Gokarna beaches – These are chilled out places to relax and spend some quality time with your loved ones. It is a famous coastal town of Karnataka along with a great weekend spot for Bangaloreans as well as other Urban crowds.
USP – crystal clean beaches, comparatively lesser crowd than Goa, blend of Indian & International Culture, beach shacks party, Yoga @ the beach, Ayurvedic Spa & Massage.
Gokarna offers a beautiful fusion experience of seaside destinations along with an escape into the hills. Thus the tourists can satisfy their craving for adventure by indulging in Beach Trek which is exploring the 5 beaches (Om, Kudle, Half Moon, Paradise, and Belekan) which are separated by cliffs and hillocks with narrow routes.
HOW TO REACH?
The nearest airport and the most accessible airport is Goa Airport which is around 150 kms away from Gokarna.
Other accessible airports will be Bengaluru International Airport (502 kms away), Hubli Airport (170 kms away) and Mangalore airport (250 kms away)
Gokarna Road (GOK) is the railway station that is connected with the majority of Metro cities in India.
Also one can opt for a train halting at Ankola or Kumta railway station as they are close to Gokarna town.
Karnataka State Buses (KSRTC) connect Gokarna with major cities like Bengaluru, Kumta, Karwar, Murdeshwar, Hubli, Mangalore, Panjim (Goa) etc.
Also one can self-drive from these cities and it is better to use your own vehicle as Auto rickshaw and local transport in Gokarna are expensive.
FAMOUS PLACES TO VISIT IN & NEAR GOKARNA
This beach is naturally shaped like Hindu auspicious symbol – “Om”
Famous for its hippie shacks, breathtaking views as well as watersports, this beach is on every tourist’s must-visit list.
The beach is well maintained and its totally safe to enter into the water. Lifeguards are usually present.
The rocks here creates a different atmosphere with a pleasant view. The place is well known for beach yoga.
It lies between the Gokarna main beach and Om beach. Kudle beach offers a quiet and serene impression as it is not as crowded as the other beaches of Gokarna, thus preferred by the locals.
Cafes and small huts (we can also rent it) that serve local delicacies are present at this beach.
Difficult to reach here as one has to do the scenic trek or shell out money for the boat. Thus the things available in the limited beach shacks are quite expensive. So better to carry plenty of water and food.
Its name does total justice due to its charm of black rock structure, coconut trees, as well as unadulterated waves. Known for New Year or Weekend parties, and camping here can be costly.
Vibhoothi Waterfalls & Yana caves
This mesmerizing waterfalls is around 70 ft in height and surrounded by lush greenery. From parking lot there is a 1.5 km trek to reach this thrilling place to have fun and the water is super clean & clear.
Best time to visit is monsoon (between July – Sept). The visit to this waterfall is incomplete without Yana Caves which are formed out of verticle black limestones and surrounded by thick green forest. Thus it seems like a beautiful artwork of nature which can be reachable through a trek.
Both these places are 90 minutes drive away from Gokarna (45 kms).
This is the main beach which is closer to the Mahabaleshwara temple. After visiting the temple, this beach can be the perfect place for peaceful meditation or just sitting and enjoying the breathtaking views.
On weekends or on certain occasions, this beach can be crowded. If you have a single day to cover Gokarna then this beach is the most accessible to witness an amazing sunset.
Watersports is not available but they have clean changing rooms with showers.
Half Moon Beach
Top on the list of foreigners as it is away from the hustle-bustle of the town, comparatively smaller and best for camping.
The name of the beach is derived from its shape. It is separated by a cliff from Om beach and offers amazing views of the Arabian sea. We can reach here by boat as well.
It was built in the 4th Century dedicated to Lord Shiva. Beautiful Dravidian architecture including famous ‘Atma Linga’ (Mythologically believed to be brought in Gokarna by Ravana of Ramayana Epic and Linga was placed by Lord Ganesha). It has cow ear shaped Shivalinga.
Timings: 6 am to 12 pm & 5 pm to 8 pm
Dress Code: for men – Only dhoti allowed and for women – salwar suit or saree. Jeans, skirts, trousers, shorts, caps, etc are not allowed.
Murudeshwar Shiva Temple
Murudeshwar is known for its world’s 2nd tallest Shiva statue (Height – 123 ft) which is visible from a distance. This temple is fenced by arabian sea on three sides as well as there is a beautiful beach alongside.
The Murdeshwar Temple has a huge ‘Gopuram'(monumental tower) and we can visit the topmost 19th floor for a panroamic view of the statue and the arabian sea. One can also explore nearby Murdeshwar Fort and Netrani Island (famous for Scuba diving).
