Goa is no doubt the most free-spirited area of India, and Palolem Beach is its most beautiful area. When we first heard people say that Palolem was their favorite spot in India, “shallow tourists,” we thought. However, the 5 days we spent at Palolem Beach became our most treasured memory. While Rajasthan is splendid and Varanasi is transformative, Palolem in South Goa may well be the most feel-good area.
Goa sees the most tourism in the country and is somehow the least Indian of places in the subcontinent. Its name, in fact, is mostly synonymous with party-goers and drugs. The area’s sun-soaked parties have a reputation that expands far and wide. However, in terms of ferocity, Goa is a far cry from Thailand.
Palolem Beach has retained a cool, calm composition of a yogi compared to the rest of Goa. The shoreline is dotted with wooden bungalows, restaurants where you can dine with your feet in the water, plenty of nearby souvenir shops, a main street with clothing shops, and a string of hotels. It takes only 15 -20 minutes to walk the whole stretch – and all bare-footed if you wish, as everywhere in Palolem – including the main street – are covered in soft, white sands.
Palolem Beach is essentially the quintessential way to take respite from the stress that exploring around India instills in travelers. However seasoned an explorer you may consider yourself, you’ll know what we mean when you arrive. For a little taste of what we mean, you might want to read:
👉 Life in India Guide to get some certain facts straight
👉 And India Travel Guide to find out the best tips and how to prepare
Palolem Beach is pristine and far cleaner than other shorelines in India. It is much more relaxing and as tourism is now a little more common here, there is far less attention afforded you from street sellers or people looking for a photo op. Plus, hygiene and service standards are a lot more positive than elsewhere. It was the best decision we ever made to get over the stress of three weeks traveling around India with a break in this paradisical place. So we highly recommend you do the same and leave it for a delicious, stress-free treat at the end. Palolem Beach should sit on your palette like a succulent dessert as you fly back home. Similarly, you should book your flight back from the closest international airport, which is Mumbai.
Arambol – This area was founded by 60s hippies but now sees a higher clientele of Russian tourists. Due to a series of drug busts and complaints from neighbors about the noise after 10 pm, the parties of old have long since stopped, but visitors still come to have fun here. Some bars are open until 2 am, but without music, hence the party atmosphere isn’t quite there.
Anjuna – This is a new party area built on the back of Arambol’s fame. This is now the home of Goa’s craziest trans parties.
When to Go & How Long to Stay
– Palolem Beach is open between November and April, but after February the heat starts to get unbearable.
– The best time is from between mid-November till the end of February.
– Normally, two days is enough, but you lile chill places, you won’t want to leave even after four. If you are staying for a yoga retreat, you could spend even longer.
Our Favorite in Palolem
1. Sunset Parties in Sundowner
Sundowner is the most popular place in Palolem Beach, and, as the name suggests, is a legendary sunset hangout. The secluded beach bar located right on the water is perfect for its simplicity, sunset views, and music playlist. If you get hungry, there’s also pizza on offer and regular weekend parties. Weekdays offer more of a relaxing pub vibe. When we arrived a number of bungalows were being constructed here that should have been completed by now.
2. Swim & Enjoy the Soft, White Sands
The pearl white fineness of the sands means even the smallest waves throw up clouds of grains, so although not clear like the Med, you’ll struggle not to throw yourself in for a swim. The warmth of the water and softness of the sand form a quixotic mix.
3. Explore Other Bays by Canoe
Palolem is a small place, but there’s plenty of things to do. You can explore the main town area, catch a yoga class, take a dip, lap up some coconut juice. But if you’ve done all that, why not rent out a canoe? There are no special agencies for this, you just simply find a canoe owner along the beach and away you go. There are several bays dotted around either side of Palolem.
If you want to maintain your exercise routine and check out a quiet, unpopulated stretch of sand, just to the north, Butterfly Bay is ideal. You are only likely to bump into one or two fellow visitors at any time you visit here, the rest is just you, the sand, and the sea. But plan your mealtimes with this in mind, and if you get peckish, Honeymoon Beach is just a little further along and has a number of shops and snack buffets.
