Shaped like the new moon, Goa’s beaches are known the world over. Fringed by swaying palm and coconut trees with cool and comfortable shacks offering a variety of refreshments, Goa’s 103 km coastline is blessed with the most enchanting beaches lapped by the Arabian Sea.. And almost all of them are swimmer friendly with the assured presence of lifeguards on all the popular beaches.
When it comes to beaches, the visitor is spoilt for choice.
CALANGUTE (click here for photo)
Calangute is the most popular beach with thousands thronging it in both the peak and off-season. The waves rise high above as you wash away your city blues, though swimmer need to be a trifle cautious because of the sudden drop and the rising waves. Experienced swimmers will, however, revel in the seas here.. The beach is fringed with popular restaurants and hotels, including the Calangute Residency operated by GTDC. This long, seven-km sweep of sand located 15 kms from Panaji, is called the ‘Queen of Beaches’. All the travel agencies and tour operators have a base here from where bookings are done for most of the other beaches.
Parasailing at calangute beach (click here for photo)
Years of tourism has brought in a tremendous change in the scenario. Hotels and guesthouses stretch uninterrupted from Calangute to Baga. The village of Calangute has all basic facilities like post office, banks, foreign exchange offices, resort companies, all kind of bars and restaurants, besides medical facilities. The number of internet cafes in Calangute might even exceed that of the entire city of Panaji.
Huge showrooms filled with exquisite handicrafts from Kashmir, Tibet, Indonesia, Rajasthan and other exotic places, line up the main road running towards Anjuna.
BAGA (click here for photo)
A few kms down the beach is another—Baga.– part of a 30 km stretch of beach coastline along the west coast of Goa which begins at Fort Aguada, continues as Sinquerim Beach, moves on to Candolim which merges into Calangute Beach and then stretches on to Baga, Anjuna and on to Vagator, finally ending at Chapora beach. Truly a veritable feast of beaches.
Compared to Calangute, Baga is quieter and also more isolated. Its scenic beauty, with the creek, the Retreat House perched on the hill and the fewer tourist buses all have contributed to its unique beauty. It is more popular with western tourists who love to use it as a base for water sports and fishing in the area.
VAGATOR (click here for photo)
This most photographed beach of Goa forms a bay that curves from the headland to the hillock crowned by the Chapora Fort.
This beautiful arc of sand is located about 22 kms from Panaji and is part of the 30 km stretch of beach coastline along the west coast of Goa.
Adjoining Anjuna, Vagator is secluded, crescent shaped and situated on the Caisua bay along the Chapora river basin in the shadow of Chapora Fort. During the tourist season, it is a favorite venue for midnight parties. There are a number of buses that run from Mapusa and Calangute beach to Vagator. The nearest interstate bus station is at Mapusa.
ANJUNA (click here for photo)
Anjuna was made famous by the ‘flower power and peace’ generation of the sixties and early seventies. And later by the ‘trance’ parties. Located about 18 kms from Panaji, the beach is known for its breeze-catching palms, soft sand, and the unusual rocky formation overlying a cove of whitish sand.and black rock that juts into the sea. It is now famous for its weekly Flea Market, which draws legions of visitors every Wednesday and bargains can be had on apparel, footwear, jewellery, footwear, chess sets—and yak cheese.
The village of Anjuna is a five square mile enclosure nestling between the Arabian Sea and the Hill overlooking the beach.
SINQUERIM (click here for photo)
With its magnificent 17th century fort which has now been converted into a prison, Sinquerim is one of the finest beaches in Goa, offering international class facilities for water-skiing, parasailing, fishing, scuba-diving and wind-surfing.
Home to the Taj Hotel Group, which dominates the headland around the historic Fort Aguada, Sinquerim is located some 13 kms from Panaji. The uninterrupted stretch of firm sand stretches all the way north to Baga, offering visitors a temptingly long walk along the beach.
Candolim is the first beach that can be approached from the city of Panaji and is like a gateway to the other more famous beaches. Though individual accommodation is available here, there are only a few hotels with restaurants attached. One highlight of Candolim is the parasailing and water skiing facility, besides other water sports.
Aguada beach is almost synonymous with the top-notch Fort Aguada Hotel complex, a superb hotel that is built on the cliff, around the remnants of the early 17th century Portuguese fort. Although access to the beach is not possible through the hotel grounds, which are private, you can walk along Aguada beach, for in India private beaches do not exist.
