After a fairly hectic schedule travelling in and around North India, I decided to trade the traffic, blaring horns, and chaotic streets for the serene, sunny shores of Goa. As I left Dabolim Airport, I suddenly felt as though I was no longer in India. Crumbling buildings and grand temples were replaced by dusty roads and Catholic churches. The difference in architectural style was a striking contrast from the north; Portuguese-influenced buildings with bold colours, ornamental windows, and embellished verandas were widely apparent. Transitioning from the mostly off-white and beige-coloured buildings in Udaipur to the vivid colours of Goa was a refreshing change, and I spent the entire taxi ride from the airport admiring my new and vibrant surroundings.
After an easy hour and a half taxi ride, I arrived at Palolem just in time for the magnificent sunset. I know I’ve already said this about the sunsets in Udaipur, but the sunsets at Palolem are also some of the best I’ve ever seen. After gawking at the sunset that first day, it quickly became a nightly routine to sit on the sand and marvel at the sky as the sun dipped below the horizon.
The following morning I walked through the palm tree grove onto the beach and was greeted by blue cloudless skies, gentle waves, and blazing sunshine- and these characteristics defined each day I spent at Palolem.
When I first walked onto the beach, I was momentarily transported back to Thailand. The beach was reminiscent of Haad Yuan, Koh Phanang- with its hippie vibes and laid-back, chilled atmosphere- but a cow soon sauntered onto the beach and reminded me that I was indeed still in India.
With an unblemished 2km stretch of sand, coconut palms, and neon and pastel-coloured huts dotting the beach, it’s easy to see why Palolem is often referred to as one of Goa’s best beaches. It’s fairly developed- the entire beach is lined with huts, shops, and restaurants, but it still maintains a relatively quiet and low-key ambiance, especially in the evenings. There is some nightlife, mainly in the form of silent disco parties which take place at a different bar almost every night of the week. (Leopard Valley is located off the beach and is an alternative option for those looking to party without headphones.)
With both Western and Indian tourists, Palolem seems to attract quite an eclectic mix of visitors- from families to couples to backpackers to mature expats- I noticed a diverse range of people and ages.
Majority of my time at Palolem was spent sunbathing or eating, so I quickly discovered a handful of awesome restaurants and returned daily for my favourite dishes. I started most days at Little World for a tasty breakfast with fresh fruit juice, an (addictive) iced chai, and a delicious hot masala chai. When I occasionally chose to tear myself away from my beach chair in the afternoons, I walked the short distance to Peter Bar for their delicious Nepalese Momo’s or vegetarian thali, and Big Bamboo was my go-to for Indian dishes and dinner on the beach.
Along with yoga and massages, there are also options for adventurous activities at Palolem. I rented a kayak and paddled out to the island at the north end of the beach, which has hiking trails and look-out points with beautiful views of the ocean and the outline of the beach in the distance. Stand up paddle boards are available to rent, and there are daily boat trips for dolphin spotting and to visit the nearby uninhabited butterfly beach.
It may be chilled and laid-back, but Palolem isn’t without quirks. On three separate occasions, a cow walked into the restaurant where I was dining. People watching was always entertaining- from the group of guys who chose to wear jeans while swimming in the ocean, to the man walking the beach, blowing loudly into some sort of trumpet-like instrument while leading a cow draped in fabric, flowers, and jewels- there was always something to remind me of how unique this beach is.
Palolem seems to be a middle-of-the-road type of beach in Goa- a laid-back and relatively quiet atmosphere with moderate nightlife, a tolerable amount of development without obnoxious crowds, and a mix of relaxing and adventurous activities with plenty of options for day trips. If you don’t fancy the wild trance parties of North Goa, but prefer something a little more lively than Mandrem or Patnem, Palolem might just be the perfect option.
I stayed in a basic hut just off the beach at Manfredi’s and would recommend them if you are looking for a quiet and secure place to stay. I paid 900 rupees ($14) per night, but prices are negotiable, especially outside the peak season.
A taxi from Dabolim Airport airport costs 1500 rupees.
Have you been to Palolem? What’s your favourite beach in Goa?