A version of this article was first published on Goa-Beach.com and reprinted in Canadian World Traveller Magazine.
The beaches of Goa are like the curves of a woman’s body – sensuous, warm, inviting.
Goa’s beaches are speckled with coconut-thatched beach shacks that serve ice-cold beer and spicy Goan cuisine. It is easy to find cheap accommodation in a beach resort or hotel very close to the beach in Goa.
This list of the best beaches in Goa includes some of my all-time favourite beaches. You won’t find any of the more popular, overcrowded beaches here – like Colva and Calangute beach – that are done to death in every Goa travel guide or information brochure.
These are only the best beaches to visit, some a little off the beaten path.
1. Candolim Beach
Candolim is the birthplace of Abbe Faria, a Goan Freedom Fighter and the Father of Hypnotism. When we stay at Candolim, we usually book one of the rent-back apartments a stone’s throw away from the beach.
There is little or no shelter close to the beach, but you can hire a beach umbrella, sample the excellent local cuisine available in the beach shacks that dot the beach, and sun yourself in solitude. This Goa beach is very popular with package tourists but still not too crowded to be enjoyable.
2. Sinquerim Beach
Sinquerim beach has clean, white sand, and is close to the historic Fort Aguada, the early 17th-century Portuguese fort that was built by the Portuguese to control the entry into River Mandovi and to protect old Goa from enemy attack.
You can take a long walk from Sinquerim beach all the way up to Candolim beach, which continues all the way north to Baga.
3. Baga Beach
Baga is really an extension of Calangute beach. But unlike Calangute, which is crowded, steep and marred by dangerous undercurrents, the beach at Baga is flat, safe for swimming, and has clean, white sand. A little creek joins the sea between the beach sands and a hill that is home to the Retreat House.
Baga is a small fishing beach with a grove of shady palms close to the water’s edge. There are a few buses that come all the way to the beach’s edge, but none after dark. It’s a long walk to the Calangute taxi stand from the beach, so if you plan to stay after sundown, make sure you have your own transport.
Although not among the famous “nude” beaches of Goa, Baga is still quite popular with topless sunbathers who strip off to catch some sun, while the locals gawk. You can catch some action of a different kind if you like water sports and fishing.
After dark, night-time revellers frequent Tito’s – one of the more lively watering holes of Goa’s nightlife. Baga has a Saturday night flea market where you can shop for colourful Kashmiri handlooms and other artefacts all along the road leading to the beach.
4. Bambolim Beach
Bambolim beach is a small, clean, largely peaceful beach, in a shaded spot before the mouth of the river Zuari. The entrance to the beach is easily missed and lies along the hill between Goa Medical College and the Goa University.
The road goes all the way down to the Hyatt beach resort from where you can make your way to the beach. The beach is carpeted with broken mother-of-pearl and other shells, which makes it a haven for shell-collectors. Thick coconut groves line the beach and provide shade and privacy. It’s the perfect beach for a quiet, cosy picnic.
You can enjoy lunch at the hotel restaurant, serenaded by one of the local singers or bands. When you decide to head back home, take the road that goes to the beautiful Goa University all the way up to Dona Paula.
5. Arambol Beach
Arambol Beach is near the traditional fishing village of Arambol and is an isolated stretch of beach known for its rocky and sandy terrain. Until recently Arambol was a favourite Goa beach for hippies and its claim to fame was the wild parties it was host to.
The main beach is relatively good for swimming. To the north are quiet bays where you can take long walks with starfish underfoot. There’s a hot spring near the main beach that runs into a freshwater lake. Sporty types can enjoy activities like dolphin watching boat trips and paragliding.
6. Vagator Beach
A Goa Trance favourite, Vagator is one of the more beautiful white sand Goa beaches. To reach the beach, you have to walk down a steep cliff. The sea here is not safe for swimming, but during the tourist season it has an active nightlife.
The south beach is fairly spread out and more secluded. A little further south of the main beach you’ll find the quieter Little Vagator or Ozran beach with a freshwater pool. You can also visit the nearby Chapora Fort. Accommodation is not always easy to find because there are few hotels here.
7. Benaulim Beach
My strongest memory of Benaulim is that of being bitten by a stray dog when I was 12. But I also remember all of us – the entire family – feasting on a delicious meal of shellfish we dug out in bucket-loads from the sand.
Benaulim beach is more peaceful and serene than Colva and still rather undiscovered by domestic tourists.
According to Hindu mythology, this is the place where the arrow of Lord Parsurama landed when he created the state of Goa. Known in Sanskrit as Banali, it was changed to Benaulim by the Portuguese. The main attractions on this beach are the dolphin cruises.
The church of St. John the Baptist on the hill is a wonderful example of Goan Christian architecture. With the first drops of the Indian monsoon, the village breaks into a celebration of thanksgiving for the Feast of São João.
8. Palolem Beach
Palolem beach, situated in the Canacona district, is also known as “Paradise Beach”. A few decades back, it was among the virgin beaches of Goa. It is a fishing beach popular for its dolphin cruises and fishing trips.
At the northern end of the beach is a tiny, island in the middle of a freshwater stream that can be reached by swimming across at low tide.
The Palolem Beach Resort is one of the more popular places to stay, but be sure to book well in advance. You can laze in a hammock and sip your beer while enjoying the delicious fresh catch brought in by the fishermen.
There are a lot of little resorts along the beach with bamboo huts on stilts. The accommodation is nothing fancy, spartan even, but at less than $10 per day, you can’t really expect more.
9. Agonda Beach
Agonda beach is a virgin stretch of beach twelve kilometres from Palolem and, until recently, was undiscovered by tourists. It is very popular with backpackers and is one of the best beaches in Goa for foreigners.
Agonda is sometimes frequented by day picnickers. The waters are crystal clear and it’s easy to see the bottom of the shore while swimming. Watch out for the sharp barnacles if you decide to climb any of the rocks there.
It’s not difficult to get accommodation here – there are plenty of reasonably priced homestays and beach cottages here. If you’re staying at Palolem, you can drive down to Agonda for the day. The more adventurous can rent a bicycle in Palolem village and cycle cross-country to Agonda beach.
Besides the usual dolphin-watching trip, you can also take a day trip to Butterfly Beach and Honeymoon Beach, two secret beaches between Palolem and Agonda that can only be reached by boat.
10. Cavelossim-Mobor Beach
Cavelossim Beach is a small stretch of beach 11 kilometres south of Colva beach. South of Cavelossim beach is the Mobor beach, that currently boasts of five-star resorts like the Leela Beach Resort.
Both beaches are not very crowded and there aren’t too many beach shacks here. Mobor has a fishing village with a small lagoon near the mouth of a river, and it’s fun to watch the seagulls that come to feast on the fish drying on the sand.
Which are your favourite beaches of Goa? Do share your own in the comments below.
This article was published in the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of Canadian World Traveller Magazine.