India is often referred to as a subcontinent of Southern Asia, with the majestic Himalayas in the north separating it from the rest of mainland Asia, and a southern coast surrounded by seas on three sides. With 22 natural wonders, it’s no wonder it’s a bucket list destination for all travelers, but we think the underrated beaches are wonders in themselves.
India has some spectacular coastline, each beach with its own attributes to make it special. Stunning white sands that meet crystal clear waters, rugged cliffs, perfect surfing waves, and beaches steeped in history, that now host acid raves and unique festivals. There’s undeniably a lot to see in this country, but you can experience a little bit of everything India has to offer at its different coastal hotspots.
Our guide explores eleven of India’s best beach destinations to suit every traveler, from the party shores of Goa to the holy towns of Karnakata. Let’s get into it.
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Located in the heart of this backpacker town, the picturesque Varkala beach is a spot for anyone seeking relaxation. A peaceful alternative to the commercialized Kovalam an hour north of the capital, this beach sits within a stunning setting with a seemingly endless paved stretch of cliff bordered by shacks on one side and views of the Arabian Sea on the other.
Many yoga and Ayurveda practitioners base themselves here, making it the perfect place for rest and rejuvenation. In fact, another and very appropriate name for the beach is ‘Papanasam,’ which means ‘to wash away sins.’
Varkala also holds important religious significance thanks to Sivagiri Mutt, the tomb of the social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru, and the 2000-year-old Janardhanaswamy Temple, both located nearby. With a wide choice of accommodation and the development of several top Ayurvedic centers, Varkala is fast becoming a booming health resort, well worth visiting for the spiritually inclined or slow-paced traveler.
Palolem, South Goa
Close your eyes and picture paradise. Chances are, something close to Palolem beach will come to mind. A thick forest of coconut palms surrounds this mile-long, semicircle-shaped bay. South Goa’s most prevalent beach has been growing in popularity in recent years, but it still manages to maintain an authentic feel thanks to a local law that says permanent structures are not permitted to be built here.
No other beach in Goa has as many accommodation options as close to the shore as Palolem. You can stay steps from the beach and fall asleep to the rhythmic sounds of the waves that will be ready to meet you when you rise. Resorts are less common here but small beach huts punctuate the coast, offering different luxuries.
Whether you’re looking for the finest beaches in India for your honeymoon or want to escape the crowds, Palolem is your spot. Try hiking to the viewpoint at the north end of the beach, taking a private boat ride to nearby butterfly beach, or just lounging around on the sands with your nose in a book. Whatever approach you take, Palolem beach can be surprisingly chilled out despite Goa’s lively reputation.
Agonda, South Goa
Beaches in Goa are often spoiled by the high amount of backpackers and the constant sound of Psy-Trance music in the background, but not Agonda. Suppose you’re looking to get away from it all, this one is for you. The gorgeous ivory-colored cove of Agonda is known as ‘the silent beach,’ and as the name implies, it’s the spot in Goa for tranquil retreats.
The beach’s rear is lined with shacks and small shops, but apart from that, there’s not much to do except eat, drink, swim and chill. Agonda’s population of only 3,000 inhabitants doubles in the high season as the heaps of northern Indian workers head south to earn money. Yet, villagers commute to nearby party towns and you can still find a quiet atmosphere along Agonda’s sultry shores.
From June to September, the rain comes, and the beach huts are gone, and so are the workers. The tourist season kicks off in October, and the cycle begins again.
Agonda is slightly more expensive than other beach towns, but this is due to the beauty and, to be frank, how small it is. It has a handful of cafés, one shop, one ATM, and no public transport, so once you’re there, you’ll have to visit neighboring towns if the ATM runs dry, or the shop is running low on stock. Although Agonda is still cheap compared to the rest of the world, when comparing it to the rest of India, you may have to dig a little further into your pockets for this getaway.
Still, Agonda appeals to a lot of crowds for other reasons and is a vegan’s heaven. Zest and Mandela cafe are just two of the fabulous meat-alternative restaurants offering avocado chocolate cakes, plant-based pizzas, and more. Yet be sure to embrace the local cuisine at the street food stalls on every corner too.
Arambol, North Goa
Transformed from a sleepy fishing village to the trendiest beach in Goa, Arambol has really started to attract a heavy flow of energetic backpackers and holiday crowds in recent years. It still has a laidback vibe, with live music and jam sessions along the beach being much the norm. There’s usually someone at every cafe with a guitar and a crowd singing along, but things can get much more lively at night.
