Guide: Driving down the Konkan Coast

The Konkan Coast / West Coast of India is a stretch of clean sandy beaches, palm trees, fishing villages, lighthouses, moss laden forts, local thalis, seafood galore and the nicest people. 

My travel buddy, Dee Dadlani and I had been discussing a drive-cation for over two months and when we finally put our heads to it, we had a 13-day itinerary leading down the Konkan Coast. 

Two Explorers

This is a travelogue for all those who want to explore the Konkan Coast. As much as we would have loved to drive from Daman, where the Konkan Coast begins, due to travel restrictions, our journey began in Bombay and ended in South Goa. 

Schedule:

2 nights in Bombay
1 night in Alibaug
1 night in Dapoli (highly recommend you make this 2 nights)
2 nights in Ganpatipule
2 nights in Sawantwadi
2 nights in South Goa
A day trip to Karwar

Packing List:

  1. Super dry clothing. When you're on the road for almost two weeks, you want to make sure you're geared with clothes that dry quickly especially if you're taking a trip in the monsoon, as we did.

  2. Gum boots

  3. A solid waterproof jacket. The Decathlon Waterproof Hiking Jacket was my best friend on this trip.

  4. Comfortable shoes to walk in, ideally those that can be washed. 

  5. Floaters. I glided through waterfalls, river beds and mossy terrain in these Decathlon Sandals 

  6. Waterproof bag. I used the Decathlon Trekking Backpack that easily folds into a ball, making it super convenient for my "travel light" practice.

  7. A few Spotify playlists downloaded onto your phone keeping in mind that the network is very wishy washy. My go-to: State of Mind playlists by Great State. Vodafone gets 100 points for connectivity on the coast.

  8. A suitcase that can be easily ferried in and out of hotels. Hardtop, water resistant. 

  9. Tripod with a ring light for self timed photos. Rains can give you plenty of white washed lighting so a little glow wouldn't hurt.

  10. Mosquito repellent for the dark hours of 6-8pm

  11. We wanted to stop anywhere we liked and park ourselves to bathe in the Konkan view. We took it a notch up and carried two of these super luxe travel chairs, easily foldable by Decathlon. 

  12. Books / Kindle. There are plenty of spots where you'll want time to stop with a book in your hand. 

  13. Portable Speaker. For those like me who like to wake up to a tune.

  14. Swimsuit. There's nothing like a swim in the rains.

  15. Hygiene kit: Mask, Sanitiser, Disinfectant

Key Notes:

We planned our stay in advance since many places were still closed (pandemic et al) and we wanted to make sure that we had the right places nailed down (Big sucker for bath tubs and sea views). We also worked out driving distances and travel time between places to guesstimate our meals and breaks and the kind of experiences we wanted to have at each destination be it places to see or things to do.

We planned a couple of our dining experiences but the rest was all on the fly which is one of the best decisions we made.

The one thing that made our journey super comfortable was the Jeep Compass that I was driving. It is the perfect car for the Konkan roads and for some amount of off-roading which I fell in love with, thanks to this beast.

The Journey 

(This trip was a partnership with Jeep Compass and some parts of our itinerary were planned keeping that in mind).

BOMBAY: We started our journey with 2 nights in Bombay at Abode, Colaba. Abode is perfect for those who want to easily slide into holiday mode but still remain connected. The attention to details is accurate, with every piece of furniture handpicked and refurbished, mindful bed and bath linen and a mattress you’d want to die on. The bath tub bang in the middle of the room makes you wish you could sleep in it. I spent a lot of my time in the common area, slowly weening off work and prepping for the trip. Since we were in Bombay, I wanted to drive the Jeep around a bit and get acquainted with the beauty. Obviously it meant a drive down the Bandra Worli Sea-link, Nariman Point to Walkeshwar and the quaint streets of Ballard Estate with stops at Kyani & Co, Hearsh Bakery and an order-in from Ling’s Pavilion. 

