Backed by a lush band of coconut plantations and green hills, Goa’s south coast is fringed by some of the region’s finest beaches. An ideal first base if you’ve just arrived in the region is Benaulim, 6km west of the state’s second city, Margao. The most traveller-friendly resort in the area, Benaulim stands slap in the middle of a spectacular 25km stretch of pure white sand. Although increasingly carved up by Mumbai time-share companies, low-cost accommodation here is plentiful and of a consistently high standard. Nearby Colva, by contrast, has degenerated over the past decade into an insalubrious sink resort. Frequented by huge numbers of day-trippers, and boasting few discernible charms, it’s best avoided.
With the gradual spread of package tourism down the coast, Palolem, a ninety-minute drive south of Margao along the main highway, is Goa’s most happening beach, attracting droves of sun seekers from November through March. Set against a backdrop of forest-cloaked hills, its bay is spectacular, though the crowds can feel overwhelming in high season. For a quieter scene, try Agonda, just up the coast, or Patnem, immediately south of Palolem. Among the possible day-trips inland, a crop of Portuguese-era mansions at Chandor and Quepem are your best options; and in the far south, the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary affords a rare glimpse of unspoilt forest and its fauna.