Goa beaches are lavishly gifted by the nature and paradise for beach lovers, the magic of Goa beaches make Goa one of India’s major tourist destinations, attracting over a million visitors annually.
Beaches in Goa are categorized in three main areas:
Mapusa, in the northernmost part of Goa, is the state’s main market town. The administrative capital of Bardez Taluka, Mapusa is 13 km south of Panaji. The town’s name, pronounced `Map-sa’, after the Konkani words for ‘measure’ and ‘fill’, is an indication of its commercial nature. Besides being a busy market town, Mapusa is conveniently close to some of Goa’s most popular beaches.
About 8 km south from Mapusa, Calangute is Goa’s most popular beach, a highly commercialised but sizzling beach that offers good sunbathing, passable swimming and the most delicious food along the coast. Though the beach itself is not spectacular, and the coarse golden sand drops steeply creating an undertow, there is something about Calangute that attracts the Indian tourist and Western sun worshipper alike.
A happening beach 10 km west of Mapusa, crescent-shaped Baga is less crowded than Calangute, but comparatively safer for swimming. Baga has soft white sand and a green backdrop of paddy fields. Baga is popular for water sports – para sailing, jet skiing, body boarding and surfing, though the waves aren’t good enough for the professional surfers. Another hit with tourists are the dolphin cruises on a boat out at sea, bringing you within touching distance of these smiling creatures. Baga’s nightlife is more sophisticated than Calangute’s, with music, dance and wine.
The “hip” beach that has lived up to its swinging reputation since the 70s, Anjuna has traditionally been a rave centre and attracts party goers and backpackers to its famous beach parties, especially around the Christmas-New Year season. Anjuna’s golden sands and tall coconut palms make the beachfront a pretty hangout place and the sea is safe for swimming.
Small Vagator and Big Vagator Beach:
A little ahead of Anjuna lie the two Vagators – the big and the small Vagators. Both are secluded, palm fringed, quiet places tucked away in the northernmost tip of Mapusa. Small Vagator is a small cove – its fine silver sands and rocky sea shore surrounded by black laterite cliffs.The main Vagator beach (Big Vagator) is overshadowed by the 500 year old Portuguese fortress of Chapora that sits atop a rocky outcrop.
Way off to the north, near the border with Maharashtra, lies Arambol (also called Harmal), pretty but not overcrowded. Arambol’s stretches of soft white sand would be just what the doctor ordered for your peace of mind. It is also the paradise for the hippies, as there are regular “trance” parties and even “full moon” parties.
Also near the Maharashtra border is Querim Beach (pronounced ‘Keri’) an idyllic beach but with barely any facilities or supplies available. Equally peaceful and bereft of logistics are Mandrem (just south of Arambol) and Morgim (Morji), on the Chapora estuary. Mandrem, a lonely stretch of white sandy beach with a couple of beach shacks, is frequented mostly by tourists who want to get a full body tan, away from prying eyes of interested locals.
At the foot of Fort Aguada lies the pretty palm-fringed Sinquerim Beach, and near it Candolim Beach, both popular with tourists.
Panaji (also known as Panjim), the capital of Goa, is a tiny city that packs in a large punch. The church on the main square, the Baroque architecture, pretty villas, cobbled streets and interesting buildings give Panaji a distinctly Portuguese ambiance. The city lies along the left bank of the Mandovi River, and close at hand are a bunch of good beaches, perfect for lolling around and soaking up the sun.
Dona Paula Beach:
Dona Paula is a pretty and peaceful beach shaded by palms and casuarinas, 9 km southwest of Panaji. Dona Paula is quite a hotspot, not only for its beauty but also because of a romantic legend that gave the beach its name. Dona Paula de Menezes was a viceroy’s daughter who jumped off a cliff when refused permission to marry a local fisherman. The hapless maiden is said to be entombed at the nearby Raj Bhawan’s Cabo Chapel.
The beach closest to the capital Panaji (3 km), Miramar is conveniently located in the heart of the state capital which is also why it is rather crowded and often dirty, though you can watch some spectacular sunsets, as the sun goes down at the confluence of the River Mandovi and the Arabian Sea.
7 km from Panaji along the Panaji-Vasco road to the airport, Bambolim is a minor beach frequented more by the local populace rather than by tourists.
Though not very pretty, Caranzalem (between Miramar and Dona Paula) is quiet and safe for swimming. It has water scooters and other water sports facilities as there is no undercurrent.
The Vaniguinim Beach overlooks the Mormugao Bay but is accessible only from the Cidade de Goa Hotel.
Just 4 km from the airport is the small cove at Bogmalo, not easily accessible, and, therefore fairly empty. Bogmalo lies between Panaji and the port town of Vasco da Gama; it’s good for swimming, and not too crowded.
Margao, the capital of Salcete taluka and the chief town of South Goa, has a decidedly Portuguese flavour and an old world charm. It’s a vibrant cosmopolis with a migrant populace from Maharashtra and Karnataka, peppering the existing Konkanese and Portuguese cultures; and this is also where some of Goa’s top beaches are.
Colva beach, 6 km from Margao, has a throbbing nightlife but a somewhat downmarket ambiance by day. Colva’s highly commercialised with resort complexes, large holiday crowds, trinket stalls, discos and restaurants, but a walk of a few hundred metres along the beach in either direction takes visitors to the quieter, more private spots. If one can get away from the crowded main beach, Colva is a great place to shack up. There’s good accommodation, great restaurants, the waterfront is clean and the water’s safe for swimming.
Benaulim lies right in the centre of Colva, 7 km west of Margao. Benaulim remained a sleepy hamlet for centuries, then woke up with quite a bang- and is today a popular tourist hotspot with a crop of luxury resorts, time-share apartments, guesthouses and moderately priced hotels. Dozens of restaurants and beach shacks dot the seafront, serving authentic Goan seafood besides a variety of other cuisines. Despite its popularity, Benaulim still has an air of tranquility: the beachfront is beautiful, with silver sands, shady palm trees and safe waters.
Mobor is the spot where Colva ends and the River Assolna meets the sea, and the site of an exclusive luxury resort. The beach at Mobor lies in a sheltered cove overlooked by cliffs on one side – it makes for a picture perfect setting.
Majorda lies 2 km north of Colva, and is a pretty beach dominated by a luxury resort, hotels, restaurants, shops, boutiques and the best European bakeries in Goa.
South of Margao lie a host of quieter, more isolated beaches; venture beyond Cape Rama to the peace and beauty of the beaches at Palolem and Galgibaga- perfect for a day away from the crowds of bathers flocking around the more touristy beaches. Nearby Agonda and Rajbag beaches lack shelter from the sun, making them rather isolated and inconvenient.