Long known as a beach destination, first for intrepid backpackers and now for tourists from all over the world, Goa is a slice of India that feels almost un-Indian: it’s laid back and liberal, and bears hallmarks in its language, cuisine and the population of its colonial past.
Goa was owned and controlled by Portugal for 450 years — from 1510 until 1961 — when a newly independent India took military action and annexed all Portuguese territories on the sub-continent.
Having been effectively the capital of Portugal’s eastern empire, there are a lot of ruins and relics leftover in the picturesque capital of Panaji, complete with Latin Quarter, as well as the city of Margao, dotted with colonial architecture, and the storied Old Goa (abandoned in the 17th century).
Map of the best places to stay in Goa
But in Goa, it’s all about the beaches, and there are a lot of options for that; practically the entire coast is dotted with beaches and all the amenities that come with them. Some are more touristic than others, some are more beautiful than others, but there’s definitely something for everyone in this interesting Indian state.
One of the most popular popular places to stay in Goa for holidaymakers, Calangute in the north attracts both international and domestic tourists.
Made up of a long stretch of sand, the Calangute is edged with wooden beach huts and shady palm trees. The popularity of Calangute — especially in the high season over Christmas — means that it lacks a little of the authentic Indian charisma, but there is a wide range of accommodation on offer, from budget to luxury hotels.
Away from the beach, the town’s winding streets are packed with restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and travel offices. There are some cultural sights to enjoy too: the charming St. Alex Church with its whitewashed walls and opulent interiors dates back to 1741.
Where to Stay in Calangute
- Le Méridien Goa – A cool, chic place to stay, Le Méridien Goa features a number of amenities for a perfectly luxurious stay. These include an outdoor pool edged with sun loungers, a selection of five restaurants – one of which is a whisky bar with live music – plus a games room equipped with billiards and ping pong tables. Rooms look out over the tropical treetops and boast balconies, big beds, custom wooden furnishings, and hardwood floors. Less than a kilometer to the beach itself, this 5-star hotel is also surrounded by places to eat and drink as well as shops to browse.
- Chalston Beach Resort – This hotel is situated right on the seafront itself and is a traditional style Goan hotel with a selection of beach huts and bedrooms, all decorated with rustic, warm interiors. Think wooden beds and tiled floors. Each room also comes equipped with its own terrace or balcony, where guests can sit and relax in the tropical garden surroundings. An onsite restaurant serves up international food, plus there’s an outdoor swimming pool to splash around in. Overall, Chalston Beach Resort provides a charming, relaxed place to stay with direct beach access.
One of the most popular areas of Goa, Candolim sits south of Calangute, whose beach overlaps into this area. Candolim has its own long slice of beach, which curves around the headland to meet the smaller Sinquerim. Here, you’ll find more of a tourist town atmosphere, with many shops and restaurants.
It’s in Candolim where you’ll find solid evidence of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. There’s the Aguada Fort, built in the early 1600’s (and never captured), complete with its 1864 lighthouse, as well as the old Aguada Jail and the whitewashed Church of St. Lawrence.
Staying here lacks the cheap options that backpackers may be used to, but the hotels are still affordable – which is part of what makes it so attractive to tourists. There are also a number of serviced apartments, suiting families and groups.
Where to Stay in Candolim
- Taj Holiday Village Resort – Set over numerous Portuguese Goan cottages and villas, this is the place to come if you truly want to luxuriate in classically high-end fashion. The rooms here, featuring their own private terraces, are all decorated with a fresh contemporary mix of designer furnishings and period features. Spread out over 28 acres, Taj Holiday Village Resort boasts landscaped gardens, a sizeable outdoor pool, a sunken bar, as well as various dining options dotted around the grounds. From here it’s but a simple stroll to the beauty of the beach, plus Fort Aguada is within walking distance, too.
- Phoenix Park Inn Goa – Set inside a grand Goan style villa, and just over half a kilometre from the sun, sea, and sand of Candolim Beach, this hotel boasts landscaped grounds strewn with palms. Phoenix Park Inn Goa boasts an outdoor pool surrounded by sun loungers and a poolside bar for relaxing drinks after a refreshing dip. The onsite restaurant serves up an a la carte menu featuring dishes from around the world. The rooms here are spacious and boast high ceilings, wooden floors, and a subtle green and golden colour palette – some of these come with their own seating areas and balconies that overlook the pool.
Quirky and cool Anjuna is the original bohemian Goa hangout for hippies and today, still retains much of its offbeat character. The beach became an iconic settling for Goa’s wild full moon parties, where barefoot beachgoers covered in luminous paint would dance the night away on the sand to the beat of psychedelic trance music.
Since the music ban that was put in place here in 2000, the dancing party goers have all but moved on. Left behind in Anjuna are low-key travelers who visit for the chance to buy sarongs at the weekly flea market; this boho atmosphere has led to an Anjuna that’s evolving past its partying days.
The town is a low key, sprawling place, scattered across a wide area, and features a selection of places to stay at; budget accommodation is easy to find but there’s also a selection of stylish villas and apartments with pools on offer.
