Once across the creek and boulder-covered spur bounding the south end of Palolem beach, you arrive at COLOM, a largely Hindu fishing village scattered around a series of rocky coves. Dozens of long-stay rooms, leaf huts and houses are tucked away under the palm groves and on the picturesque headland running seawards. This is the best place in the village to start an accommodation hunt – the lads will know of any vacant places; but be warned that most of the rooms here are very basic indeed.
A string of hut camps and shacks line the next beach south, PATNEM. The beach, curving for roughly a kilometre to a steep bluff, is broad, with little shade, and shelves quite steeply at certain phases of the tide, though the undertow rarely gets dangerously strong. On the headland dividing Patnem from Colom, the Harmonic Healing & Eco Retreat Centre is the place to come if you need to sort out your body and soul. Wrapped in greenery with panoramic views of the beach, the centre hosts daily yoga, Pilates and Thai massage classes, as well as lessons in Bollywood dance and classical Indian singing.
At low tide, you can walk around the bottom of the steep-sided headland dividing Patnem from neighbouring RAJBAG, another kilometre-long sweep of white sand. Sadly, its remote feel has been entirely submerged by the massive five-star recently erected on the land behind it – much to the annoyance of the locals, who campaigned for four years to stop the project.
It’s possible to press on even further south from Rajbag, by crossing the Talpona River via a hand-paddled ferry, which usually has to be summoned from the far bank (fix a return price in advance). Once across, a short walk brings you to Talpona Beach, backed by low dunes and a line of straggly palms. From here, you can cross the headland at the end of the beach to reach Galjibag, a remote white-sand bay that’s a protected nesting site for Olive Ridley marine turtles. A strong undertow means swimming isn’t safe here.