The multitude of beaches in Goa offer something for everyone, from luxury resorts to makeshift huts, and trance parties to tranquility. The beach that's right for you will depend on the kind of experience you want to have. Here's an overview of what to expect at each of the best Goa beaches (in alphabetical order).
The long and isolated stretch of Agonda Beach is perfect for those wanting to relax and do nothing. It's quiet and relatively uncrowded. Stay in a hut right on the beach (some are quite luxurious), and enjoy the stillness and nature. Agonda Beach is fast being discovered, however. Do expect to find other tourists, souvenir stalls, and restaurants.
- Location: South Goa, just north of Palolem Beach. 43 kilometers (26 miles) from Marago and 76 kilometers (47 miles) from Panaji. The closest main railway station is Margao. Canacona is the local railway station nearby.
Anjuna Beach was once home to the hippies. They've now moved on but their legacy remains. The Wednesday Anjuna Beach flea market is bigger than ever and continues to remain popular. Curlies plays a lot more chill-out music than psychedelic trance these days though. Anjuna is an ideal area for backpackers and budget travelers, as numerous funky hostels have opened there in recent years.
- Location: North Goa, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Mapusa and 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Karmali or Thivim.
Arambol, on Goa's far northern stretch of coastline, has become the new hippie haven. Once a small fishing village, it's now the most happening beach in Goa (perhaps to the point of saturation) with a distinct traveler (as opposed to tourist) vibe. You'll find plenty of alternative therapies there, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and reiki. Water sports and dolphin sightseeing trips are on offer as well. The nightlife is relaxed with drum circles, live music, and jam sessions. Just north of Arambol are secluded Keri Beach and Tiracol Fort Heritage Hotel.
- Location: North Goa, 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Mapusa and 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Pernem.
Calangute Beach is the busiest and most commercial beach in Goa. It's filled with foreigners tanning themselves on the endless rows of side-by-side sun lounges, and Indian men who come to watch. Baga Beach starts right where Calangute ends, although it's hard to pinpoint exactly where. The beach is a bit less crowded and better developed than Calangute. A wide range of water sports are on offer. If you feel like indulging yourself with some fine food and wine, there are many upmarket restaurants in the area too. Baga is also well known for its commercial nightlife, including the infamous Tito's and Cafe Mambo. This area is particularly popular with Indian tourists.
- Location: North Goa, 9 kilometers (6 miles) from Mapusa and 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Thivim.
Benaulim Beach is only a short distance south of Colva Beach, but there's a huge contrast between the two. Known for its fishing industry, it's a beautiful and laidback stretch of beach. You won't find any wild parties there, but water sports and dolphin sightseeing trips are on offer. It does get a little crowded around peak time in December, but head a bit further south down the beach and the quietness will be restored. Restaurants line the main stretch of beach but most of the accommodations are set back from the beach, along with art galleries and shops. It attracts a lot of foreign retirees.
- Location: South Goa, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Margao and 41 kilometers (25 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Margao.
Candolim and Sinquerim
The long straight stretch of Candolim Beach is lined with shacks and restaurants, which back onto scrub covered sand dunes. It borders Calangute, so is also quite commercial although a bit cleaner and more peaceful. This area has become popular with foreign retirees, so you may want to skip it if you're looking for a younger vibe. However, the stretch does have some large commercial nightspots, such as SinQ, targeted towards Indian tourists. Candolim Beach joins smaller and quieter Sinquerim Beach to the south, which is where Aguada Fort is situated.
- Location: North Goa, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Mapusa and 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Thivim.
Not to be confused with the very different Colva Beach (see below), Cola Beach offers exceptional privacy and peace. Located just north of Agonda Beach, it's cut-off from the rest of the coast and has its own lagoon. There are very few places to stay there, making it ideal for those who really want to get away from it all. Dwarka Eco Beach Resort has the best huts, some with spectacular panoramic views.
