If you love the idea of baking in the tropical sunshine on pure white sands, with high-quality hotels and plenty of shops and restaurants not far from the beach, Candolim could be the ideal destination.
Situated in the Indian province of Goa, Candolim is, on the surface, a busy resort town, and it definitely receives its fair share of European and American vacationers. But it's also a great base to tour less-developed beaches on the North Goa coast such as Vagator or Anjuna, or the 17th-century ruins of the Portuguese Fort Aguada at Sinquerim.
It's the kind of destination where you can dive into the local party scene, chill out in a conventional resort, or find your own way to gorgeous beaches and historical attractions, fine Goan cuisine, and vibrant festivals. And that's why so many people choose Candolim for their Indian escapes.
Candolim would be nothing without its beach. Actually part of a much longer strand encompassing Baga and Calangute, Candolim's beach is more laid back and usually less packed than those resorts. And the water is just as warm and inviting.
Unlike some neighboring resorts, Candolim manages to juggle being a developed tourist center with a laid-back, sedate atmosphere. If you want full moon parties and clubs, they aren't hard to find, but families can avoid noise with ease during beach vacations as well.
The area around Candolim was a Portuguese foothold on the Indian subcontinent from 1510 until 1961, and the European presence has left plenty of historical attractions, from Fort Aguada to Se Cathedral in Old Goa. None of them are far from Candolim.
Dining well in Candolim is easy. It's a great place to sample Goan cuisine, from crusty pao bread to locally caught whitebait, pork vindaloos, and sorpotel. Mixing up European and Asian influences, it's a genuine culinary adventure.
Goa is often described as a tropical paradise, and with temperatures very rarely dipping below 70 degrees, it's easy to see why. It's the ideal place to sip mango or pineapple cocktails in hammocks as the Indian Ocean laps at the shore.
Cycling tours operate out of nearby Nerul and cover the area around Fort Aguada. Not only are they great exercise, there's no better way to explore the 17th-century fort and the beaches around Candolim.
Spending at least a day on the beach at Candolim is obligatory. Hire a sun lounger and open up a paperback, or score a spot in one of the beach bars lining the sands to watch the sun set and sip some Kingfisher beers.
Located just down the coast from Candolim, Calangute is the place to head to pick up bargain jewelry, sarongs, or even elaborately embroidered carpets. With a lively local craft scene, the choice of unique items is endless.
Relax and watch Goa slip by or join raucous party cruises on Goa's longest river as it runs into the Indian Ocean at Panjim. For party fans, cruises with DJs, bars, and folk dances are the ultimate Goan night out.
The Goan capital is a few miles from Candolim by bus. With its elegant whitewashed cathedral and the Portuguese architecture of districts like Fontainhas, it's well worth a visit (or two).
The best time to visit Candolim is generally between November and March, when the temperatures are warm (but not scorching hot). The Sunburn electronic music festival also draws big crowds in December. However, vacationers wanting cheaper, less hectic breaks could try September and October, when the rainy season hasn't quite ended, but hotel rates should be lower.
The easiest way to reach Candolim is by flying into Dabolim Airport, which is around 25 miles south of the resort. From there, taxis should cost around Rs. 1,000-1,500, while major hotels will run shuttles to meet most flights, and these services can be much cheaper.
To drive from the airport, take National Highway 566, then turn north onto National Highway 66, before heading westwards just after passing through Panjim. Alternatively, route 66 runs from Mumbai as well. The 400-mile journey takes around 10 hours.
Buses run from the Kadamba Transport Corporation (KTC) Bus Stand in central Panjim every 20 minutes, take around an hour to reach Candolim, and cost Rs. 15. Another option is to take the free ferry across the river to Betim and catch a bus from there, which costs Rs. 10.
Leading resort hotels in Candolim include the Hyatt Place, the Novotel Goa Shrem, and the Santana Beach Resort. All provide on-site catering, pools, and spacious rooms within walking distance of the sea. Cosier B&B-style options include the Casa Almeida Guest House and the Villa Sol Areia, while Backpacker Panda caters for budget travelers. The best areas to spend time in include Candolim Beach, packed with hotels, shopping centers, restaurants, and nearby Sinquerim, home to Fort Aguada and a host of water sports options.
Bus connections to Panjim and other resorts along the Goan coast are provided by KTC, and the basic fare is Rs. 8. If you want to hop between beaches, buses are a great way to do so, and they also make reaching the capital simple.
Taxi ranks can be found across Candolim, and getting around by cab is fairly cheap. Expect a flag drop of Rs. 100 followed by around Rs. 45 per mile, although rates vary by company and whether you travel during the day or night.
Hiring a car is a good option for exploring the coast or whizzing into Panjim. Local companies include Bhavya, Scorpion, and Vailankanni, while mopeds can also be hired for a cheaper, more mobile alternative. Expect medium-sized vehicles to cost Rs. 300-500 per day.
Candolim, Calangute, and Sinquerim are all excellent places to shop for items like necklaces, earrings, bangles, and sarongs. Head to Calangute for the widest selection, although craft stalls can be found all along the shore. Souvenir stores in Candolim include Ashoka Jewellers and Sheek Emporium, which is a fantastic place to shop for Indian fabrics. The Broadway Book Centre also offers English language books and newspapers - handy for days at the beach.
The biggest supermarket in Candolim is Newton's, which stocks goods from all over the world, but Lawande Supermarket also has a wide selection of essentials. Both are a good bet when you need to stock up for picnics. Prices are fairly low in general, with a gallon of milk coming to around Rs. 160 and 12 eggs costing Rs. 65.
Goan cuisine is one of the area's biggest attractions. As the name suggests, Viva Goa is a place that takes pride in local traditions, serving up sumptuous seafood feasts, while Claudina's and Tony's are homely "shacks" near the beach that are perfect for enjoying a bite after a day of sunbathing. Beyond seafood, the selection of options is surprisingly extensive, with Italian dishes at Tuscany Gardens and Burmese curries at Bomra's. Wherever you dine, it should be affordable, with meals costing around Rs. 200-400 per head.