| state: Goa
||location: 3-4 km west of Margao
| info date: Jan 2002
||size: village / small beach resort
| season: Oct - Mar
||transport: bus, rickshaw
| hotels: plenty
||good for: everyone
me, Benaulim village and its beach are the best of Goa as
it is today; still less developed and relatively quiet in
comparison to the north Goa beaches, it strikes a good balance
between the party animal overcrowding or rampant package tourism
of Candolim and Anjuna, and the almost deserted beaches at
Varca and Agonda.
Benaulim is in Goa's Salacete district, and lies 3 or 4
km directly west of South Goa's main town of Margao, in the
middle of the long strip of beach that runs from Vasco de
Gama to Mobor. The village itself centres around a crossroads,
with a few smaller guest houses and restaurants strung along
the roads that run parallel to the beach, as well as one or
two of the larger 'resorts' that are beginning to spring up.
The first hundred metres or so of the southerly turning from
the crossroads is gradually becoming something of a shopping
mall of Kashmiri trinket sellers, whose cheesy sales pitches
and slightly overcooked bonhomie become a little like fingernails
scratching on a blackboard after the twentieth "luvvly
jubbly" of the day. There are better ways to walk to
the beach, such as through the warren of lanes that lead under
the shady palms, past scattered village houses and through
the vibrant green rice paddies, often dotted with herons and
other wading birds in search of food.
Arriving at the beach via the main road, the sand stretches
off for miles in both directions; left (in the direction of
Varca) is the quieter side, with most people sticking to the
area in front of the five or six beach shacks, after which
the beach is almost deserted until Varca. There is little
in the way of shady trees in this direction, but most of the
shacks have at least a couple of large umbrellas or a sunshade
of woven palm leaves. Turn right at the car park and you head
toward the busier nearby resort of Colva, about three km away,
along a strip of sand with plenty of coconut palms for shade.
the weekend - especially close to christmas and new year -
the beach area around the car park is usually busy with Indian
day trippers; families out for an ice cream and a paddle in
the sea, or - in common with every other Goan resort - impressionable
and hormonal young men, armed with binoculars and fuelled
by whisky, optimism and tall stories from friends about what
easy, promiscuous bitches western women are. It's far less
busy during the week, when a five minute walk will easily
find you a quiet spot on your own, with only occasional visits
from Goan and Karnatakan women offering fruit, jewellery or
henna skin paintings.
Night life is similarly laid back, with only a couple of
relatively packed and noisy places close to the beach. There's
little or none of the techno party frenzy for which North
Goa is famous, and musical entertainment is more likely to
be from a CD player, or occasionally someone on an acoustic
guitar at one of the beach shacks. For some reason Benaulim
is especially popular with German and Austrian travellers,
many of whom have been visiting for many years and often stay
for most of the season, splitting the year between Europe
It's a good place to be for new years eve if you fancy something
more than a travellers only party. We decided on a 'beach
shack crawl' down to Colva, stopping at around half of the
bars on the 3 km walk. By midnight the whole stretch of beach
from Benaulim to Colva was heaving with revellers, both tourists
and local people, many of whom had come from Margao or inland
villages to celebrate, and turned into a large and extremely
friendly party, with fireworks, music and dancing at many
of the shacks, and of course a good deal of drinking and handshaking
to welcome in the year.
Overall, it's an attractive and friendly place to spend
a few weeks (or months), with a sociable travellers scene
that lacks the glitz, frenzy and 'attitood' of the better
known northern beaches. Prices are far lower than the north
for both food and accommodation, although increasing tourism
development will doubtless begin to change that in the years
A note on scrambled eggs:
Anyone who has visited Puri in Orissa (east coast) and is
an aficionado of eggs will recall that the Orissans have some
particular knack of making the best (by far) scrambled eggs
in India. They just seem to get the combination of butter
(or possibly ghee), milk and eggs to just the right consistency
and fluffiness and cook for exactly the right amount of time.
I stayed in Puri for two months a few years ago, and breakfast,
unusually for me, became something worth getting up for. As
many of the cooks in Puri are Brahmin and vegetarian (eggs
are usually considered non-veg in India), I could never quite
get my head around this, and never got a satisfactory explanation.
Well, visit Benaulim and most probably you can try the joys
of genuine Orissa style scrambled eggs without the long train
journey. Orissa is a very poor state, and many of the young
guys who have learned to cook in Puri's tourist joints on
the CT road now come to Goa to work for the season, where
they can earn far more money than they would at home. They
all seem to be Brahmins, and several that I have met live
close to CT Road in Puri, in the area popular with backpackers.
They bang out the scrambled eggs to the same high standards,
and seem to be just as good at cooking Goan and western dishes.
Leonora's on Benaulim Beach is run
by Orissans, and eggs apart they turn out a top notch bacon
sarnie, as mentioned below, and other restaurants have Orissan
staff. They also make excellent pukka chai, something that
is otherwise a little thin on the ground in Goa. If you have
visited Puri, their eyes light up, and they can talk for hours
about home, a place they genuinely miss.
I still have never got a satisfactory answer to the origin
of the great scrambled eggs - something Brahmins themselves
presumably wouldn't eat - but many Indians rave on about Brahmin
cooking in general; the key supposedly being that they use
only 'pure' ingredients, such as the best ghee. Kulu Valley
weddings and some other religious events are catered for by
local Pandits, who stand out from the crowd in their saffron
dhoti's and often cook great food for several thousand people
a day. There are several well known and popular Brahmin restaurants
| guest house
Most of the accommodation is centred
around the crossroads halfway between Maria Hall and the beach.
