10 Things to do in Gokarna

posted in: Heritage, Asia, Beaches, Culture, India, Karnataka, Nature | 162

Along the West Coast of India, in Karnataka, lies this sleepy little town called Gokarna. Gokarna literally, means “Cow’s Ear”. I know it sounds funny and you would wonder why this name. It partly stems from a legend and partly, from its location. But will come to that interesting story a little later in this post. 

Originally a Hindu pilgrimage center, it is now, an important tourist destination – not just as a temple town but its lovely rocky beaches and hills. Around 140 kms from Goa, this place has become increasingly popular with the foreign tourists in India. A completely different experience from Goa and Karwar, Gokarna is about a peaceful beach holiday. 

Kudle Beach, Gokarna
Kudle Beach, Gokarna

However, this does not mean that there isn’t much to do in this small town. Here is my list of 10 things to do in Gokarna –

1) Beach Trekking in Gokarna

Sounds like the most obvious? Am sure. But there is a slight difference here as you really have to trek (not walk) to the beaches in Gokarna. Gokarna is situated amongst the hills and the beaches are literally on the other side of the hills. A literal climb and descend along the hilly rocks from one beach to another – which is actually, where the fun and excitement lies. Gokarna has 5 major beaches – Gokarna beach, Kudle beach, OM beach, Half Moon Beach and Paradise beach. 

The Gokarna Beach is in the main town and is quite popular amongst the locals and the pilgrims. Shivratri is one of the main festivals celebrated in this town and the celebrations are held on this beach. The beach is not preferred by tourists. A nice beach nonetheless. Going forward to the next beach – Kudle Beach, which is one of the main tourist beaches in this town.

Kudle Beach, Gokarna
Kudle Beach, Gokarna

Circled by hillocks and dotted with rocks, Kudle beach is a pleasure to spend time on. The beach has a lot of shacks and small inns. You can trek up the little rocks along the way and feel the waves splash onto your toes. Not a bad idea to perch on them and stare out of the sea. I totally enjoyed doing the same myself. Trust me, it is a calming feeling 🙂

OM Beach, Gokarna
OM Beach, Gokarna

From the Kudle Beach, you have to trek up a hill and descend down to the most popular beach in Gokarna – OM beach. Named after the serene “OM” symbol of the Hindus, this is not just popular with the tourists but also, amongst the locals. This beach has limited food and restaurant options. 

Half Moon Beach 
Half Moon Beach                                                                    Image Credits: Timeflicks under CC by ND 2.0

Next, trek over to the other side of OM beach to find the Half Moon beach – kind of like a lagoon. This has far lesser options of restaurant and shacks and is quite secluded. As you trek along further, you will move to the last of the beaches on this trail – the Paradise beach as below. This is the further away from the town and most unspoilt of the 5 beaches of Gokarna.

Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach                                                                      Image Credits: Brainbitch under CC by NC 2.0

The trek is quite easy and light for all kinds of trekkers. If you want to try something different, you can opt for a boat ride to all these beaches as well. :-). Boat rides are available on both Kudle beach as well as OM beach and you can either choose to go with a crowd or take it by yourself.

2) Visit the Temples

Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple
Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple              Image Credits: Nwchar under CC by SA 3.0

Originally a temple town, there are a few ancient temples around Gokarna with a fair amount of history and significance. The key amongst them is the Mahabaleshwar temple, within the main Gokarna town. This temple is home to the Shiva linga – one of the key reason for the name Gokarna. Time for me to reveal the legend that I mentioned earlier about the name Gokarna.

The geographical reason for the name is that the town is at the confluence of Gangavali and Agnashini river and is shaped like the cow’s ear. However, legend has it that Lord Shiva had emerged from the ear of the cow and hence the name. How and why the same happened is a long story and can be read here.

Visiting this temple gives you a very serene feeling. The deity here is over 1500 years old. While you are at visiting temples, you can even visit a few others – Aadi Gokarneshwara temple, Ganapati temple, Koti teertha etc.All these are at close distance from each other.

