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“Hard Rock Hotel Calangute, how may I rock your world?”
International hotel chains aren’t normally my first choice when it comes to finding a place to stay on holidays – not because there’s anything wrong with them, simply because where possible, I prefer to find quirky and unique places with a ‘local vibe’ and colourful walls. Colourful walls in hotels are my thing, as evidenced below:
This rings especially true in India, where budget accommodation is plentiful and there are basically more homestays than cows. You’re never short of weird and wacky places to stay, and even weirder and wackier people to stay with!
However, just before my trip to Goa I got signed on for a pretty big freelance project and found myself with slightly more disposable income than I thought I’d have, and have always fancied staying at one of the Hard Rock Hotels. In fact, I did look into staying at Hard Rock Hotel Cancún when I was in Mexico back in 2016, but at a minimum of £200 a night, to say it was out of my budget would be the biggest understatement of the Millennium. My self-imposed ‘limit’ per night for accommodation is typically around £20-30, and unless I was on my Honeymoon, had just won the lottery, or the hotel in question offered unlimited donuts and Shakira was staying next door, I can’t see myself ever spending more than £150 a night on a hotel. And that’s for expensive countries! For Latin America and Asia, I’d lower the bar to £100, and even that’s at a push.
So as I was saying, I’d had an unexpected payday and quite liked the idea of a night or two in luxury after almost a week of sleeping on hard beds and in beachside huts (side note: you can’t go to Goa and not stay in a beach hut, they are amazing and you basically fly home feeling like a female Tarzan) so booked myself and a friend in for 2 nights at Hard Rock Hotel Goa.
The cost per night for your bog-standard double room overlooking the amazing pool area, including breakfast, when I stayed (November) was around £66 (booked through MakeMyTrip) which, for reference, is almost exactly the same amount I paid out for a night in a room without so much as a window at an airport Premier Inn in London.
And I’d go so far as to say it was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.
The entire compound is tastefully decorated, with sometimes subtle, sometimes very obvious musical intonations. As with all Hard Rock locations, there are pieces of musical memorabilia scattered throughout, mostly locked away in glass cabinets or behind velvet ropes, including one of the dresses Shakira wore in the Underneath Your Clothes video. Ten-year-old me just about died there and then! Of course, I took a photo but have you ever tried to take a photo of a glass cabinet? It basically becomes a selfie.
Aside from its 135 rooms, the hotel features a gym, swimming pool, children’s swimming pool, two meeting rooms, an all-day restaurant and separate snack bar, Hard Rock souvenir shop and hosts live music by the pool every single night.
From the moment we arrived too early for check-in (me falling off the scooter and almost ripping my dress in the process) and asked to store our bags for a few hours, to us staying in the lobby way past check-out time waiting for an appropriate time to take a cab to the airport, the staff were friendly, accommodating and, best of all, not at all in-your-face.
I mean this in the kindest possible way, but over the years I’ve found that service staff in India can be a little, er, fussy, especially with their very obviously “out of country” guests. I appreciate great service as much as the next guy, but there’s a difference between offering me a napkin when I spill some paneer masala down my front and spoon-feeding me the whole meal.
The staff at Hard Rock Hotel Goa were there if you needed them, and were happy to back away when you didn’t. In fact, the only negative to the service we received for our whole 2-night stay was when it took about 3 hours to get a cup of coffee at breakfast! That and the incredibly monotonous “Hard Rock Hotel Calangute, how may I rock your world?” you’re greeted with every-time you make a call to reception. Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to have to say that to guests either! It’s a bit oo-er for my liking.
Not normally a breakfast person (especially in hotels where they expect you to be done by 10am – I’m barely even awake by then!), the buffet spread on offer at Hard Rock Hotel Goa really is something else!
Served inside the hotel’s restaurant as well as at the tables near the pool area, they offer all sorts of traditional Indian staple breakfast foods like Dosa (my absolute favourite in the whole wide world) and various curries, as well as your standard “English breakfast” of bacon, sausage, and eggs. They even have baked beans!! Not Heinz, but they a good enough substitute. There are also made-to-order stations for eggs, omelettes, pancakes and French toast, as well as a large selection of cereals, fresh fruit and sliced meat and cheese, and at the back of the room a display of bread and pastries for a more continental choice.
All-in-all, the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. I went back for seconds on day one and day two.
We didn’t eat lunch or dinner at the hotel. This wasn’t because the menu didn’t look good because it looked amazing, but we couldn’t justify spending the equivalent of £10 on what would probably end up being a mediocre burger, when we were in India and could walk outside and fill our bellies with the world’s most delicious curries and street food delicacies for a fifth of the price.
The cost of the food and drinks at the hotel, bearing in mind its location, really didn’t reflect well.
One of the most important things about a hotel, for me, is the bed.
If I want a flimsy piece of cardboard with a strip of cloth thrown on top, I’d bunk in a hostel. If I’m paying out for a hotel, I at least want to wake up feeling refreshed and not like I’ve been mowed down by a steamroller.
Hard Rock Hotel Goa certainly delivered on this. The bed was huge – I stayed there with a friend, and it was so spacious that we easily could have fit another 3 of us in at bedtime! The pillows were so soft they felt like little clouds of Heaven, and there were added cushions for when you wanted to prop yourself up and watch TV in bed. The bed was so comfortable, in fact, that I went back for a nap after breakfast on both days. And that was after getting a solid 9 hours sleep each night!
When we arrived, the receptionist asked if either of us played the guitar. Beyond awkwardly plucking Mary Had A Little Lamb and My Heart Will Go On, the answer was a firm no. She then told us that guitars were available on request in all rooms. Um, excuse me?!?! And, better yet, they come with premium headphones so nobody has to listen to you! Not exactly my cup of tea but I know it’s something a lot of people would love about the hotel, my own stepfather and brother included.
The bathroom was stocked with Rock Spa toiletries which seemed very high quality and smelt wonderful, as well as more towels than any two people could need and a pair of complimentary slippers each. One thing I was expecting (it was mentioned in my booking confirmation) was a bathrobe, which wasn’t provided but with it being India I sort of air-dried the second I got out of the shower anyway.
Good enough to stream Netflix – what more do you need?!
Close enough to walk to the very popular Calangute Beach, but far enough away so as not to feel over-crowded, there are countless shops and restaurants nearby, at such close proximity that you even feel safe walking there at night! And, the best part is, it’s super close to KFC! Indian KFC is the best.
The only negative to Hard Rock’s location is that it’s very easy to miss the turn! Although there is a huge sign tacked to the fence that says Hard Rock Hotel Goa with a sign pointing for you to take that turn, there are also huge signs advertising many other things. You have to go down one alley, into another alley until you see some trees and a huge automatic gate. Hard Rock Hotel Goa is hiding behind that automatic gate. On arrival, it’s pretty obvious where you’re heading, as it’s normally flanked by two security guards and a bunch of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers getting ready to pounce.
As it’s hidden away, though, it means it’s the perfect haven from the regular hustle and bustle of North Goa, and the perfect resort for you to spend a few days of relaxation.