Palolem is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Goa. It is a natural bay surrounded by lofty headlands on either sides, resulting in a calm, idyllic sea with a gently sloping bed which allows you to walk up to 100 m out from the beach.
Palolem is located at almost the southern end of Goa and is thus far from the more crowded places. This is in a way both an advantage and a disadvantage. For those seeking quiet and solitude, Palolem and the other beaches around it fulfill that need very well. But for those who need a noisy, vibrant place, it can be quite disconcerting.
Over the last few years, though, there has been a fair increase in tourists. One reason for this could be the film The Bourne Supremacy which had a scene filmed here. During the peak season, the place can become quite crowded with backpackers, travelling groups and the attendant businesses.
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 asked about your plans for dinner a few times.
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. There are AC Volvo buses from Bangalore that stops at Canacona Chaudi bus stop. Travellers can take an auto from there to Palolem beach or nearby hotels, which are mostly 10-15 minutes ride. As Palolem is not a large area, auto/taxi drivers usually know all the hotels. Just tell them the name and they will take you. Auto drivers usually charge Rs ~100 from the Canacona Chaudi bus stop to the beach or hotel.
Backpackers may also take a State Transport bus from Margao Bus Stand to Canacona or Palolem. It takes around 90 minutes. If you alight at Canacona bus station, you can take an auto-rickshaw or taxi to Palolem Beach which is only about 3 km. The journey by bus is comfortable and the route is a scenic one too. 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. Scooters and bicycles are available for hire on the main street or near the beach. Bicycles may not be available during off seasons. High end bikes like Royal Enfields can also be rented along with the other options. As of May 2016, Scooters cost Rs 300 per day and you usually have to return it by 9AM. They will ask for an original ID card, something other than your driver's license, to rent you the bike. Something you will definitely go back for.
Taxis and auto-rickshaws are also readily available on the main street or though a travel agency. Day trips can be booked through agencies. Autos cost minimum Rs ~80 for local rides. Taxis can easily go above Rs 150 for a 1+ km ride.
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).
Take a walk to Butterfly Island, which is 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 with the boatsman to get a good deal, there are quite a few running these boats and it would be best to talk to 3-4 before agreeing. A good price is ₹700-₹800 for an hour long ride.
Palolem is a small beach town but do take long walks. Carry a torch 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 up to 02:00 - 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 c (thank goodness). No jet skis.
From Palolem you can find some outdoor sport as :
- Scuba diving (near Palolem Guest house)
- Canyoning and trekking tour (book at Casa Fiesta restaurant)
- Rent self-paddle sea kayak boat (in samson's kiosk)
- Take a boat trip to see Dolphins, best time is sunset and sunrise, great boat crew near the Church on the right hand side.
- Day trip to Dudhsagar Falls (Sea of Milk) which are in the top 100 highest falls in the world.
- Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
- A visit to the spice farms.
- A day trip to Karwar. The drive is nice, though hot during the day. Just before entering Karwar town, the Kali Bridge offers awesome views of the idyllic Karwar Beach, especially from a "Fort" in ruins (actually a recreation point, possibly developed by local municipality. This spot is on the north end of the bridge and has flight of stairs going almost 15.2 m.
- Take a fishing boat ride with local fishermen
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.
- Yoga Classes - In a colourful Yoga Space Kranti Yoga Ashtanga Vinyasa has Drop In Class every morning (09:00) & afternoon (16:00) see signs from the Beach for Kranti Ashtanga Yoga behind Cuba Bar or from Brown Bread Restaurant. Kranti (the teacher) is knowledgeable and has a charismatic personality his classes are not for the fainthearted but you may be exhilarated afterwards.
- Silent Noise-Party, Neptunes Point (south of the main-beach), ☏ . The alternative to the legendary but almost extinct goa-parties. Big crowds of children gather every Saturday for serious partying and dancing underneath the starry sky. You'll be handed wireless headphones with three different channels. Entrance fee is ₹800/person.
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) and restaurants, sometimes with live music. There's also a market for tourists. Walk the beach at night with a torch and you'll be amazed by crabs running away from you.
If you are a shopaholic this is perhaps not the best place, 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.
There are far too many beach sellers. 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, but giving ₹10 or ₹20 to an old woman will not kill you.
On the beach front and inland there are many wonderful little music shops, spice shops and garment shops. 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 shop. Some of the shops are now owned by westerners offering western labels at cheap but fixed prices.
There are no ATMs 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 there and back, but you may have to pay ₹60 or ₹70). More shops, a Saturday market and several ATMs are a 10-minute drive away in the local town, Chaudi.
Some people are under the misapprehension that most of the food in Palolem is quite westernised. However, most places serve both "international" food and Indian - so you have the choice. There are great curries and rotis/nan/chippati/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 as your money doesn't just go on exports, halves the cost of your stay and give you a more Indian experience. The chef's idea of an western dish may be slightly different than yours in some of the restaurants.
Local trade is mainly tourism and fishing, so your fish dinner is certainly from the sea. A good fish main course usually starts from ₹300.
- Fernandes, just past the church on the right hand side of the beach, great Indian food and tandoori plus fairly cheap and fresh fish, a favourite for old regulars.
- Palolem Beach Resort: curries in Palolem tend to be quite lacklustre, but the Palolem Beach Resort does a great paneer butter masala and chana masala with garlic naan and rice. Chicken is great here too. The service is really poor and most of the focus is on foreign tourists, best avoided. The food quality is OL and portion size is quite generous. One of the few places on the beach where there is a proper restaurant and clean washrooms and a proper kitchen. They also have a large wall mounted TV, which mostly plays football to cater to western tastes.
