Goa are the go-to for anything to do with local cuisine.
Avozin, where I had been so sumptuously fed, was Nolan’s recommendation. We were joined at lunch with Hans and Sucheta’ s son, Vardhan Kondvikar, who helps run Summertime. Nolan and Vardhan, having grown up in Goa, kept me entertained with childhood anecdotes and Goa stories. We emptied platters of beef chops, sausage pulao and bebinca with ice cream. While Nolan plied our plates with seconds, he dashed off more local recommendations: Kokni Canteen and Spice Goa.
If all my meals were to be like this, I was most certainly leaving Goa a couple of kilos heavier. I asked Nolan how he stays fit. Turns out, he was learning kite surfing in Mandrem. In addition to which, he scuba-dived at Keri Beach regularly, and was a frequent hiker. Clearly, there was lot more adventure to explore in Goa than was usually showcased.
Back at Summertime, where I was lazing by the pool, I considered the peace and quiet, unusual for a place that was a 15-minute drive from Calangute, famed for its noisy and frenetic party spirit. Vardhan told me that is how his family wanted it. Hans and Sucheta bought the land Summertime is built on just to preserve it. Their house, Aranya, is next door. Sitting on the veranda at Summertime, one can spot over 20 species of birds including kingfishers, robins, woodpeckers, orioles and swallows. For those interested, Sucheta will gladly play birding guide not just to Summertime but also to other similar haunts in Goa. Her must-do birding trail included the Pilerne Plateau for raptors, and Mandrem and Morjim beaches for aquatic birds.
While the average Goan holiday usually meant a visit to the beach, during the Insider tour the days were spent uncovering a different side of the sunshine state—a photo walk in the Goan backwaters with ad-man and another Insider Shantanu Sheorey, lunch at South Indian restaurant Gunpowder, and discovering Goan cuisine beyond sorpotel. I also made a brief halt at Zoloft, a chic cosy villa in Assagao, characterised by eccentric art and the warmth of its gracious caretaker Mushtaq.
My Goa Insider experience had shattered the “party hard” stereotypes the state has been reduced to. Zoloft and Summertime, with their finer details and personal touches proved that Goa still had many surprises up its sleeve.
Airbnb has over 4,000 properties in Goa. Uncover a different side to the state with Airbnb Insiders. Read more here.
Lubna Amir travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.