Abode Room Rates: Rs 4000++ / Contact: Nilesh +918080234066

Abode
Abode - Work From Hotel #WFH
Kyani Breakfast

ALIBAUG: We took a mid-day M2M Ferry (RoRo: Roll On Roll Off) from the Mazgaon Dock to Mandwa Jetty. I recommend you get there 20 minutes in advance so that you have sufficient time to head to the top deck and get a front seat for the view. The ferry has a covered lounge area and partially covered seating on the deck making it super convenient in the monsoon. Some sea spray and rain splash never hurt nobody. On arriving at the Madwa jetty, we headed straight to The Mansion House, a 15-room villa usually available for a full-house booking. The swimming pool, palm-lined gardens and spacious rooms were a refreshing way to commence this journey. We took off to Paisley Experience run by Dhaani who is a 22-year old inspiring woman keeping heirloom recipes alive from her Pachkarshi heritage. She cooked up a traditional meal of Prawn Pulao, Mutton Rassa, Chicken Sukka, Patta Gobi, Fried Jitada (A local, meaty fish), Sheera served with Rice Bhakri and their special sweet and spicy Pineapple Amti which stole the show. You can also order in from their a la carte menu. Look out for her weekend pop ups. Post lunch, we drove around Alibaug, exploring some of the beaches of which Mandwa beach is serene and quiet and the perfect spot to catch the sunset. 

Dhaani at Paisley Experience: +919082804116.

M2M: Rs 300 per person / Rs 1200 for a Jeep Compass sized car.

The Mansion House Room Rates: Rs 10000++ / Contact: +919152036009

M2M Ferry
A temple en route
Lunch at Paisley Experience

DAPOLI: Fresh and well slept in the comforts of The Mansion House, we set out on our drive to Dapoli which as per Google Maps is 4 hours away. One very important learning on this trip was Offline Maps. Make sure to download routes and depend less on directions (especially if you don’t speak Marathi). We landed up in Dapoli 7 hours later. The highlight was the sunset we caught on the way and a misal pav feast at a local shack. Dapoli is a coastal hill station in the Ratnagiri district popular for its red soil. The sunset was a reflection of this soil, with burning amber skies and pink low tones. We arrived at Saffron Stays Villa 270 (known for it’s 270 degree view from the hill) just in time for dinner. The meal was simple, local and worth writing home about. It took us a few minutes to quieten our minds and soak in the sound of the sea. We knew we were in for a surprise when the sun would be up. Villa 270 gives you a bird’s eye view of the coast, the sea and a fishing village. The colours from the fishing village pop against the backdrop of the grey sea and you can watch the rain come right into the room's sit-out. Hotels with bath tubs and 4-poster beds have a soft spot in my heart. Villa 270 is built in wood with a 4-poster bed and muslin drapes to compliment it. We woke up in time to hit the kitchen and cook Ambolis (very similar to a neer dosa but made with Urad dal, Channa dal, Methi, Rice flour, Dhaniya powder, Jeera powder and Haldi) with Chef Mangesh. The restaurant is located at the highest level with a view of the estuary. We certainly wished we had one more night here. We spent the morning driving through the fishing village exploring lighthouses and forts before making our way to Ganpatipule.

Saffron Stays Villa 270 Room Rates: Rs 8000++ / Contact: +918069160000

Sunset en route Dapoli
View from the restaurant at Villa 270
How to make Ambolis

GANPATIPULE: A 4-hour drive from Dapoli, Ganpatipule popularly known for the Ganesh Temple is a seaside town with lots of local fare and scenic sea views from it’s winding cliffs. I thoroughly enjoyed driving down the 3km Aare Ware Beach stretch. These two beaches are unique as they are two sides of the same mountain, formed when the surrounding mountain converged into the ocean. We stayed at a quaint Mediterranean themed AirBnB called The One facing the sea, artistically designed by Niyoti who owns the apartment and has stocked it up with local board games, a speaker and in-room amenities. If you keep an eye out, the coastal road is dotted with coconut stalls and benches. Park yourself on a bench, sip on that tender coconut juice and enjoy the breathtaking view. The bridge that passes over the Malgund Fishing Village is a great spot to pause before the estuary and watch the pop-colour boats. A meal at Varad Vinayak is a must. Rekha Akka serves up a mean fish thali. Take a few moments to catch up with her and to listen to her story. 

AirBnB The One Room Rates: Rs 5500 / Contact: +919820619611

View from Aare Waare
Hydrate
Lunch at Varad Vinayak

SAWANTWADI: About 5 hours from Ganpatipule, further down the coast is Sawantwadi, one of my favourite destinations on this trip. Tree lined roads lead you to the main square with the Palace on one side, a lake in the middle and a marketplace which in any other city could double up for a promenade dotted with cafes. Happiness Estate, a boutique stay that focusses on responsible tourism is just the kind of place you want to land up at after a long winding trip. Vikrant Nath, the charismatic storyteller and owner of this beautiful retreat joined us over lunch which was a simple, local meal of beans, fish curry, rajma (his Punjabi roots fused with Malvani flavours) and kada prasad (just like the one at a Gurudwara). The Kada Prasad is also a welcome treat for every guest who checks in, just wow! The cottages are spread out around the pool and give you plenty of physical as well as mental space to just be. Surprisingly, we had plenty to do during our two-night stay here. 

