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After 2 weeks in Goa, India, eating my way through the Palolem restaurants, I think I’ve sampled all the best places in town.
Whether you’re looking for healthy vegan food or authentic Goan cuisine, I’ve probably eaten it!
Although there are plenty of beaches and boat trips to enjoy, part of the charm of South Goa is its sleepy nature. Especially with the humid climate, you might find yourself wanting to do little but kick back with a mango lassi or iced coffee at a cute Palolem cafe.
INDIA TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
India Lonely Planet
Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld
Getting there: flight (Skyscanner) / bus / train (12Go)
Travel insurance: True Traveller (European travellers) / Hey Mundo (other nationalities) / Safety Wing (digital nomads)
Healthy vegan cafes and restaurants in Palolem and Patnem
Since Patnem Beach is just a 20-minute walk (or 100 rupee tuk-tuk ride) from Palolem, I’ll include the eateries in both places. There are some fantastic Patnem restaurants you won’t want to miss!
Safety note – travelling between Palolem and Patnem on foot requires walking on a badly-lit road with no pavement. Once it gets dark, I would advise hailing a tuk-tuk; they’re whizzing by all the time.
Zest is one of the best restaurants in Palolem Beach for vegan and vegetarian food with (almost) no rivals when it comes to the views!
There are smoothie bowls, Buddha bowls, salads, wraps, veggie burgers, creative dishes like raw lasagne and a wide selection of cakes. The chocolate cake and the mango & coconut raw cheesecake are highly rated.
Although I didn’t try the pizza, it’s meant to be good. And with luxury ingredients like blue cheese, pear and walnut, I’m inclined to believe it!
Unsurprisingly, there’s a huge drinks menu with everything from smoothies to juice, iced coffee and kombucha in many flavours. The cocktail menu is also extensive.
Prices are some of the highest in Palolem but the beach views are worth it! You’re dining right by the sand and you’ll see many Zest guests go for a quick swim before coming back to their table.
Zest is predominately vegan with a few dishes (like the pizzas) containing dairy.
Nireas Healthy Haven
With a similar menu to Zest, this healthy Palolem cafe has lower prices but none of the sublime beach views.
Expect breakfast and brunch dishes like smoothie bowls, chia pudding, pancakes and eggs, as well as lunch dishes like healthy platters, falafel, wraps and burgers.
As you can see, the affogato was more like a chocolate/coffee sundae than the normal kind, but it was delicious!
The cakes at Nireas are half the price of Zest so it’s a good alternative if you don’t need the beach views!
Bibhitaki Vegan & Vegetarian Cafe Palolem
When it comes to the menu, this is one of my favourite restaurants in Palolem.
From pad Thai to healthy pasta dishes (I can vouch for the creamy cauliflower pasta), Vietnamese spring rolls, vegan sushi and even a couple of Mexican dishes, it’s a varied world menu with some Indian offerings too like South Indian thali.
Everything at Bibhitaki is veggie and many of the dishes are vegan, too. A surprisingly tasty drink is the iced peanut butter espresso coffee!
Set away from the beach, it’s a small but cute outdoor cafe with lots of fans keeping it cool.
Just a couple of minutes on foot from Bibhitaki on a quiet curving road is a relaxed, vegetarian cafe called the Mill. It’s a lovely space with high ceilings, white walls and colourful details.
The veggie food is on point with burgers, egg brunches, pasta (try the basil and cashew fettuccine), pineapple coconut curry and unusual dishes like ‘fish’ and chips made with beer-battered aubergine.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Palolem for dessert, you can’t rival their cake counter overflowing with goodies like salted caramel cupcakes. Thanks to the Kiwi owners, you can expect a few unusual offerings like New Zealand Lamingtons (cake coated in chocolate and covered with coconut).
My only complaint is the smoothies were milky rather than fruity like I was expecting, and not very nice.
Sadly, they close at 6pm, so it’s a great breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee & cake spot but not an option for dinner.