For those who ‘get stuck in Goa,’ this is the community they usually join. You can live affordably in this creative town with cheap accommodation that starts at 2 dollars a night and join in with the regular celebrations as you please. India’s digital nomad community isn’t as developed as other South Asian countries because of poor connection and internet speeds across the country. But if you’re going to find online workers anywhere, it will be here and there’s even an internet café in the beach town.
Arambol is popular for alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and reiki. It’s a popular location for those wanting to earn their teaching or professional badges in these therapies. Yet, in contrast to its cool calm daytime vibes, when the sun goes down, the beach comes live with music and parties. You might have to wander a little further down the beach for later and louder nights, but Arambol still knows how to throw a party.
Clubs close around 12, but there is always something happening on the beach after midnight. Although it’s not all about the beach here. The sweet water lagoon, only accessible on foot just a short walk north of the beach, is another pull factor to the area. Its shallow waters are wonderfully calm to swim in and the sand here is thought to have healing properties. The clear waters fringed by tropical jungle offer travelers a visual treat, and because it’s more private, it’s a perfect spot for sunbathing.
Anjuna, North Goa
Anjuna is best known for hosting the craziest raves that will take you on a ‘trip’ out of this world. It’s a Goan city where anything goes. You can dress, dance, and even sing however you want with no judgment. Don’t be fooled by the calm waters of the Arabian Sea that lap gently at the shores by day. Anjuna comes alive with its famous full-moon parties by night and the Wednesday flea market is also a popular attraction.
Anjuna Beach was the town for the flower power generation in the sixties and is still popular with new generations of backpackers. It’s known for its Trance Parties and the hippy community who still live here, known for kickstarting the mix of spiritual customs of the East and the art, visions, and music of the West.
Anjuna was “discovered” by a group of travelers in the 1950s, and a small international psychedelic scene began that is still prominent today. The original hippies may have grown up and gone, but that doesn’t mean the party is over at Anjuna.
Every Wednesday, Anjuna beach breaks into a show of colors from its weekly flea market, and lines of vehicles full of tourists raise clouds of dust across the site. Whatever you may need, from a new journal to a haircut, you can find it here. Practice your bidding skills haggling for Tibetan, Kashmiri, and Gujarati trinkets, handicrafts, European snacks, cassettes of trance, artificial ornaments, carvings, and clothes.
Vendors will always offer a high price, but you can certainly get an item down to a quarter what’s first said. However, this is the vendors’ income, so bear that in mind and always be polite when haggling. Think of it as paying for the experience at an Indian Flea market and finding a souvenir to remember the day.
Baga, North Goa
Another northern Goa favorite and perhaps the most well-known is Baga beach. It may be commercialized and busy, but for those who like action, it’s one of the most happening beaches on the coast.
Fine dining, bars, clubs, and beach huts can all be found here, but water sports is our reason for the beach making it on this list. Try your hand at paragliding, windsurfing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, you name it, Baga’s got it. If you’re seeking a thrill in a way that the rest of Goa doesn’t usually provide, then head to Baga for an action-packed weekend.
The beach shares its coastline with the environs of Sinquerim and Candolim, with the Baga shore being the most energetic. This vibrant beach is one of the best in Goa and it stays awake the whole night. These days, Baga is a holiday destination for Indians who come for the mainstream music and discounted drinks along Tito’s lane. The Baga river surrounds Baga town, and where the river and the sea meet is a feast for the eyes. Head out on one of the local ship owners’ boats to spot dolphins that swim around the shore.
If Goa is too crowded for you, the small holy town of Gokarna in northern Karnataka, with four of India’s most secluded beaches nestled nearby, might be the place to go. Head here to feel what Goa was like in its heyday, although time is limited as developers have already spotted this area’s potential.
Gokarna draws both Pilgrims and laid-back travelers with equal enthusiasm. Gokarna Beach is most famous because of the renowned nearby Mahabaleshwar Temple. It’s believed that only after you’ve taken a dip in Gokarna’s sea you may enter the holy temple worshiping Lord Shiva.
