Why do people go to Palolem, Goa?
There are a lot of beaches in Goa that are perfect for getting some sun. Goa is a beach destination, so unlike the rest of India. It’s famous for beaches like Calangute, Baga, Anjuna, Majorda, Colva, Vagator and many more. But Palolem tops the list. Perfect for budget travelling, this crescent shaped beach with turquoise waters at the South end of Goa, India looks like an earthly replica of the moon.
The nearest train station to Palolem is Canacona. Accessible by train, taxi or bus from Dabolim airport, Palolem is a perfect mix of everything, from beaches to water sports, from food to drink, from slow lunches and dinners to crazy nightlife.
Where to stay in Palolem?
If you’re looking for a quiet family vacation, the North end of Palolem is perfect. The North end also has a flatter sea bed compared to the South, making it safer for swimming. If you’re looking for nightlife, the South end of Palolem is your choice. Palolem is also a decent drive from Leopard Valley where the crazy parties are held. Hostels and cheaper shacks are a plenty on the South end, while better quality shacks and hotels cover the North end.
With it’s susegat (meaning laid back or relaxed) atmosphere, Goa is a great place to visit all year round. But summer can be really hot, and crowded, so April and May are avoidable. Also, many outlets in South Goa tend to shut down for the rainy season from June to September, so there’s not much going on at that time. If you love drives in the rain and seeing everything green, there’s always something to see or something to do, but not as much as October to April.
In fact, even the stays are cheaper when you just land up in Palolem and hunt for a shack, since most of the budget accommodations’ are not online. Mind you, during the peak season – November to February, prices can go a little high, but converting from INR to USD or any other currency, it’s a steal. On average budget rooms cost between INR 800 to INR 3000 (USD 12 to USD 45).
The view from my room here shows the Canacona Island to the right, which is a small island that can be accessed by foot during low tide and by boat during high tide. It’s also known as Monkey Island or Ile de Canacona.
Things to do in Palolem, South Goa
Palolem features a variety of restaurants in different price ranges. Food includes North Indian, South Indian, Chinese, Italian, Continental, and almost every other flavour. While drinks are available a plenty, Goa is famous for beer, and a bottle costs hardly INR 60 to INR 80. (Approx USD 1 to USD 1.5 each). And except for the food and drink, almost everything in Goa can be bargained for. You can buy clothes, shoes, spices, hats, food stuff and so much more at the roadside stalls. Haggling for a price is the name of the game.
Apart from water sports, local cuisine and food, you could also visit nearby spice farms and take hikes to the waterfalls in the jungle. The local economy thrives mostly on fishing, farming and the tourism industry. Fishermen set out to see in the we hours of morning and you can see them hauling in their catches by the time you wake up. if you’re staying at an apartment or homestay, haggling to buy fresh fish on the beaches is a a fun thing to do. You could cook the fish yourself or ask your host to cook it for you in the local style for a small fee. Local masalas taste nicer, don’t they?
Did I also mention that the South end of Palolem beach is the place where the starting scenes from The Bourne Supremacy were shot? Yeah, Matt Damon was here. Why aren’t you?
The secret of Palolem – Phytoplankton aka Bioluminescent plankton
You’re still here? Let me tell you a secret even the locals don’t know about. If you’re a good swimmer and love those midnight swims with your partner, there’s a spot a little way off in the ocean where the bio-luminescent plankton come in at night. I just wish I had a waterproof camera to cast them to physical memory. We swam with them from around 1 am to 2.30 am.
What are luminescent plankton? Or what are phytoplankton? They’re plankton that emit light when they’re stressed or disturbed. So basically, the excess or unnecessary movements in the water make the emit light. Which sounds bad for the poor plankton, but it amazing for us humans.
When the BF told me about it, I was like, ‘Nah, not here in India. You don’t get that sort of amazing shit happening here.’ Okay, I had heard of the phytoplankton in the Maldives and Lakshwadeep at Bangaram and Kavaratti Islands. Also heard of the plankton treks at night in Gokarna and off the coast of Gujarat. But not in Goa. I mean come on. We’ve been coming to Goa since we were kids. Don’t you think someone would have told us about it?
But nope. Locals aren’t very aware about it. And the only rumors of bioluminiscent plankton in Goa before have been at the neighbouring Patnem beach, and at Betalbatim, Ashwem and Querim in the North. So this was a first.
It was definitely the first time I went skinny dipping at 1 am too. Well, almost. BF went skinny. I stayed decent. Ha! Didn’t want anyone suddenly showing up and finding two nymphs in the sea. But anyways, if you’re a good swimmer, and you ever go to Palolem and it’s not crowded, and the weather and the seas are just right, try wading out into the distance. And you’ll experience something so unreal.
We found them in the section between Fernandes Cottages and Cozy Nook . But they move around, so it depends on your luck!
Obviously, there are no pictures of the phytoplankton that I saw. I was too busy playing with them to even think of taking a pic till I was back home and my friends asked to see. But I can describe sort of what it looked like. It was like stars in the night sky, except they shone a bit green rather than blue.
The plankton move with every wave of the tide. They also shine when you run your hands through the water and scoop them into your hands. I could have gone on playing with them for hours.
It felt like swimming with the stars.