Palolem – the postcard Goa

Palolem is often listed as the most beautiful beach in Goa. This halfmoon-shaped, long and relatively narrow white sand beach fringed by palm trees is incredibly popular among foreign and Indian holidaymakers. Yet, it manages to remain a pleasant destination. If you want to make the most of it, come off season. You could also stay on the nearby, more quiet Patnem beach.

The northern tip of  sandy Palolem beach where backwaters with fishing boats meet the sea
The quiet end of Palolem

Why choose Palolem?

Palolem is rightly considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Goa. Its calm waters make it perfect for swimming and sea kayaking. It is easily accessible (by a direct bus from Madgao, Goa’s transportation hub). If you enjoy meals on the beach, but not the parties, Palolem might be the best choice. In my quest for the best beach to swim in Goa, Palolem won the first prize.

Narrow, long stretch of white sand Palolem beach fringed with coconut trees and closed with a hilly peninsula
During our visit Palolem was busier than other beaches but far from crowded

I was a bit worried that Palolem would be overcrowded. However, since I arrived during the pandemic and most visitors were Indian, this was simply not the case. The only time plenty of people were milling around was the sunset.

Palolem Beach pros and cons

Palolem is a relatively long and narrow stretch of a white sand beach. It’s fringed by palms all along. All the restaurants and beach shacks are half-concealed by the palms. Hence, when you look from a distance, the whole beach seems green. As elsewhere in Goa, it’s hard to find shade. Tourist boats and fishing boats take over much of the sand.

the northern, palm-fringed part of Palolem beach with a row of small, colourful tourist boats and the small, forested Cancona Island in the background
Boats and wet sand take much of Palolem’s width

At the northern end of the beach, the shacks finally end. Not only it’s more peaceful there, but also rocks offer some shade. Choose this northern corner and you’ll also get access to the backwaters meeting the sea. Depending on the tide, the water is knee- or waist-deep. If you looked away from the sea, you’d see mountains far in the distance. A little bit further starts a narrow peninsula leading to Palolem Island. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to visit this tiny, rocky island entirely covered with vegetation. If you get across, be aware of the monkeys. The passage to the island disappears during the high tide, which means you can get there only in the first half of the day.

A few meters wide, calm and clear river meeting the sea at the  northern end of Palolem beach, with a green thicket on the left, a row of fishing boats on the right and Western Ghats range far in the distance
Rivermouth at the northern end of Palolem beach

The northern end of the beach creates a small bay, which is ideal for swimming. In Palolem, it is safe to get far into the sea. The water is so calm that sea kayaking is possible as well.

Empty stretch of sand at the very tip of Palolem beach with a scattering of boulders and a forested Cancona Island
Virgin north of the beach with Canacona Island, calmest sea and some rock where you can find shade

When compared with Agonda, Palolem is more noisy and lively. There are many restaurants and businesses along the beach. However, nobody does beach parties here (apart from silent disco kind) or plays loud music, like in Arambol. Palolem ranks somewhere mid-way on the scale of tranquillity. The only water sport is kayaking, so you won’t be bothered by jet skis.

Palolem Beach just after the sunset, with the lights from numerous restaurants and many evening strollers
Palolem at the sunset and in the early evening is at its liveliest

One more advantage is that you can leisurely walk to other beaches, some suitable for swimming/bathing (Patnem), others offering unforgettable vistas (Rajbag). You can also take a boat tour to Butterfly Beach and Honeymoon Beach or go sea kayaking. In other words, you’re unlikely to get bored even if you stay for a few days.

Tiny, rocky Colomb beach near Palolem with crystal clear waters, surrounded with trees.
Pretty Colomb beach is literally one minute from the southern end of Palolem beach

Palolem on a budget

Budget accommodation

The biggest surprise of the trips was that Palolem turned out to be cheaper than Agonda. Travelling during the pandemic, we found an incredible deal for a very posh hut located just a 2-min walk from the beach. I was overjoyed to be able to use their filtered water: it prevented plastic waste and saved money. In normal circumstances, finding decently priced accommodation further from the beach and outside the peak season should be possible.

Interior of a beach hut in Palolem, made of brick rather than bamboo, including a mirror, bed with sparkling clean linen and mosquito bed and some furniture
posh beach hut we got for a steal just due to pandemic

Eating out and shopping

Palolem is just a 1.5km walk from the main junction of Cananona. A south Indian style canteen opposite the Gullem bus stop serves cheap, tasty and plentiful meals. They also sell freshly baked rolls and deep-fried snacks. The area is good for food/ fruit shopping, too.

A steel plate with 5 different Indian dishes in small bowls and puffy, deep fried flat breads
100 rupee tali from Canacona

PRACTICALITIES

How to get to Palolem?

Palolem is easy to access, whether you travel from Bangalore, Mumbai or you land at the Goa airport.

By bus
Inter-state buses from Karnataka stop at the nearest big city, Madgao. You can also get to Madgao by train from Mumbai or from Banglore. There is one early morning direct bus from Panjim KTC bus stand to Canacona. However, it might be more convenient to travel to Madgao and change there.

Choose a Kadamba bus from Madgao to Canancona as those state buses are the fastest. They run frequently between 7 am and 9 am in the morning and take just 1h – 1h 20min. The Canacona Kadamba bus stand is located 3 km from the beach. Some buses go directly to Palolem beach. Otherwise, you could change a bus at Canacona.

If you’re coming from Agonda, it’s just a short ride on a bus directly to Palolem.

By train
Canacona has its train station with a few connections to Madgao but they’re infrequent.

A brand new, modern white coloured 'Kadamba' bus stands in its bay at the bus stand in Goa
AC Kadamba shuttle bus

Prices [in Indian rupees as of February 2022]

790 INR posh, insect-proof hut, 2 min walk from the beach (Booking.com 20% Genius deal) *
200 INR 50SPF sunscreen (Indian brand)
100 INR good quality veg thali at eatery in Canacona (near Palolem bus stop)
60 INR masala dosa at the eatery in Canacona
35 INR regular Kadamba bus Canacona- Madgao
25 INR sugarcane juice from a street stall in Canacona
20 INR bus Palolem – Agonda
12 INR a deep-fried, sweet snack from the eatery in Canacona
10 INR chai at the canteen in Canacona
*price during the pandemic, normally likely to be higher

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