Our RTW Trip » Research & Tips » Beaches

Goa, India
Though a long bus or train ride from Mumbai, Goa offered cheap places to stay right on the sand and long expanses of very laid back beaches. Palolem was beautiful, but I think best in early October before the crowds arrive. Hot. Even the water was hot and barely refreshing. Lots of places to eat and drink in the shade on the beach, you don’t even need to leave.

Patnem beach is less crowded than Palolem and very, very relaxed. There are less places to eat and drink here but Palolem is only a short rickshaw ride away. ‘Namaste’ was an excellent place to stay with really comfortable beach huts and a friendly restaurant. This is the perfect get-away-sleep-and-read-beach.

(To get to Palolem or Patnem, take the train from Mumbai to Canacona and then an auto-rickshaw the last few kilometers to one of the beaches. If you have to take a bus from Mumbai (whew- only if you absolutely can’t get a seat on the train), you can take it as far as Margao, and then get an auto-rickshaw to Palolem. If you can split the cost of the rickshaw journey with other travellers, it’s much less expensive. You can also take the local bus from Margao to Palolem but only if you have the energy of a hero. Walk the beach at Palolem or Patnem to find a place to stay upon arrival.)

Agonda is even quieter than Palolem or Patnem. Very nearly deserted, this 2km beach has less enjoyable surf for swimming but a truly unbeatable beach. More beach huts here and one or two places to eat. It was ultra-quiet here, a nice place for a day trip. (To get there, rent a scooter or take an auto-rickshaw from Palolem or Patnem.)

Gokarna, India
Further south of Goa is a little pocket of tiny beaches. Om beach, named so because its shape resembles the “om” character in Hindi script, rivaled Agonda for its quiet. There is nothing to do but lay on the beach- which is perfect, if that’s what one wants. There were fewer beach vendors here, but enough that fresh pineapple is there when you want it; just enough people to remind you that you’re not on a deserted island. (To get there, take a bus south to Gokarna town. Take an auto-rickshaw from Gokarna bus station to Om beach.)

Phuket, Thailand
Go there for sun bathing on the perfect sandy crescent of Kata Beach and swimming in the clear, blue shallow water. On we found the Sorrento Hotel, which was overpriced for the Christmas season; great location, 5 minutes from Kata Beach, the best swimming beach of the 26 beaches we’ve seen in the last year. A $3 dollar beach chair is a necessity. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you can walk around the area to look at the other guesthouses. Some of the places at the north end of the beach may cost more. The town was developed and touristy, but somehow not uncomfortably so. We’ve heard Koh Samui is worse.

We signed up for a day tour to visit James Bond Island, but the highlight was the sea caves. The tour was extremely well run, the food was good and plentiful, and each couple had their own canoe with a guide to do all the paddling. I think the company was called James Bond Canoe. They had a tour of Sea Caves only, and then the James Bond Tour.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Go there for reef snorkelling and Maya beach, where “The Beach” was filmed. This was college-kid-party island, where everyone is drinking buckets of thai whiskey, Red Bull and Coca Cola. It’s worth going for the great snorkelling. We took a small boat tour: the water was rough, we didn’t visit all the locations they said and it seemed a bit rushed overall, even though we were ready for it to be over before we returned to the dock. On the plus side, it’s cheap and it’s difficult to visit all the locations without a tour. We visited Long beach on our own and then returned with the tour. Maya beach was incredible, but we weren’t there very long.

Krabi, Thailand
Go there for the beautiful limestone cliffs that surround the beaches. We stayed on Tonsai and commuted to Raileh West and Pra Nang by foot, where we spent our days. Tonsai was subtantially cheaper to stay than the other beaches, but the beach was very rocky. Most people stay there for the rock climbing, which we wish we had tried. There is no road access to any of the three beaches. A boat to anywhere is about $1USD, or you can walk at low tide. Rai Leh was our favourite; touristy, but not as much as Phuket.

This post describes the beaches we visited in Thailand.