10 Things to do in Gokarna

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.

Sunset at Kudle beach - one of the best things to do in Gokarna
Sunset at Kudle beach – one of the best things to do in Gokarna

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 foreign tourists in India. A completely different experience from Goa and Karwar, Gokarna is about a peaceful beach holiday.

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.

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 - a must-visit place in Gokarna
Kudle Beach – a must-visit place in 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 this place, click this link.

The Giant Shiva statue at Murudeshwar
The Giant Shiva statue at Murudeshwar

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

You can also, plan a Scuba diving expedition when in Murudeshwar. Netrani Island – just off its coast, has more than 6 amazing dive sites to explore the underwater. You can even plan your PADI certification near this island. Check out my own experience through this post on my PADI certification at Netrani Island

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.
  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 thoughts on “10 Things to do in Gokarna”

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

    Reply
  2. 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!

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

    Reply
  4. 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!

    Reply
  5. 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

    Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
  7. 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!

    Reply
  8. 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. 😀

    Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
  11. 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….

    Reply
  12. This is on my bucket list – and your photos look amazing. I roadtripped through Kerala in South India, but I would like to go back to visit the places on your list.

    Reply
  13. I have heard of Gokarna, but never been to this place. From your beautiful post and wonderful pictures it seemed to be a serene quiet place, not much visited. I would love to see it soon. 🙂

    Reply
  14. I love a good small town that’s walkable. Those are always a lovely time. You mentioned that it was different from Goa. I’ve never been to Goa – is it more crowded?

    Reply
    • Goa is quite well developed as a tourist beach, especially North Goa. A few of the beaches are really crowded. Also, because it is so popular, there is a lot of fan fare and events and shacks here. Gokarna is fairly quite and peaceful.

      Reply
  15. An amazing place to spend a peaceful weekend. Water sport can bring adventure, though. Amazing clicks and coverage, Ami.

    Reply
  16. Stunning photos. Looks like a great place to visit. I particularly like that photo of the pale pink mandir. So lovely.

    Reply
  17. Hi Guys,

    We are planning to visit gokarna for this new year. We went to goa last year, that was incredible. But I’m afraid is that gokarna worth for new year celebration. Actually we are 10 members from chennai. Please any one provide me the details. I will mention the question below.
    1. Do I need to book the hotel or resort before?(Resort would be better for us)
    2. Is there any fun activities there?
    3. What are the water games there?
    4. Things to do in gokarna(We all are batchelors) obviously no temple 🙂
    5. Your suggestion
    Please reply me through my E-mail: vivek93.in@gmail.com

    Reply
  18. Pity I had been there during my analog days. Not a single good pic I have from that trip.
    I need to create a trip there soon. Great reasons mentioned.

    Reply
  19. Lovely reading your blog post and the pictures are beautifully weaved. Gokarna is one of the best destination for pilgrimage lovers who enjoy being at beach. Gokarna is known for its endless rows of coconut palms, blue seas and clean beaches.

    Reply
  20. I am immediately going to chalk out my plans for Gokarna visit. I always thought it as a very pilgrimage type destination where the Purohits would bother you into unnecessary rituals or temple visits..like what happens in some other parts of India..how wrong I was! Just realized after reading your post

    Reply
  21. I just got to this amazing site not long ago, There are many things I can know only after reading your wonderful article. Planning to visit Gokarna very soon..Thank you

    Reply
  22. I’ve never heard of Gokarna but it looks great in your pictures. I love walking and beaches, so I’m sure I’d like the beach trek. And I would love to eat those Thalis!

    Reply
    • Thanks. Gokarna is a gorgeous beach destination that not many know of as yet. I am sure you will love it. Do plan a trip here when you come to India.

      Reply
  23. Ah so that’s why trekking is not the same as walking– ’cause it’s a big harder to get to the beach. I think I’d like Gokarna because more locals go there. I like to people watch locals hehe.

    Reply
  24. Hi ami,my son aged 20 is visiting gokarna with his friends. Would appreciate if you can let me know what safety measure they shud take……what NOT to do. Thanx

    Reply
    • I understand your concern Nidhi. I would say that they should not go overboard with whatever they do. As long as they follow the regular safety standards, I don’t see a reason to worry. Yes, the beaches here are rocky and hence, would urge people to be careful if they choose to swim here. There are no markers of depth here, so exercise caution. Ideally, stick to the public beaches like OM beach or Kudle beach or Gokarna beach for any kind of swim activity. Trust that would help.
      Cheers

      Reply
  25. Hey, can you please tell me when is the best time to do water sports in gokarna are there any? do they have sorkeling? I wanna visit gokarna, me and my friends are planning to go, but we also wanna dp the water sports. So can you please tell me when to??

    Reply
    • Thanks Vinod for stopping by. I think this post covers a lot of my suggestions. Do let me know if there is something else that I can help you with.

      Reply
  26. HI Ami, i am visting Gokarna on june 24th cpuld u please helpout with the stay (Stay near by to beach).vinayprasad1100@gmail.com

    Reply
  27. Hi, i am shivani i want to visit gokarna badly but this time i am travelling alone. So i wanted to know is it safe? Hotels and everything keeping my safety purpose in mind. Please mail me at : shivanih20@gmail.com

    Reply
    • There are plenty of solo backpackers in Gokarna. As like any other place, ensure that you have your cautions in place.

