“Find your own rhythm at this boutique yoga hotel beside a palm-fringed Om-shaped beach near the Goa-Karnataka border”
SwaSwara - actually in Karnataka, but listed in our Goa section because most visitors tie it in with Goa - is a short walk from the famed beaches of Gokarna. The nearest is Om beach, so-called because it's shaped like the mystical symbol for the sound of the universe. If this all sounds a bit hippy dippy, well, it probably isn’t the place for you.
There are elements that are more left-field; daily ayurvedic therapy sessions, ranging from hot oil massages to herbal pummelling, panchakarma treatements are prescribed after a visit to the resort’s qualified doctors. But visitors tend to love it and come time and again to experience its calm tranquillity and life-affirming properties. There's fantastic fresh food, 24 comfortable suites, great service and green credentials, including a biomass burner and rainwater harvesting.
- The staff are attentive, friendly and happy to help or stop for a chat
- The villas are spacious, private and luxurious - a far cry from an ashram dormitory
- You can have a personally tailored yoga programme plus private yoga sessions through the day for no extra cost (quantity of sessions is dependent on the duration of your stay)
- Great for solo travellers (although there is a supplement)
- The place to come for a life-changing, spiritual experience à la Eat, Pray Love
- The minimum stay is 5 nights; Ayurvedic programmes require at least 7 nights
- It’s 3 hours and 30 minutes from the nearest airport
- The site is alcohol free (apart from a small range of local Indian wines), but there are other bars and restaurants close by
- Limited food options if you don’t like Indian food, vegetarian meals or seafood
- No children under 15 allowed - the atmosphere is focused on serenity and calmness
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Yoga / Wellbeing Retreat
- All inclusive (vegetarian/fish)
- Over 15s only
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Yoga classes
The 24 Villas are set around a central swimming pool surrounded by coconut groves and paddy fields. When you get here, you’ll find bougainvillea and hibiscus petals scattered on your bed, along with cotton yoga clothes and handmade Ayurvedic soaps in the bathroom.
Each villa has a mini lawn at the front, a large bedroom with a kingsize bed, a study, a lounge and a semi-open-air bathroom so you can shower under the stars. Some also have pull-out beds and you can request twin beds if you prefer. From the warm orange tiles on the floor to the local textiles and rattan chairs on terraces, it feels friendly and homely; the villas are spacious and not over-decorated, in order to retain a sense of calm.
There is a deck above the bedroom designed for solo meditation or yoga sessions; it’s also great for sunset views. This is no typical ashram with communal bedrooms and bunk-beds; the glass walls and floor-to-ceiling windows mark it out as a luxury hotel, although the owners wouldn’t want you to think of it this way. With a lack of gadgets (there’s no TV, for instance) you won’t get distracted from the serenity of the environment, but there is low energy lighting, air-conditioning and a sense of privacy within each building. The local wildlife may pay you a visit - we’ve heard reports of geckos in the bathrooms, tree frogs in the wardrobes and monkeys on the roof - but you’ll be glad to hear that a combination of mosquito coils, citronella candles and incense keeps the mosquitoes at bay.
- Air conditioning
- Coffee tea making
- Internet access
- Safe box
The food at SwaSwara is fantastic: local, fresh and delicious. Following yogic principles as well as the local culture - you won’t be eating red meat here - the focus is on locally-sourced vegetables (many from the gardens) and fresh seafood. Evening meals are served with herbal teas, fruit juice and local wine - no other types of alcohol are allowed or sold here, although the nearby beach bars serve cocktails and beer.
The style of food is predominantly South Indian, with Mediterranean and pan-Asian influences: expect dahl, paneer curry, prawns, cumin potatoes, maybe tuna stuffed in a snake gourd ring with pickled kokum fruit. It’s certainly not a diet camp - portions are huge, and you get yummy desserts too - but with low salt and sugar, and no eggs or red meat, it feels healthy and nutritious.
Breakfast is a traditional southern Indian affair and might include chai, dosa and idli (steamed rice / lentil cakes) with sambal and chutneys, fresh tropical fruit, and a Continental option if you prefer. Lunch is typically a thali, a traditional dish of several vegetable curries plus salad, chapatti and rice, often served on a banana leaf. You eat in the open-air restaurant, outdoors under the trees in a candlelit area or at the beachside restaurant.
Solo travellers won’t feel lonely as there’s a communal dining atmosphere and activities such as early evening aperitif sessions to encourage socialising. Keen chefs can learn how to cook, South Indian-style, in the kitchens beforehand, and gardeners can roam the property in search of spices and fresh vegetables for dinner.
- All meals included
- Coffee tea making
- Organic produce
- Restaurants nearby
- Vegetarian menu
- Participate in group yoga or meditation classes. They take place several times a day (the first at 6.30am if you're keen); you can also have private yoga sessions during the day for no extra cost
- Have an Ayurvedic massage with herbal oils; or prebook an Ayurvedic consultation and enroll on a healing programme (for stays of 7 nights and over, at an extra cost); the full body cleanse takes 21 days and includes daily medicinal massages and a diet programme
- Relax on the Om-shaped beach, or stroll over to Paradise, Half-Moon and Kudle beaches, stopping at beach bars, cafés and shops
- Join an art class with the current artist in residence - mediums include paint and clay
- Meander around Gokarna’s 2 streets amid the sacred cows; visit its famous Shiva temple; or tour the inland temples and forts (ask staff for guidance)
- Take a boat ride to nearby beaches; or go dolphin-watching - trips can be arranged through the hotel
- Go walking or bird-watching in the forests
- Learn to cook, South Indian-style, at SwaSwara
- Take a daytrip or longer to Hampi, former capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, to visit its dazzling temple ruins overrun with monkeys
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Art classes
- Boat trips
- Cooking classes
- Dolphin watching
- Historical sites
- Mountain biking
- Plantlife / flora
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
The hotel only accepts children aged 15 and above; with the focus so strongly on yoga, it's not especially child-friendly. But if you wanted to come as a family with older kids who can take care of themselves while you relax and de-stress, it could work; there are plenty of child-friendly activities nearby.
Families Should Know:
The sea can be rough and there is no lifeguard by the swimming pool; in both instances, children shouldn't swim unattended.