This resort, nestled between hill and beach, in Gokarna is truly a slice of paradise
Kahani Paradise might just be the perfect beach holiday for the season
As the mist cleared and I looked out at the valley before me, green melting into blue, tropical hilly terrain blending into the blue-green Aghanashini River meandering its way into the Arabian Sea — I am convinced that Gokarna will never cease to amaze me.
I’ve been to Gokarna many times and have stayed at many of the home stays, hotels and shacks that dot the holy town’s many beaches. There’s of course the infamous Namaste Café on Om Beach, Gokarna International on Kudle Beach and several brand new luxury resorts that have sprung up all along the winding roads, forest trek routes and dirt tracks of this section of the Western Ghats that, quite literally, collapses into the sea.
What I hadn’t ever come across in all these visits, however, was a resort that blended the beauty of the hilly tropical forests of the region with the picturesque beaches that the town is globally famous for. Kahani Paradise seemed to be the first resort that took this challenge up seriously and the jungle road approach to the resort — rugged, unpaved and wild — only proved this further.
As jungle terrain gave way to perfectly manicured gardens, this resort seemed like something right out of a fantasy — huge impressive structures and perfectly maintained lawns amid what can only be called postcard-worth scenery.
What catches your attention first is the view of the river meandering in the valley below. At first you are convinced it is a beach, but then you are informed that the River Aghanashini swells into sea-like proportions as it empties out into the Arabian Sea to create this unique view. Nestled between two verdant hills; the river waters crash against the rocks creating sea-like waves that only further confuse the uninitiated.
The beach, Paradise Beach to be more precise, is at the other end of the property and can be accessed through a precarious path that descends the face of a rugged cliff. I will keep that experience for a later expedition. Right now, I am mesmerised by the inviting cool waters of the swimming pool that is beautifully placed right above a shallow cliff, infinite and exciting, with a view of this mouth of a river that I can’t seem to get enough of. Lazing in the cool waters on a hot but hazy afternoon, I stare out into the valley before languorously gliding away into a much-needed siesta.
I am awoken an hour or so later by a gentle drizzle, as the staff of the resort quickly move and cover furniture, to protect it from the sudden burst. I choose to stay in the pool as the drizzle slowly turns into a small torrential downpour and I do not regret my decision. There’s something magical about being surrounded by water, as waters pour from the skies. And with a view like this one, I am now completely convinced that the name of the resort was chosen quite aptly. This was a slice of paradise indeed.
The summer shower dissipated soon and I was beckoned for my first meal at the resort. I had insisted on local food for my first lunch and the spread was truly sumptuous. A simple meal of a Konkan style fish curry paired with local matta rice and a vegetable paliya, was complemented perfectly with some happala, buttermilk, rasam and sambar. Eating the fresh catch of the day, made to your preference, while watching the sun breathe life back into a now wet and glistening vista — this is indeed one of life’s many simple joys.
I decided to spend the rest of the evening reading, accompanied only by a pot of tea that was refilled many times inconspicuously as I drifted into my own imaginary world of dreams fuelled by the natural calm bliss that surrounded me. Bird songs, the wafting perfumes of tropical flowers melding together and the occasional whiff of the aromas from the restaurant kitchen below were my only company that evening.
Kahani Paradise is thoughtfully designed into hill terrain with most of the residences precariously built into a shallow cliff face that overlooks the Belekan valley. On one side is the view of the flat paddy-soaked green bowl and the river afar, while on the other side is the rising peak of the hill thickly forested with local foliage. A stone and rubble path lead you to this vantage point and you can walk it or buggy it courtesy the property’s sole buggy.
This hilltop has a smaller pool and a covered seating area meant for those perfectly intimate moments that you’d love to share with someone special. Separated from the rest of the property, this cosy sit out area hangs almost precariously over Paradise Beach. Atop a scraggly cliff face, with a very haunting and intimidating path, you are allowed to descend into the inviting beach below at your own risk or aided by the resort’s very willing staff. The descent is absolutely worth it, especially since, at the other end of it is one of Gokarna’s most-celebrated beaches — Paradise Beach.