- Location: South Goa, 36 kilometers (22 miles) from Margao and 67 kilometers (41 miles) from Panaji. The closest main railway station is Margao. Canacona is the local railway station nearby.
Busy Colva Beach is a favorite among domestic Indian tourists, and day-trippers arrive by the bus loads. On the weekend, the crowd explodes with locals as well. The beach also gets particularly busy in October, when hordes of pilgrims come to visit Colva Church. The area is well developed with plenty of budget hotels, beach shacks, food stalls, and small restaurants and bars. The development hasn't however extended to nightlife, which is minimal apart from a few places. Overall, this beach really doesn't have much to offer foreigners compared to other beaches in Goa.
- Location: South Goa, 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Margao and 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Margao.
Mandrem, Morjim, and Ashwem
These wide open beaches have become quite hip and trendy in recent years. Groovy beach bars and beach huts, as well as a few fashionable resorts, can be found there. The area also has a number of yoga retreats. The beaches are renowned for their protected turtle population. Quite a bit of land in the area around Morjim and Ashwem has been bought by Russians, who have settled there en mass. Mandrem is the quieter of the three beaches, with the outstanding Beach Street Resort dominating the scene there. It's possible to walk to Mandrem from Arambol.
- Location: North Goa, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Mapusa. The closest railway station is Pernem.
Picturesque Palolem Beach is the most lively beach in south Goa. It's a lengthy semi-circle shaped beach with shady palm trees and soft sand. Since it was discovered, it's been getting busier and more crowded with each passing season. Fortunately, there remains an absence of any permanent structures on the beach. Instead, you can stay in one of the simple, temporary, coco huts that are erected there each year. Anyone looking for additional comforts will find them at the hotels and resorts a short distance from the beach. For bars and nightlife, head to the busier southern end of the beach.
- Location: South Goa, 43 kilometers (27 miles) from Margao and 76 kilometers (47 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway stations are Margao and Canacona.
Patnem Beach is no longer a well-kept secret, but it's still much quieter than nearby Palolem Beach, which is only a 10 minutes away. This small beach, nestled between two cliffs, is a wonderful place to stay if you want to chill out but not be too far away from nightlife in Palolem. You'll find a range of pretty huts, with private bathrooms, to stay in right on the beach. If you're looking for somewhere a little more hush-hush (shhhh!), try Galjibag beach around 10 minutes further south.
- Location: South Goa, 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Margao and 78 kilometers (48 miles) from Panaji. The closest main railway station is Margao. Canacona is the local railway station nearby.
Vagator Beach, north of Anjuna, is located at the bottom of a steep cliff and is divided into two sections—Big Vagator (the crowded main stretch of beach, frequented by domestic Indian tourists), and Little Vagator (further south past the rocks, more popular with foreigners). Little Vagator is also known as Ozran beach, and it's where old-timers and people wanting a hippie experience hang out. This area is known for psy-trance, with legendary party spot Disco Valley nearby. It also has a landmark face of Lord Shiva carved into rock. Accommodations at Vagator are inland instead of on the beach, with many people staying there long-term. The newly opened W Hotel is one of the few luxury resorts in north Goa. There are a number of notable bars and clubs in the area, including Chronicle and 9 Bar. Famous Greek restaurant Thalassa is also situated on Vagator cliff. Hill Top remains Goa's most iconic destination for trance lovers.
- Location: North Goa, 9 kilometers (5 miles) from Mapusa and 22 kilometers (14 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Thivim.
Varca, Cavelossim and Mobor
These pristine and unspoiled fishing beaches are the territory of Goa's luxury resorts. There are a few beach shacks, water sports, and local vendors but the beaches remain clean, and the sand white. Most of the nightlife happens at the resorts and includes live music, cultural performances, and casinos. You'll also find a handful of low-key bars around Cavelossim.
- Location: South Goa, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Margao and 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Panaji. The closest railway station is Margao.