Drawn by the clientele of the hotel, Aguada beach has cafes, itinerant vendors of everything from Kashmiri carpets to massages, and a good range of water sports.
MORJIM (click here for photo)
The VIPs on this beach are the Olive Ridley turtles that come to nest here helped by a group of volunteers who guard the nests and help the hatchlings get into the sea.
A favourite of Russian tourists, along with Ashwem beach close by, visitors will find signboards and menu cards in Russian!
ARAMBOL or HARMAL (click here for photo)
This is also a foreigners’ haunt with a large number of Tai Chi, non-permanent mehendi or henna, tattoo, yoga and meditation centres. Harmal Beach is the one place you cannot drive on to, but there are narrow lanes that lead to the higher reaches of the coast. You have to walk down a slope to the beach itself. The black rocks on the silvery beach make for some pretty dramatic scenery at sunset. Further up near the hill is a pool with soft yellow clay, which is said to have healing properties. Beauticians buy the clay as do the innumerable massage parlours in the area.
MIRAMAR (click here for photo)
This beautiful ‘urban’ beach, akin to Chowpatty in Mumbai, is located just 3 kms from Panaji. It lies adjoining the estuary of the river Mandovi as it opens into the Arabian Sea. It was originally known as ‘Gasper Dias Beach’, named after Gaspar Dias, a prosperous landlord and where a Portuguese fort once stood at the fag end of the 16th century.
From the beach across the river is an excellent view of Fort Aguada. With its proximity to Panaji, and located near educational institutions, Miramar is very much both a family beach and a meeting point for young people. It is also a hot spot for fitness fiends and walkers. Tourists love the familiar atmosphere. Numerous hotels, including the spacious and well laid out Miramar Residency run by GTDC, dot the area.
The beach is crowded with locals and tourists alike on most days. A memorial to Goa’s first chief minister, the late Dayanand Bandodkar is located here.
PALOLEM (click here for photo)
Palolem is a cosy beach of white sand facing a blue bay between two headlands. The little wooded islands on the northern headland look alluring and you could try and persuade one of the fishermen — this is also a fishing beach — to ferry you across. They also offer to take you out to spot dolphins. Tourists have of late discovered Palolem and so there are quite a few shacks selling seafood snacks, souvenirs and clothes of the bright, informal kind. Panaji, the capital, is more than 70 kms away.
In recent times, Palolem has become famous for its ‘Silent Noise’ parties, a unique concept which does away with loud blaring live music after the 10 pm ban. With your own set of earphones, you can dance away to different genres of music played by versatile DJs.
Palolem is just 3 kms away from Canacona Railway station, now on the Konkan Railway route. You can hire taxis and auto-rickshaws to reach Palolem beach from Margao, 40 kms away. There are regular buses from Margao to Palolem that drop you off at Canacona village.
There are now beautiful beach huts and family rooms to choose from in Palolem. Further south is the cove of Colomb where you can enjoy peace and quiet. Two kilometres away from Palolem is Rajbag Beach which is isolated and stretches all the way to the mouth of the Talpona River. And then on to Galgibaga Beach which is the second nesting site in Goa for turtles. Further south is Agonda Beach
If you continue driving towards Panaji from Palolem, the next beach is Agonda.
It’s long and lonely, fringed with palms and casuarinas and dominated by a large hill to the south.
It’s not safe to swim out too far on this beach. There are very few facilities available here and you are needed to carry all the essentials.
Agonda is a 3 km long beautiful cove of white sand, safely secluded in the palms. There are no tourists, no souvenir stalls, no restaurants—just peace and tranquility. Just the trees, the beach, the big beautiful ocean and you.
It also makes for a great day trip from Colva and Covelossim. For a real adventure, hire a tent and camp for the night, listening to the crashing of the sea waves.
Not far from Agonda beach is Cabo de Rama, untouched by most of the visitors in this region. The atmosphere of the fort creates a sense of history and drama that very few would fail to appreciate. The fort is named after Rama, hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana. According to local legend, Rama stayed here with his wife Sita during the period of his 12-year exile.
The best way to reach this beach is by a scooter or motors bike.
VARCA, CAVELOSSIM, MOBOR
Varca, Cavelossim and Mabor are a trio of the most alluring beaches south of Benaulim. These beaches are much cleaner and quieter than most of the other more famous beaches of Goa. There are numerous beach shacks offering a variety of Goan dishes and seafood at reasonable prices.
