A cocoon of tranquillity and luxury: Azaya Beach Resort Goa in Benaulim is a whole vacation destination in itself
After a 45-minute drive from the airport through narrow lanes of fresh green wetlands, I reached the
relatively new Azaya Beach Resort Goa. It is nestled in a quaint corner of Benaulim in South Goa, away from the usual favourites with travellers — brightly-lit shacks and happening nightlife in North Goa. It was almost time for sunset and as I entered, I spotted that the sky was a beautiful melange of mild purple, orange and yellow. The not-so-fiery sun was gradually receding into the Arabian Sea and fluffy, light grey clouds hung in a distance. About 100 metres from the shore, I was surrounded by coconut trees and a row of magnificent villas, one of which was my home for the weekend.
Although it was the monsoon season in mid-July, by a quirk of fate, neither the sky nor the winds were as stormy as I expected them to be on day one. However, the same cannot be said for the rest of my trip. By dinner time, it started raining rather heavily, and I was happy I didn’t miss a chance to enjoy the sunset by the pool — something I’d highly recommend if you are visiting this South Goan beach resort.
‘Unhotel’ the hotel
The five-month-old resort is for luxury lovers who would want to spend a weekend relaxing in their upscale rooms, arrested in luxury. “Our idea is to ‘unhotel’ the mainstream hotel concept. You can have all that you want in this resort space or rather in your room, if you wish — be it a pool party with a DJ, massage and rejuvenation treatments of the spa or a candle-light dinner on the seashore. For the latter, however, you will have to move out of the room,” quips Rajesh KR Gupta, the general manager of the resort. During my three-day stay, I was assured that when Azaya says they want to make you feel at home, they really mean it. For starters, I was quite delighted to find the monsoon amenity of edible goodies, such as chocolate and caramel pudding and bite-sized cupcakes in the room. Also, for travel weary folks like me, the bathtub was readied with bathing salts and loofah. What more could you ask for, after a long journey?
Raise the bar
Azaya boasts of 114 impeccably designed rooms and suites, 38 of which feature private plunge pools. There’s no doubt that the five-star property is designed to provide a grand yet fuss-free and contemporary experience. Consider the one I stayed in — the 1,000 sq ft (approx) room with a plunge pool, poolside dining, bathtub, electronic safe, Smart TV, outdoor shower and a private garden — the Azaya Essence Plunge Pool XL experience is one that even the most well-heeled travellers would appreciate.
But what truly caught my attention in the room was the bar. If you’re picturing a small fridge with a couple of beverages thrown in, think big! On the first look, the fashion lover in me mistook this four-doored facility to be a closet. But turns out, it’s a bar with four shelves, about 20 glasses of various kinds for your cocktail picks, complimentary snacks, your morning dose of coffee or tea with a kettle and a mini bronze wash basin. Although I would’ve loved a closet, I wasn’t really disappointed. In fact, I was surprised when I was told that guests can stock up the bar with alcohol purchased outside the resort as well. “Azaya is always up for celebrations. Especially if it’s a huge group, we allow guests to get their own drinks and party-all-night in their villa. It wouldn’t disturb the other guests, considering each one of them is built systematically across the resort area with enough privacy,” informs my host. An advocate of private parties, every room also has a note that reads: Just in case you’ve spilt beer or coffee on the bed, please keep this card on the bed, and our housekeeping will change it.
Brekkie that floats your boat
The plunge pool is surrounded by a mini garden and an outdoor seating facility — a perfect spot for your sunset cocktail or maybe some hot breakfast. Sounds bizarre, right? Although Goa is known for its happening nightlife, at Azaya, the party begins with a ‘floating’ breakfast in your private pool.
While the interiors are bright and warm, the resort boasts of Portuguese influences in both food and design. The pleasant Portuguese Garden, blossoming with fuchsia bougainvillaea forms the central courtyard, overlooking the common pool on campus. If you happen to be there during any other season, you could take a few dips every evening, with an uninterrupted sea view. Conveniently, the poolside lounge Cerulean offering salads, burgers, and more, gives you no reason to leave. The best time of the year to visit, I’m told, would be anytime between October to April.
