alolem Beach is the closest Goa gets to a picture-postcard perfect bay: a beautiful arc of palm-fringed golden sand that’s topped and tailed with rocky outcrops. Under the canopy of the dense coconut forests lie restaurants, coco-huts and countless hammocks. Famous for its spectacular sunsets, this bay is enclosed by a rocky outcrop at one end, and Canacona Island, a good camping site, at the other. Palolem’s remote location, away from the crowded beaches of central Goa, makes it an ideal for a quiet holiday.
Palolem’s stunning crescent beach was, as recently as 15 years ago, another of Goa’s undiscovered gems, with few tourists and even fewer facilities to offer them. Nowadays, it’s no longer quiet or hidden, but remains one of Goa’s most beautiful spots, with a friendly, laid-back pace and lots of budget accommodation along the sands. Nightlife’s still sleepy here – there are no real clubs, and the place goes to bed when the music stops at 10pm. But if you’re looking for a nice place to lay up, rest a while, swim in calm seas and choose from an infinite range of yoga, massages and therapies on offer, this is your place.
Palolem Beach is largely unspoiled and is inhabited by both local fishermen and by foreign tourists who live in shacks along the shore or in the main village itself. It is about 1.6 km (1 mile) long and is crescent-shaped; one can view the entire beach from either end. Both ends of the beach consist of rocks jutting out into the sea. The depth of the sea increases gradually, being shallowest at the northern end of the beach, making it safe for average swimmers, and the currents are not fast.
To the north, a freshwater stream and a short swim or wade will get you to the jungle of the tiny Canacona Island.
Palolem Beach was featured as the Goan residence of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in the film The Bourne Supremacy (2004). The initial footage in the movie gives a good idea of the natural beauty of the beach – the distinctive tree covered rocks at one end (known locally as Green Island – to which tours are run) and beach shacks.
At the top of the island adjoining Palolem Beach there is a stone sculpture created by an American conceptual and land artist Jacek Tylicki called “Give if you can – Take if you have to” also called the “Money stone”. It became a pilgrimage destination. At the low tide it is a tough jungle walk and a guide is recommended. People can leave or take money at will at the Money stone.
Note that Palolem, even more so than other beach towns, operates seasonally; many places aren’t up and running until November. The Thai style beach shacks on the beach front are typically taken down during the monsoon season and re-erected when the dry season starts.
Top Things to Do at Palolem Beach
Beach Activities – Kayaks are available for rent on Palolem Beach. Fishermen and other boat operators hanging around the beach offer rides to beautiful Butterfly Beach, north of Palolem as well as dolphin-watching trips.
Yoga – Palolem is the place to be if you’re keen to yoga, belly dance, reiki, t’ai chi or tarot the days away. There are courses and classes on offer all over town, with locations and teachers changing seasonally. Many places offers daily drop-in yoga classes, as well as longer residential courses.
Trekking – Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary (admission/camera Rs 5/25; 7am- 5.30pm) About 9km south of Palolem is this beautiful, remote-feeling sanctuary. Don’t expect to bump into its more exotic residents (including gaurs, sambars, leopards and spotted deer), but blazingly plumed birds, frogs, snakes and monkeys are plentiful. Trails are marked; set off early morning for the best sighting prospects from one of the sanctuary’s two forest watchtowers, 6km and 9km from the entrance. Take a rickshaw/taxi from Palolem to the sanctuary or two buses (at 1pm and 6.15pm) also go here from Chaudi. The park also has two cottages if you want to stay overnight.