South Goa Guide
Highlights of South Goa
Goa is home to 160 km of stunning coastline, comprised of about 50 beaches, each with their own unique features and personalities. You could spend hundreds of hours researching where to spend your time in this extensive territory! If you don’t have time for that, maybe this summary of South Goa tips will help make your life easier and your travels more wildly satisfying. I spent 6 weeks in South Goa based in Agonda Beach and Patnem Beach and below you’ll find my favorite things, beaches, places to stay and places to eat as well as a few extra assorted details.
Where to stay:
The options are almost limitless! I spent many hours researching both online and by foot and these are the ones I recommend personally:
On AGONDA BEACH:
Agonda Cottages – As far as I’m concerned this place is heaven. A mix of tropical beauty and understated comfort that blends effortlessly with the beach ambience. You hear the distant sound of the waves as you sleep; not loud enough to disturb, just enough to soothe you to sleep. The cabins are high-ceiling and spacious, and a short walk down a path lined with hibiscus and palm trees takes you to the restaurant on the sand. The cushy seats are extremely comfortable, the view is stunning, the food is delicious and the coffee is strong – what more could you want? Oh, friendly servers who remember your name every day? You’ll find that here too.
Sami Beach Huts – My second favorite after Agonda Cottages. Smaller and cozier but you can see the beach from your balcony, and if you’re traveling on a budget, you’ll like the price tag better too. The sunsets here are magnificent and the owners – a husband and wife couple – are sweet. The interior of the cabins are all light colored pine; it’s like staying in a super sized sauna. But much cooler. There’s no AC but I was fine here with the ceiling fan. The 4 poster beds covered with mosquito netting are spacious and charming.
Duck n Chill – Situated at the quiet north end of Agonda, you’ll find here the friendliest hotel staff in all of Goa. (OK, I can’t guarantee the same staff will be there by the time you get there, but the culture seems to have permeated the whole team.) The rooms are simple but the restaurant is vibrant, relaxed and beautiful with an amazing beach view of golden sand and bright blue water.
ON PATNEM BEACH (a short tuk tuk ride away from better-known Palolem Beach):
Bougainvillea – These are simple beach huts on the south end of Patnem. If you’re looking for space and luxury these aren’t for you but if you’re looking for simple beachy & bohemian, you’ll love these. Unless you’re a light sleeper. There’s a train that passes somewhere nearby around 3am every night and it makes such a racket you may think it’s about to plow straight through your cabin. (But it won’t.) Beach dogs nearby sometimes take to howling and the sound of the waves is pretty loud here too so if a quiet night is on your list of must-haves, then these are also not for you.
There is a super cool yoga dome in the middle of the cabins and daily drop in classes are offered here. The teacher while I was here was great.
Long-term stay: Filcon Resort If you’re planning to stay long term and want your own studio with a kitchen (and AC!) check out Filcon Resort https://www.agoda.com/filcon-resort/hotel/goa-in.html?cid=-218. The superior king suite is pristine, spacious and fabulous, with big windows and a huge balcony. Great quiet location just a 5 minute walk from the beach, owned and managed by nice people. I stayed a month here and absolutely loved it.
Where to eat:
Where do I start?! With
Zest Café, of course.
Zest Café (two locations; Palolem and Agonda) – This place inspires love and addiction. And when I say love, I don’t mean a little crush. I mean lasting, long-term, reach-all-the-way-down-to-your-soul love – the real thing. Zest in Agonda is the most beautiful but I found the Palolem location to have slightly better food (such as more generous toppings on the chia pudding) and the nicest friendliest staff. My favorite menu items: the coconut chia pudding, the chocolate pb nice cream, the almond milk latte (it’s huge!), the strawberries n’ cream smoothie (wow!), the smoothie bowls, the guacamole toast and the sushi wrap or fresh spring rolls (forgot what they’re called.)
Capital Organic (Patnem Beach; walk to the end of Beach Rd, turn right and you’ll see it.) Simple décor but the dosas are huge and the coconut chutney that accompanies them is out of this world. They have great fresh green juices here too.
Little Ganesha: (Patnem) the most enormous dosas in town! They’re delicious too and they serve great juices here also.
Dosa & Thali House: (Agonda) more tasty dosas although the two above mentioned places were my favorites. The thalis are great too.
Left to right: Capital Organic masala dosa, Dosa & Thali house masala dosa, and thali, Little Ganesha masala dosa.