There are several food joints around the grand ‘Dona Sylvia’ resort offering a splendid repast at reasonable rates. There are also facilities for Dolphin watching up the River Sal.
The beaches here are home to some of the most exclusive and luxurious resorts in Goa. Accommodation is also available for budget and economy class travelers, though not on the beach itself.
There is plenty of transport for these beaches from Margao. From Cavelossim village, Margao is 18 kms away and buses and autos are available easily. You can also hire taxis from Dabolim Airport (41 – 48 kms) to reach the beach resorts here. To move locally, use cycles and scooters that are available on hire.
BETALBATIM (click here for photo)
North of Colva is Betalbatim Beach which begins a long string of beaches with Majorda, Utorda, Arossim and Velsao at the north. It is a ten kilometre stretch of white sand which is not very crowded
COLVA (click here for photo)
This is the most important beach in the South circuit, equipped with all modern amenities like air-conditioned resort complexes, tourist cottages, discos, besides several stalls, eateries and guest houses—all of which have expanded the village enormously.
With 20 kms of virgin white sands, palm fringed, sun drenched beaches, Colva is the most loved beach in Goan. Unlike Anjuna or Calangute, Colva has gained popularity only lately. Located just 39 kms from the capital Panaji, it was relatively little disturbed and life moved on quietly.
The Church of Our Lady Of Mercy in Colva is famous for its miracle statue of Menino Jesus. The busy road leading from the Church to the beach is where all the facilities are located.
While taking a stroll on Colva Beach, silver carpets of mackerels can be seen shimmering and drying on the golden sands. Fishermen’s motor trawlers huddle in a line offshore. Tourists and locals frequent the beach for a dip or a walk for a change of air or to sunbathe on the golden sands. The trinket stalls and drink stands on the sands under the moonlight add to the aura of Colva Beach.
This small stretch, about 5 kms north of Colva Beach, is as pretty as a picture, studded with several hotels, the most prominent being the starred Majorda Beach Resort.
Majorda is the village where the Jesuits, fond as they were of the good things of life, discovered the best Goan toddy (sap from the coconut palm), which they used to leaven the bread. Naturally, then, Majorda is the place where the Goans were first trained in the delicate art of baking European breads. The Majordans are still Goa’s best bakers.
The delights of the beach, however, were discovered much earlier, in mythical times. Legend has it that in the Goan version of the Ramayana, Lord Rama was kidnapped as a child and brought up at Majorda. Later, in pursuit of Sita, he camped at Cabo de Rama – a headland further south – where the stretch of developed beaches ends.
This beach, dominated by a 5-star hotel located right on its edge, is cut apart from both the North and South beach circuit. Just 4 kms from the airport at Dabolim, it is a favourite among the elite classes and has an air of exclusivity.
Although the resort hotel towers above the village, there are still a few smaller and appealing places to stay in. Windsurfing and water skiing facilities are available.
Less than 2 kms south of Colva is the more tranquil beach of Benaulim, is one of the few places in Goa where one can glimpse handicrafts typical to this area. The best of the traditional rosewood furniture is made here. Also, mythically Benaulim is famous as the place where the legendary Parashuram’s arrow landed by which Goa was created.
Among the more attractive aspects of Benaulim is that it is still rather undiscovered by domestic tourists even though it is a fishing beach. It gets fairly crowded in the evenings and on weekends with local visitors who get off buses about a kilometre away and pour onto the beach.
The Church of St John the Baptist is situated on a hill beyond the village and worth a visit. On the arrival of the monsoon, the Feast of St John the Baptist (Sao Joao) is celebrated as thanksgiving. Young men wearing crowns of leaves and fruits tour the area singing for gifts. To commemorate the movement of St John in his mother’s womb and Mary’s visit, the young men of this village jump into the locals wells in celebration.
BETUL (click here for photo)
Betul is an important fishing port where all the mechanized boats and deep sea trawlers bring in their catch. Here headlands from the slopes of the Western Ghats protrude into the shore, imparting an imposing backdrop.
Beyond this secluded beach is the hill of Cabo De Rama where the Portuguese built a fort. From the fort, a great view of the sunset on the beach can be viewed. However, there are very few places to stay in Betul.