Down the more sloping opposite face of the same hill is a well-camouflaged tennis court that almost blends in with the tropical surroundings and a beautiful water tank designed like the step-wells of teppakulam that we are used to seeing in temples all across South India. At one end is a two-floored structure with an open dining area atop that, that we are told, can be the most romantic setting once the tank is illuminated with a thousand lamps. You can choose to also enjoy a magical evening here, your only company — the cicadas, crickets; and the peacocks that roam bravely around the compound, knowing fully well that they are the original inhabitants.
Further ahead, is an herb garden and fruit orchards that border a swamp and mid-way to the guest residences, further uphill, is a small separate landing that houses a spa, a small performance space and the staff residences. I make a mental note about a much-required massage and decide to book it for the next day. The rest of the day disappeared into a long leisurely walk around the lush and massive property. As the evening approaches, the resort comes alive in a new way — all thanks to the subtle and ambient lighting that only elevates the beauty of our sylvan surroundings. I got back to my book and let it all sink in. To say I was overwhelmed would be underselling it.
Later that night, for dinner, I tucked into a warm comforting soup and some croutons with a small serving of pasta at the side before star-gazing from different vantage points across the property with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. The absolute silence around me was unnerving at first, but soon, as I retired to my room for the night, it was a welcome change from the constant aural stimuli we’re used to as city dwellers. I don’t think I need to add that I fell asleep in no time and that I slept like I hadn’t slept in ages — my dreams as verdant as my surroundings.
Day two at the property began very early. The idea of catching a sunrise as I lazed in the pool seemed like the best way to begin my day. I woke up before the sun and eased myself into the now cold pool waters, and waited for the rays of the sun to herald my day. That it was drizzling and still slightly hazy didn’t make a huge difference — I was already in a world of my own, imagining Portuguese and Arabic ships and how they would have skimmed these shores in absolute awe. It was only the call for breakfast that shook me out of this reverie.
Breakfast isn’t my favourite meal of the day and so, while the options were aplenty, I chose a glass of orange juice and some buttered toast instead. I knew lunch would be a more complex affair and so as the green hills around me woke up to a cacophony of bird song, I retired to a cosy corner in the common sitting room and delved deeper into my book. The pots of fresh tea came and went; biscuits aplenty and varied were nibbled on; an odd enthusiastic bee distracted me for a while and suddenly, before I knew it, it was lunch time.
Lunch was a tribute to the chef’s continental skills. I chose a seafood risotto with a side of fresh fish, the catch of the day, obviously. The risotto was flavourful and had just the right amount of bite with the arborio rice being perfectly complemented by chunks of basa in a creamy and slightly tart sauce. Buttery, rich and indulgent, the risotto was served with another delicately flavoured fish, a plump steamed mackerel, with a side of lemon wedges. Paired with a bottomless glass of chilled watermelon juice, I was in seafood heaven.
Satisfied after a rather large bowl of warm payasam, I quite unwillingly headed back to my room to quickly pack up and leave the resort in time for my flight. As I finally bid farewell to the staff at the resort and looked longingly at the pool and the beautiful vista beyond one last time, I knew I would return to Kahani Paradise for sure. This is one of those personal paradises that make it too easily into your to-always-do-lists. One visit can never truly suffice.
Beach hopping: While Paradise Beach is literally a stone’s throw away from the resort; one needn’t risk the precarious descent to it. One can also drive down to Om Beach from Gokarna town, stop at Kudla Beach (also accessible by road) and then ask a local fisherman to ferry you to Paradise Beach. This trio of beaches is a must-do in Gokarna and while they are regulars on any tourist map, they haven’t lost their charm like most beaches further up north, in Goa. Visit post monsoon or during the monsoon for the best experiences. Beaches during the monsoon might be violent, but the crashing waves paint a pretty picture, like nothing you could possibly imagine! Also, definitely give Half Moon Beach a visit, if you have the time!
Gokarna is accessible by road and rail. The nearest airport is at Dabolim, Goa.
The writer visited Kahani Paradise on invitation from the property.