Colomb Bay, to the south of Palolem Beach, is a lot closer and less quiet. It’s a tenth the size of Palolem, though so there isn’t much in the way of things to do. It’s still a nice, picturesque area, though.
4. 8 am Dolphin-Spotting
This is an activity not to be missed. Every morning, schools of dolphins arrive to feed at Palolem Beach. Some arrive in groups of three or four, whereas other times see far larger clans. Hence, one of the best activities in the area is to hop on a boat early in the morning to catch the sight.
However, given the creatures swim as close as 300-400 meters to the shore, renting out a small canoe should be just as acceptable – but remember, dolphins are quite a little more experienced with marine travel than you or I will ever be, and you may struggle to keep up with their speed. The boat runners appear to be very respectful to the animals and keep a healthy distance. I hope this is the case for all such boat guides.
After checking out the dolphins, the boat runners showed us one or two local bay areas. Generally, they go to Butterfly Bay and give you just enough time for a short dip before heading back.
How to organize a dolphin spotting trip
Just as with the canoes, there are plenty of boats along the shore you can hop on and rent a place on for a limited time. Mostly, the owners are to be found right next to them waiting for customers, but when the weather clouds over they are nowhere to be seen. The captains are generally recognizable from their choice headwear and tend to gather along the northern end of the shore where you can chat to them and arrange a meet. There are different prices for different groups and private tours. We managed to haggle our captain down for a group price of 300 rupees. A private tour costs 1500 rupees, but there really seems to be no need.
Our recommendation is just 8 am tour. Another sets off just an hour later, but by that time there are far fewer dolphins to be seen – but you might get lucky towards the end of the day. You can arrange a tour through your hotel too, but there may be a slight price hike doing things this way.
Our captain, Shree Gurupradeshi Prassan, can be contacted on +91 963 739 75 67.
5. Masala Chai & More at Little World
Whatever your favorite Indian delicacy may be, Masala Chai ought to rank up top. Masala is a spice mix that blends beautifully with tea when brewed together with a little milk added. Make no mistake, this is nothing like your average cup of English tea and the spice infuses in a succulent way.
Little World is a quaint and sweet little cafe that is the best place to sip masala chai that Palolem Beach has to offer. They also serve something called a Dirty Masala in which an espresso shot is added. It wasn’t quite for me, but it seems to have its fans. Plus, the establishment has a menu with plenty of international options.
6. Finally, a Decent Breakfast!
I love Indian food. In fact, the idea of breakfast, lunch, and dinner all enjoying this rich cuisine filled me with initial joy. But after ten days or so, I’d quite had my share of it.
It’s amazing how narrow the breakfast options are for a country that the English spent so long in. It was the curry breakfasts that grew most tiring and I craved for a bit of granola or porridge, something familiar. I’d have literally exploded at just the scent of toast. This is another reason why when we got to Goa, we were relieved beyond words. There are plenty of good breakfast options, and here are just a few of the best:
If this was located next to my house I would not cook breakfast ever again. The place is a veritable temple for those who love chia and fruit puddings, gluten free pizza, vegan cheesecakes, raw tarts, and other such staples of healthy living. And the humus and ice cold coconut milk are legendary.
Zest is my second favorite. Forget the granola and pancakes, this is a spot for those who just want to skip ahead and go straight for a big lunch, with hamburgers and barbecued meats. The setting is also a lot more open than Zest.
7. Silent Disco, Anyone?
I wasn’t a fan, but it’s worth considering it just for the experience. Palolem distinguishes itself from the rest of Goa as a calm area so music is banned here after 10pm. The answer? Silent disco, of course. These take place throughout the week at clubs and bars like the Laughing Buddha, HeadphoneParty Goa, Silent Noise, and The Club. If there are none in the week, then there certainly will be on the weekend. Check out the Neptune’s Facebook page to stay in the know.
8. Hone in on Your Indian Cooking Skills
It’s a good idea to attend an Indian cooking class if you get the chance while you’re here and learn from the masters. Rahul is a maximum-eight-person cooking workshop that teaches five dishes for every course and offers plenty of secret tips on how to get the most out of your cooking. Two sessions a day run between 11.30 – 14.30 and 18.00 – 21.00. Every attendee who goes to Rahul’s Cooking Class comes back impressed, but there may be others on offer.
