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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Palolem on a budget
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.
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.
How to get to Palolem?
Palolem is easy to access, whether you travel from Bangalore, Mumbai or you land at the Goa airport.
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.
Canacona has its train station with a few connections to Madgao but they’re infrequent.
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