Perched on a palm tree-laden peninsula, this is a hidden gem away from the crowds.
Also a hotel, this quiet restaurant by Patnem Beach is worth a visit for the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful views of the sea just metres from your seat. It’s probably the only place that can rival Zest for beachside atmosphere.
My friend and I shared small plates like grilled prawns and battered okra before whiling away the afternoon with cakes and coffee. The iced latte served with a cinnamon biscuit is heaven!
Casa Jaali is a great place for breakfast with Western and South Indian specialities. It’s one of the most expensive but best places to eat in Palolem with a wide selection of wines, cocktails, Indian craft beers, and gin & tonics… Perfect for a treat!
Note – beautiful beach huts with fantastic views only cost around 3,000 rupees (£30) a night and I think it would be a wonderful place to stay. Book on Booking.com.
Jaali Cafe & Boutique
After going to both Casa Jaali (a hotel and restaurant) and Jaali Boutique (a restaurant and shop) in one day, I guess I’m officially a Jaali superfan!
This spacious outdoor cafe in Patnem is pleasant but has nowhere near the views of Casa Jaali, however the menu is more varied so if you want an absolute feast, don’t miss it!
With two friends, I devoured the veggie platter with hummus, pita, blackened paneer (or tofu), whipped feta and cauliflower tahini, adding a side of miso aubergine which was heavenly! It took us ages to choose because there are so many amazing-sounding brunch and lunch dishes.
They also have non-veg options if you’ve had your fill of Palolem vegan restaurants. It’s expensive for India (we paid 1,100 each for lunch and drinks) but undeniably divine.
Another highlight is the drinks menu. Using passion fruit, ginger, raspberry and other fresh flavours, there are refreshing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Although I haven’t visited in the evening, apparently it’s an atmospheric dinner spot.
If you’re walking between Palolem and Patnem (which you should, Patnem Beach is a dream!), escape the heat with an iced cappuccino at Karma Cafe.
It’s a simple, colourful cafe with a few seats and affordable prices. As well as coffee, there are healthy juices, lassis, smoothies, shakes, chai and lemonades.
Food-wise, expect hearty vegetarian breakfasts (from 250 rupees), veggie burgers, pad Thai and the like. Everything is veggie and vegan with more of a simple, non-pretentious vibe than some of the fancy Palolem Beach restaurants.
Note – often they’re closed between 2pm and 5pm.
Indian restaurants in Palolem
Smoothie bowls and Buddha bowls are great but I urge you to try some authentic Goan food, too. I find South Indian food much lighter than North Indian and, after a busy 2 weeks in Rajasthan eating curry every day, I was excited for the fresher flavours… And the seafood!
Rumba Cafe Palolem
Unlike the cute vegan cafes in Palolem, this is somewhere you can try real South Indian food right on the main street.
I’ve tried the kingfish Goan curry and the fish thali at Rumba and I can vouch for both! I also had the momos which aren’t a South Indian delicacy but delicious nonetheless.
With generous portions from 150 rupees, it’s a cheaper option than some of the boujee cafes. During the evenings, it’s pleasantly busy from 7pm with a good atmosphere.
Sumaya Goan Authentic Cuisine
If there are no tables at Rumba, head to Sumaya, a slightly less atmospheric restaurant on Palolem’s main street serving tasty dishes like fish thali, fish curry and other veg and non-veg dishes.
I can personally vouch for the aubergine curry and the Goan rawa fry (lightly grilled fresh prawns).
Indian restaurants in Patnem
Patnem is less touristy than Palolem so, once you step back from the beach, the food is authentic and the prices are unbelievably low. For local eats, don’t miss…
Rama’s Homecooked Fish Rice
Serving what it says on the tin, Rama’s is where to eat in Patnem for fresh, tasty seafood dishes like fish thali. Most dishes on the menu come in around 100 rupees. Bargain!
Patnem Chai Shop
For the best bargain in town, head to Patnem Chai Shop early in the morning (before they sell out) for an Indian-style egg sandwich and a steaming cup of masala chai for 80 rupees.