9. Head Over to Patnem
You can easily catch a rickshaw to Patnem Beach, which is the next coastal area along. Patnem is smaller and more peaceful than Palolem with just a couple of restaurants and small shops – but we recommend Palolem Beach for better dining options. Patnem also has a yoga studio called Kranti. Visitors are welcome to join a session, but if you wish for a more extended course you can also stay for a retreat.
10. Circus Trainee by Day, the Big Top at Night!
Palolem has a resident circus act that performs locally throughout the holiday season with aerial jumpers, jugglers, trapeze artists and more. During the day, you can even have a few lessons to put your balancing skills to the test and I truly had fun working on my trapeze skills. There are camps for kids to attend as well as shows that come accompanied with meals during the evening. They aren’t definitely here every season, however, so double check by going to Bliss Circus.
11. Yoga, Yoga, Yoga… And Even More Yoga
I went to a number of yoga schools over the course of my time in Palolem, but nothing beat the Anand Yoga Village. Many of the others can be slightly dingy and don’t hold a regular crowd. Anand, however, is a fully functioning yoga retreat with accommodation and all meals included for those booking a stay, but non-guests can also attend.
In our view, just popping along to one or two gives you more freedom and is quite sufficient in terms of getting a decent amount of exercise that doesn’t tax your wallet. A single class costs 400 rupees, but a five-class package costs 350 each, and a ten-class package costs 250 each. Click on the website for more details.
Parinama Yoga Studios also have a decent facility, but courses are not regular. However, I’ve only really had brief flings with yoga, so you may find out a lesser known but better yoga experience.
12. Hit the Store
The most beautiful shopping items I found in India were either in the classier parts of Delhi and Mumbai or in Palolem. The thing I enjoy most is having a curated selection of items. India has many wonderful garments, but most shops are chaotic market stalls and so it’s difficult to choose out the right items. However, Palolem’s boutique stores having something of a Western sensibility in presentation and order, with items manufactured in India but branded elsewhere.
My favorites included Bunti and Lighthouse. The problem is that clothing items here can fall on the expensive side, coming to 40-50 dollars, when a full meal costs only 2-3 dollars. But this is just the nature of most high-class clothing brands who rake in much of the profit on items not from the manufacturing but from the branding.
13. Stay in a Beach Hut
Having glimpsed a few pictures already, you’re already dreaming of a paradisical shore where you can relax under palm trees enjoying sea views as you leave the comfort of your beach hut, right? If this is the case, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that prices are quite reasonable. The bad news is, that many of these huts are quite inadequate – especially in the toilet department.
But check out the online reviews, perhaps they have been renovated since. However, generally, as in most of India, Palolem Beach has a few hidden gems. You can find some of them below.
14. Enjoy an Ayurvedic Massage – But Choose the Place Wisely!
Of course, Palolem Beach is a place where you come to unwind and take respite from the stress – so what could be better than to take this to the next level with a massage? Ayurvedic massage is a uniquely Indian invention and involves healing oils and careful attention to the body’s needs. However, there are cases of dodgy, and rather invasive masseurs posing as upstanding professionals, so make sure you go to a place with good references.
Rather than Tripadvisor where reviews can be bought, make sure that you ask foreigners who own hotels and establishments around the area. They will have heard all the stories of places to avoid long before you. We asked Anand Yoga Village and we were referred to a simple massage shack but we really enjoyed our time there. They regularly send customers to the same place so which makes them keep up the good service.
A one hour massage costs 700 rupees. Another popular place, Bhakti Kutir, seems to have rave reviews online, but we didn’t get there as it was on the other side of Columb Bay.
Finally, all spas are a little dank and dingy, so I recommend taking your own towel.
Where to Eat
Sai Family Restaurant
This is an Indian restaurant with a brand new menu every day of the week. Tandoori, butter chicken, chicken biryani and many more mouth-watering options are on offer. Click for location.
Just ten minutes walk from Palolem Beach, this is the ideal place to sample Indian cuisine. Click for location.
