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home > recommended index > recommended goa > benaulim

Recommended places - Benaulim (GA)

This page is the full entry for the village of Benaulim in the state of Goa, offering a description and some practical information on local accommodation, transport and grub for backpackers and budget travellers.

To see an index of all places we cover within the state go to the Goa state listing. The recommended index has a full list of the other Indian states and places reviewed on this site.

Click here for a description of the rationale behind the recommended section (pops up in a new window).

 Benaulim
highly recommended highly recommended graphic
 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

Benaulim beach in GoaFor 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.

palm fringed path in Benaulim, GoaAt 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 and India.

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 to come.

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 in Delhi.

 guest house
/ hotel:

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.

 restaurant
/ dhaba:

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 in chai.

local interest:

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.

Internet:

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.

transport:

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.

related: On this site: Goa photo gallery

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.



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