Shaken and stirred
After spending an hour in the common pool watching the sunset with some chilled beer, my companions and I headed to Lynx — Bar & Lounge, located above their all-day diner (which we will talk about later). The plush bar has a monochromatic colour scheme inspired by New York high-octane clubs. Guests can not just choose from the menu, but also order a cocktail of their choice and the bartender would make it for them. Meanwhile, the mixologist insisted I make a drink for myself — an offer I couldn’t let go. About 15 minutes of his guidance and a few trade secrets later, my drink was ready — a concoction of vodka, lemon, peach puree, sparkling water and simple syrup. While our cocktail hour was on, executive chef Swatantra Gautam and his team had a barbeque night planned for us. With party music, delicious kebabs off the grill and my Peach Lemonade — we raised a toast to my first experience behind the bar, and called it a night!
The mistress of spices
With a comfortable king-size bed and a few rounds of cocktails, I couldn’t help but sleep like a baby. I must admit that it was quite difficult to venture out of my comfortable villa bubble on day two. But the power brekkie served in my room, helped me summon some energy to put on my walking shoes and get ready for a tour of the Sahakari Spice Farm and I didn’t regret it. Located in Curti, Sahakari Spice Farm is about an hour away from the resort. On Azaya’s special tour of the farm, you get to pick spices that will later be used in your meal back at the resort.
The 300-year-old plantation, open to tourism for the past decade, has dedicated more than 60 acres of the 130-acre property to cultivation of spices and herbs. During the 30-minute walk, our guide for the noon shared some trivia about some of the most commonly-used spices. Did you know that chewing one full raw betel nut is equal to 30 ml of whiskey?
In the vast green farm, even common herbs like cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and chilli were unrecognisable in its natural state. Apart from all the trivia and jargons, the tour has a fun element too. While animal lovers can watch or even bathe the elephants in the farm, tourists up for some adventure can try tree-climbing, after taking a couple of classes from the skilful men who swing to and fro betel nut palm trees with so much ease that it leaves you in awe of their physical abilities.
The spa factor
My stroll through the muddy pathway at the farm left me exhausted and in dire need of some relaxation. And what better than a spa session? So I headed to Prana Spa, located on the white sands of the Benaulim Beach, at the extreme end of the resort. With five treatment rooms including a Couples’ Massage Suite, the décor of each is refined with a combination of wood, stone and natural fibre, perfectly illustrating serenity and distinctive luxury. After a discussion with my therapist, we finalised on the Signature Prana treatment, which includes a full body massage. The use of essential oils, designed to stimulate energy centres, works beautifully and helps you feel relaxed. The 60-minute session is sure to take care of your travel-weary body.
Azaya’s focus on local produce touches everything that comes out of the kitchen all the way down to the handmade plates your meals are served in. To experience the same, we headed to their all-day diner, La Concha, for dinner. The regular menu at this restaurant serves a number of cuisines including Italian, Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern, revolving around the concept of eating out of the pan from live kitchens.
For us, Chef Gautam had cooked an elaborate Goan and Portuguese meal, using the spices like cardamon and turmeric that we picked at the farm earlier that day. Out of the delicious spread, we savoured quite a few servings of Goan Fish Curry, Shak Shak Crab, Veg Khaaldeen paired with Goan Rice. We ended our day on a sweet note with their signature Azaya Tiramisu.
After a three-day stay at Azaya Beach Resort, I was ready to say au revoir but not before spending some quiet time on the seashore, soaking in the view of the beach one last time.
Also look out for:
Azaya offers tailor-made itineraries, where you can arrange a visit to a spice garden, try your hand at the live kitchen or challenge yourself with some adventure sports like surfing and parasailing. If you’re a bibliophile, you could also spend your time in the library. Along with a mix of fiction and non-fictional books, this cosy nook also offers a range of whiskies, from Scotch to Japanese, premium Cognacs, Champagnes and Wines. Apart from Lynx and La Concha, Azaya also has a seasonal beach restaurant Blue Iris and the poolside lounge Cerulean.
Packages start at Rs. 11,499 per night including breakfast for a Luxury Room.
The writer visited Azaya Beach Resort by invitation.