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Sandalwood Hotel & Retreat 3.5

Dona Paula, Goa, India

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Review Summary

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  • Quiet location a short walk from Vainguinim Beach
  • Bright, well-maintained rooms with balconies and air-conditioning
  • Restaurant with good selection of items and free breakfast; meal plans available
  • Multiple bars offering snacks and mixed drinks
  • Outdoor pool with adjacent shallow kids' pool 
  • Fitness center with cardio and weight-training equipment
  • Small spa offering massage treatments
  • Free one-way shuttle service to Panjim Market and Dona Paula
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout 


  • Not directly on the beach 
  • Check-in process is slow at times
  • Wi-Fi connections are poor in much of the hotel, particularly in rooms

Bottom Line

Located in a southern suburb of Panaji, the capital of Goa, Sandalwood Hotel & Retreat is a quiet three-and-a-half-pearl resort with 69 rooms and suites near Vainguinim Beach. All of the units are well-maintained and have furnished balconies and split air-conditioning units, but the Wi-Fi service in most rooms is awful, making them inconvenient for business travelers (or really anyone who wants to send an email). The internet is much better in the main restaurant, where a free hot breakfast buffet is served daily. Unusual for a Goa hotel, this property also offers board plans for guests who want to eat meals at the property, though instead of offering buffet-style meals, guests are stuck with restricted menus. Travelers shopping around may want to compare rates and amenities at the beachfront Prainha Resort nearby.

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Upper-middle-range resort property with grassy lawns and colonial-style architecture

This upper-middle-range resort is housed in a series of three-story yellow buildings with white trim and red terra-cotta roofs that give the purpose-built property a colonial look and feel. The lobby is small but filled with rattan sofas, useful for guests to linger, since check-in can take a long time. While the lobby is inviting enough, with a TV tuned to sporting events and news, the outdoor spaces are more inviting. There's a terrace and lawn area right in front of the lobby, complete with its own seasonal bar, and guests often choose to take dinner and drinks out here rather than in the overly air-conditioned restaurant. This hotel sees all sorts of guests, including British, Russian, and domestic tourists and even some Goans looking for a staycation convenient to Panaji. 


Quiet location near Vainguinim Beach in southern Panaji, a 20-minute drive from the city center

Sandalwood is located in a quiet southern suburb of Panaji, the capital city of Goa, just a couple of minutes' walk along a narrow footpath to nearby Vainguinim Beach.The larger Caranzalem Beach to the west of the property is under a 10-minute drive away (or around 45 minutes on foot). Getting to Panaji's city center takes around 20 minutes by car, while it takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach the Goa International Airport by car. The nearest train station, Karmali Railway Station, is a half-hour drive away. North Goan dining and tourism hotspots such as Calangute, Baga, and Anjuna all take around an hour or so to reach by car, depending on traffic. 


Bright, air-conditioned rooms with balconies -- most with pool views

This hotel offers four types of room, from the most economical Deluxe Compact rooms up to the most expensive Suites with separate living rooms and bedrooms. All room types feature a similar decor scheme that features off-white walls and light-wood furniture paired with white beds with colorful accent pillows and dark-gray bed runners and sofas (in some). All rooms have furnished balconies, most facing out on the swimming pool. Standard amenities include small wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, kettles with tea and instant coffee, and small electronic safes. Wi-Fi is free and allegedly available in the rooms, but connections are generally awful, even for basic emailing. Bathrooms are fitted with walk-in showers and toiletries are provided. Light switches in the rooms can be hard to  find -- during our visit, we noticed the light switch controlling the balcony light was hidden in a hard-to-reach spot behind a wall-mounted TV.


Swimming pool with kids' pool, bars and restaurants with full- and half-board packages, fitness center, and spa

Sandalwood offers resort-style features, with a medium-size centerpiece swimming pool flanked with shaded lounge chairs plus a smaller kids' splash pool at one end. Alternatively, there's a nearby beach that's decent for swimming, about a three-minute walk away. Dining options include the main restaurant, Upper Coast Cafe, which serves predominantly North and South Indian cuisine, with a few continental options available. There's also a smallish bar, Caitan 'n' Joe, with a pool table and a good selection of snacks and liquor and the seasonal outdoor Salud Bar. Room service is available 24 hours a day. A decent buffet breakfast is included in room rates, and the hotel offers full- and half-board plans (with limited a la carte menus for lunch and dinner), plus packages that include airport transfers and sightseeing tours of Old Goa or Calangute. The hotel also offers a free one-way shuttle service to Panjim Market and the nearby town of Dona Paula. There's a decent amount of on-site parking for those with their own cars. There's also a travel desk in the lobby for arranging tours and transfers.

Other features include a small fitness center with a few free weights and an older treadmill, plus a small spa offering massage treatments. A conference hall with audiovisual equipment and outdoor lawn areas are available for smaller weddings and corporate events. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel, but it can be incredibly slow to the point of uselessness in rooms, forcing guests to hover around near the restaurant and lobby where connection speeds are better. 

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Vainguinim Beach, Dona Paula, Goa 403004, India

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