Exploring South Goa and its famed beaches

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South Goa Beaches

Although I have been visiting Goa almost every second year for the past few years, all these trips were confined to the northern part of the state, popularly known as ‘North Goa’. While I did want to visit ‘South Goa’ during these trips, the familiarity of north always prevented me from venturing beyond. The Goa airport located in Dabolim (central Goa) was probably the southernmost point I had visited in Goa. So, this year when I decided to make another trip to this beautiful coastal state, with my family, I made a strong resolve to stay only in South so that I could explore South Goa Beaches. Also, unlike my past trips, wherein I used to spend the entire duration of a trip at a single location, this time I decided to divide my stay at different locations to explore South Goa at ease. So, I carefully divided my 6 night/7 day trip into almost 3 equal parts between Colva, Palolem and Agonda, the three most popular regions in South Goa.  Also, since this was a family trip, I wanted to spend some relaxed time with my wife and kid rather than driving around the town.

Colva Beach

We began our trip with a two day sojourn at Colva. Colva is a small coastal village located in Salcete district of South Goa and like most beaches in Goa, the beach adjacent to this village is popularly known as Colva beach. We arrived in Colva from the airport, after a late evening flight from Delhi and checked into William’s Beach Resort which incidentally happens to be one of the oldest hotels in Colva. After a quick dinner at a nearby eatery, we slept for the night and decided to explore the area starting early next morning.

A good sleep and a healthy breakfast prepared us for our day long exploration of Colva. Our first point of call was the beach. Colva beach is famous for its long coastline and clean white sand. Our hotel was located at a distance of less than 500 meters from the beach and a five minute walk landed us on the beach. The road leading to the beach was flanked on both sides by several shops and restaurants selling various kinds of items or serving various cuisines. Since it was early morning – Goa Standard Time (haa..haa..) – some were still to open shutters for the day.

Once at the beach, we decided to take a dip in the water to ‘ride the waves’. Although there was a high tide at the sea that during our visit, the waves were manageable for a swim. There were tourists but their numbers were minimal.

Colva is a picturesque beach with coconut palms dotting a major portion of the coast. After our swim, we decided to take a walk of the beach before settling down for our brunch.

We walked for more than a kilometre in this beach, barefoot and enjoying its beauty. During our walk, we noticed several fishing boats parked on the beach used by local fishermen. We also noticed several motorboats and other adventure sports equipment on the beach. Apparently, Colva beach is known for adventure sports. However, due to the rough sea on the day we visited, they had been barred from their daily operations.

After spending close to two hours in the beach, we decided to explore the local market in Margaon located close-by and the famous – Our Lady of Mercy Church. Since we had hired a self-drive car for the entire duration of our trip, it was easy for us to explore nearby areas. The drive to Margaon market took us a little about 30 minutes. On our way we stopped by at the church and caught a glimpse of it from outside. Since it was afternoon and quite hot outside, we decided not to get out of our car. At the Margoan market, we visited a local bakery and took a quick stroll around the place before returning to Colva. On our way back to the hotel, we had lunch at Kentuckee Seafood Restaurant located right at the entrance of Colva beach. The place was recommended to us by locals and it surely did not disappoint.

Williams Beach Retreat Colva
Williams Beach Retreat, Colva
Colva Beach
Colva Beach
colva beach goa
With my family at Colva Beach

Benaulim Beach

In the evening, we decided to visit Benaulim beach located a few minutes away from Colva. While our initial plan was to visit Bogmalo but a suggestion from our hotel receptionist made us change our plans. When we arrived at Benaulim after a 15 minute drive from Colva, we noticed only a handful of tourists at the beach. The presence of a limited number of shacks also made it evident that Benaulim was another less tourist frequented beach. As for us, we enjoyed the tranquillity of the beach as that was the precise reason for us to visit South Goa beaches.

Like Colva, Benaulim beach had a long coastline, dotted with coconut palms and clean sands. Since we had arrived in the evening, we decided to spend the evening by this beach to experience the sunset. We left for our hotel a little after sunset, post downing a few beers and some snacks at Pedro’s Bar & Restaurant located right next to the beach.

benaulim beach goa
Experiencing the sunset at Benaulim Beach

Palolem Beach

We left for Palolem next day post lunch and checked into Hotel Castle House, located close to a kilometre away from the beach. As mentioned earlier, the plan was to stay close to the beach so that we could explore the beach and its surroundings without having to bother about driving back to hotel late in the night.