Happiness Estate
Morning walk around Sawantwadi
Malgund Fishing Village

3 things that made Sawantwadi memorable:

1. Evening tea at the Sawantwadi Palace with Ranisaheb Shubhada Khem Bhonsle and her daughter in law Yuvrani Shraddha Lakham Sawant Bhonsle (A trained CIA chef) who gave us an insight into the dying craftsmanship of Ganjifa, an art popularly known in the form of playing cards and board games, a sneak peek into their soon-to-open boutique hotel and a history of the palace. 

Our attempt to a cutesy Curtesy
The art of Ganjifa

2. Lunch with the Swamini Women’s Self Help Group in Vengurla led by Shweta Hule who setup the Mangrove Eco Tourism initiative where they organise boating tours amongst the mangroves and share the importance of its eco system. The lunch was one of the best meals of our trip.

The awesome women of the Swamini Women's Self Help Group Vengurla
Lunch cooked by Shweta Hule and the lovely ladies of the Swamini Women's Help Group

3. A visit to Bosco’s organic dyeing factory where his son Dheeraj showed us the process of dyeing fabrics with different herbs and shrubs and creating an all natural product. 

Organic Indigo Dyeing

Happiness Estate Room Rates: Rs 4500++ / Contact: +919354391595

Mangrove Eco Tourism: Shweta Hula: +919423511951


SOUTH GOA: A 2-hour drive away and we were in the much desired land of Goa. We headed straight to Canaguinim (South Goa) to check into Cabo Serai, a boutique hotel that’s a destination in itself. Some off-roading led us to a shackled gate where a kind staff member awaited our arrival with umbrellas in tow. We were guided down a walkway and into a palm grove, further crossing a bridge built over a gushing stream. A buggy waited at the other end and took us uphill to wooden cabins that make you feel one with your surroundings. Spacious, carefully crafted with top notch amenities, I highly recommend you spend some time enjoying the view and comfort of Cabo Serai. Our Goa itinerayr was planned by Samyukta Ranganathan, the founder of Urbanaut - an experiential app and whose recommendations I’d trust blindly for high quality expeditions. She organised two exclusive experiences for us. The first was an indulging Feni tasting (much appreciated session after being teetotallers through this journey) by Hansel Vaz (Cazulo Feni and Plantations) at Tesouro by Firefly (A must-do when in South Goa). The second included some off-roading (a new found love for me), a farmer’s meal, a drive to two offbeat waterfalls and a swim in the basin, epic! I managed to squeeze in a quick chat with Trupti Wesley who runs a tight ship at Cabo Serai, cherry on the top! 

Cabo Serai Room Rates: Rs 8000++ / Contact: +9178878 82414

Cabo Serai
Cliff View by Cabo Serai
Cazulo Feni Tasting with Hansel Vaz at Tesouro by Firefly organised by Urbanaut
Farm Lunch
Farm Feni
Samyukta - Founder of Urbanaut
Swim in the waterfal basin

Crackling rain and bad weather led us to an extra two nights in Goa (who’s complaining!) and we checked into Figueirido House in Loutolim (best to ask how to pronounce names of places in Goa before attempting it in public). This family run boutique hotel is home to Pedro Figueirido who runs this palatial stay and museum. The rooms are designed Portuguese style in a maze that will take you some time to decipher. Glad we had two nights! Plenty of spaces to hang out, take in some colonial air over umpteen cups of tea, all served in pristine heirloom porcelain. Figueirido House Room Rates: Rs 4500++ / Contact: +919657868090

My attempt to fit into Figueirido House
Nishi's (Our cinematographer) attempt to fit into Figueirido House

We drove down all the way to Karwar on our last day but with no luck on the weather conditions, it was a wash out. Hoping to continue this journey soon. 

For the coolest, offbeat experiences - Download the Urbanaut app here

The people on the coast are super kind and happy to help with directions and recommendations. It's super safe to travel, just make sure to respect your surroundings in small towns.

Happy Travels!

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India With Insia

Curated Indian destinations, boutique hotels, regional cuisine and underground culture.