Timings: 6 am to 1 pm & 3 pm to 8 pm
From Gokarna it is 80 kms away and takes approx 1 hour 45 mins by road.
SOME HIDDEN TREASURES
We can climb this hidden spot which provides unique & awesome experience. It is located between Kudle and Gokarna beach.
A cliff divided by small water stream. Climbing seemed like Prince of Persia game where one hand is on the wall and legs take support of the opposite wall. An adventurous trek down the cliff can lead you to rocky shore area. Suggested time to visit – early morning or evening.
There is another unexplored marvel nearby known as “Gogarba” (Shiva Caves) which is situated at the nearby hillside. You must carry a torch and better if you go with a local.
There are also lots of bats inside so be careful of it. It has a Shivlinga inside which is beleived to be built in 195 BC.
We can start the trek from this beach which is a perfect sunrise & sunset spot. By road it takes 10 kms or 30 mins from Mahabaleshwar temple to reach this beach. Most of the travellers end their trek on Paradise beach and miss out on Belekan.
The special thing about this place is the Dolphin sights which can be captured by a boat ride (cost approx – Rs. 250 per person).
Phytoplankton Expereince @ Nirvana Beach
For people craving for a natural phenomenon and are unable to catch the Northern lights (Scandinavia) can find solace in waves emitting blue light at Nirvana beach in Gokarna!
Its totally surreal when at midnight the gushing waves seems like Blue electric effect which is caused by Phytoplankton (microscopic organisms.)
A destination is incomplete without its local culture & food which showcases unique elements that woo a tourist. In Gokarna, we can see fusion of many cuisines since a lot of International travelers visit annually.
Being a coastal Karnataka town, fish & rice are core to its cuisine. Gokarna’s hippie outlook is one of the major reasons for a thriving cafe culture with international menu.
The most well known cafe is Namaste Cafe:- Om beach facing restaurant with stunning views & ambience. If you eat Non-Veg then Seafood is a must, especially King Fish fry, Crab Fry, Prawns Pizza & Chilli Prawns. They also serve Continental, Indian and there are ample of options for Veg eaters as well. For Sweet tooth craving we recommend having Ice Nutella Shake.There are also some bad reviews in recent times – expensive, shabby service, over-hyped etc. So recommended for atleast one meal which can cost around Rs. 500 per person.
Other known cafes are Ganga Cafe (Kudle beach), Mantra Cafe (Inside Zostel premises), Little Paradise Inn (Kudle beach), Sunset Cafe (near Gokarna Beach), Chez Christrophe (with Hippie vibe and Musical instruments, its situated near Gokarna Beach), Nirvana Cafe (Situated near Om Beach – definately try their Nutella Pancake, Fruit Paratha & Chinese Starters) and many more near the beaches. The meal cost can vary between Rs. 300 to Rs. 1000 per person as these cafes are comparatively expensive than normal eateries.
For local lip-smacking Karwari cuisine we suggest Honni Mane Home fish food which is situated between Mahabaleshwar temple and Gokarna beach. Simple yet authentic taste with affordable pricing. There are also Gokarneshwar Mess (10 mins walk from Gokarna Main Bus Stand) and Vinay Mess (near Gokarna Main Bus Stand) both serving tasty fish, prawns, and even veg thalis. The cost is between Rs. 80 to Rs. 150 per person per meal.
White Elephant Restaurant & Bar – Near Kudle beach, this eatery is known for their Vegetarian dishes and Pizzas. Also, they serve Vegan dishes.
WHERE TO STAY?
Our basic necessities are Roti-Kapda-Makaan, since you have already gulped the above section – Roti (food) is sorted. Kapda (clothes) you will anyway carry so lets look at some interesting Makaan (Accommodation) options. From basic facilities like Camp stay or Hostel stay to the most premium facilities in a luxury/boutique hotels, all kind of experiences are available for your perusal.
Camping – Majorly people pitch their own tents in Paradise beach, even there are locals/adventure tour companies who provide campsite in Paradise or Belekan beach. The cost can range between Rs. 500 to Rs. 1500 per person per night depending on the inclusions (eg. breakfast/dinner/snacks/transportation/bonfire). It is recommend to atleast stay for a night in Paradise beach for an unique experience. On Om beach, Kudle beach and Gokarna beach, camping is not allowed. For Half Moon beach – since the tides are high and the space is small that its risky to pitch a tent.
Hostels – Backpacker’s favorite option which is pocket friendly as well as they get an opportunity to meet fellow travelers with similar mindset. A place of bonding, chill, party, games, day trips, and a lot more. There are bunk beds in AC/Non AC room or dormitory shared by 6-8 people. Even there are female dorms to promote safe solo travelling. The cost can be between Rs. 300 to Rs. 800 per person per night. We suggest Zostel as they are well known for their service & vibe, we have personally stayed there. They also have private shacks & in house cafe. The other famous ones are La Vie Gokarna & Trippr Hostels.
