“A perfect place to unwind: antique-filled rooms or full villas for 8-10 set amidst lush gardens and swimming pools, overlooking Dolphin Bay”
Ahilya’s 3 Balinese-style villas (Sunset, Sunrise and Leela) are made of hand-carved laterite stone, festooned with fanciful wooden trim. They are beautiful. Downstairs are the common areas: a dining area in Sunrise; and a dining area, comfy couches and tables in Sunset. Upstairs are the double/twin rooms, which are large but feel intimate, perhaps because of the extraordinary décor that makes Ahilya so utterly unique: twig chairs from Africa mix with hand-painted plates from Istanbul and gilded relics from old Goan churches. It’s an utterly eclectic style and it works.
We stayed in one of Sunset's rooms, which we loved for its sage-coloured plantation shutters offering sweeping views of Dolphin Bay. But every room at Ahilya has a breathtaking view, so you can’t go wrong. The most private is Florentina in Sunset. Annalia and Barcos (Sunrise) have high brick ceilings and interesting antiques. An added bonus in Sunrise: a lovely reading alcove tucked high above the stairs, with an enormous bay window onto the sea.
The Trinidade Suite is the only room in Leela so a good option for a honeymoon. It overlooks the garden and infinity pool, and has a private living area plus 2 sea-view balconies. If the hotel is full, you can stay in Arjun's Treehouse Suite: a small studio in the magical, multi-storied treehouse set in a massive banyan tree at the end of the property. Ideal for a single traveller, too.
Exceptional care is lavished on the food. A fruit salad might have 10 different ingredients, including a little surprise (in this case, blanched almonds). Our breakfast was a feast: fresh-pressed juices, hung curd yoghurt with homemade granola, crepes, and eggs made to order, including Meheshwari-style (scrambled with turmeric) and 'Loulou’s favorite' (oeufs en cocotte with onions and fresh herbs). Prefer Indian? Then try the extraordinary podi dosa with fresh mint chutney. You’ll thank us later.
Lunch is lighter - mainly fresh salads and sandwiches; you’re still working off your breakfast, after all - but it’s dinner where Ahilya really stands out. Our advice: focus on the Goan specialities - shrimp curry, spicy pomfret wrapped in banana leaf, or the mixed Goan thali, which has a bit of everything. The atmosphere couldn’t be more magical. Candles line the seawall and infinity pool, and tables are set up in private nooks throughout the gardens. Service is attentive, never obtrusive.
There's a good Goan restaurant 15 minutes' walk away by the sea, and great options in Candolim (12-20 mins by car) and Panjim (30 mins by car); you'll find a list of recommendations in your room.
The hotel was originally built as a family retreat and it has retained that warm, family-friendly feel. While the general atmosphere is one of gracious serenity, children are welcomed and looked after. (We brought ours. When one cut her foot, plasters with cartoon characters immediately appeared, as well as a mug of warm milk laced with turmeric, a home remedy.) Children will go nuts over the pools, and the gardens, with their wandering paths, tropical flowers and hidden statuettes, provide hours of distraction.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
A baby cot or extra mattress can be added to Florentina and Minestrel (Large Doubles) and the Trinidade Suite.
Baby cots and high chairs on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Staff are happy to whip up child-friendly meals
The pools are not fenced and the property is open to the seafront