Best Goa beaches
From beaches offering all-night parties to chilled out bliss, Goa offers a beach destination to suit almost any kind of traveler and budget. Whether you want to be amidst the foreign frivolities or experience how the ‘New India’ likes to holiday at some of the areas domestic holiday-maker locations, you can experience it all on the Goan coast.
With kilometers of beautiful coastline to swim, jet ski and laze upon, crumbling vestiges of Portuguese colonial rule to discover, and a stunning inland countryside to drive through, Goa is not just a beach destination. Added to that, exceptional restaurants offering both Indian and international cuisine allow you to dine with your feet in the sand before the famed Goan nightlife takes over. From low-key jam sessions to all night trance parties your preference to dance the night away or sleep like a baby may be a significant deciding factor as to which beach you choose to base yourself at.
While the area was discovered by the hippies in the 1960s who brought with them the alternative lifestyle for which much of the area is still known, such as yoga, reiki and meditation retreats, many of these former secret gems are now well and truly on the tourist trail and have been transformed into large, modern beach resorts. But it is still possible to find tranquil stretches of sand to bliss-out on or throw yourself into the Indian holiday spirit at some of Goa’s lively and intriguing local tourism hideouts.
With warm temperatures throughout the year, the peak tourist season runs from around late October to early March when accommodation can get busy. From June to August the southwest monsoon arrives and the beach huts are dismantled to prevent damage, although some rooms are still available further inland. The shoulder seasons can be a great time to visit when things are relatively quiet and prices drop significantly.
Whatever your desires you don’t have to limit yourself to just one area and with each beach offering a unique vibe there is no reason not to explore. From 12 to 1, here is a list of some of Goa’s beaches and what is on offer to help you decide.
Number 12: COLVA
A favorite amongst domestic Indian tourists, Colva explodes on the weekends as day trippers arrive by the bus loads. A relatively developed beach with plenty of budget hotels, beach shacks, restaurants and bars, it is still fairly low-key at night compared to some of the other beaches. For some Colva lacks atmosphere with cement infrastructure and aggressive hawkers, while for others it serves all their holiday needs with a beach, beers and banana lounges.
Colva is home to the Colva Church and in October the town gets particularly busy as pilgrims come to pay their respects which can be an interesting event to witness.
Colva does not have many of the foreigner oriented activities of any of Goa’s other beaches, but can be an interesting place to mingle and holiday with the locals. It also has a great position in the center of the coast, stretching north to Velsao and south to Mobor, so if you want to explore the inland roads and whitewashed Portuguese mansions and churches, Colva would make a good base.
Located in South Goa, the closest railway station to Colva is Marago.
Number 11: CALANGUTE AND BAGA
One of the first areas to attract hippies in the 1960s, Calangute and Baga were also the first to cash in on the lucrative package and charter tourism of the 1990s. Today they draw mostly holidaying Indians who descend to enjoy its ‘Costa del Sol’ resort-like atmosphere which can make an intriguing destination for foreigners to see how the ‘New India’ holidays. For others the noise and tack are reasons enough to make a bee-line out of there, but if you go with an open mind it is worth spending a night here to experience an atmosphere completely alien to the rest of India.
While there is good swimming here and plenty of beach lounges to do nothing on, the water ignites with the sound of engines as locals take to jet skis and banana boats and the exciting squeals can be quite infectious. With one of Goa’s biggest selections of watersports on offer, Calangute and Baga are a good place to hone your skills or try something new, from parasailing to wake boarding, windsurfing to kitesurfing.
Calangute is a more family-oriented place to holiday with a decent swimming beach while Baga near the mouth of the river has a lively night scene with lots of bars to drink and dance in. If you want to meet (and party) with the locals, this is the place to do it! For a more relaxed atmosphere, the southern end of Calangute is a chilled mix of the two or on the northern side of the Baga River where there is still a small patch of greenery.
Each Saturday night Mackie’s Bazaar is held next to the river in Baga and offers a wide selection of trinkets and souvenirs to bargain over.
Just south of Anjuna Beach, Baga Beach turns into Calangute in the south. The closest railway station is Thivim or Goa’s Dabolim airport is around 50 kilometers away.
Number 10: CANDOLIM AND SINQUERIM
Close enough to the bustle of Calangute and Baga, but far enough away, Candolim is a quieter alternative lined with shacks and bars that back onto scrubby sand dunes. To the south it turns into Sinquerim Beach which has the crumbling remains of the Portuguese Aguada Fort.
With plenty of dining options and bars offering an interesting nightlife, this is a lively beach that has remained relatively clean.
Candolim and Sinquerim are located in North Goa and the closest railway station is Thivim
Number 9: MANDREM, MORJIM AND ASHWEM
Located in North Goa these wide open beaches have been increasing in popularity in recent years with beach bars and huts mushrooming along the sands, together with a number of upmarket resorts.