Sundowner: a magical hidden gem. To get here, walk to the north end of Palolem Beach and wade across the shallow waves, then keep walking across the sand between the large boulders and you’ll arrive. It’s an idyllic little restaurant/bar/resort with a stunning sunset view, delicious wine and pizza and great cocktails and music & dancing in the sand after the sun goes down. If the tide comes in before you’re ready to leave they’ll take you back by boat and look for bioluminescence in the water! An unforgettable place.
Kranti Yoga: every meal here was bliss; I never managed to eat only one plate!
Left to right: Kranti Yoga decadent buffet and Sundowner pizza.
The beachside restaurants are pretty good and most of them serve scrumptious seafood and tandoori vegetables. The one in front of Kranti makes amazing garlic cheese naan.
The Space Goa: a little drive from the beach but worth it for the phenomenal food. The Green Goddess bowl, the falafel, the Yogic Bliss smoothie, the iced spiced Americano with a secret Goan spice blend and vegan chocolate truffles!
Left to right: The Space Goa - the Goddess Bowl, the Quesadilla, the Falafel Bowl, and the view.
The beachside restaurant at Agonda Cottages: I fell head over heels in love with the masala omelette paratha wrap with coconut chutney and a side of fruit bowl and Twinings Earl Grey Green Tea. With their comfy chairs and the breathtaking view of the sea; it was just heaven.
Kopi Desa: Great pizza and cocktails!
Mandala Café: It’s on the corner of the main road and the street that leads to the Sampoorna Yoga. Delicious vegetarian and vegan food. The chocolate bliss balls are heavenly.
Fatima Bar & Restaurant – Delicious desserts you can order to go! I’m still dreaming about the apple crumble. Reportedly the food is very good here too (and inexpensive) but I didn’t make it past the desserts.
Cuba Agonda: Great seafood here – the grilled squid is out of this world. Unless they’ve hired a new bartender recently, skip the cocktails.
My only restaurant-to-skip tip: La Dolce Vita. Cute place but bland, disappointing pizza and service.
All of the beaches below are exquisite in their own way. What I loved most about Goa is that these are so close to each other and yet each so different. You’ll see gorgeous sunsets from all of these.
Cola Beach: Pure zen magic. A quiet little hideaway where a slender stretch of pristine white sand is all that separates the Andaman Sea from a freshwater cove esconsced between two sloping green hills.
Above: Cola Beach, from the cliff above and the beach below. Motorbike is the best way to get here and the wine is crisp and refreshing.
Butterfly Beach: This is where you’ll find the most stunning clear turquoise water in South Goa. To get here you’ll need to take a boat from the mainland – and bonus, you may see dolphins on the way. (We did.) This is pure nature – no shops, restaurants or facilities of any kind so bring plenty of water and a picnic lunch and negotiate beforehand with the driver to stay 2-3 hours – you’ll want to, trust me.
Top left: Butterfly Beach. Other images: waves and a charming place to stay at Galgibag Beach
Galgibag: This stretch of beach is something else. Expansive, quiet, hardly another soul in sight – or perhaps no one at all. The waves roll in slowly, coasting up onto the shallow shore as if they have all the time in the world, melding into one another as they meet in slow curvy collisions from different directions. The day we were here it was windy; not the best for swimming. Watching them becomes a meditative exercise. Tall pine trees line the shore, their needles creating a soft carpet on the sand.
There are a few restaurants and a couple hotels here but they are set quietly back a ways from the beach. They don’t take away from the impression you have this place all to yourself. And once you get hungry, you’ll be delighted they’re there.
Agonda: The 9 kilometer long stretch of white sand that lines Agonda’s wide bay gives an enchanting feeling of spaciousness. A cluster of hills and large boulders to the southern side create an attractive backdrop. To the north the coast gently rounds, fading into a distant green shelf. The rolling waves beckon – Agonda is wonderful for swimming, as well as for running down its smooth sands in the mornings. There are no highrises here – no buildings taller than two stories, and most are no more than one (as was the case in all the beaches I saw in South Goa).
The street that runs behind the beach and parallel to it is lined with enticing shops, cafes and restaurants. You’ll find beautiful silver and gemstome jewelry, wall hangings, carpets, bed covers, flip flops (there is a truly impressive collection of flip flops (aka thongs if you’re Australian) along this road), beachy Goan clothing, crystals, incense, all your pharmacy needs and much more, as well as many delicious things to eat and drink.
Palolem: Every once in a while this beach gets really crowded, whether for events or holidays or weddings I don’t know, but when it’s not covered with people, it’s beautiful. The shopping options here are even better than in Agonda, at least as far as clothing is concerned. Leave some empty space in your suitcase when you come.
