Palolem is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Goa. It is a natural bay surrounded by lofty headlands on either side. This results in a calm, idyllic sea with a gently sloping bed that allows you to walk up to 100 m out from the beach.
Unfortunately, Palolem has been saturated by travellers, hawkers and over priced sellers. It is sometimes difficult to walk up the beach at high tide due to the restaurants jutting into the cresting waves and you will certainly be pestered by restaurant owners about your plans for dinner, at least a few times.
Patnem is the more laid-back alternative to Palolem with less development to the south. Nevertheless there are enough restaurants, accomodations, bars and a few shops to cater your needs.
The easiest way to get to Palolem is to take the train or fly to Margao (locally known as Madgaon) and pay for a Government approved fixed-price taxi to Palolem. Fixed-price taxis are available from the train station and from Goa Dabolim Airport(GOI) at Vasco da Gama.
Alternatively, Canacona is Palolem's nearest train station, approximately 5 minutes drive away, but for shorter journeys from other parts of India it is almost always better to arrive by bus due to the remoteness of the train station from Palolem beach.
Backpackers may also take a State Transport bus from Margao Bus Stand to Canacona or Palolem. The journey by bus usually takes around 90 minutes. If you alight at Canacona bus station, you can take an autorickshaw or taxi to Palolem Beach which is only about 3 km. The journey by bus is comfortable and the route is a scenic one. However do keep in mind that local buses in Goa are not air-conditioned and at times quite dusty. It is possible to walk from the bus station to Palolem, but might not be the ideal option on a hot sunny day.
Palolem is quite small, so easy to explore on foot. Mopeds and bicycles are available for hire on the main street. Taxis and rickshaws are also readily available on the main street or though a travel agency. Day trips can be booked through agencies.
Cotigao wildlife sanctuary is a good day trip from palolem. you can also ride along the narrow but beautiful coastal road northwards to visit agonda beach and still further north cabo da rama(a ruined fort on a cliff)
One of the most beautiful Goan beaches, although not as peaceful as it used to be (sometimes referred to as the Goan lost paradise). Palolem Beach is long beach now entirely filled with rooms and huts (150-400 Rs.) and restaurants, sometimes with live music. There's also a market for tourists. Walk the beach at night with a flashlight and you'll be amazed by crabs running away from you.
Take a walk to Monkey Island... You will spot this island to your right on entering the beach... you can walk along the beach and across some rocks during low tide and reach the island, during high tide water covers and makes it impossible to walk across. The island has a network of trails to explore and the more adventurous can traverse the rocks on the periphery of the island. Make sure you carry your water bottle and be careful, people have injured themselves walking over these rocks.
Further on to the right is Butterfly Beach. You'll need a boat to get there but worth a trip for a change of scenery. It has a very steep beach, so deep that you can dive in from the waters edge if you time your dive correctly.
Further on still is Honeymoon Beach, a small strip of beach which generally brings you total seclusion. These islands are usually visited by couples who want get away from the prying eyes of tourists.
The best time for a boat ride to these islands is either in the morning at 07:00 or in the evening around 17:00 when you can see the setting sun from the boat. You need to bargain really hard with the boatsman to strike a good deal , there are quite a few guys running these boats and it would be best to talk to 3-4 guys before you strike a deal , a good rate would be Rs 700-800 for a hour long ride.
Palolem is a small beach town but do take long walks (carry a torch/flashlight if walking along the beach at night!). If you happen to be there on a full moon night , its quite an experience stolling on the beach on a full moon night with the islands clearly visible in the moon light,you will find people partying late into the night upto 2 - 03:00 in the morning. Immediately to the south of Palolem, which gets busier every season, is the beautiful Columb Bay where you can stay in a comfortable yet eco friendly complex. Just beyond is Patnem beach which used to be much quieter than Palolem but has a few guest houses and beach shacks.
You can take a boat ride in the river joining the sea on northern side of the Palolem beach.
Very quiet and more in the 1960s than in the 21st century (thank goodness). No Jet Skis - no rip-offs or touts - very good locals who make this a unique place in India - one that the authorities could learn a lot from - more the sort of place you come to compose music on the beach.
From Palolem you can find some outdoor sport as :
Spend a day in Agonda 20 km north of Palolem, very quiet beach. Further north there is an old fort (Cap de Rama) and beautiful views as you drive over the hills.