The atmosphere is quite mellow and if you are after a yoga retreat there are a number in the area to choose from that offer daily classes and accommodation packages.
The seas are generally safe to swim and an Olive Ridley marine turtle population visits these beaches. Their eggs are being collected and protected until hatching to help boost numbers by the Goa Forest Department and you can visit their hut to learn more about the project and offer support.
Ashwem is popular with long-stay tourists and much of the area is being bought up by Russians. Each year the beach restaurants and accommodation huts change hands as they are taken down during the monsoon season and re-built in October, resulting in a different atmosphere each year.
Morjim is located at the mouth of the Chapora River and the southern end has fantastic views down the headland to Chapora Fort which makes for a pleasant stroll in the evenings.
While these beaches lack the atmosphere of many of Goa’s more popular areas and often feel a bit deserted, they are a great place if you want to rent a cheap house for the whole season and use the area as a base. The closest railway station to the area is at Pernem.
Number 8: BENAULIM
Benaulim Beach is a stunning, laid back stretch of beach backed by a small fishing village. Legend tells that it was here that the god Parasurama’s arrow landed after being fired into the sea, creating Goa. It is a great place to relax on the beach and do nothing, although there are a few water sports available and boat cruises to spot dolphins are also on offer.
The beach is lined with restaurants where you can get a huge variety of both Indian and international cuisine, while most of the accommodation options are set back from the beach, together with shops and a few art galleries to peruse.
While Benaulim has become known as an escape for retirees, its tranquil atmosphere will appeal to all ages with lots of sunbeds to lounge on and a lifeguard present on the beach, making for safe swimming.
Located in South Goa, the closest railway station to Benaulim is Marago.
Number 7: VARCA, CAVELOSSIM AND MORBOR
If you are after luxury then look no further than these pristine and unspoiled fishing beaches. The sand is clean and white and relatively devoid of hawkers with the majority of action located in and around the resorts. There are a few beach shacks, but much of the nightlife, which includes live music, cultural performances and casinos, is found within the resorts, and while the atmosphere is clean cut and services all your needs, it can be, for some, distinctly un-Indian.
The waters are great for swimming and a number of water sports are available such as jet skiing and para sailing if you want a bit more action off the sand.
Located in South Goa, the closest railway station to the area is at Marago.
Number 6: VAGATOR AND CHAPORA
Situated in northern Goa, the rugged cliffs and headlands draped in thick greenery create a picturesque setting for the twin beaches of Vagator and Chapora. With dramatic red rock faces and a crumbling 17th century Portuguese fort, these quiet little fishing villages have become a center for the wild, outdoor parties for which Goa is famous. Large numbers of long-stay party people descend on the beaches for months every season with wild trance parties and hippy pursuits going long into the night.
Beach-wise, Chapora is more of a fishing harbor at the mouth of the Chapora River so does not have much of a beach to swim at while Vagator has 3 small coves that provide great swimming opportunities. Vagator Beach in the north is the largest and offers a beautiful stretch of sand with calm waters. It’s best avoided mid-afternoon, however, when domestic coach tours descend for a few hours to unload tourists to frolic in the water. To the south, Little Vagator Beach and Ozran Beach, are both accessed by steep footpaths that run down the hill and are a great place for a swim or a local beach-shack lunch. The beaches here all pump out trance-heavy music and are memorable for the languid cows that mingle among the people.
Number 5: PALOLEM
This mile-long, semi-circle shaped beach backed by coconut palms is a Goan favorite and considered one of the state’s most beautiful beaches. In recent years it has seen a huge surge in popularity, with the accompanying development, and it is no longer the undiscovered gem of 15 years ago. But if you like to be in the heart of the action then Palolem could be the best choice for you.
Palolem started out as a pristine beach with a few tourists in-the-know about its stunning white sands. Then it became a magnet for backpackers with a distinctly alternative vibe and over time it has developed into one of Goa’s most packed destinations and during high season it can be hard to find a bed in this ever-growing beach town.
But you can understand the appeal. With calm seas to swim and an infinite choice of massage, yoga and healing therapies on offer Palolem is still enticing. In addition, it has one of the area’s best nightlife scenes with some low-key jam sessions, live music, reggae and rock escalating into late night dance music beach parties and what are known as ‘silent parties’ where punters dance the night away with headphones on.
The northern end of the beach has a more laid-back family atmosphere and is quieter while the center and south attract the backpackers and is where most of the parties are held.
The sea is also calmer in the north, without the deep drop found at the southern end of the beach, which makes it safer for small children to play in.
If you’ve had enough of lying on the beach you can take a boat trip along the beautiful backwater canals during high tide or hire a kayak to explore the surrounding area. Fishing trips can also be arranged from the beach as can dolphin spotting excursions in the calm waters. At high tide Butterfly Beach is an island but at low tide you can walk around to the beach where there are hiking trails and excellent sunset opportunities.
