I never actually intended to visit South Goa but I ended up going to Palolem Beach after my fiancée had his bag stolen, forcing him to travel back to the UK for a new passport.
In many ways, I think it was serendipity that I announced that I would fly to Goa from Rajasthan when he went to the UK. We honoured our travel plans using his embassy-issued emergency passport. This meant we had to explain our situation at every guesthouse, including Boby Mansion in Jaipur (after our hostel disaster at Lazy Mozo backpackers which included a small fire).
Boby told another British couple who were staying at the hotel about our situation. As chance would have it, we met them over breakfast and they were also heading to Palolem Beach. They were happy to meet up and I was very keen so we swapped numbers. I would be there first which meant testing the water as a solo female traveller in India.
The first thing that was great about Palolem Beach was that there are loads of solo travellers, both male and female. Many people spend up to a month here and while I’m not great at starting conversations, I met loads of people as everyone is in holiday mode and happy to chat. Restaurant owners and hotel staff are well used to solo travellers so it’s very much normal here. After two days I met up with Danielle and Connor from Jaipur and we had a lovely time together without using up too much money or energy.
Most of the accommodation is on the beach but it’s inexpensive. You can wake up and get your morning coffee on the beach for about 50p. Nothing is more relaxing that watching those waves and being under budget at the same time.
While Palolem is a bit rough and ready, the food options are amazing. Vegans are extremely well catered for and I bought this raw pad Thai from Zest for about £2.50. It was delicious and there’s a plethora of lovely cafes to try on the Main Street, including Little World, Nireas – healthy haven and Bakehouse. All reasonably priced as well.
After some sunbathing, you can watch the sun go down with a cocktail. This cost me about £1.50 as Goa is one of the cheapest and easiest places to buy alcohol in India. I forgot to ask for no straw but actually, in general I found that they use metal, paper or no straw at all. There is definitely more of an environmental consciousness here than elsewhere in India.
On my second day, I did Rahul’s Cooking Class which I found on Tripadvisor with good reviews. He hasn’t paid me to say that and other cooking classes are available from other providers, including a vegan course. I would shop around but this one included things I wanted to make and it was reasonably priced. We made 5 dishes including chapatis and I learnt a lot.
I loved how non-corporate this beach was compared with others I visited in North Goa. Life here is quite traditional and the cows come and sleep on the beach.
One of the best nights I had was when we went to the bar on the very tip of the beach, near Canacona island. The owners were really nice as were the other customers who we befriended around a fire. To get there we waded through the warm sea and we were rewarded by marinara pizza and a glass of Old Monk rum. We also found the world’s most relaxed dog lying on the table next to us. You can’t get too drunk as you still have to wade back to shore.
In the daytime there is wildlife to be spotted from your sunbed, like eagles, red kites, egrets, herons and fruit bats. Some of the creatures will even come to you, like this giant cricket that I found on the door of my beach hut. When we sailed out on our boat trip we saw an Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin.
I’m a vegetarian but if you’re into seafood, it doesn’t get much fresher than this! I liked how the beach was the hub of everything and you could just watch people and animals sail past.
If this sunset doesn’t sell it, I don’t know what does! Admittedly a sunset would look beautiful anywhere in Goa but Palolem was where I felt the most relaxed and that is the key to a good beach. If anything, I should be discouraging people from coming here but I couldn’t not share this place with you.
After Palolem Beach I visited Candolim and it didn’t have the same appeal to me as it was so commercialised.
Being in North Goa made me appreciate how peaceful it is down South. There is definitely quite a bit more to do in the North but I think that after the landscapes I saw and the friends that I made that my heart belongs in the South.