Chakratirth Beach, Gujarat
The larger Chakratirth Beach, overlooked by a high bound, is a little to the west, just outside the city walls. In many ways this is the most attractive beach on the west coast of India, and usually deserted, making it the best option for an undisturbed swim – especially for female travellers.
Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai
Situated at the top of Marine Drive, Chowpatty Beach is a Mumbai institution. On evenings and weekends, Mumbaikars gather here on this city beach in large numbers – not to swim (the sea is foul) but to wander, sit on the sand, munch kulfi and bhel puri, get their ears cleaned and gaze across the bay while the kids ride a pony or rusty Ferris wheel.
Anjuna Beach, North Goa
The vibe is much nicer at the south end of Anjuna Beach as opposed to the north, where a pretty and more sheltered cove accommodates a mostly twenty-something tourist crowd. A constant trance soundtrack thumps from the shacks behind it cranking up to become proper parties after dark, when bars Curlie’s and neighbouring Shiva Valley take turns to max their sound systems, hosting international DJs through the season. Chai ladies and food stallholders sit in wait on the sands, just like for the raves of old, but the party generally grinds to a halt at 10pm sharp.
Anjuna Beach in North Goa © Pavel Sapozhnikov/Shutterstock
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Morjim, North Goa
Morjim beach itself is dramatic and well worth a walk, especially in the early morning, when you’ll see teams of fishermen hauling giant hand nets from the surf. The spit at its southern end, opposite Chapora Fort, is also a great birding hotspot, making this among the best beaches in India for a wide range of reasons.
Arambol, North Goa
Arambol’s main drag is a winding road lined cheek-by-jowl with clothes and bedspread stalls, travel agents, internet cafes and souvenir shops selling tourist knick-knacks. The lane bends downhill to the main beach – dotted with wooden outriggers and one of the most picturesque in south India. The best view of it is from the crucifix and small Parasurama shrine on the hilltop to the north, when is an especially serene spot at sunset. After dark, when the Hula-Hoopers, fire juggles and bhajan singers have turned homewards, the candles and fairy lights of the shacks illuminate the beachfront to magical effect.
Arambol beach in north Goa, India © saiko3p/Shutterstock
Mandrem, North Goa
From the far side of the creek bounding the edge of Ashwem, a magnificent and largely empty beach stretches north towards Arambol – the last unspoilt stretch of the north Goan coast. Olive Ridley marine turtles nest on the quietest patches, and you’re more than likely to catch a glimpse of one of the white-bellied fish eagles that live in the casuarina trees – their last stronghold in the north of Goa.
Palolem, South Goa
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 (even in the realm of the famous Goa beaches!), 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 the high season.
Beach of Palolem, South Goa © Dan Baciu/Shutterstock
Marine Parade, Odisha
In the west end of town, along Marine Parade, the atmosphere is more akin to a British Victorian holiday resort. This stretch is very much the domain of the domestic tourist industry and the beach is much cleaner here. It’s a pleasant place to stroll and becomes highly animated after sunset when the nightly souvenir market gets going. Local fishermen patrol the beach as lifeguards; recognisable by their triangular straw hats and dhotis, they wade with their punters into the surf and literally hold their hands to keep them on their feet – the undertow claims victims every year, so weak swimmers should be careful.