Where to Stay in Anjuna
- Hotel Casa Ahaana – Hotel Casa is set in a Portuguese style building and is characterized throughout by its fresh, white washed walls. The rooms here are subtle, simple, and minimalist, with clean lines, cool tiled floors, and high ceilings for an unfussy yet comfortable stay. Some of these rooms have their own seating areas and dining tables, too. Guests can make the most of the outdoor pool here, eat in the onsite restaurant, have a drink at the bar, and relax in the tropical surroundings. Close by you’ll find St Michael’s Church, as well as Anjuna Beach itself.
Like many places in Goa, Benaulim is mostly known for its beach. This long, wide slice of beach is popular with foreigners and locals alike, but it’s also quiet enough for a relaxing holiday, lacking some of the more tourist-oriented amenities you’ll find in more popular areas.
Along Benaulim Beach itself, you’ll find many beachside restaurants and bars (usually a combination of both) that serve affordable food, as well as affordable accommodation, too. Set back from the beach is where you’ll find slightly more upscale offerings.
The order of the day here is simply finding a spot to relax on the beach and then taking your pick of places for lunch. Of course, it’s also possible to rent a motorbike to explore along the coast or engage in some watersports.
Where to Stay in Benaulim
- Taj Exotica Resort – For a slice of luxury next to the sea, this resort seems to have it all. Spread across a whopping 56 acres, the Portuguese style buildings are decorated classically throughout with neutral colours and accents of dark wood. The rooms ooze contemporary cool combined with touches of traditional aesthetic, boasting big beds and windows with views out over the landscaped gardens. Some rooms even come with their very own private pool. Not only does Taj Exotica Resort feature its own private slice of beach, but also its own outdoor pool – as well as no fewer than six dining options. There’s even an onsite golf course!
In the north of Goa’s coastline, Baga is often said in the same breath as Calangute. The two neighboring resort towns almost merge into each other, although Baga’s pretty stretch of soft sand is surrounded by rocky cliffs and nature.
It may be popular with various groups of tourists, but this is the place to go if you like to be among the action. The popularity with visitors also means high-end hotel offerings as well as budget guesthouses to choose from. Staying in Baga means you’ll be close to vibrant nightlife, numerous shops and a host of bars and restaurants — as well as the busy weekly markets.
One of the big attractions to this part of Goa is watersports; Baga is a great place to try out anything from parasailing to windsurfing and jet skiing, or just simply laze on the beach and watch as other people have a go.
Where to Stay in Baga
- Hotel Bonanza – Just a stone’s throw from Baga Beach, this family run hotel is a warm and welcoming place to base yourself for a few days by the sea in Goa. Some of its large bedrooms, which are decorated in greens and yellows and come equipped with wooden floors, boast their own balconies and seating areas. This 3-star hotel is set near to lively Tito’s Lane, with all of its eating and drinking options, but it also features a choice of two onsite restaurants as well as a bar. Calangute Beach and Anjuna Beach are also within easy walking distance of this affordable hotel.
Palolem is easily one of the most beautiful beaches in Goa. Its effortless curve of white sand is lined by palm trees, making the days tranquil and the sunsets like a postcard. It’s also known for nightlife – in the form of silent discos, of course.
There are many restaurants and bars that line the beach, with some shopping (and more food and drink) to be had on the road leading to the beach, as well as the one running parallel to it. Walk south through a maze-like local area, passing the small bay of Colomb Beach, and you’ll find the chilled out Patnem Beach. It’s much more chilled than Palolem, which can get very busy, so if you feel like escaping for a day, take a stroll here.
Back at Palolem, there’s accommodation for everyone, from very cheap and basic shacks to upmarket, air-conditioned concrete villas.
Where to Stay in Palolem
- Marron Sea View Resort – Rooms at this resort are wooden, chalet-like beach huts situated right on the sands of Palolem Beach itself. Each of these comes equipped with its own outdoor seating area, and features big double beds, white linen, and their own TVs too. This beachfront accommodation also boasts its own bar and restaurant, where guests can enjoy a candlelit dinner each evening with a sunset view. But all the beach bars and restaurants of Palolem are just on the doorstep of this 3-star offering, making it easy to get out and explore what other gastronomic delights are on offer.
The capital of Goa is a chilled out kind of place. Surrounded by lush terraced hillsides and awash with red tiled roofs, visitors to the city might be pleasantly surprised by Panaji’s calm streets and charming Portuguese colonial buildings.
Walk along tree-lined avenues and take in the charming old churches, a sprawling main square, and a riverside promenade. Balconies overhang the colorful houses along the small streets of the Latin Quarter; Panaji is actually the oldest civic establishment in Asia and its roots feel firmly entrenched in its Portuguese past.
Stay a few days in Panaji in charming hotels housed in historic colonial buildings, shiny new luxury stays, or vibrant, budget guesthouses.
Where to Stay in Panaji
- Vivanta Panaji – A chic and shiny new hotel in the city centre, complete with a rooftop pool and sundeck which features views of the Mandovi River and Altinho Hills, Vivanta Panaji is a contemporary place to relax. You can spend your time here being pampered in the hotel spa or hitting the 24-hour onsite gym. The rooms here boast modern bathrooms equipped with both rain showers and baths, whilst the large beds have stylish rattan headboards and natural colours, making for a calm and pleasant place to stay. There are also a selection of dining choices and a cocktail bar open until late into the night.