- Cool Breeze - a jazz café that is quite popular with the locals, great food.
- Sameer Restaurant - good breakfasts. It's on the beach, so fantastic views of the ocean.
- Café Inn (on the main road junction, near the bus stop). Known for its freshly ground coffee from an Italian espresso machine. Recommended for breakfasts, for the variety of special sandwiches and wraps, large variety of mezethes, cakes and pastries (must try almond croissant). In the afternoons and evenings it's recommended to come for the BBQ, where you can have your choice of meat (chicken, beef and lamb) or sea food, marinated in variety of sauces and served with more than 10 types of salads, on a plate or in middle eastern Lafa. Top Choice at the 'South India & Kerala' Lonely Planet.
- Dropadi, near centre light (near the main entrance to the beach). Probably the best and most popular restaurant in Palolem. Serves a good variety of food and the service here is good with friendly waiters who are willing to go the extra mile to serve you. Tandoori fish speciality.
- Magic Italy, Palolem Beach Road, on the left as you approach the beach (Walk down short road towards the beach. It's on the left.). The best pizza in Palolem, possibly India. Try their Four Cheese or Spinach pizzas. Cosy, with a selection of tables or cushions on the floor. There is a takeaway version of this next to the coffee house on the beach road. From ₹200 for a pizza.
- Smugglers' Inn, on the road running parallel with the beach.. Until late, open during wet season.. British run bar serving old favourites like fish and chips, bangers and mash, bacon sandwiches. Go here if you want a big mug of British tea and HP brown sauce. Mains from ₹90.
- Yum Yum Tom Yum (on the south side of the beach near the very end, you have to walk in about 100 m from the beach, ask for Pelton's if you have difficulty finding the place), ☏ , . Great Thai food cooked by a Thai woman. It is authentic and delicious. They have rooms available as well, but the food is the thing here. Friendly German-Goan guy and his Thai girlfriend run this place. Simple wooden tables.
- The Lotus Lounge. It's back from the beach, at the north end. It can be a challenge to find: through Dream Catcher Cabins to the riverside location. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served seven days a week. The food is superb, of excellent quality with strong European influences. French-press coffee is available.
- Spicy Bella, main Road, near Bus Stop, ☏ . spicy bella, main road ,near bus stop. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served seven days a week.
- D'Costa Bar & Restaurant (towards the right once you enter the beach from the parking area). This is a run-of-the-mill place and you won't notice anything to make it stand out from the other beach shacks, but the service is great and food good value for money.
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 W Th.
- Euphoria Multicuise Veg Restaurant and Juice/Cocktail Bar. On the main road to Palolem Beach, it's a fresh fruit juice and cocktail bar. Specialises in organic Indian/Chinese food.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
Outside of New Year period, basic accommodation (rooms/shacks) should cost ₹200-₹500 (₹200 for a very basic local-style room in October). Nice rooms with TV, etc. easily can go for around ₹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 ₹500/700. 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 (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 available 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 Francisco is one such place where a good shack above the restaurant can be had for ₹500 a night while a shack further inside the San Francisco 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 ₹600-1200 per night. It had a bedbug problem in 2009.
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 (first left turn on the Patnem road from Palolem, 15 minutes to the beach.), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A 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. Connected with the InnJoy beach restaurant, so roomers can expect a discount. Regular price is near ₹1200-1500 per night (out of the December–January), special offers for long-term rent.
- 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.
- 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 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, depending on the season.
- 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.
- 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), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 11:00. Om Sai Guest House has AC and non-AC rooms with TV and refrigerator. Value for money, especially the AC rooms. ₹500-2,100.
- Sun Beach Residency, House no.200, Palolem Patnem Rd (Ahead of Cleopatra Resorts), ☏ . Check-in: 11:00, check-out: 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. ₹1300 onwards.
- Bhakti Kutir, 296, Colomb (Located on the hill, towards the southern part of the beach), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 are very helpful, caring and friendly. Make sure to book in advance for the high season. ₹2,500-6,000.
- Ciaran's (middle of Palolem Beach), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A beachfront resort with AC garden cottages and non AC sea view cottages. With bar & restaurant. Friendly staff and management. ₹2,500-5,000.
- The Village Resort, 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. ₹2,400-5,000.
- 1 The Fern Gardenia Resort, Palolem-Agonda Road, Devabag (2 km from Palolem Beach), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 10:00. A luxury resort, advertising itself as eco-sensitive, with 18 air-conditioned wooden cottages around a swimming pool in a lovely garden. With restaurant and pool bar. ₹2,800-10,000.
- 2 Ciaran's (beach off main street), H:no. 233/A, Palolem Beach (150-200 m from bus stand to the beach), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Goan run and operated hotel with huts and villas. Clean, free wifi, back-up power und eco-friendly with a beach setting to match! ₹2,000 upwards.
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 which can become very aggressive if you try to cross their territory. They very rarely bite, but can be quite frightening especially in packs. The beach dogs are not generally aggressive and the main problems they present are fleas and mange, but the 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, but be aware that they can be a nuisance.
There were also people selling mehndi (similar to henna) carelessly mixed with cheaper chemicals.
The local train station is Canacona is 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 upwards (depending on what the cabbie thinks he can make off of you), you could get there for ₹17!
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 or heading to pick a prebooking. Haggle hard and you may settle for under ₹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 2-3 km away, rent a bicycle. Better yet, rent a scooter or motorcycle for about ₹300-500 per day and explore the area even more conveniently.
A little quieter (and more expensive) than Palolem is Agonda, a 15-minute autorickshaw trip north.