Uncovering the best beaches of Goa
The sandy paradise of Goa. (Neil Setchfield/LPI)
In a diminutive state seemingly so tightly packed with beachfront development, it is astoundingly easy to escape the tourist crowds and find your own patch of sand-based paradise. This is nowhere easier than in south Goa, by far the least developed of the Indian state’s seaside stretches and with miles of sand on offer to satisfy your every Robinson Crusoe fantasy.
Within minutes of even the most buzzing of south Goan resorts, you are sure to find beachside bliss if you know where to look. From busy Colva, strike up north to the tiny villages of Majorda and Betelbatim, where a scattering of five-star resorts has actually helped keep smaller-scale shoulder-to-shoulder development at bay. Here you will find sea birds wheeling over empty stretches of sand; solitary swimmers striking out to sea; and the occasional palm-thatched beach shack to provide a seafood lunch, a cool lime soda or a hot, sweet glass of chai.
Likewise, past busy Benaulim and Cavelossim, you will encounter undisturbed golden sand that stretches south to the mouth of the River Sal at Mobor, where itinerant fisherfolk haul in their wares and the Blue Whale beach shack graces one of the most picture-perfect spots in all of Goa.
Further south from Mobor, a trip across the languid Sal on a rust-bucket passenger ferry will take you to solace and solitude on magnificent Agonda Beach with its wide swathe of sand. Generations of marine turtles can not be wrong - the beach here is simply divine. It is wide, quiet and picturesque, with a turtle centre in the middle protecting precious, endangered Olive Ridley eggs. This is not, however, the place for a leisurely swim; the beach shelves steeply at high tide and the surf can be rough, but for a sunset walk or a long lazy day, Agonda encapsulates romantic Goa at its very best.
A quiet, laid-back scene awaits you at little Patnem, at which point Goa's beach development largely ends. South from here is Galgibag, the almost sole preserve of sea eagles, dolphins and endangered Olive Ridley turtles. Palolem, Goa's southernmost beach, which, though beautiful, sees few daytrippers hitting its sands - perhaps due to its reputation as a smugglers' stronghold for locally produced moonshine.
Considered by many visitors to be the most beautiful part of the state, Goa's stretch of southern coast running from Betul down to largely forgotten Polem in the very south, is a beach-lover's dream of golden sands, gentle surf, and the mellowest vibe imaginable. Here you will find emerald paddy fields studded with egrets, the bright-saris of farm workers, lazy rivers, herds of wandering oxen, and hidden beaches almost entirely without the big resorts, sprawling hotels or frenzied nightlife of elsewhere.
But even if you are looking for something with more of a pulse, you will rarely be confronted down south with ranks of sun loungers. The star of the southern show remains Palolem, without doubt one of the state's most beautiful bays, which retains its charms despite the unbroken ranks of beach shacks and coco-huts. A safe swim, a hearty lunch and a sunset that lights up the heavens - how much closer to perfection could it get?