If you are part of the consumer rat race - a shoppaholic [sic] - this is not a great place for you - but there are great crafts people on the beaches (stone carvers, instrument makers etc). Be very firm but polite if you don't want their wares - they are much more polite and civilised than sellers on other Indian beaches - let's keep it that way! Your best bet is to compare their prices with what the shops are charging....generally the shops are cheaper. There are also many beggars, some are regulars who follow the tourist season and the tourists around. 10 or 20 rupees are considered as correct if you care to give.
On the beach front and inland there are many wonderful little music shops, spice shops and garment shops - some of which are mini bazaars. The hippy influence over the years means that they can let you chill out and choose rather than trying to hard sell you from the second you enter the store. Some of the stores are now owned by westerners offering western labels at fixed prices. One of the shops that really stands out is Chim, with designer clothes, crafts, bikinis, art, pottery, jewelry etc & it's great value for superb quality. Fixed prices with no hassle. Very helpful & friendly sales girls. Tip : you can pay with Credit Cards!
There are no ATM's near the beach in Palolem. There is one that is 2 km away from the main stretch of restaurants and shops that the rickshaw drivers will take you to at a heightened charge (try to get 40 rupees there and back, but you may need to pay 60 or 70). This one has a surcharge of $4 though. The easiest thing to do is bring enough money with you. More shops, a Saturday market and several ATM's are a 10-minute drive away in the local town, Chaudi.
Some people are under the mis-apprehension that most of the food in Palolem is quite westernised. Actually most places serve both "international" food and Indian - so you have the choice. There are great curries and rotis/naan/chappathi/rice almost everywhere and these are great and very cheap to live on. Being more sensitive to local needs and choosing local brands is more environmentally sound, means that you help the local economy more - your money doesn't just go on exports, halves the cost of your stay and give you a more Indian experience - so call for a King's, not a Fosters as so many embarrassing "westerners" do! Also remember that the chefs idea of an western dish may be slightly different than yours in some of the restaurants.
Local trade is mainly tourism and fishing - so it can be guaranteed that your fish during dinner is straight from the sea. A good fish main course usually starts from Rs.300 and upwards.
There are many places along the beach serving alcohol and are usually your best bet if you want to mingle and meet new people. Try the Sameer Restaurant or Café del Mar which are supposed to be quite happening. There are two places on the main road with cable so you can watch football.
Also Cuba bar on the main road just before you take a left towards the beach plays good music, has a pool table and great atmosphere.
The days of partys in Palolem are over now but there a few things happening at night, ask people. For a different experience try the Headphone Party at the Alpha Bar on Wed /Thur, its different!
Outside of New Year period, basic accommodation (rooms/shacks) should cost 200-500 rupees (200 for a very basic local-style room in October). Nice rooms with TV, etc. easily can go for around Rs.1000 or even more (often depending more on owner's ambitions than on room quality). If you're looking for the better value, try next beaches to the south (Colomb, Patnem) or even Agonda 10 km to the north.
There are plenty of beach shacks along Palolem Beach, not much point in booking as many of them don't answer the phone/take bookings. Usually your best bet is just to turn up and cross your fingers. Bear in mind that a local law prohibits permanent structures on the beach, so from May to October the shacks are supposed to come down (although this does not always happen!). Shacks should be 100% free of crawling insects. At Xmas and New Year it can get very busy and room rates are high, expect to pay a minimum of R500 / 700. The left hand side of the beach tends to be quieter with the right hand side where the bars / nightlife are. Cressida does good live music on Wednesdays. Local touts would gherao you once you hit the parking area , you can take there services , they would show you the shacks ,bargain hard with them. Most of the average cost shacks would cost about 500 -700 Rupees ( Nov 2011 prices) and are very basic , do check before you pay that it has clean bed sheets , and running water and the room has been cleaned up. Most of the shacks would have a mosquito net , however no a/c or hot water would be availbe in the room.
Don't forget to bargain for the prices of the beach huts - the more temporary it looks, the cheaper it's supposed to be. San Fransisco is one such place where a good shack above the restaurant can be had for INR 500 a night while a shack further inside the San Fransisco enclosure is 300-400 a night. The owner is very friendly, a family man, and protective of his foreigner guests. I remember that the waiters were also nice, to both Indians and foreigners alike and respected everyone's privacy. The only nit to pick here was the full course meal, but then you can drink here and move to a place like Draupadi - near the beach's main entrance from the road - for food.