3) Relax with a massage

Most of the hotels and resorts as well as inns on the beaches offer you massage services. The most popular are the Kerala Ayurvedic treatments. You can opt of a regular full body massage or go specific based on your preferences. From a head massage to a foot massage, these massage centers have quite a few options on their menu. A very soothing experience. especially with the waves giving your a background music score 🙂

4) Become a Foodie

With the shacks on the beaches and good local restaurants, the foodie in your is bound to spring out. From Italian pastas to Indian Thaalis – these food places serve your the best. Don’t miss out on two places in particular – the first being in the main Gokarna town called Prema restaurant. This is a non-descript place, with a shabby looking board. Initially, I mistook it for a store but don’t go by the looks. The menu here completely defies its appearance – It has everything from Israeli bread to Pastas and Indian Thalis. The food here is absolutely mouth-watering and AMAZING. So much so, that we ended up going here on two days of the three day stay that we had. You have to try out the home made icecreams and GADBAD here. Check out the Trip Advisor reviews here.

View From Namaste Cafe    
View From Namaste Cafe                                                  Image Credits: Abhijit Shylanath under CC by 2.0

The other must visit place is by the OM beach – Namaste Cafe. This place has an amazing view of the Arabian sea. The food here is a mix of Italian and Indian. Personally, I felt that the food was much better and tastier at Prema Restaurant  but there is no beating the ambiance of this place.  I would recommend an evening here for sure, as the place is beautifully lit and while you wine and dine here, you can hear the vibrant sea in the background and feel the sea mist on your face.

5) Venture out for a drive

There are plenty of places close to Gokarna, each unique in their own way. Since I have covered places like Dandeli, Yana and Karwar in an earlier post, I will not dwell on them further. These places are around 50 -100 kms from Gokarna. To more about what you can do in these place, click this link.

Murudeshwar Image Credits: Sam Valadi Under CC by 2.0

One place that I would specifically mention is Murudeshwar. This place as you can see in the picture, is know for its gigantic Shiva statue. This is the second largest statue in India. The statue is worth a visit for its sheer magnificence. It’s beauty is further enhanced by the lovely blue backdrop of the Arabian Sea. Murudeshwar is around 55kms from Gokarna.

6) Yoga by the Beach

Yoga on the beach
Image Credits: Sarangib Under CC0 Public Domain

Do it by yourself or join the groups at various resorts like the Namaste Yoga Farm or the Swarswara resort. It is not unusual to see a lot of tourist practicing yoga in the mornings and evenings on the Kudle beach or the OM beach. You can pick from a 7 day course to a longer course while here.

7) Experience the Star-Studded Sky

View of Kudle Beach from the Kudle Beach Resort, Gokarna
View of Kudle Beach from the Kudle Beach Resort

The night sky in Gokarna is actually wonderful -clear and star studded. With the cool breeze blowing on your face, waves splashing along and lovely sand below your feet, a stroll on the beach is exactly what you should do. Try lying down on the beach and counting the stars – Sometimes, meaningless tasks like this add to the charm of the place 🙂

8) Do the Water Sports

Banana Boats                                                                   Image Credits: Jun Acullador under CC by ND 2.0
Banana Boats                                                                                                  Image Credits: Jun Acullador under CC by ND 2.0

Get your adrenaline going with some watersports on the OM beach. You can opt for some parasailing, banana boat rides, snorkeling or kayaking. However note that these are available only during the peak season.

9) Get bitten by a photo bug

Arabian Sea from Kudle Beach, Gokarna
Arabian Sea from Kudle Beach, Gokarna

Gokarna Beaches are quite unusual with their rocky surfaces and hillocks. They look really stunning in the evening and morning light and this should contract a shutterbug in you. Take a stroll along with your camera or phone and try to capture the lovely landscape in front of you. Try your hand on catching the waves on the rocks. Here is one of mine. I am pretty sure it would have been even better beach picture if I had my GoPro handy.

Along the Kudle beach, Gokarna
Along the Kudle beach, Gokarna

10) Soak up the Town

Street View                                                                                  Image Credits: Uleli Under CC BY-SA 3.0
Street View                                                                                                                   Image Credits: Uleli Under CC BY-SA 3.0

 Gokarna is a small town and you can literally walk and cover the entire town. Small little trinket and clothes shops along the way to the Gokarna beaches and colorful bags being sold. You can spend a little time just walking around and getting a feel of this small sleepy town.