Palolem is the most popular beach in South Goa and we realised it the moment we left for the beach from our hotel. The narrow road leading to the beach was filled with shops selling almost everything under the sun – from spices to tea; clothes; musical instruments, souvenirs, jewellery, alcohol etc etc. Add to it the large number of resto-pubs, serving all kinds of cuisine, including vegan. On our arrival at the beach, we were greeted by large crowds of tourists which was unlike any other beach we had come across in South Goa.

Palolem is popular with tourists for obvious reasons – calm waters; water sports; boat excursions to nearby Butterfly and Honeymoon Islands; a large shopping market and an interesting nightlife. These factors drew the maximum number of tourists to this beach in this part of the state. Palolem is also a very picturesque beach dotted with hills, coconut trees and soft white sands.

While these factors are a great crowd puller, what personally appealed to us most at Palolem was its calm waters. The slope of the beach is gentle which makes it ideal for swimming.

Palolem is also an ideal destination for shopping aficionados. Although the target customer for most of these shops remained international tourists, we saw more Indians buying at the shops than international tourists.

If you are visiting Palolem, then I suggest you to stay in one of the several beach hut cottages/hotels located right at the beach. I was not aware of the existence of such properties in Palolem and therefore could not stay in one. I later realised that most beaches in South Goa had such huts which provide you an opportunity to stay right at the beach. I did enjoy the experience of staying in one at Agonda – more on that later. But I strongly recommend you to stay in one at Palolem beach.

Palolem is also home to several good sea food and vegan restaurants. You can take a pick depending on your choice of food and ambience. While I did visit some of them, the one that stood out was a small restaurant called ‘Sumaya Restaurant’ that served authentic Goan cuisine. I had a Goan style crab masala topped with a bottle of Kingfisher Lager and it really was an appetising experience. I recommend you to visit this place if you want to try local Goan food.

One thing that made me sad after visiting Palolem was that it was a South Goan beach, going the North Goan way. The large inflow of tourists seemed to have affected its cleanliness as we could notice a lot of trash on the beach side – compared to other beaches in South Goa. The beach itself had become too commercialized with dozens of boats organizing tours to some nearby islands and dolphin sight-seeing tours. I hope the administration takes some steps to ensure the high tourist influx does not destroy the beauty of this place.

 

castle house palolem
Hotel Castle House, Palolem
palolem beach
Palolem Beach
Sumaya Restaurant Palolem
Crab Masala at Sumaya Restaurant, Palolem

Agonda Beach

Agonda Beach was ranked as the best beach in Asia in 2018 by Trip Advisor, the world’s leading travel site. With a recognition of such stature, it would have been naïve on our part not to include Agonda beach in our itinerary while touring south Goa and its beaches.

To experience this celebrated beach to the fullest, we had marked 3 full days on our calendar. We had pre-booked our accommodation at a beach front cottage and looking forward to this experience of staying right at the beach.

We left for Agonda from Palolem in the afternoon. Although the distance between Agonda and Palolem is not much – 9 kms to be precise – both are separated by a thick patch of jungle and series of small hills which makes the drive from Palolem to Agonda a pleasant experience. It also lends the beach a remote and secluded feel to it.

After a short 30 minute drive, the first sight that caught our attention was a beautiful church located right in front of us at a tri-junction. This was the famous St Anne’s Church, a landmark monument in Agonda. The sight of the church signalled us of our arrival in Agonda village. We parked our car for a few minutes and got down to get a closer look of the church.

The church was located in a large compound and had a school adjacent to it. Like many churches in Goa, St Anne’s Church it had a beautiful white façade and baroque architecture which suggested that it was built a sometime during the Portugese era in Goa. After capturing a few images we left for our hotel, which google maps indicated was located just a few minutes away.

As soon as we left the church towards Agonda beach, the road got narrower, dotted on one side by multiple beach hut accommodations and shops on the other. We later realised that almost all tourist accommodation in Agonda was in the form of beach huts. These were mostly seasonal and operated for 6 months in a year. This arrangement of accommodation probably made Agonda beach a favourite with holiday makers in this part of Goa.

We arrived at our beach hut in a few minutes and checked into our cottage. It was located right in the sands with the waves hitting the sands just a few meters ahead of our cottage. There was a spacious seating area in front of the room that offered scenic views of the entire beach and the wide sea in front of us.

