Arambol – the last stronghold of hippies in Goa

Arambol is a small town in northern Goa set at a long, sandy Arambol beach. Despite growing commercialisation, plenty of restaurants and sunbeds along the coastline, it decisively remains the most hippie place in Goa. Far from being the prettiest of Goan beaches, it still offers an opportunity for walks and exploration. However, most of the travellers come here to party. As it’s the backpacker’s choice, prices of food and accommodation are lower than average.

A view at Arambol beach from the hill shows the first rocky part, large swathes of sand taken by the high tide and neverending rows of shacks
View at Arambol beach from Arambol Hill

Arambol on a budget

Arambol is very popular among backpackers. It also has a sizable (predominantly Russian) ex-pat community. Finding budget accommodation is far easier here than in south Goa. Our room was clean, well-furnished and represented extraordinarily high value for money by Indian standards. I can’t imagine getting a kettle elsewhere for this price.

A bed with a blanket and towel, a desk, a chair and a tray with kettle in a brightly painted room in Arambol
Desk and chair, kettle, toilet paper, balcony – all for 550 INR

Unsurprisingly, the food on the beach is more pricey than inland. Yet, as Arambol is a small town, you could eat like a local. All it takes is a 1 km walk from the beach to the ‘town’ and the bus stand crossing. There is also one local eatery tucked away the Beach road selling cheap idlis with Goan-style chutney.

Shopping isn’t a problem either: there is a fantastic local bakery towards the far end of the beach road and quite a few fruit shops in town. The multitude of shops and stalls lining the entire route from the town to the beach, selling a very narrow-targetted hippie attire, means that negotiating a fair price is possible.

Arambol Beach

For me, Arambol beach was a massive disappointment. The sand was greyish and very fine, making it a nuisance. Shacks lined the entire beach. Hence, ugly sunbeds took over most of the sand. There was not a shred of natural shade. It meant you had a choice of using a sunbed in exchange for buying overpriced drinks or huddling under fishing boats, among all nets and litter. I didn’t find the beach as clean as the ones in South Goa.

Late afternoon on Arambol beach: the wet sand is taken by subeds slowly replaced with chairs and tables for dining
Most of the beach is taken by sunbeds in the daytime and tables in the evening

From the evening well into the night, the music blasted from every shack in an unbearable cacophony. I was lucky to live far enough from the beach not to be bothered by the noise.

If you like swimming, Arambol won’t be of much use either. It is a long and almost straight beach which means the water simply cannot be perfectly calm.

A rubble of sharp rocks covers a mini-peninsula at the end of Arambol beach
Rocky outcrop at the northern end of Arambol Beach

The most beautiful part of Arambol beach is a cluster of rocks and boulders at its northern end. A small hill overlooks the area. It’s a great place to enjoy sunsets.

Sun sets over the sea, shedding light at the rock boulders at the northern end of Arambol beach
Sunset from Arambol Hill

Around Arambol: Kalacha beach and sweet water lake

You can walk along the rocky end of the Arambol beach or up the Arambol hill to get to the neighbouring Kalacha beach. Peaceful and quiet, lined with palms and closed from both sides by cliffs, it’s incomparably more beautiful than Arambol.

A porous, redish rock split in two stands on a narrow, sandy Kalacha beach
Sharp boulders dot pristine Kalacha Beach

The greatest attraction of Kalacha is a ‘sweet water lake’: in fact, a brackish water lagoon. Surrounded by lush greenery and a sandy bank shaded with palms, the lake is a small paradise. The water is deep enough in some parts to swim comfortably. Some algae do float in it, but the water looks clean enough.

A small lagoon connected with a narrow strip to the sea, surrounded with green bushes o one side, palm beach on the other and a green hill.
Freshwater lake at Kalacha Beach

The downside is that the only access to the lake is private. Once again, you can use the sunbeds in exchange for buying a drink. Luckily, the owners aren’t pushy. We spent there half a day and bought just one chai between the two of us.

Empty sunbeds lie on the sand under palm trees, overlooking a small, green lake surrounded with greenery near Arambol
Paradise found: for 50 rupees a day you can have this oasis all for yourself

There is a path through the jungle starting right next to the lake. You can easily find it with the maps.me app. We started walking the path, but in the heat of the day, I much preferred to return to the lake. I learned only later that it’s a place where an elderly, shrivelled yogi shows off with fancy yoga postures and encourages people to smoke ganja and hash. Not my kind of entertainment.

Fresh water rivulet feeding the lagoon in Arambol.
A path through the jungle and along the river to the drug baba

At Kalacha, you can find space in the shade of palm trees to spread your towel. The sea is totally un-swimmable since it’s full of rocks. If you go along the empty beach, you will eventually reach a cliff.

Sayak goes down the vertical rocks of the cliff closing the Kalacha beach
Scrambling up and down the cliff is worth it for the views from the top

It takes a bit of scrambling to climb to the top. Once you’re there, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful coastal views. If you carried on further across the hill, you’d eventually reach Querim beach.

A bird-eye view at the cliffs covered with greenery and rocky coast below near Arambol
Coastal views from the cliff above Kalacha Beach

Altogether, if peace is your choice and you’re looking for a beautiful place unspoilt by humans, don’t go to Arambol. If a lively hippie vibe and party on the beach is all you need, you couldn’t choose better.

PRACTICALITIES

How to get to Arambol?

Getting to Arambol isn’t very easy since it’s not well connected by public transport. Considering its remoteness, it makes sense to come for a longer period.

If you’re getting off the train from Mumbai in Thivim (main station for North Goa), you’d need to take a bus to Mapusa. Mind you, the bus standing at the main road is slow (covering 10 km might take half an hour) and the ticket seller might want to cheat you. It’s better to catch a faster bus passing by.

Once at Mapusa bus stand, you’ll need to find a bus to Harambol (Arambol). It takes a very long route via Pernem and some tiny village roads. If it’s a private bus, it’ll start only when full, which can take up to one hour. The buses are most frequent in the morning. If you arrive in the middle of the day, prepare for a long wait. This bus stops for a while in Pernem, before finally reaching Arambol crossroads, 1 km from the beach. It takes a gruelling 1h 20 min to cover 35 km at best.

The entire journey could be much faster if you manage to get a train ticket to Pernem. From there, it’s just a short bus ride to Arambol.

Moving on from Arambol to anywhere else in Goa, again you’d need to take the same round-about route bus to Mapusa first.

A large ground of Mapusa bus stand with colourful private buses standing all across it
Mapusa bus stand

PRICES [in Indian rupees as of February 2022] *

550 INR a very good quality ensuite fan double room with balcony in Arambol
250 INR bargained simple white light long-sleeve bargained from 350)
65 INR 5l water bottle
50 INR 4 idly with chutney sold at a family restaurant off the main road
50 INR masala dosa at a road eatery in Arambol town
50 INR large chai at the sweet lake (instead of entry)
50 INR juice from a juice stall
30 INR bus Mapusa to Arambol
15 INR a large fritter snack from the town’s chai shop
10 INR plain roll at a local bakery
5 INR pretzel at a local bakery

* note it was a pandemic time so accommodation prices were lower than usual

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