Home stays – For an authentic local escapade, there are few home stays options near Om beach, Kudle beach, Belekan beach, in the heart of the town as well as nearby villages. Some famous homestays are Mandala village , Vedic village, Hanchina Mane and Namasthe Sanjeevani home stay. The price can vary between Rs.1000 to Rs. 3000 per room per night. Some facilities might include lunch, dinner, local touring etc. You can book these from Airbnb, booking.com, or else directly contacting through google info.
Economical / 3 Star Hotels – With budget issues, this option can be savior for families or groups as it provides basic amenities along with better location for saving time & efforts on a vacation. Most of them have breakfast included in the room tariff which ranges between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000 per room per night. The famous ones are Kudle Beach View Resort & Spa, Arthigamya Resort, and Om Beach Resort.
Luxury/Boutique Hotels – There are very few options in or nearby Gokarna beaches. The famous ones are Stone Wood Nature Resort (4.5 kms from Gokarna Beach) and Kahani Paradise House (Near Belekan Beach). The room tariff can be between Rs. 10,000 to 25,000 per room per night.
We suggest booking well in advance if you are planning to visit Gokarna beaches during Diwali/Christmas/New Year’s Eve etc. Even on weekends, the cost and room availability could be a concern.
THE LOCAL CONNECT & SOME INTERESTING FACTS
For our readers, we have a special segment wherein insights will be shared by a Gokarna native or expert. So below are the excerpts from our separate discussions with Mr. Nagaraj Ambig (Conducts Watersports at Kudle beach) and Mr. Manidhar (Trip Organizer).
The name of Gokarna is derived from Gow – Cow & Karna – Ears due to its Geographical resemblance.
Its gaining significance for Beach Yoga Retreats & wellness tourism. There are many Yoga schools and teachers conducting classes on the beaches (mainly Om and Kudle) or in their ashram/school. There are also Ayurvedic detox centres in which various massages & therapies are conducted.
About the Locals:
- Fishing, crop growing, salt production – main occupation of residents.
- Since it’s a famous religious site – there are many people in maintaining the temples, performing pujas, etc and these traditions are continuing since centuries.
- Both domestic and international visitors increased drastically after 2010 as social media, internet made it popular among young backpackers.
- Hence the locals are transforming their occupation into hospitality related work like restaurants, hotels, selling souvenirs and a lot more.
- The Hippie culture (weed/marijuana & other drugs) was introduced by Russians and later Israelis also helped growing it. Now for 2-3 years there are Kenyans also joining the bandwagon to spread this menace in Gokarna.
- For a few years, the locals are pressurizing the administration to ban late-night Gokarna beach parties, camping, some shacks etc as drugs are generally distributed/sold from these places. Also, the locals think that such western culture should not be allowed at a religious place and it can badly influence the local youth of Gokarna.
- The Karnataka state government thus have taken some measures to make Gokarna comparatively safer than Goa.
About the Climate:
- During heavy monsoon, there are chances of many of Gokarna beaches getting submerged into water and thus beach shacks or any commercial activity is closed during monsoon months: July – September. Hence it is an offseason, although the treks, forest trails as well as waterfall adventures make the visit worthwhile.
- The best time to explore Gokarna beaches are from November to February as the weather is comparatively cooler which allows tourists to stay outdoors for maximum time. Also, during this time, the beaches are filled with tourists and shacks. There are many families who visit Gokarna during weekends for religious & leisure purpose.
- From March to June – Shoulder season. Climate is hot & humid. Mainly families visit during this time for summer vacations.
- Most of the shacks disappear after heavy rainfall and unpredictable tides. If you visit again, you might not see the same beach shack at that particular location. In Goa, the beach shacks are more sustainable than Gokarna.
- It is recommended to take rental bikes (required to submit license and identity proof) rather than taking Autos as the minimum charge is Rs. 100 if you want to travel within this town from Point A to Point B.
- If you want rental cars which might be available in Hubli / Panaji / Kumta and from there you need to drive down to Gokarna beaches.
- For those who don’t want to trek then you can reach Half Moon beach or Paradise beach by boating from Kudle beach and Om beach. The cost is around Rs. 250 per person.
- Our Expert’s favorite restaurant is Open House Fishland Restaurant (Om Beach) known for its affordable yet delicious Thalis & Seafood. Also he craves for Masala Puri & Bhel Puri available on Om beach.
Water Sports at Om beach
Murudeshwar Temple Gopura
Photo Credits – Abhinay Tuniki, Kedar Ubhaykar, Khyati Vira & Abhigna