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Eight reasons why Nusa Ceningan is one of the best places to stay in BaliOn one of our earlier trips to Goa, the driver of a taxi we had hired had told us lots of good things about Agonda. So, over a long weekend in October 2016, we decided to find out what the place was all about. And we discovered why this little village is one of the best places to stay in south Goa, and possibly the whole of Goa as well.
Also read: An off-the-beaten-path Goan holiday
1. Agonda beach is both beautiful and interesting
The beach at Agonda is what you would expect from Goa: gentle seas, a long expanse of clean sand, and cosy little beach shacks and cottages all sprinkled with palm trees. But walk a little further south, past the last cottages and the Agonda camping ground, to the end of the beach, and you get to the magical little corner where the local fishermen beach their boats in the shadow of the hill, with a jumble of mysterious black granite rocks at the far end. During low tide in the early afternoons, these rocks are great fun to clamber over and explore, and even swim around.
We spent every one of our three evenings on this lovely beach, wading through the waves, taking long walks or just watching the locals at their evening game of football. The beach wasn’t crowded at all, and we relished the soothing atmosphere created by the waves, sand, sunsets and the odd rock poking out of the water. Definitely one of the nicer beaches in south Goa!
2. There’s plenty of accommodation and eating options available
The action in Agonda, at least as far as touristy things go, is centered on the road that runs parallel to the beach. Most Agonda accommodation is on either side of this road, with the higher-end options on the beach side. But there are lots of budget and mid-range places as well, with prices depending on how far they are from the beach. Keep in mind, though, that all these places are really temporary camps done up in different levels of comfort. That’s because permanent structures aren’t allowed within a certain distance from the beach, and pretty much applies to the whole of Goa.
So be ready to check into a cottage with collapsible walls and a makeshift plumbing system, even if it is tastefully decorated. The only somewhat permanent hotel in Agonda is the upscale The Bay, at the northern end of the village, and a bit further from the beach. Walking through the northern part of the village is quite nice, though, and the tiny little foot bridge over the stream to the main road is very pretty.
Even more numerous than the accommodation are the little restaurants that line the beach and the road parallel to it. While the higher-end ‘camps’ have their own restaurants, the more economical ones serve only breakfast (if that), which means that you need to eat other meals in one of the many eateries that are never more than a few minutes’ walk from your cottage. Most of these little places cater mainly to the international tourist, with lots of European and Middle-Eastern food and a few standard Indian dishes thrown in. If you’re looking for local cuisine, though, you’ll need to ask a local to point you in the right direction. Chances are, the place will be a little out of the way.
We were there for three days, and stayed at the basic but charming Tutti Garden Bungalows—an assortment of cane-walled cottages in a wild garden a few minutes’ walk from the beach, and run by a very nice Italian lady. To our delight, it was a pet-friendly place, and even though no one had brought pets along, the two stray dogs that the owner had adopted had the run of the place. We particularly enjoyed the little raised sit-out in the middle of the property, with its divan seating and assortment of old books donated by previous guests.
3. A few interesting beaches are within striking distance
Geographically, Agonda is near the southern end of Goa, which means that the beaches around it are mostly free of the crowds of tourists that you see in the north. If you hire a scooter or a motorcycle, you can explore these quite easily. Some might even surprise you by being completely free of other tourists.
Cola beach: One of the more mysterious beaches in south Goa
Cola beach is a small beach to the north of Agonda, with a lagoon separated from the ocean by a strip of beach—a natural swimming pool, with trees on one side, for visitors who don’t feel like getting pushed about by the waves. The beach also has a slightly spooky-looking resort built onto a hill off the beach that reminds you a bit of B-grade action movies set in Thailand.
We took the road from Cola village down to the beach, and the ride was difficult, bumpy and very un-road-like. Apparently, there is a better road from that other direction that one can take directly from Agonda, and that takes only 15 minutes. Now we know.
If you’re looking for places to explore in south Goa, this one should definitely be on your list.
Palolem beach: Sunny, with very shallow water, a river mouth, and an island one can wade to
Palolem is one of the most popular places to stay in south Goa. It’s about 20 minutes’ drive south of Agonda, and has one of the most famous beaches in south Goa, with a long stretch of smooth sand and fewer granite rocks than the others. The water is also incredibly shallow at low tide, and lets you wade out a hundred meters or more. You can even wade up to the little island (with it’s seasonal shack) just off the north end. There’s also a little river that drains into the sea on the same side, which you can swim across. Or you could just take one of the many boats.