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is just a short day trip from Palolem if you want to get up close and personal with the animals or the Palolem market is a great distraction from the beach with a huge choice of jewelry, clothes and Indian trinkets.
Palolem can be accessed from Marago and Canacona railway stations, just a short 10 minute drive away, or Goa’s Dabolim airport is 1 ½ hours away.
Number 4: ANJUNA
Once a hippy getaway, Anjuna is now one of Goa’s most popular beaches with everyone from backpackers to ravers to midrange tourists finding their piece of paradise here. While Anjuna is relatively developed there is still enough on offer here to create a great beach getaway with warm waters to swim and watersports available for the more active.
Every Wednesday the Anjuna Beach flea market is held, becoming bigger and bigger each year, and attracting tourists from all over Goa. It has the biggest selection of jewelry, clothes, Indian handicrafts and trinkets in all Goa and a lively atmosphere. After the day is over the crowds move onto the beach shacks to watch the sunset and listen to psychedelic trance.
Anjuna’s night life is one of the area’s most happening, particularly known for its trance parties that go to all hours of the morning. So if you want to dance the night away with a stunning beach as your backdrop, then Anjuna might be a good option for you. Curlies at the most southern end of the beach is one of the most popular and lively bars and you are bound to find a party here most nights of the week.
Number 3: PATNEM
Just a short 5 minutes from all the action of Palolem Beach, Patnem is quieter and more spacious. Shacks and huts line the beach offering some entertainment if you want a bit of nightlife but don’t want to be right in the middle of the action, while things tend to be quieter during sleeping hours without the big parties. Some beach shacks offer nightly jam sessions where tourists are encouraged to bring their instruments and these can be lively and enjoyable ways to spend an evening.
Patnem is a quiet and friendly alternative to the more crowded Palolem where days are spent lazing on the beach. The surf can be rough at times with a strong undertow making it difficult to swim, but on other days it is a great place to play in the water. Lifeguards patrol the beach in high season and flags are posted indicating the best place to swim safely.
The beach is backed by a line of huts and shacks that serve as accommodation and restaurants. You can get a good mix of Indian and international cuisine throughout the day and happy hours are celebrated in many establishments as the sun goes down to help you kick-start the evening.
The main road is home to a string of stalls selling jewelry, clothes, bags and Indian handicrafts so if doing nothing on the beach gets all too much then try your bargaining skills here. Vendors tend to be a little less aggressive than at Palolem also. Alternatively, wellness treatments, as well as yoga and reiki, are offered at Harmonic, an eco-friendly healing place on the hill at the northern end of the beach.
Chaudi town is conveniently just a couple of minutes away with ATMs and shopping facilities and Canacona Railway station is 5 minutes drive away.
Number 2: ARAMBOL
A formerly tranquil 1960s hippy getaway, Arambol is starting to see its fair share of tourists as they are lured by its picture-perfect white sands and beautiful rocky bays, all to the tune of a laid-back alternative atmosphere.
Many travelers come to this relaxing corner of Goa, set up camp and never leave, and the accommodation is most low-key and budget to cater to their needs.
Arambol is a place to relax, do yoga or brush up on your therapeutic healing skills. You won’t find the big parties of Palolem here, just some small gatherings and jam sessions that will let you sleep in peace at night. The pristine beach is the perfect place to do absolutely nothing but just take it all in and there are plenty of good restaurants and shacks along the beach serving both Indian and international fare.
But how long this will last is uncertain as the beaches to the south start to fill up and people look for less-crowded options elsewhere. Arambol’s hippy days may soon be over as the developers move in to cash in on this lucrative strip of beach.
Number 1: AGONDA BEACH
Wide, quiet and sublimely picturesque, Agonda is arguably Goa’s best beach. Stretching for around 3 kilometers this pristine stretch of beach is lined with basic beach shacks that allow you to absorb the stunning surrounds and step straight from your door onto the white sands. Unlike many of Goa’s other beaches, hawkers are not allowed so you can relax in peace without the constant disruptions. So if your dream vacation is on a stunning beach with a book in hand and quiet nights to rest and relax then romantic Agonda may be ideal for you.
There are plenty of yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic options along the beach and daily classes and courses on offer in all disciplines. Signs around the Fatima Restaurant and on lamp posts advertise the latest offerings and class times.
The water is not the best for swimming as it shelves steeply at high tide and the surf is often rough, but the beach is perfect for doing absolutely nothing!
In the middle of the beach is a turtle center that protects the vulnerable Olive Ridley turtles and their eggs and you can visit to witness this important work and offer support.
While Agonda has been increasing in popularity in recent years and more development is occurring, it is still a far cry from the bustle of Palolem down the road and it is possible to find your own patch of sand to relax on.
Agonda is located 20-30 minutes from the railway stations of Marago and Canacona or around 1 hour from Goa’s Dabolim airport. There is now an ATM located in the village, next to the church crossroads.