The sight of the waves hitting the white sands right in front our cottage tempted us and soon enough we found ourselves jumping its waves. Although it was late in the afternoon by the time we stepped into the sea, there were hardly any tourists on the beach. We spotted a few international tourists sunbathing a distance from our cottage and a few more in the water. However, their number totalled less than 20 at that point of time. As the evening progressed this number swelled to probably 50 odd people, but not more. Lesser tourists meant that the beach had a very relaxed atmosphere and probably this was one of the reasons why Agonda had slowly emerged as a preferred destination for holiday makers.

While it was good to have lesser people on the beach, one thing to be cautious about in Agonda is the waves. It is probably not the best beach for a swim as the waves were quite rough and the slope of the beach was very uneven. We had a tough time finding an ideal spot for a swim throughout our three days at the beach. A local lifeguard reaffirmed our assessment and advised us not to venture too far as the waves were rather harsh and not very conducive for a swim in this beach.

Agonda beach is a quiet and relaxed beach unlike Palolem. Most of the tourists in the beach were either international tourists or Indian families. While we did see a lot of younger crowd, their numbers were much lesser compared to popular beaches in North Goa or Palolem in South. It also had a limited number of eateries that catered to the visiting population. While the beach did attract visitors during morning and evening hours, very few of them actually stayed in Agonda.

We experienced this every evening once the sun had set. A limited number of beach shacks operated in the evening and the one we were staying in had none. We spent both evenings right on the sand, with no one to bother us watching the waves on under the light of the moon.

For lunch and dinners, we tried some of the local eateries and most of them served really good food. Dreamland Restaurant, which had a fire oven served some amazing pizzas and other continental fare. And, the restaurant at Mariposa Beach Grove offered some amazing sea fare in the evening which is a must if you are travelling to Agonda.

Agonda also offers some interesting excursions. These include the Cola Beach, Galgibagga beach, hiking trails in the nearby forest amongst others. Agonda also has a very famous open air discotheque called ‘Leopard Valley’ which apparently is one of the most happening night clubs in Goa. Since I was travelling with a kid, we could not visit it but do plan to next time we are there.

Overall, our three day experience in Agonda was a memorable experience. It provided us a lot of new experiences like lazing in the beach – undisturbed – past midnight gazing at the stars, sleeping in a room just a few meters away from the waves; great sea-food and above all a break from noisy tourist crowds.

 

agonda beach huts
Beach Huts at Agonda
Agonda beach
Our beach hut at Agonda
Agonda beach huts
View from our beach hut at Agonda
Dreamland Restaurant Agonda
Food at Dreamland Restaurant, Agonda
dreamland restaurant agonda goa
Food at Dreamland Restaurant, Agonda

Pollem Beach

Pollem is the last beach in South-Goa, located extreme south, just next to the Goa-Karnataka border. It is this unique geography that made us visit this quaint little beach at the southern tip of Goa.

We left for Pollem beach from Agonda. It is a pleasant drive through small hills and dense forests of the Contigao Wildlife Sanctuary located in South Goa. The distance from Agonda to Pollem is 32 kilometers and it took us approximately an hour to reach it. A small signboard on the highway guided us to a narrow road off the highway towards Pollem beach, which was located around 2 kilometers away. The road leading to the beach was covered on both sides by dense vegetation and was completely deserted when we arrived. We followed the signages and finally arrived at a junction where the tar surfaced road disappeared and a soiled track appeared in front of us. We stopped our car for a few minutes contemplating whether to move forward or not. Luckily, we saw young man appear from the road in front of us, assuring us we were on the right track and provided us with directions. He assured us we were just a few meters away from the beach and we could take the car further down all the way to the beach.

Pollem is unlike any of the above beaches in Southern Goa.  It is a small beach with not much commercial activity.  Even the road that leads to the beach is partially surfaced with the last few meters through a rugged soil path. We noticed one single beach hut property just next to the beach but it was running on thin occupancy as it was off-season.

At the beach, we were the only tourists. It was a unique experience considering it was Goa. We noticed that it was a small beach and even in high-season it must be very less frequented. We clicked a few pictures of the place and then decided to leave as our objective in this case was more of marking a tick in the list. Overall, it was a pleasant experience visiting this geographically unique South Goa beach.

pollem beach goa
Pollem Beach
A village hut at Pollem, Goa

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