Dona Paula is a secluded bay only 7 km from Panaji with a magnificent view of the Mormugao harbour. This idyllic rocky tourist attraction lies at the spot where the Mandovi and the Zuari rivers meet the Arabian Sea. It is easily one of the most popular spot on the itinerary of tourists visiting Goa.
Dona Paula is nestled on the south side of the rocky, hammer-shaped headland that divides the Zuari and Mandovi estuaries. It is an ideal spot to relax and sunbathe. The Dona Paula monument is located on a small islet, linked to the mainland by a small bridge and a quay. Also on the islet is the "Belvedere", a Greco - Roman type of structure, from where one can view the Arabian Sea and the River Zuari.
The Dona Paula-Mormugao Harbour Ferry takes passengers across the bay, every day of the week between the months of October and May. Water scootering facilities are also available over here. Other water sports like boating, para-sailing, water scooters, yatching, swimming, wind surfing and fishing are available in the area.
There is a romantic legend behind the name Dona Paula. Dona Paula is the village where the lady of that name Dona Paula de Menezes is believed to have loved, lived and died - a gory death in the second half of the 18th century.
One legend has it that she was the lady-in-waiting of the Governor-General's wife, and in course of time the Governor fell victim to her beauty and charms. They were found out and the governor's enraged wife had her stripped and bound and rolled over the cliff, into the sea, wearing only her string of pearls, a gift of love from the Governor.
The fishermen of the area have a marvellous collection of ghost stories about Dona Paula. On moonlit nights, they say, - on pitch dark nights, say others - at the stroke of midnight, she rises from the sea and roams the area, wearing a string of pearls and nothing else.
Gasper Dias, a nobleman, on whose estates a fort was built because of its strategic importance, is also said to have been one of Dona Paula's lovers. Her ghost, local villagers say, appears looking desperately for the nobleman.
According to another popular legend she is believed to have been the daughter of one of the Portuguese Viceroys and her lover is believed to have been a native fisherman, a relationship which aroused strong racist feelings amongst the Portuguese.
Her tombstone, now found on the wall of the Chapel at the Governor's Palace at Raj Bhavan (formerly called Cabo Raj Niwas), bears an inscription in Portuguese by her inconsolable husband, begging of those who might read it to pray for the 'salvation' of her soul.
Near the ferry jetty, there is a whitewashed statue sculpted in 1969 by Baroness Von Leistner; named "Image of India" and depicting the figures of Mother India and Young India, one looking to the East and the other to the West. the Wheel of Ashoka, is in the middle half buried in stone to represent the ancient culture, that nurtured this blend of ideas and emotions.
The official residence of the Governor of Goa, Known as Raj Bhavan is situated on the westernmost tip of Dona Paula. Along the road leading to this place lies the ruins of the small military cemetery the British built at their brief occupation of the Cabo, to deter the French from invading Goa.
The National Oceanography Institute (NIO) where research is conducted on almost all the major branches of coastal and marine oceanography is also nearby on the road to Cabo Raj Niwas. The major attraction of the institute is its Marine Biology Museum and Taxonomy Reference Center.