Palolem Guest House is a nice place to stay if you don't like the beach shack concept. Neat & clean rooms are available from Rs. 600-1200 per night. WARNING: February 2009 - this place had a major BEDBUG problem, which the management of this guesthouse appeared entirely unwilling to address.
Virgin Beach resort which is just opposite the Om Sai guest house is a decent place to stay with budget accommodation available.
Le-Grand residency is opposite the turn to Palolem beach. The rooms are decent however there is some noise as the buses to Margao are parked just outside the hotel (opposite end).
The Palm Trees Patnem is right in the middle of Patnem. 3 minutes walking distance to the white sand beach. The resort is eco friendly and rooms are quite big, clean and decorated very nicely. The price changes around 1500 per night. The owners are very friendly and helpful with anything you would need.
Le Palolem, tembewada, palolem, canacona (First left turn on the Patnem road from Palolem, 15 minutes to the beach.), ☎ 9158986815. A new 2-storey house in the quiet area which is called “Tembe Wada” - settlement on the hills. Spacious 2-rooms apartments (studio with kitchen + bedroom) with 2 balconies, air-conditioning, refrigerator and TV-set. Hot water shower is available all the time. Free wifi internet at 4Mbps. Connected with the InnJoy beach restaurant, so roomers can expect a discount and can use the sun lounge beds. Regular price is near Rs. 1200 - 1500 per night (out of the December-January), special offers for long-term rent. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 30000/month. edit
Luke's Residence is the posh accommodation. Though it is almost 2 km off the beach on the road towards Patnem beach. (ahead of Cleopatra resorts).
Fernandes there are two on the right hand side (owned by brothers) and both offer good clean accommodation in some of the best beach huts on the beach. And not to mention great hospitality and good food.
Neptune's Point stands a bit aside of the beach (on its left side) on an rock ground. There are wooden huts with cold showers, beds, big balconies, and with views over the beach. The price - 850 INR per hut per night.
Sundowner at the north end of the beach, is a nice place to stay, if you enjoy peace and quiet. During high tide getting to the beach might be difficult but the resort's staff are very kind, and will offer you a ride by boat. Prices from 600 INR, depending on the season. Please note, the staff is fine but he owner Jo Jo is racist. Always yelling racist remarks at Indian people and anyone who accompanies them, to his place. The prices are ridiculous and he is very unkind. To get to the sunset that sundowner offers, you can just circumvent the whole resort and get a much clearer and beautiful view of the sunset.
Ordo Sounsar close to Sundowner, also enjoys peace and tranquillity, but has the advantage of easy access when the tide is high, having its own bamboo bridge. Friendly Goan hosts, local Goan food in the restaurant, and the beach's best G & T's at the bar.
Allegra Cheap rooms, and friendly staff. However very basic, but located right on the beach behind the Hare Krishna Hare Rama Restaurant.
Janisha Cheap rooms, friendly staff, cheap beer and friendly hosts.
Patnem beach (south of Palolem)
Home is cited by the major travel guides as a friendly, hospitable resort on Patnem beach, near Palolem. In fact, its owners are extremely disorganised and unpleasant; double-booking guests during peak season and refusing to acknowledge their mistakes, leaving would-be guests with no accommodation during the busiest time of year. Steer well clear.
