There are many beaches in India, though Palolem Beach in Goa India is my favorite to date. It provides elevated beach huts with a balcony overlooking the surf, lots of restaurants and bars on the beach, enough people to make it lively, though not too many to disrupt the tranquility.
Surrounded on three sides by water, India has many beach choices, including Pondicherry (Puducherry) on the east coast, and Kanyakumari on the southern tip. But Goa is the more popular area, with beaches littered along the west coast for hundreds of kilometers.
Every beach has it’s own personality, some drawing large party crowds (such a Baga Beach), while others remain a more tranquil experience. Palolem beach has the best of both.
On the spur of the moment, a few colleagues and I decided to travel to Palolem via motorcycle, and the ride itself was a thrill. Despite having to initially endure 400 kilometers via highway, the last 200 kilometers were all country roads — that took us through villages, forests and snaking through “S” curves in the mountains.
Everyone has different expectations of a beach vacation, and I am no exception. I sought a peaceful place, had some recreation, enough people to make it enjoyable, and restaurants and bars on the beach — and, served cocktails — not just beer. I wasn’t disappointed.
WHERE TO STAY
The beach, swaying palm and coconut trees, the sound of the surf with the bright sun overhead, what’s not to like about the beach? Palolem Beach had many options to indulge your restless soul that range from as little as Rs. 500 per night (on the main road just off the beach), up to Rs 1,00 – 4,000 per night on the beach.
All of them on the beach have the same setup, with stilted huts over the restaurants (most with balconies) that overlook the ocean, and others set behind the restaurant, most of those with a clean line of sight views to the ocean through the open restaurants.
All the beach hut resorts have lounge chairs and umbrellas by day, and dining tables and chairs by night. You’ll want for nothing; it is all here. You can take a boat cruise, rent a kyack, a bike, or talk a walk. For the adventurous, there are excursions to the waterfalls, scuba diving, dolphin watching and so much more.
Cuba Beach Huts Resort is perhaps the most visible online and offers beach huts on stilts with a large balcony (with Cuba Havana right next door (same ownership, same pricing), though their rooms are slightly smaller, but the balconies larger. Their restaurant, also with a sand floor, I thought had better music and more bohemian feel to it; a young, international crowd.
NOTE: between Cuba Huts and Havana, out on the beach is Sai Palolem; they had very good food options, and 3 for one drink specials, and a friendly and accommodating staff.
Ciarans has more of a beach hotel feel in their restaurant, with dark wood floors and a touch of elegance. They also have ocean front huts on stilts with balconies (Rs. 4000). Their huts — behind the restaurant — don’t have quite the same open ocean view as the former two above. But are set in a more wooded cabin setting, with flower and garden lined pathways and lots of trees overhead. It appeared to cater to an older, more affluent crowd.
Rs. 2,000 – 2,500 per night
Banyan Tree and Fernandez — both 50-100 meters further north of the others –, had nice restaurants with couches, and featured Italian coffee; most of the others serve instant.
Brendons, which calls itself “the cool place” offered huts just beyond it’s the open restaurant at Rs.1000 a night. It has a porch and reminded me more of a cabin set among the trees, though it had a clear eyeshot to the beach and earshot of the soft, easy waves crashing upon the shoreline. The restaurant had good food — like steak marinated in Rum, topped with cheese with potato and vegetables.
Sai Presley and Sameer were two other mid-price options.
Any of the above and so many more are sure to provide you with a relaxing vacation experience. They’re all similar, most of them offering stilted huts overlooking the ocean, with others in a line behind their respective restaurants.
The real treasure and best-kept secret, however, is at the far north end of the beach. Set on a little peninsula, which at hide tide you have to wade through thigh-high water to reach. There is a little outdoor bar called Sundowner where you can watch sunrise or sunset, and many conjugate there for sunset. They have huts for rent at Rs 800 a night, perched and embedded into the mountain — with a view of the beach to the left and rocky coast to the right. They appeared quite rustic on the outside but were quite cozy on the inside.
They are also a destination for those that want an outdoor wedding, for those that want to experience a sunset Goa beach wedding.
Fresh fish, of course, is readily available at virtually any of these resorts and included Shark, Tuna, Red Snapper, Black Snapper, Pomfret, Lobster, Calamari, and Prawns. You can enjoy them grilled, sauteed, or tandoori. And there are many other cuisines including Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Indian, Chinese, and continental.
Palolem is globally represented too: we met people from Bulgaria, Sweden, Denmark, England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, and Israel; there were even a few Indians there!. It was the first time during my three years in Bangalore that I was in the white majority. Diversity always makes a trip more interesting.
Unlike Om Beach (which I’ll write about in another article), where the town itself is 4 kilometers away, Palolem Beach has two streets of shopping (with incidentals as well as tourist crafts) that are all a just a few minutes walk from your beach hut. There is even a Cafe Coffee Day, and then the main town is just a kilometer away. There are also places to stay there on the main road as well, ranging from Rs. 500 upward.
Getting Cash. I didn’t see an ATM on that previously mentioned street just off the beach, but there is a tourism office just in on the right that can swipe your card and give you cash (they charge 2-3% for the transaction.)
Being on motorcycles, we opted on our 4th day to take a drive 60 kilometers to the Dudhsagar Waterfall. However, once you get to the little town nearest the waterfall, you have to take a 45-minute trek by 4×4 jeep up the mountain. The road is rough, jostling your insides lose every 5 feet, as the jeep navigates over a rock-studded dirt road, several times crossing through small ponds deep enough that water reached the bottom of the doors.
Once on top, after a short hike along a trail, you can elect to take a refreshing swim in the natural pool at the foot of the waterfall, which we did. You may also want to check out other places to visit in Goa.