When we visited, we used our GPS to take the hill road instead of the highway, and caught some nice views of the ocean. We got there just before lunchtime, and discovered that there was no shade because there weren’t any trees near the water. Next time, we’ll make sure we visit in the morning or evening.
Talpona beach: Long empty beach, with very few facilities
Talpona beach is about 30 minutes’ drive south of Agonda using the Palolem road (longer if you use the highway), and is just north of Galgibaga beach. This long, pristine beach has very few visitors and is a great place to take it easy. Because there are so few visitors, there are only two or three basic shacks on the beach. But that’s a small price to pay for having the beach mostly to yourself.
We stopped here on the way back from Galgibaga, mainly because it was lunchtime and we were hungry. It was only then that we discovered how nice the place was. It was too hot to walk along the beach, so we took in the view over a leisurely lunch under the trees. Overall, Talpona was definitely one of the best south Goa beaches we’ve encountered.
Galgibaga beach: Turtle nesting site, with some interesting rocks and a river confluence
Galgibaga beach, also called ‘turtle beach’, is a protected nesting site for turtles about 30 minutes’ drive south of Agonda (if you stick to the roads along Palolem and Talpona instead of using the highway). Because of its protected status, there are almost no facilities, and—probably for that reason—almost no tourists. At the southern end, you’ll see two rivers meeting before flowing into the sea through interesting rocks. Because of the rocks, the water spreads out into a large, shallow pool before flowing into the ocean. The sand underneath also shows interesting patterns because of the swirling water.
Again, we got there during midday, so it was quite hot. Though there were some trees for about half the length of the beach, the southern end was completely without shade. Incredibly, the beach was almost completely deserted, and we only saw one group of four tourists in the water.
4. The nearby Cabo de Rama fort offers a break from beaches
About 30 minutes’ drive to the north of Agonda is the old Portuguese-era fort of Cabo de Rama (pronounced ‘kaap-deyrma’). Though it’s not very big, the ramparts of this abandoned old fort have a great view of the ocean. The lovely old church in the central courtyard is still used by locals, too. There’s also a little sheltered rocky cove at the bottom of the hill on the water. You can reach it by following the path that leads past the church and then down the hillside. And if you still haven’t had your fill of beaches, the quiet Cabo de Rama beach is nearby. You’ll have to bump over the plateau, though, and then climb down the steep hillside to the beach.
We had a nice time there, admiring the views from the ramparts and walking along the overgrown paths inside. We discovered the path down to the cove completely by accident, but we’re glad we did! Though the climb was hot and sweaty, the cove itself was nice and secluded, and we even saw a large pod of dolphins off in the distance (at least, that’s what we assume they were)! After we left the fort, we tried finding our way to the beach. But the ride over the plateau was bumpy and the weather hot, so we just looked at it from above.
All said and done, this would definitely be on my list of must-visit places in south Goa.
IQ’s top tips for Agonda, India
- Agonda is quiet compared to the beaches in north Goa. If you like lots of parties, this is probably not the best place.
- If you’re visiting between October and February, it might be a good idea to carry a sweater or light jacket. The evening breeze can get surprisingly cool.
- October is probably the best time to visit, to avoid most of the crowds that come with the peak season. On the other hand, some beach shacks and cottages might not be open yet.
- Low tide is the best time to wade through shallows. Unfortunately, that’s often during the hottest part of the day. Best ask a local about the timings.
- It’s difficult to find local cuisine near Agonda beach. If you do want some local flavours, ask a local for advice. We’ve heard that the best local food is served in the nondescript bars along the interior roads.
- Remember your mosquito repellent. In a pinch, you can also buy some in one of the many little shops along the beach road. Some restaurants will also give you some if you ask for it (as long as you order something).
- The road down to Cola beach from the main highway is bumpy and long. Try using GPS to take the road directly from Agonda instead.
- Palolem is best visited in the morning or evening. The only shade during midday is inside one of the shacks, and the food isn’t anything great.
- Galgibaga can be hot and uncomfortable during midday. But it’s definitely worth a visit for the river confluence and the rocks.
- Ask the locals how to get to Cabo de Rama beach from the plateau above. We couldn’t find a path down when we were there.
Goan cuisine isn’t big on vegetarian food. If you’re at a local eatery, see if they can serve you mushroom or veg xacuti (pronounced ‘shakooti’) or amado curry. The more ‘global’ eateries will have more vegetarian options.