They sell some other goodies like dhal, samosas and (surprisingly) tasty savoury banana bread. An authentic feast on a budget!
International restaurants in Palolem / Patnem
As well as healthy vegan food and South Indian curries and thalis, there are a few international restaurants near Palolem Beach. I can personally vouch for…
It may be out of the way on a quiet street between Palolem and Patnem but this tiny restaurant is worth visiting for fresh, home Thai food cooked by the friendly owner in his signature cowboy hat.
We asked him how, as an Indian local, he learned to cook authentic Thai food and he told us that his wife is Thai. That explains things!
Not only are there Thai dishes like pad Thai and pad se ew but Yum!Thai make their own kimchi and use it to make simple Korean dishes like kimchi fried rice. Yum, indeed!
A few doors down from Yum Thai on Columb Road (closer to Patnem Beach than Palolem) is another international restaurant worth visiting.
After trying the sushi here, I’d say the quality of the rice could be better and it’s not as firm and sticky as it could be. However, if you’re craving sushi in India, you can’t be too picky. It’s definitely your best bet in Palolem! Expect to pay 400-500 rupees for 8 pieces.
Sushi Cafe also serve woodfired pizza and, although you wouldn’t expect one place to do both well, the reviews sing its praises. Sadly I didn’t try it myself.
It’s a pleasant, open-plan cafe with books to read and a boutique shop. There’s quite a wait for food but, luckily, you’re rarely in a rush in Goa!
Pizza & Pao
This is the hands-down best restaurant in Palolem when it comes to pizza and sourdough bread. In fact, I think you’ll be blown away by the quality of this deli which would be at home in any major Western city.
Pizza & Pao opened in late 2022 and already have fantastic reviews mentioning the woodfired pizza (600-800 rupees), pastries, focaccia, croissants and bagels with luxe ingredients like smoked salmon. It’s a bit far from Palolem Beach but worth the 20-minute walk or quick tuk-tuk ride.
My only complaint is that the service was slow and things came out one by one… But maybe we were difficult customers, arriving 30 minutes before closing as a party of 6!
There’s a new ice cream cafe in Palolem that should NOT be missed. Before you buy, they’ll let you sample the delicious flavours like dark chocolate, peanut butter and strawberry basil.
Vegans will be happy to know Juno’s also do vegan cones. I paid 200 rupees for two scoops of ice cream… Spenny for India but worth a treat while you’re on holiday!
Food safety note – when travelling around India, people will advise you to avoid ice in drinks and salad in case it’s been washed in bad water. In Palolem, the tourist industry is long established and everything will be made with filtered water. There’s nothing to avoid here… Eat your hearts out, babes!
Thanks for reading!
Check out my other India posts:
- 2 week Rajasthan backpacking route
- What to pack for women travelling in India
- Complete India budget break down
- Tips for travelling solo in India
- Places to travel solo in India
- Top things to do in Amritsar
- 3 day Jaipur itinerary
- Guide to Pondicherry travel
- The best cafes in Pondicherry
- 16 best things to do in Pushkar
- Auroville day trip from Pondicherry
- The best restaurants in Pushkar
- Is Pushkar worth visiting?
- Rishikesh travel guide: yoga, nature and the Beatles!
- Rishikesh cafe guide: 16 cute and hippie cafes
- Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala travel guide: visiting Little Tibet!
- Solo female travel in India: my highlights + lowlights
- Female tips for Holi festival
These are my trusted resources:
Getting around by air – it’s easy to get between cities by flight. I use Skyscanner and search by whole month to find the best value dates.
Buses – buses are comfy and efficient. Use 12Go to book.
Trains – these are a good option for long journeys because you have a bed rather than a seat. Use 12Go to book.
For hotels, I use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide. I also check Viator and Klook in case they have a better price.
For food experiences with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.
Pack the latest copy of India Lonely Planet.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!