According to Hindu mythology Goa was created when the sage Shri Parasurama, Lord Vishnu’s sixth incarnation, fired an arrow into the sea from the top of the Western Ghats and ordered the waters to recede. The spot where the shaft fell to earth, known in Sanskrit as “Banali” and later corrupted by the Portuguese to Benaulim, lies in the centre of Colva Beach, 7-km west of Margao.
A Sleepy Village
Only a decade ago, this fishing and rice-farming village, scattered around the coconut groves and paddy fields between the main Colva-Mobor Road and the dunes, had barely made it onto the backpackers map. Now, the shady lane leading through it is studded with guesthouses and souvenir stalls while the paddy fields on the outskirts are gradually disappearing under a rash of gigantic luxury resorts and time-share apartment blocks. For the time being, however, this remains a peaceful and welcoming place to unwind.
Either side of the sand blown beachfront, the gently shelving sands shimmer away almost to the horizon, litered with photogenic wooden fishing boats that provide welcome shade if the walk from the palm trees to the sea gets too much. Hawkers, itinerant masseurs and fruit wallahs appear from time to time, but one can easily escape them by heading south towards neighbouring Varca, where tourism has thus far made little impact.
Moreover, the sea is safe for swimming, being generally jellyfish-free, while the village itself boasts a few serviceable bars and restaurants, several telephone booths and a couple of stores.
Benaulim’s proximity to Margao market, along with the presence of its Christian Fishing Community, means its restaurants serve the most succulent, competitively priced seafood in Goa. The most popular places to eat are the shack cafes in the beachfront area, where Johncy’s catches most of the passing custom.
However, one’ll find better food at lower prices in the smaller terrace restaurants further along the beach and scattered around the village. Arguably the best of bunch is the Palm Grove’s Congenial Garden Restaurant, and there is a string of lookalike café-bars, which dot the lane leading to it. For fresh seafood, though, the Hawaii Shack is hard to beat.
HOW TO GET THERE
Road: Buses from Margao, Colva, Varca, Cavelossim and Mobor roll through Benaulim every thirty minutes, dropping passengers at the Maria Hall crossroads.
WHERE TO STAY
Benaulim’s accommodation consists largely of small budget guesthouses, scattered around the lanes 1-km or so back from the beach. During peak season, the village’s few mid range hotels tend to be fully booked, so reserve in advance if one wants to stay in one of these.
OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
Ranged around this busy junction are two well stocked general stores, a couple of café bars, a bank, pharmacy, laundry and the taxi and auto rickshaw rank, from where one can pick up transport to the beach 2-km west.
Bikes On Rent: Signs offering bicycles and motorbikes for rent are dotted along the lane leading to the sea: rates are standard, descending in proportion to the length of time one keeps the vehicle.
Exchange: The nearest place to change money is one of the banks in Margao. Benaulim’s Bank Of Baroda only handles visa card encashments; the L’Amour Beach Resort also has a Foreign Exchange Counter for guests.
Airline Bookings: International and domestic flights can be booked or reconfirmed at meeting point travel, in the centre of the village, which also does deluxe bus, train and catamaran ticketing for cities elsewhere in India.