Patnem: Only 900 meters long, Patnem is much more condensed than Agonda and also more casual and festive. It’s great for swimming and the rocky hill at its southern end must be climbed at least once during sunset – the view is spectacular. It gets crowded here occasionally but usually it’s quiet, although busier than Agonda.
At Patnem the beach road is perpendicular to the beach. Shopping options are more limited but you can find all the necessities, along with lots of great food along or near the beach.
What to do
If you are a lover of yoga:
Kranti Yoga: You can do drop-in classes here, or come for a yoga holiday and stay as many days as you like, or do a full yoga teacher training. This little yoga paradise is an actual village – 6 beautiful shalas, 3 with an ocean view, an unprecedented number of indoor and outdoor ceiling fans everywhere that keep the temperatures cool even during the hottest part of the day and full of good vibes. I can’t say enough good things about this place, the people, the food and the quality of the yoga teacher trainings, in particular the 300 hour yin and vinyasa training, which is the one I did. Amazing, authentic, knowledgeable, fun, down to earth teachers with diverse backgrounds and no huge egos to be found anywhere. Being here was a dream.
Sampoorna Yoga: You can do drop in classes here, which are great, and their yoga teacher trainings also have an excellent reputation although I can’t personally vouch for them.
Mainapi Waterfall is beautiful and secluded if you’re up for a 2 hour ride there. If you are, you’ll most likely have the falls to yourself once you arrive. The waterfall is located inside a wildlife preserve home to a wide selection of exotic animals.
Cabo de Rama Fort: this former Portuguese fort a 30 minute drive from Agonda has stunning views. (Note: it’s windy here!) If you’re a monkey like me, you can climb giant banyan trees. After visiting the fort you can have lunch at the restaurant of The Cape Goa while enjoying more breathtaking views of seaside cliffs, beaches and groves of palm trees.
Best massages: I tried several and the only one I really loved was the full body massage at the spa at Agonda Cottages. My second favorite was one in Patnem Beach. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten the name but if I remember it, I’ll add it in.
General tips: There are no ATM’s in Patnem Beach but you can get cash out at several shops along the road. They just charge your credit card and give you cash for a lower fee than what it would cost you at the ATM. But, if you prefer the ATM, the closest one is in Chaudi, a 7 min drive away. You’ll find supermarkets and many other shops in Chaudi too.
In Agonda, the ATM is on the little road that intersects with the beach road near St. Anne’s church. It does occasionally go out of service. And by occasionally, I mean, pretty often.
On Patnem Beach road there are plenty of places around to rent motorbikes, do laundry (about $1 per kilo, or about $1.50 for a full load), minimarts with all your basic needs (including an impressive selection of unexpected items like flax seeds, chia seeds, non-dairy milks and more) and a parcel shipping service.
When to go: Monsoon season is April to September, during which beachside cabins and many cafes are dismantled. October to February is high season. I haven’t personally been in Goa during monsoon season but if you don’t mind lots of heavy rain, occasional sunny days with lots of green lushness and lots of peace and quiet, from what I hear you may love it. Prices are also at rock bottom lows during this time.
Other assorted favorites:
A) Hot tip: this Amrutanjan pain balm is magic!!! Instant relief for sore achy muscles and costs about $1 (50 rupees.) You can buy it at pharmacies in Chaudi. Stock up!!! Forget the tacky souvenirs, your friends will love you for this gift.
B) Charminar Flora Agarbathi incense. If you could make intoxicating zen happiness into a fragrance, it would smell like this incense. Because it’s my favorite incense in the world (and I have smelled many), I’m including a photo for you. I purchased it at a roadside shop on Agonda’s beach road, just south of Sami Beach Huts, on the west side of the road.
C) Kumari. My personal selection of Best Roadside Shop is the shop in this photo here, owned by Kumari (the woman in the photo) and her husband. Kumari is there more often than her husband, and she is a charming, elegant human and … be forewarned… an extremely skillful saleswoman. If you have trouble saying no to temptation, entering here may be dangerous to your wallet. But if you do, please tell Kumari I said hi!
D) Last but not least, if you appreciate good rum, when in India, you must try Old Monk. I personally recommend it with a hot honey lemon ginger. It’s one of the best things ever.
There you have it, my South Goa favorites in a nutshell! If you’re going, have an amazing time! If you’ve been and have a favorite not mentioned here, let me know what it is!