Goa, a state in western India, is a special place for a lot of people – right from the parties in popular clubs to meditation by the sea-side; it has a bit of soul for everyone. Going to Goa is not a question of if or when, but a question of where. For us, the place stands for the array of beaches, each with its own unique flavour. There is always this debate whenever we travel there – where should we spend time – North or South Goa?
Sohil loves the south – the laid back vibe, fewer crowds around and a lot of time to stare into the horizon.
Itisha loves the north – in her words, “What is the fun if there are no people around?” Nothing comes close to being walking distance to all party-ready people at Baga beach, parasailing near Candolim & spending an entire evening in some of the brilliant cafes.
Despite these differences in our taste, there is one beach we absolutely love, and that is Palolem beach in South Goa! (+1 for Soh).
Soh, who visited it the first time in 2005, makes it a point to go there every time he is in Goa (which numbers to 12!). Iti, while uninterested at first to the glowing reviews (mostly from Soh), fell in love with the place on her first trip there.
A lot has been written about Palolem in recent years, and while the beach is not as pristine or devoid of crowds as it was earlier, it is still special because it retains its charm with the right fusion of everything we love.
Palolem beach is a crescent-shaped stretch of white sand, sprinkled with towering palm trees and colourful wooden shacks, on a bay in the area of Cancona. While it’s off the main road, it is worth the effort, even if you are staying in north Goa.
Here is what gives it a special place in our heart –
1. The Water (at peace)
There is certain calm between the sand and the water.
The beach is quite shallow to start with and the waves are not harsh which makes it a perfect place to jump right into the water. Considering Iti’s aversion to risk and Soh’s disregard to safety, this provides a perfect blend of space to enjoy – it is as easy to come out of the water as it is to go deeper. It is also one of the cleanest beaches in Goa and a brilliant setup for watching the sunset.
2. The Food (with the setting)
Give us good food and a drink (cold coffee for Itisha, beer for Sohil) on the sand, next to the waves and we are sorted for life.
With the tourist influx, Goa’s beaches are well stocked when it comes to food and the different cuisines. And Palolem is right there with a lip-smacking fare of varieties we love. The food is not over-the-top, neither underwhelming, but just the right blend of heartiness which goes with the combination of sun, sand and sea.
But more than the food itself, it is the setting itself which leaves a distinctive taste. Set your base up at one of the many beachside cafés, and alternate between a dip in the water and a bite of the food. There are also hidden gems not on the beach and on the inner road, which provide a hearty meal for a local and homely experience.
3. The Activities (an unmatched experience)
While many times, our constant disagreement is between going for long walks on the beach (Iti) or swim in the sea (Soh); there are a few more distinct activities that Palolem has to offer. And where else can you get a chance to go kayaking with the dolphins!
Palolem offers a decent collection of excursions at the beach for everyone’s liking. You can take a boat trip to watch dolphins, ride to monkey island or along the surrounding shores, hire a kayak (single or double) and go into the sea yourself or just laze around in the water. The calm sea (except during monsoon) is inviting at all hours of the day.
Watching dolphins gliding in the water is a sight in itself, but being able to go close to them while on a kayak is a different experience altogether. Soh can attest to that, as he recalls at every given opportunity.
4. The Stay (that is impressive)
What is the point of going on a beach holiday when you are not staying on the beach?
And not a fancy beach ‘property’ that takes away all your money, but an equally impressive beach shack that costs a fifth. The entire stretch of the beach is lined up with beach rooms (sea and semi-sea views) which are more than functional – wooden structures with hot water, mosquito nets and the sound of sea waves.
There are options next to the road, as well as to the beach, geared for short and long stays, standing out with their colourful facades, yet complementing the natural vibe of the place.
5. The Exploration (so simple)
South Goa is full of pristine and white sand beaches, as well as lush greenery.
It is easy to rent a Scooty at the beach and roam around the green fields or explore other low inhabited beaches. And even if you don’t know how to ride, locals are more than happy to give a lift.
We suggest Agonda is another good beach to visit for a walk or to watch the sunset.
6. The Party (without the noise)
Did we not say it has something for everyone?
Palolem has a unique party scene. There are now places in the vicinity which have opened up for partying.
And the one most famous is the one Soh has gone to is the Saturday open-air headphone party. You are provided with a headphone with four different channels, which have four different DJs! And mixed with fog machines, laser lights, a brew of performances from fire dancers to aerobatics and mind-bending projects; it’s a party that is not loud!
We have been to Goa many times; with family, with friends, and just the two of us.
North is famous for its party clubs, South is famous for its hippy culture. But North or South, it is also an important decision because of the distance and travel time between the primary beaches of North & South (two hours on a bike late at night in absolute darkness around is not something we are looking at repeating).
And we keep going back, exploring new places and beaches in Goa, but we can be found at Palolem most times.
It’s our happy place.
Have you been to the Palolem beach in Goa?
Where do you prefer to go in Goa – North or South?
Where is your happy place?
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