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Luxury & Family Friendly In Goa – A Review Of The Leela

If you’re chasing winter sun (at least in the northern hemisphere!), there are favourites that pop up; Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.  I haven’t been to India since my backpacking days but I’m determined to get the kids there in the next few years (albeit more luxuriously).  Last Christmas Hena made the trip from the UK to Goa with her husband and two little girls Aria (nearly 4) and Amaya (2.5).  She stayed at the beautiful Leela and shares her review and tips below (including a few nights in Mumbai!)

The Leela Entrance

Why did we book the Leela?

We wanted some winter sun and wanted a destination that would have good beaches, good weather and good food and Goa seemed to tick those boxes. My husband and I had been to this hotel ten years ago and remember it being lovely so thought we would try it again but this time with the girls.

The Leela is in south Goa which is quieter and more family orientated than North Goa which is known for its beach parties and is much much livelier and younger.

How did we book?

I booked directly with the hotel.

The flights were not part of the package. There are direct flights from London to Goa but these are chartered. We wanted a scheduled flight so flew by British Airways to Mumbai, where we spent two nights and then took an internal flight to Goa.

JW Marriott Entrance

We stayed at the J.W.Marriott in Mumbai which worked as a lovely break in the trip. The hotel itself is only about 30mins from the international airport and has lovely pools which can keep children entertained and the most amazing breakfast buffet every morning with something for everyone.

JW Marriott Pools

We stayed in a Premier Club Room which wasn’t massive but we managed to squeeze an extra bed and a cot into it. This room gave us access to the Club Lounge where there were free refreshments and Internet but children under 12 aren’t allowed so was a bit pointless. Free transfers to and from the airport were included in this room category so we didn’t have to struggle with Mumbai taxis.

There is a lot to do with children in Mumbai (I know there is a Kidzania somewhere!) but the traffic is so ridiculous, it is probably easier to just stay in the hotel or do a guided tour organised by the hotel itself.

We then flew via Jet Airways to Goa. The flight time is only an hour and the Leela hotel is an hour away from the airport. Transfers were provided by the hotel so this made everything very seamless.

On the way back we took a 7am flight from Goa and were in Mumbai by 8am. Getting out of the airport in Mumbai and making our way to the international airport (which was only about 10 minutes away) took another hour so we were there with plenty of time to spare to catch our 2pm flight back to London. It was a bit risky doing it this way as if the flight from Goa had been delayed, we would have missed our London flight so it may have been wiser to fly back to Mumbai the night before and stay in an airport hotel overnight.

Visas are needed for India but if you have a British passport you can buy e-visas online. These can only be bought a month before travel and is not the most user-friendly process. The payment page does not work from some computers so if it doesn’t work, try a different computer in a different location and make sure you triple check every application as if they reject it for any reason, you lose the fee and have to pay again. It is $60 per application.

When did we go?

We went during Christmas and New Year’s 2015 and the weather was perfect. Warm and hot but not too hot. It is peak time then and quite expensive but the Xmas eve and New Year’s Eve parties at the Leela in Goa were spectacular. There was an additional non optional fee per person for these but children were free.

The Hotel and facilities

The hotel is brilliant – lovely and large and has a beautiful beach. The main hotel has a kids club (children need to be over 5 to be left unsupervised), kid’s pool which is a lovely height but quite small and a small playground.

Leela - kids pool

leela - playground

There is also a larger pool which is next to the kids’ pool so you can use both and aren’t confined to just one.

Leela - main pool

We stayed in the “club” part of the hotel which was spectacular. It was much much quieter than the main hotel but we could still use the main hotel facilities.

The club is a series of rooms all backing on to their own club pool. This pool is quite deep and not really possible for children to use unless they have arm bands or can swim but we still managed to spend quite a lot of time there. The club has its own lounge and kitchen where breakfast is served till 11am (but the staff are so happy to please that they’d even serve breakfast at 12 if you wished!). The club also has its own private beach only for club guests and this was so lovely, secluded and clean! Floats are not allowed in this pool.

Leela - club pool

The staff at the club were so helpful and we had a butler who was only too willing to help!

There was free Wi-Fi throughout and an amazing spa whose hot stone massage is out of this world.

Our room

Our room - lounge with day bedWe booked a club pool suite which was only one bedroom but it had a massive lounge with a huge day bed which they converted into a lovely bed for Aria to sleep on. There was also a huge separate entrance hall where we could easily put Amaya’s cot in so both girls had their own space.

The suite also had a kitchen which was very useful and a small plunge pool. The garden led to the main club pool and was so close that we felt comfortable letting the girls walk from the pool back to the room on their own.

Our room - plunge pool Food

This hotel definitely had the best food I have had, primarily because the chefs would make us anything we wanted (and I mean anything!). Not only that but they seemed pleased to do it! They catered for every craving.

We would give the girls their baths and then order their food to the room and put them to bed. The staff would then set us up a table on the terrace with our dinner and we could have our dinner there, overlooking the pool and lights, knowing that the girls were just inside. This worked perfectly! We didn’t have to get babysitters but still managed to get amazing dinners every night in peace and quiet.

New Years Eve party We did take the girls to the Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eves parties which they totally loved. There was more food than we could imagine at both of these, a separate children’s area with a children’s buffet, games, balloons and clowns. Both parties had live bands, dance floors, dancers, fireworks (much to poor Amaya’s distress) and photobooths.

Xmas Eve Party Deserts

The Leela has many restaurants catering to numerous cuisines. There is an Indian restaurant called Jamavar which was lovely (and very accommodating – the girls wanted pasta that night so they didn’t mind making that for them there!). There is a lovely Italian called Riverside which backs onto a little river and is secluded from the hotel (a beach buggy takes you there). There are loads more restaurants too which we didn’t try but which are all on their website.

Trips / excursions

Unfortunately we didn’t do any but I’m sure the hotel would have been happy to organise these as they were with everything else.

Staff

The staff were lovely, friendly and so accommodating!

Hena’s Tips for A Stay At The Leela, Goa

Overall this was one of our best holidays. If booking his trip, I would suggest the following:

  • definitely stay in the club part as it is just so much nicer in terms of quality, service and facilities. You don’t necessarily need a room with a plunge pool as the club pool is so lovely but make sure the room booked is close to the club pool.
  • we noticed that some of the other one bedroom club suites had huge plunge pools so make sure you ask for these if you do book the pool ones.
  • triple check visa applications

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