Forget about Goa. If you want a quiet beach paradise to recover for a few days from India’s intense chaos come to Gokarna in Karnataka.
I just had two incredible busy weeks at the global health symposium in Manipal and was about to start another busy research internship in Bangalore. All I needed was a few days to relax somewhere quiet and beautiful. The palm fringed beaches in laid back Gokarna offered just that. My beach hut with a hammock overlooking the ocean was exactly what I wanted.
Before I went I knew not much about Gokarna and the differences between the places around. Gokarna has several beaches, some so remote that they can only be accessed by boat or hiking over the rocky cliffs. Others are close to the city and crowded with religious pilgrims.
The best beach in Gokarna
So what is the best beach in Gokarna? Of course this all depends on what you are looking for. For me, it was a peaceful and quiet place, and Gokarna delivers without doubt. None of the beaches have any partyscene to speak of, but some have more facilities than others
Gokarna main beach
This is the most important beach for the sleepy temple town of Gokarna. Not because of its beauty, but because all pilgrims visiting the mahabeleshwar temple have to take a dip in the ocean here.
Along with the pilgrims and temple ceremonies, that are interesting to watch, also comes the problem of litter. This makes Gokarna main beach not one of the most idyllic spots.
Logistics: the beach is right behind the mahabeleshwar temple and a short hike from Gokarna town
Kudlee beach was my favourite for the right mix of a scenic long stretch of sand that is far enough from everything to feel remote, but easy to acces and a decent choice of restaurants and guesthouses.
Logistics: the beach has a north and south entrance. The north entrance is a 30 minute walk from Gokarna town. The south entrance to the beach is a long tuk tuk drive over winding roads.
This is the most popular beach in Gokarna because of its om shaped appearance. Climbing one of the hills or rocky outcrops will clearly show you the om symbol that this beach is famous for. You will not be the only person around though and it can get pretty crowded here during the day.
Logistics: It is a 6 kilometer drive from town over winding roads with splendid views over the ocean. Alternatively, its a short hike from Kudlee beach over the rocky cliff.
Half moon beach
The further south you go, the more secluded the beaches get. Half moon beach is no longer connected by road, but requires a scenic hike or a short boat ride from om beach. There are basic beach huts and restaurants in the tourist season from november till february.
Paradise beach is the most remote and isolated beach near Gokarna. The only way to get there is by boat or hiking over boulders. There are no facilities at the beach so bring along everything you need.
Gokarna beach trekking trail
If like me you love hiking you should consider the Gokarna beach trek. Also known as the Golden Trail. It is a moderate 8 kilometer trek along Gokarna’s beaches from Kudlee beach all the way to Paradise beach.
Most of the trek is along the shore of the Arabian sea, but there are also rocky and hilly stretches. Wear some sturdy sandals that can get wet and enjoy the views over the ocean.
Where to sleep in Gokarna
I think the best beach to stay is Kudlee beach. It is tranquil enough, but still easy to reach with enough facilities. It is also within walking distance from Om beach where you can take boats to the more remote beaches.
I stayed in Uma garden tucked away in a quiet corner of Kudlee beach with huts overlooking the ocean. The huts are basic, but it is one of the cheapest options around and the location is great.
There is also the Zostel hostel near Gokarna town on the cliff overlooking Gokarna’s main beach and in walking distance from Kudlee beach. Zostel is a popular option and it’s best to make a reservation, especially during the weekends.
Where to eat in Gokarna
Unfortunately the culinary scene in Gokarna isn’t as good and varied as in Goa. The restaurants can be a bit hit and miss, depending on the owners mood that day.
When I was there the season was already ending and most restaurants at Kudlee beach had a limited menu with food that was uninspiring.
The best option that consistently offered good food was namaste café at om beach.
How to get to Gokarna
You can check redbus for comfortable night buses from Bangalore or Mysore to Gokarna.
Best time to visit Gokarna
The best time to visit Gokarna is from October till March when the weather is pleasant and dry. In April it starts to get increasingly hot and from June till September monsoon season brings rain and most hotels close down.