South Goa isn’t as pristine as it used to be ten years ago, but it is still the North’s fresher and less visited counterpart. Next time you’re in Goa, pick up the phone and say hello. You won’t regret it. Alila Diwa, Zuri White Sands and Park Hyatt live here, but we recommend you live at the eight-room heritage manor, Vivenda Dos Palhacos where rooms have four poster beds and the swimming pool is set in a tropical garden.
The best way to explore South Goa’s coast line is to go beach hopping in a fisherman’s boat. The day trip begins at Patnem beach, with lunch on the Agonda sands (don’t miss Darcy’s Beefsteak). You can also rent a kayak and head towards the tiny island right at the tip of Palolem or take a boat to the gorgeous Butterfly Island for a picnic and dolphin sightings.
Bogmalo: One of the best beaches to surf at and a good spot for other activities like kiting. Avoid going on Sundays, when the locals flock in. South Goa.
Water babies can also take a romantic canoe ride down the backwaters of the Mandovi river, through dense mangrove forests of Chorao Island’s Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary to spot Goa’s 450 odd birds from a watch tower that include Indian Rollers and Chestnut Tailed Starlings. Winter visitors include coots and pintails (details here). If you’d rather stay dry, there’s a hot Sahakari Spice Farm for botanical garden tours and spice shopping. Ponda belgaum Highway, Curti, Ponda.
Cola Beach: Pristine, near-secluded beach with a sweet water lake on one side and the ocean on the other, separated by a narrow strip of sand. South Goa.
North Goa’s beaches are more touristy than those in the South, but it also means more buzz and people watching for you. Definitely skip Baga, where droves of tourists get off buses, undress and rush straight into the ocean. If you’re in Anjuna, avoid Curlie’s and look for more secluded spots, or seek shade under Vagator’s batallion of coconut trees. It’s also great for swimming. Better still, go further down to wide swaths of silvery sands in Ashwem, plus a beach lagoon and tons of surf schools. Morjim is as pretty but crowded with shacks, restaurants and beach beds where people bring beer and give you foot rubs.
Arambol: Think hippies, yoga retreats and Russians. North Goa.
Grandmother’s Hole: If you can find it (you have to squeeze through a gap in the walls of the Fortaleza Santa Catarina fort to access it), this tiny strip of sand is said to be the prettiest beach in Goa, untouched and shack-free. Vasco De Gama.
This story was contributed by the team at brownpaperbag.in, a culture and lifestyle portal in Mumbai, Delhi & Bangalore.
Read the entire series of our Goa Guide Edition. Find spots to be a beach bum, kitchens that have the best food, and boutique stays that beat resorts.