I would not be surprised if you are already looking up for your trip after reading this list of 10 things to do in #Gokarna. 🙂

Getting there:

  •  There are regular buses from Bangalore and Mangalore to Gokarna. There are a few trains as well to Gokarna. 
  •  Gokarna is around 550 kms from Bangalore and the roads are fairly good. So, if you are up for a long drive. This could be an option.
  • The nearest airport to Gokarna is Goa. It is around 100 kms from Gokarna and you can hire a cab from the airport to the town. 

 Travel Tips:

  1.  The best season to go to Gokarna is from September upto April. It gets a little too warm in May and June. 
  2. There are plenty of resorts and hotels for your stay in Gokarna. Recommended amongst them is Namaste Cafe on OM Beach and Kudle Beach Resort on Kudle beach.  I personally, have stayed at the latter and here is my review of the same.
  3. There are plenty of stray dogs on the beaches. Though they are harmless, one can always be a little careful.
  4. Be a little careful when stepping out in the evening on the beaches. You will see a lot of tourist smoking and drinking. There is a bit of a hippie culture in some parts of Gokarna.
  5. Carry enough Sun Screen while here. 






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162 Responses

  1. Ami Bhat

    Absolutely. Udupi is also a good example of this. Have you been to Malpe and Kapu beaches? Different from Gokarna but beautiful nonetheless.

    • Lokesh Venkatareddy

      planning to visit end of November with my GF, need to know more about the place

  2. Ami Bhat

    I have seen a lot of solo woman travelers to Gokarna and would say that the place is fairly safe. Though make sure you don't loiter out in the night as the beaches are quite secluded. Also, try to pick a good and safe place to say. Om beach as well as Kudle are equally good. Om beach is a little more populated as compared to Kudle. You can opt to stay at Om beach for the same reason. Have a good trip!

  3. XYZ123

    OK…I'm leaning towards Gokarna now… Although it sounds a little too tranquil for my son's taste!! Thanks! Great content as usual!

  4. Unknown

    Hello! Can I use information and photos from your article to post it on my web site? It will be translated into Russian. This is my site omcoach.ru Thanks in advance for your permission!

  5. Saeem Ahamed

    Hi Ami,
    I am Planning for a Lone travel to Gokarna by this December End(31 to 2 Jan), please, I will be happy to have your suggestions on my stay at Gokarna. Things that I should be aware of…

    1.Should I book any stay in Advance?
    2. Are there budget stays available in Gokarna,I am on a shoestring budget
    3. Things to do in Gokarna
    4. Any other suggestions ,please?

    email: SA_EEM@yahoo.com

  6. Ami Bhat

    Hey Leena…thanks a ton for the compliments. Have a great time at Gokarna. On contacts for a place, well, am afraid the places I know of are completely booked. Hopefully you will something . Ping in and let me know how you liked Gokarna after your visit.

  7. 2 Travel Dads blog

    I can only imagine that a cab ride from Goa all the way there is expensive. Gokarna seems much more modern-local touristy than most other places that get highlighted about India. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Ami Bhat

    It is definitely a lot more serene and fun than the other places that are publicized. Getting here from Goa will not be too expensive. You can even opt to take one of those tourist buses or a train from Goa. 😀

  9. Unknown

    Hi Ami,
    I went through your blog as i am planning to travel Gokarna this week.
    Very amused to visit this place after reading out your blog, one of the best one i can say after going to various blogs. Thanks for posting this.
    I am planning for a getaway to Gokarna, can you please share some contact details for stay and things that we can do in and around Gokarna.

    Please inbox me at arjun.dabhade@gmail.com.
    Waiting for your reply, Thanks.

  10. Gearoid McSweeney

    This looks like the type of place I would like. A little off the beaten track, good food, good scenery and yoga. This is also an engaging post with lots of links.

  11. MartaC

    So beautiful, of course you get bitten by the photo bug in such a beautiful place!! I must say, the combination of scenery, beach, yoga and food is very hard to beat….