An Insider’s Guide to Goa’s Most Unmissable Beaches
Featured destinations: Southern India, Goa
Published 14 August 2017
For decades, holiday makers have been flocking to the tiny state of Goa for its miles of enchanting coastline and general laidback vibe. There truly is something magical about this region, located on India’s south west coast, which simply just washes over you and makes you feel at ease. It’s a calming place that has been a firm favourite among the hippy community since the 60s, with many returning year after year, still in love with the state’s spiritual approach to life!
While on a stint volunteering and travelling around India, I called Goa my home for about four months. And it was four months well spent, where I used a majority of my free time searching for the area’s best coastal hideaways and unspoilt sandy spots to while the days away on. For this reason, I like to think of myself as a bit of an honourary local and beach expert; and have put together my take on the location’s top beaches:
Calangute image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Calangute and Baga
Best for: Markets, nightlife and watersports
Calangute and Baga are the region’s most popular beaches, and for this reason tend to be the most crowded. However, it makes sense to be based here, as much is easily accessible and available in the area. Lining the sand, you will find your pick of the beachside shacks serving up an array of local dishes as well as western favourites, meaning you shouldn’t have a problem finding somewhere that suits you.
Bottle Bay, Baga image: Sandy Dhaliwal
On Calangute you’ll be able to wander through endless colourful markets, including the exquisite Tibetan Market, which specialises in jewellery, while Baga is the place for water sports and cocktails, though not at the same time! By day, enjoy parasailing, jet skiing and banana boat rides; and by night, sit under the harem tents of the beach bars while enjoying a fresh seafood barbecue, plus the tipple of your choice.
Candolim Beach image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Candolim and Sinquerim
Best for: Resorts, watersports and avoiding the crowds
Located south of Calangute, Candolim provides the perfect departure from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and nightlife of the busier beaches. With an array of sophisticated resorts and eateries, this area is perfect for couples or families seeking a quieter, more relaxing break. If you’re keen on watersports, you don’t need to stray from here either as there are opportunities for snorkeling, banana boat rides, parasailing and more.
Fishing boats in Sinquerim image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Located south of Candolim is Sinquerim, an even more secluded spot that overlooks Fort Aguada, one of the state’s most famous landmarks. You can walk along the stone walls of this 16th-century sight and enjoy spectacular views of the Arabian Sea and surrounding coastline. Watersports activities and fishing trips can be taken from here too.
Anjuna Beach image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Best for: Nightlife and markets
The original stomping ground of Goa’s hippies, Anjuna embodies their legacy with its atmospheric stretch of bohemian beach bars and neon-entrenched nightspots pumping bass-tastic DJ sets. It really is a charismatic part of the coast, teeming with charm and picturesque views to match. And don’t be surprised by the fact that cows will be grazing on the beach alongside you.
Along the hills of Vagator image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Best for: Jaw-droppingly beautiful views
Located north of Anjuna is Vagator, the former centre of Goa’s hedonistic psytrance party scene, though it’s more the beach’s sweeping red cliffs, striking rock formations and overall natural beauty that tends to draw the revellers these days. Additionally, as it’s close to some of the nearby party hotspots, the serenity and calmness of this stunning stretch provides the perfect refuge for those seeking a little downtime or walk to clear their head.
Arambol and Querim
Best for: Budget travelers, families, getting spiritual and watersports
Making up one of the furthest northern stretches of Goan coastline is another hippy haven, Arambol. Popular with budget travelers and families alike, there is a wonderfully relaxed vibe here, where you’ll find musicians jamming on the sand as well as travelers indulging in therapies including meditation, yoga, tai chi and reiki. If you’re keen on watersports, you will not miss out either, as there are a range of options, as well as dolphin sightseeing trips to choose from.
Views of Querim from Fort Terekhol image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Not too far from here is Querim, a deserted spot that is as wild as it is beautiful. Here you’ll see fishing boats lining the shores and the charming 17th- century Fort Terekhol towering above in the background. I highly recommend heading here for a spot of lunch at its adjoining restaurant, as well as the panoramic views of the ocean and desolate surroundings are awe-inspiring.
Morjim image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Mandrem, Morjim and Ashwem
Best for: Nightlife, resorts and retreats
Just before you hit Arambol is this livelier stretch, made up of Mandrem, Morjim and Ashwem. With trendy resorts, chic bars and a host of serene yoga retreats and spas to keep you occupied, this is the perfect place for couples with a high-end budget looking to enjoy a night out, as well as a detox. This stunning area of natural beauty is also renowned for its large variety of birdlife and protected Olive Ridley turtle population.Sandy in Patnem image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Palolem and Patnem
Best for: Beachside accommodation
For me, Palolem and Patnem embody what I believe to be beach heaven. With their plush white sand, palm tree-fringed coastline and scenic cliffs connecting the two areas, this idyllic setting is perfect for long walks or just sitting back and admiring the views. Here you can hire a bohemian bungalow, or even a tree house, and sleep right by the ocean – a true highlight of my time in India.
And if you’re peckish, the colourful food shacks will have everything from local dishes to international cuisine to keep you well-nourished too. My personal favourite was dishes baked in the tandoor ovens, including paneer skewers and freshly caught seafood – I still dream about my meals and long to get back for them one day!
Sandy in Agonda image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Best for: Seclusion
Situated north of Palolem is this secluded gem of a beach, Agonda. With its calm waters and relative anonymity, don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re on a deserted island here. Personally, I feel like Agonda is a wonderful departure from the packed crowds of the north and livelier shores further south. Plus, the small and traditional fishing village nearby makes it one of the most culturally engaging seaside parts of Goa.
Colva Beach image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Colva and Benaulim
Best for: Beach bumming
Popular with domestic tourists, Colva is one of the area’s busiest beaches, and sees many Portuguese Goan pilgrims who come to visit the sacred Our Lady of Merces Church. For this reason, nightlife is not a driving factor in the area, allowing you to really get a feel for what it’s like to be amongst the locals and enjoy the colonial feel of the place.
Benaulim on the other hand is the place to get away from the crowds. This quaint and quiet setting is perfect if you’re after that authentic feel. You can also try out an array of watersports and trips such as dolphin spotting.
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