Your Gokarna beach vacation also promises to be a foody heaven. The temple town has numerous shacks that cater to the Indian palate and those who crave continental cuisine. Apart from the classic idli-dosa, one can have a familiar meal with dishes like seafood lasagna, pizza, and iced Nutella on the menu. All served on a banana leaf of course.
If you can’t make it to the islands, Tarkarli beach, located in the south of Maharashtra, is the closest you’ll get, known for its stunning coral reef. It’s home to one of the few reefs on the Indian mainland and one of the rare places you can scuba dive so close to shore. The beach is yet to become a feature on the popular tourist route and receives few foreign visitors, although it is increasingly drawing domestic travelers and its undiscovered beauty adds to the charm.
To the right of the beach, you’ll find simple homestay accommodation. Envision crystal clear seas meeting white sand beaches with small huts surrounding, and locals riding bicycles around the quiet roads. Tarkarli boasts some of the finest white sands with shimmering turquoise waters. It could be deemed the most beautiful beach in all of Maharashtra, if not in India. As this place is still largely undiscovered, you might be in time to find it untarnished by commercialization.
The pristine white beaches surrounded by Suru trees make a perfect place to relax, get in touch with nature and eat amazing Malvani food. But best of all, there are not many places in India where you can snorkel above beautiful corals or deep-sea dive with such diverse marine life, and Tarkarli offers just this.
One of the world’s most unusual beaches, as listed by Lonely Planet, Chandipir is most unique because of its disappearing sea. At low ties, twice a day, it recedes for up to five kilometers so that you can walk far out with your feet in the sand and shallows without needing your bathing costume.
This extraordinary spectacle helps the beach to support its impressive biodiversity. The endangered horseshoe crabs, starfish, and sea urchins are a few examples. Have fun chasing red crabs, collecting shells, and getting that perfect Instagram shot.
The only flaw of this beach is the lack of quality accommodation. Panthaniwas, Odisha Tourism Development, is the best-positioned property, but its facilities are basic. Shop at Sunarpur Chowkand to find souvenirs to remember your trip, and for the foodies, dig into the sumptuous spread of fresh crabs & prawns that are on offer at the local restaurants.
Dhanushkodi, Pamban Island
The ghost town of Dhanushkodi is high in historical and Hindu importance. Located on Pamban Island, you’ll need to cross the Pamban bridge to visit, but it’s well worth it, as the island will give you memories to cherish forever.
One of the popular attractions is Dhanushkodi beach. Unaffected by mass tourism, the beach is serene and less crowded than others in India. You can enjoy silent walks over white sands and it’s no less than a heaven for beachgoers and history seekers. However, Dhanushkodi is also the confluence point between the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, so swimming isn’t usually advised.
That said, the heritage will still draw you in. It’s thought that Dhanushkodi was where Lord Rama built Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s Bridge – a crossroads to connect Rameshwaram Island and Mannar Island in Sri Lanka, to rescue his wife Sita from the king Ravana. After rescuing his love, Lord Ram supposedly destroyed the bridge with arrows from his bow. Hence the name, ‘Dhanushkodi,’ meaning ‘end of the bow.’ This town is one of the most exciting places to experience the history of Tamil culture firsthand.
Other attractions nearby include the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, one of the only marine national parks located in the country. Consisting of 21 islands, it’s a beautiful place to experience the natural scenery like estuaries, magical beaches, and forests. Another must-see spot is Pambam island.
Bangaram Beach, Lakshadweep
Incredible marine life and mesmerizing tropical waters make Bangaram Island a perfect place for water activities without being bothered by other tourists. Bangaram’s water is host to some of the most unique sea life in India like the Jack Fish and King Fish, after which the national namesake beer was entitled. Bangaram Beach is the perfect spot for fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving in Lakshadweep, India’s thriving archipelago off the coast of Kerala.
You can get to Bangaram, a desert atoll, by boat from Agatti, and enjoy the isolated stretch of sand, perfect for a relaxing day trip. Lounge for hours under the palm trees, soaking up the sun, or dive amid various marine life.
A downside is that the Bangarm Island Resort, though stunning, could be slightly out of your daily budget. Though this mini getaway is a little expensive for India, it’s worth cutting down in preparation so you can visit, and it does not affect the length of your Indian Gap year. The island is a honeymoon destination, with backdrops that will intensify the romance, ‘the Maldives of India, but better,’ some may say because it won’t empty your holiday saving for the next few years.