Palolem © Mikhail Esteves
For years Palolem remained a secret holiday getaway to all but the most independent traveller. Situated towards the southern tip of Goa, twenty miles south of Margao, it has now been discovered - but thankfully, due to strict urban planning restraints, tourism is kept in check. Palolem's crescent-shaped bay is lined with a beautiful white sand beach and backed with groves of coconut palms. Either side of the bay is a rocky headland covered in thick black forest, and offshore there is a tiny island whose only permanent inhabitants are a colony of black-faced langur monkeys. Although there aren't really any watersports facilities on the beach - the vibe is more relaxed than active - you can take boat rides out into the bay to see the dolphins and maybe even swim with them. The beach is also lined with a selection of beach shacks and bar-cum-restaurants serving up the daily catch and lots of other kinds of meals and snacks. During December and January the beach swells with day-trippers, who come to escape the more commercial resorts. However, outside this peak season, Palolem returns to a breezy, sedate pace, and one of the reasons it is so special is because it is generally less crowded and much less commercial than most beaches in Goa.