Pad Thai bowls of snacks, sushi, and Mexican food is all on offer at this eclectic place. Every meal is completely fresh at this most popular essay. Click for location.
Breakfast options at this beachside cafe range from healthy food bowls to filling English breakfasts. But options such as paninis and burgers are available throughout the day. Some evenings of backed with gentle music for an inviting atmosphere. This is one of two places that are a must-try. Click for location.
Space Goa offers a delicious array of paninis and salads and sells artisanal food products while also serving as a center for yoga, meditation, and ayurvedic treatments. Click for location.
Ourem 88 is a British-owned restaurant serving everything from fried brie to try-baked brie, Goa sausages, stuffed calamari, fried shin of lamb, and souffle – and is thus Palolem best outlet for fusion cuisine. Each dish is available according to the seasonal ingredients used. Click for location.
Residents of Palolem is a favorite beachside bar that specializes in fruits du mer – not least the butter garlic crab and crispy lobster fingers. However, bear in mind the establishment closes during the monsoon season. Click for location.
Fern’s By Kate’s
This is a great place to sample Goa’s main delicacies, including delicious sausages, fish curry, and shark. The place is an attractive wooden bungalow. Click for location.
Boom Shankar has a menu replete with local, Chinese, Thai, and European dishes and is a great place to enjoy a cocktail during happy hour basking in the sunset. The place is closed during monsoon season, unfortunately. Click for location.
Palolem with Kids
Goa is the best place to take kids if you are going on a family holiday to India. As our Indian Travel Guide states, however, you have to be careful, but as long as you are cautious with choices in eating, there should be no danger out here. In case there is an emergency, the nearest health center is 3 km from Palolem Beach. There are many Brits who come with 2-3 children every winter and they seem extremely content.
How to Get to Palolem Beach
– A taxi from Goa Airport to Palolem costs just 1800 rupee (takes 1 hr 45 mins)
– A taxi from Mumbai airport costs 5000 rupees (11 hrs)
– Goa’s northern party district of Arambol Beach costs 4000 rupees from Palolem (2 hrs)
– There is a train to Margao City. A taxi to Gardan Palolem costs 1200 rupees, but there is also a bus that sets off every half hour for 30 rupees per person.
Beach Huts and Hotels At Palolem Beach
It may be a far cry from the beach hut of your imagination, but in terms of cost and quality, this is the best Palolem Beach has to offer. Spacious, clean, air-conditioned, and close to the beach. Click for details and booking information.
This is a splendid set of wooden huts located right on Palolem Beach. Some rooms offer a sea-view terrace and every morning guests are greeted with a choice of continental or American breakfast. Click for more details and booking information.
Ciarans offers a wondrous series of wooden beach huts to stay in. Each hut is built with ecological principles in mind and has its own private terrace and sunbathing area. It’s best feature is probably the open-air library. The huts are set in a sumptuous location just 30-35 meters from the water. Click for location.
Set Off on a Canyon Adventure
If you’ve had enough of the sun, sea, and sand, the coastal area also beholds an intense, adrenaline pumping set of activities. Goa Jungle Adventure presents a series of fun, day-long canyon trekking activities. Each canyon visited along the tour stands like a totally natural aquapark that tests those hiking through to various degrees of difficulty depending on how in shape you are. If you have no health issues and know how to swim, then you shouldn’t struggle too much, though.
Head to Monkey Island
From the northern end of Palolem Beach, you can catch a boat to Canacona Island – better known as Monkey Island for rather obvious reasons. You’ll need to scramble up a series of rocks to get on.
On the border between Goa and Karnataka lies a 600-meter high waterfall that reaches its highest point during monsoon season and appears to gust with water the drops like milk from the mountains. Swimming in the pools formed below is an indescribable pleasure. The waterfall can only be accessed by foot or train and tours are available outside monsoon season between January and May. Click for more details. Click for location.
Visit the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Just 25 kilometers, about a 40-minute drive, from Palolem Beach lies the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. There is also the opportunity to camp in a tent in this reserve, home to countless species of plant and animal life – so long as you get permission from the Deputy Conservator Of Forests, first. Click for location.