Om Sai Guest House, Palolem Beach (towards the north end of the Palolem market), ☎ +91 99 234 82112 (email@example.com), . checkin: noon; checkout: 11:00. Om Sai Guest House has AC and non-AC rooms with TV and refrigerator. Value for money, especially the AC rooms. Rs. 500-2,100. edit
Sun Beach Residency, House no.200, Palolem Patnem road (Ahead of Cleopatra Resorts), ☎ +91-9819514908, . checkin: 11:00; checkout: 11:00. 13 comfortably proportioned rooms-equipped with American size beds,en-suite bathrooms,LCD TVs,air-conditioning and afternoon verandahs. At the same time is a short stroll from the lively local market place, curio shops, famous Goan shacks and Palolem beach. INR 1300 onwards. edit
Bhakti Kutir, 296, Colomb (Located on the hill, towards the southern part of the beach), ☎ +91 832 2643469 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +91 832 2645211), . Between Palolem and Patnem beaches. 0 or so cabanas, no two alike, fashioned from local materials like rice straw, bamboo and mud. Some on two floors. The tall palm trees will shield you from the hot sun and offer you cool nights. Everything was designed to respect the environment and the privacy of its guests. The restaurant is mainly vegetarian it also serves fresh sea food, wine and tribal liquors. Yoga classes, ayurvedic massages. The staff is very helpful, caring and friendly. Make sure to book in advance for the high season. Rs. 2,500-6,000. edit
Ciaran's, (middle of Palolem Beach), ☎ +91 832 2643477 (email@example.com), . A beachfront resort with AC garden cottages and non AC sea view cottages. With bar & restaurant. Friendly staff and management Rs. 2,500-5,000. edit
The Village Guesthouse, House No. 196 (near Govt Middle School, 10-minute walk from the beach), . Guesthouse with 6 large double rooms and 2 small rooms, all AC. Friendly and helpful hosts. In the evening guests and hosts gather for a cocktail on the first floor veranda. Great atmosphere. Rs 2,400-5,000. edit
Sol de Mar, (south end of Patnem beach), ☎ +91-9769613254 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Indian-spanish couple offer 18 ecofriendly cottages made of wood, grass and coconut palm. The cottages have large comfortable rooms attached bathrooms, each with an own veranda and right on the beach. The restaurant servers both indian and spanish food. In the chillout area you can either sit or lie on cushions and enjoy a drink while listening to Spanish music. Rs 2,000-4,500. edit
Relax Inn, http://www.relaxinnpatnem.com/ (on the street to Patnem beach). The Relax Inn consists of 12 bungalows around a small garden at the street to Patnem beach. All rooms have fan, a veranda and a private bathroom as well as a TV. Some bungalows are equipped with Aircon and offer luxurious large beds. All rooms have Wifi. No restaurant is attached. Rs 1,500-4,500. edit
Palolem is a very safe place - the main risk you face is not wanting to leave.
One thing to bear in mind is the dog situation - Palolem is home to a multitude of stray and semi-stray dogs. They very rarely bite. The beach dogs are not generally aggressive and they are affectionate and love some love and food. (dont forget, please do not waste your food in restaurants, tell the waiter to parcel it up and give to the hungry dogs). Some dogs on the back roads away from the beach can be noisy and peevish. Many dogs in Goa are badly treated by their owners, and some have no owners at all. Please do not harm the dogs of Goa. There is a family of 3 dogs on the rd side outside duri stores, these are owned and get fed everyday. They like affection also and are very friendly. The dogs in Palolem are friendly, it's only in nighttime you should be aware. The restaurants on the beach normally try to keep two dogs each to feed during the season. please don't try to take some dog out of their territory, it will be very difficult for the dog to get back because of other packs.
There were also people selling mehndi (similar to henna) carelessly mixed with cheaper chemicals.
The local train station is Canacona - less than 5 minutes drive from Palolem. It's very quiet with not many trains.
If you want more choice, get a taxi to Margao where you can link up with all the main lines. If you have a little extra time and you want to save money, take the local buses. Dirt cheap, respectful locals and careful drivers. For a taxi ride that would cost you 1000 Rs. upwards (depending on what the cabbie thinks he can make off of you), you could get there for 17 Rs.!!
Don't miss the chance to haggle with flashy yellow plate cars. These are taxis heading to the Airport. (Though all yellow plate cars are taxis, the flashy ones usually head to the airport. These are either returning back or heading to pick a prebooking. Haggle hard and you may settle for under Rs. 500, though only during the day. As the sun goes down, the price goes up, which is normal for all facilities.
If you are interested in exploring nearby places, like the Patnem beach about 2-3 kilometres away, rent a bicycle. Better yet, rent a scooter/motorcycle for about Rs.250 per day and explore the area even more conveniently. You can also take a nice 20 minutes walk to Patnem, just walk left over Columb. Rikshaw to Patnem is 50 rs in daytime, 70 rs in nighttime.
A little quieter (and more expensive) than Palolem is Agonda, a 15-minute autorickshaw trip north.