      Reply
  28. One of the best blogs I have ever seen. Thank you for this blog admin. It’s been honor to learn blogging skills from this blog.
    I have personally visited gokarna, it is most beautiful and untouched.

    Reply
  29. I’ve never heard of Gokarna in India before, but it definitely looks really nice from your photos! Also doing yoga by the beach seems exactly like the kind of thing I’d love to do. Saving this now for my future trip to India!

    Reply
  30. Wow..what a great article. I am awaiting to read some more articles from you. I never went out of Bangalore but this article made me to imagine how beautiful Gokarna will be.

    Reply
  31. Hi Ami, till now, I did not hear about this place. Thanks for your information. I think it would be an awesome place to visit. Kudle beach is looking nice. In my next travel plane, I will include Gokarna!!!

    Reply
  32. Hi, we are a group of 12 people, we are coming first time to Gokarna, can u please help me for weather right now, we are backpackers, we are getting tents, please help me for this thing

    Reply
  33. love to visit Gokarna if i will get any chance in Future. This article excited me to visit Gokarna as soon as possible. Thnaks to thrilling travel. keep up the good one

    Reply
    • Hi Aditya, please refer to my post above for the links on my recommended stays
      You may contact them directly for your travel. Have a good time

      Reply
  34. lovely post…im going on a solo trip to gokarna.would really like to know how safe is it for girls ??n dos n donts regarding the same…is the water sports n adventurous activities nice thr?

    Reply
    • Thank you Medha. It is pretty safe and the water sports are fun. Just don’t venture out late in the night – as I caution that to everyone these days. Cheers

      Reply
  35. very good post Ami….i am planning a solo backpacking trip to gokarna this month end.. i am from kerala… will there be adequate accomodation available near the places mentioned here at shoe string budget. if yes can you give suggest places….

    Reply
    • Thank you Earnest. Given you are looking at the month end, not sure if you will find availability. Gokarna is popular during New Years. Also, the places that I can recommend are already on the post. Trust that should help

      Reply
  36. Gokarna does look like the kind of place to relax, stare at the sea and count the stars. The little town is cute charming and the beaches look great too. Where did you stay?

    Reply
  37. Hi Ami,
    The experience which you shared is very pleasing. I just planning to visit their in the next month for 3 days. So can you please help me with Stay, things to carry, total Budget of money for the trip and etc….., to my mail.
    Thanks in Advance.
    Mail:- ramanachandaka143@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Good to know Ramana that you are headed here. As far as the suggestions you have requested, most of it is pretty much what I advised on the post. On things to carry – don’t forget your sunscreen for sure. The rest of course, would be your own personal list. Total Budget would depend again on you and your itinerary. Hope that helps. Have a great time in Gokarna.

      Reply
  38. Hi Ami! First of all thanks for the amazing article. It really helped and has made me even more excited to visit the place. I am a college student basically looking for a peaceful getaway with my friends. Just wanted to ask if Goakarna would be the perfect spot for chilling with a drink in one hand and a joint in another?

    Reply
    • Not sure of that for I don’t indulge in either, especially the latter. Gokarna has vibe that I would not like to spoil and hence, would not encourage the joint for sure. It is best enjoyed the way it is.

      Reply
  39. Ami, I have never been to Gokarna but I am simply impressed with their beaches. I especially like the Half Moon beach because it is so isolated and remote and I am guessing that’s the case because of the tough trek to it. I would love to trek through the rough paths, through those hills to get to these amazing beaches! Trying the variety of cuisines, getting a relaxing massage or visiting one of those temples with such a majestic setting, are some of the things I’d love to spend time doing. Thanks for this extensive guide!

    Reply
    • Thanks Medha. Gokarna is a very different kind of place with unique beaches. It has some of Goa’s vibes but is a lot of Kerala as well. You will love it.

      Reply
  40. Hi Ami,
    You are doing great service by sharing your experiences, much of which fill in the pits and black holes in planning visits to places less known.
    I am escorting two old ladies (my mom and my MIL) almost 80 yrs of age, tricky with keeping balance and cant push them with more than a 100 ft climb for a day. It is a challenge to work out stay, meals and visits to “temples” only, as is the case with many at this age.
    I am looking at 10 Jun 2018 check-in by evening/late evening and check out on 13th Jun 2018. I will stick with Airbnb as I have many credits to make my stay good.
    There is however some doubts still out there in the planning. I will be happy to hear from you your mind on the following:
    1. Whether to stay at Gokarna or some distance away from Gokarna?
    2. Would this time of the year be safe for elder citizens to visit especially when there are heavy rains forecasted?
    3. How much time would you recommend for covering as many temples and places of interest at and around Gokarna?
    Look forward to your opinion please?
    Regards

    Reply
    • It does get quite wet there and yes, it is a mountainous area. Hence, there are risks. In terms of the stay, at least 2 – 3 days for so. And Staying in Gokarna is preferable if temples are your objective

      Reply
  41. Hi Amit,

    its very good to see, that you are helping others to visit good palaces.
    i am planning to visit Murudeshwar & Gokarna on 09th 10th & 11th July 2018,
    can you plz help me is it good time to visit or not.

    Reply
  42. Thanks for sharing. I’m solo woman traveller and planning to visit here. Can u please recommend places to stay. And do I need to rent a bike to see around. How many days can be spent here?

    Reply
    • YOu do not really need a bike here as the distances are short. Gokarna can be good for 2 days or even a week. It is just idyllic. 🙂

      Reply

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