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With crescent-shape beaches of white sand and dramatic swathes of cliffs hugging the coastline, Goa continues to attract hordes of domestic and foreign travelers.
Goa's northern beaches at Baga and Calangute draw the biggest crowds and have plenty of food and drink shacks, easy access to water sports, trendy restaurants and boutiques, and booming nightlife. There's a Wednesday flea market at the former hippie enclave around Anjuna, while arresting sunset views await visitors to the cliffs at Vagator. The northern-most beaches of Ashvem, Mandrem, and Morjim are quieter and more scenic, but have far fewer places to stay and eat.
Plush all-inclusive resorts dominate the southern coastline of Benaulim, Varca, and Cavelossim, where the beaches are cleaner and the shacks are less in evidence. Colva is popular on the domestic tourist trail, and is often packed with families and tour groups. Palolem beach, with its swaying palms and clean coastline, is becoming more popular but quality accommodations and dining options still lag behind its northern counterparts.
Most visitors go to Goa for the beach and the sun, though monsoon season (June to September), with its frequent downpours, is atmospheric and remarkably lush. It's also when the crowds are thinner and the prices lower—though most of the beach shacks and some of the larger properties are closed. And if your dream is to lie out on the beach or by the pool, this definitely isn't the time for you to visit.
What Should I Wear?
The steady influx of foreign visitors over the years means that bikinis on the beach are commonplace. However, anything more risque, like going topless or nude, is not acceptable. When you leave the beach, drape a sarong or throw on a cover-up to avoid untoward attention. Wandering around town or sitting in a restaurant in only a bathing suit is not advisable. And wear your flip-flops if you're leaving the beach as streets and beach walkways can be dirty.
Eating and Drinking
Beach-shack dining is a signature experience in Goa—fresh seafood, a cold beverage, and a golden sunset. What more could you ask for? Stick to simple Goan dishes here, though, and save the bold ordering choices for the better restaurants in town.
Public restrooms can be dirty, so tuck some toilet paper in your beach bag, and bring some hand sanitizer unless your hotel is within walking distance. Facilities are cleaner at the nicer restaurants but you'll probably be turned away if you're not a paying customer.
The beaches at Calangute, Baga, and Colva in particular offer plenty of options for water sports, including parasailing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and banana boating.
Beach chairs with umbrellas line the beaches in front of restaurants. If you're a customer these are free to use, otherwise you can ask to rent one for a small, and negotiable, fee.
You'll find plenty of vendors and stalls selling knickknacks, souvenirs, food, and drinks. Stick to the bottled beverages and be cautious of inflated prices. Vendors can be a nuisance but a firm "No, thanks," is all that's needed.
This is the tropics, and the sun is strong. Wear good sunscreen and reapply often. Local brands with high SPF are available. If you're particular about a specific brand, bring your own as prices here will be higher.
Major beaches have lifeguards during the day; smaller beaches do not. Undertows can be a danger in some areas, particularly in the monsoon season, so ask the lifeguards or the locals.
Goa's reputation for wild parties and easy drugs is not undeserved but you can avoid any associated annoyances by sticking to recommended hotels, restaurants, and bars. Again, if approached by anyone undesirable, a firm "No, thank you," should send them on their way.Updated: 03-2013
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