With its beach shacks, hotels, and guesthouses, as well as its pubs, restaurants, and lifeguards, Colva and its 2.4 kilometer stretch of white sand beach is a well-known tourist destination, and well equipped for giving visitors everything they want at their fingertips.
As such, it can get very busy here, with everyone from locals, domestic tourists, and foreign tourists descending on the beach in high season. In October, religious pilgrims come to visit the whitewashed Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Merces (originally founded in 1630 but rebuilt in the 18th century) for the festival of Fama.
Colva is located between Betalbatim Beach in the north and Benaulim Beach in the south, but it’s not all about the coast; inland, you’ll find even more accommodation options, shops, and places to eat and drink.
Where to Stay in Colva
- Beleza By The Beach – Sat right on the beach of Colva, this hotel features a selection of rooms that have been newly renovated with tasteful, charcoal grey tiled floors, colourful artwork, and a definitive eye for design. Some of the rooms here come with their own balconies, too. The aptly named Beleza By The Beach features an outdoor pool surrounded by tropical trees and sun loungers. After a busy day of soaking up the sun, you can treat yourself to a massage or enjoy dinner at the trendy restaurant, or drinks at the bar. At the same time, there are many beach bars to choose from close by.
Located next to Anjuna beach, Vagator offers a little more seclusion than its neighbor, with tree-covered, red, rocky cliffs protecting the beach. Scattered with the shade of palms, Vagator Beach itself is divided in two by the cliffs: Big Vagator Beach is to the south, while Little Vagator Beach is north of the rocks.
The beaches are quieter than their neighbors but still get busy with a steady stream of backpackers and tourists. They’re particularly busy at sunset when crowds gather on the rocky headland to watch the sun sink below the horizon.
Vagator used to have more of a reputation for partying, and while there are still some of the best clubs in Goa located here, the town has slowed down in the past few years and is a more laid back place, with a selection of high-end eateries to enjoy and stylish spa resorts to stay at.
Where to Stay in Vagator
- W Goa – The selection of accommodation at this Goa-based branch of W means that there’s something for everybody. These range from villas and cottages, to stylish garden view rooms, but all of them provide a comfortable and decidedly high-end place to stay and relax. Some of these rooms even boast their very own private plunge pools. This unbelievably upscale 5-star hotel features a choice of restaurants, as well as a bar that’s perfectly poised for sunset drinks. W Goa also boasts an outdoor pool and manicured gardens that lead right to the beachfront itself.
Mandrem, in the northernmost district of Pernem, is home to the eponymous Mandrem Beach. Compared to many of the other beach destinations in Goa, this stretch of sand feels relatively isolated and is a good option for feeling like you’re on a real beach getaway.
For more beach to explore, just to the north (and very walkable) is Arambol Beach; nearby is Ashwem Beach, but this requires a longer stroll.
Staying in Mandrem itself is affordable, but in nearby Arambol or Ashwem, there’s a more lively atmosphere, more bars/restaurants, and more accommodation options.
In Mandrem, there are affordable beach shacks to choose from. Nearby, there are hotels and guesthouses, all of which are affordable to varying degrees. Some are more polished than others: the old Portuguese fort at Mandrem is now a high-end hotel.
Where to Stay in Mandrem
- MamaGoa Resort – This hotel consists of a collection of rustic beach shack style cottages where you can enjoy lazing in your big double bed and gazing out across the veranda to the sparkling sea. Simple but clean, modern and tastefully decorated, each hut comes with its own bathroom and seating area. Set in the grounds of a sun dappled tropical garden on Ashwem Beach, MamaGoa Resort also boasts its own restaurant and bar where guests can enjoy a delicious breakfast each morning. Sun loungers and hammocks dotted around the garden make this the perfect place to relax amidst nature.
The appealing little village of Agonda is where to stay in Goa if you want to enjoy a simple break by the sea. This isn’t a place to party, rather a destination to head to if you want to take a break from the world for a while and relax on a beautiful Goan beach.
Agonda is all about the simple life; sip smoothies from the veranda of your beach shack and gaze out across the sea. If you feel the need for some modern amenities during your stay in this world of tranquility, the beach bars of Palolem are a 15-minute drive away.
If you’re traveling on a tight budget, Agonda has a good selection of basic accommodation to choose from. There’s also a handful of upmarket options, including cottages with views that look out over the sea and swimming pools.
Where to Stay in Agonda
- New Common Home – Situated virtually on Agonda Beach itself, the rustic but stylish beach huts at New Common Home offer up a simple but comfortable place to stay by the sea. The rooms here boast polished wood floors, private bathrooms and double beds. Each beach hut comes with its own veranda complete with seating area, where it’s easy to relax and soak up the tropical tranquility of it all. The hotel comes with its own garden and even a shared kitchen, making it easy to cook up a few easy meals for yourself. But there’s also an onsite restaurant where dinner is served against the backdrop of sea views.