Turning left (coming from Maria Hall) offers the best choices,
with several small places on both sides, plus the larger Royal
Goan Beach Club resort Hotel.
Our favourite in Benaulim is Savio's Rest
House, 50 metres or so past the Royal Goan Beach Club,
and run (unsurprisingly) by the friendly Savio and family
(Tel: 0832-770595 or 770594) . There is plenty of choice of
rooms, with or without attached bath, prices starting from
around 70 Rs, and with some discount for longer stays. Its
extremely popular with long stayers in Goa, and like most
places does fill up around christmas and new year.
As ever in Goa, you're spoilt for choice,
and most places do a range of decent dishes - although many
of the menus preserve the quaint Indian habit of illogical
pricing - it can cost more for a fixed breakfast than ordering
the components separately.
Top of my list would be Raphael's,
just on the beach at the far left corner of the car park,
the cheapest restaurant in Benaulim, and probably the most
basic construction. Raphael has had a place here since the
early seventies, and sells most of the usual Goan dishes such
as beef chilli fry, beef steak and various fish, plus a truly
award winning and good value shark steak and chips. If you
hanker for a full fried breakfast, the place to go is Pedro's,
on the diagonally opposite corner of the car park and also
around since the seventies. They usually have a good stock
of spicy goan sausages at breakfast time.
Benaulim's best bacon rolls, pukka chai and scrambled eggs
are at Leonora's beach shack, the
last hut if you turn left onto the beach from the car park,
and a good place to pass the day on the sunloungers.
At the main crossroads is a small general store that seems
to sell everything, with an attached cafe that does good inexpensive
fruit juices and shakes, plus excellent prawn or vegetable
masala pastries. 200 metres or so along the same side road,
past Savio's rest house, is the
Malibu Restaurant, a good spot for
a relaxing candlelit dinner, with friendly staff and decent
food. Down at Maria Hall (the main road junction), on the
corner next to the Bank of Baroda, is a large
snack shop serving good chai (surprisingly hard to
find in Goa) and 'sweet buns' - the Goan equivalent of a doughnut;
similar to the bhaturu found in the north, with added sugar
and deep fried till crisp. Best eaten freshly cooked and dunked
As with most of Goa, the main attraction
is the beach. You can sometimes see dolphins some way offshore,
and some of the local fishermen run dolphin viewing trips
in their wooden boats. The warren of quiet, palm shaded lanes
that run between Colva and Benaulim and other surrounding
villages make for a pleasant walk or bike ride, or hire a
motorbike for longer sight seeing trips. The are some nice
odds and ends of Portuguese architecture in the area, especially
the striking and graceful white painted churches, such as
our Lady of Rosary at Navelim, a couple of Km from Benaulim.
|Cash / ATM:
Money can be obtained on Visa and Mastercard
from the Bank of Baroda at Maria
Hall at reasonable commission, although this is less of the
lifesaver it was given the rising number of ATMs in Margao,
only 3 km away.
There are a few Internet places in
Benaulim; one just before the beach car park on the left,
two close to the crossroads, and one further down toward Maria
Hall - and doubtless several more have appeared in the three
years since our last visit. The only problem is that the local
phone system has enough crackles, squeaks and pops to have
given Alexander Graham Bell a nervous twitch, leading to extremely
slow web surfing and a lot of dropped connections, especially
during peak periods. Power cuts are also frequent and UPS's
(Uninterruptible Power Supply) intended to provide backup
power for one computer are often attached to five. Meaning
in short that you may only have a few seconds before the machine
packs up, so it's a wise move to write any long emails in
Windows Notepad (or similar text editor), save (very) regularly,
and paste the finished email into the webmail window.
Bus - There
are regular local services from Margao; the stops for the
local bus to Benaulim and Colva are at the south east side
of the Municipal Gardens. The buses come around every 15 minutes
or so, but have no real schedule, and tend to hang around
until they are full before departing.
Train - Margao has a rail station,
after which its bus, taxi or rickshaw.
Bicycle - bike hire places abound
and many guest houses have one or two bikes to rent. It can
be a pleasant way to see the back lanes and explore other
beaches. Make sure to check the bike is in decent nick before
heading off, as standards vary wildly.
Rickshaw - If you (like me) think
there are better things in life than sitting in a screaming
hot and stationary bus, don't bugger around and get a rickshaw
to Maria Hall for around 50 Rs.
Enfield motorcycle - As with everywhere
in Goa, the best way to get to Benaulim is by motorcycle -
its just nice countryside to ride through, although Goan drivers
offer the Keralans stiff competition for the "worst driving
in India" award. If you're coming from the North, you
can take a pleasant detour by turning right off the NH17 just
after the big roundabout just over the Zuvari river (or Zuari)
close to Vasco de Gama and following the small, twisting coast
road down through Bogmalo, Majorda and Colva to Benaulim.
Otherwise just head 3 or 4 km seaward from Margao and ask
for 'Maria Hall', then take the beach road.
Two wheels is probably the ideal way to explore the Goan
landscape without being tied to a schedule, and there are
several places in Benaulim to rent scooters or Enfields, including
a couple at the Maria Hall junction.
||On this site: Goa
External site: John
the Map has produced an outstanding set of maps on Goa,
including a detailed map of the state and a selection of individual
maps for the most popular destinations showing hotels, restaurants
and places of interest.