The Best Places to Visit in Gokarna: India’s beach paradise

This post is a travel guide about the best places to visit in Gokarna. Gokarna is one of India’s most upcoming destinations that is getting more popular every year. It is not hard to understand why with its laid back atmosphere, palm fringed sandy beaches and unspoiled nature. 

Gokarna might be a sleepy little temple town in Karnataka, but is well worth a visit. In my opinion, Gokarna has some of the best beaches in India. Forget about Goa. If you want a quiet paradise to recover from India’s intense chaos come to Gokarna instead.

Despite the increase in tourism, Gokarna has kept its peaceful and quiet atmosphere. Even though the main places to visit in Gokarna are its beaches, there are other things to do as well. With important temples, hiking trails and some excellent yoga and meditation resorts, Gokarna has something for everyone.

three Hindu boys in Gokarna town
Gokarna is not only a beach town, but also a Hindu pilgrimage center

The best places to visit in Gokarna

After I finished a health seminar for my studies in Manipal I was looking for a nice place to relax nearby. Someone recommended Gokarna.

Gokarna has no less than 6 picture perfect beaches. Some are so remote that they can only be accessed by boat or on foot. Others are close to the city and crowded with religious pilgrims. Obviously most people come to Gokarna to enjoy the sea, but if you are more adventurous or looking for spirituality, Gokarna has a lot to offer as well.

Gokarna is surrounded by lush green hills and forests, offering visitors a chance to explore and appreciate the natural beauty of the region. It offers various adventure activities such as surfing, trekking, and yoga, making it an ideal destination for adventure enthusiasts.

So what are the best places to visit 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. However, I am also an active person. Again, Gokarna with its hiking opportunities and spiritual temples did not dissapoint.

Gokarna’s temples

Gokarna is a small town, but of great significance for Hindus. It is an important pilgrimage center and the temples in town attract hundreds of devotees from all over India.

Hindus believe that Gokarna is the place where Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow, thus the name “Gokarna” (cow’s ear). It is also said to be the location of the original Atmalinga, one of the twelve sacred lingas of Lord Shiva.

Most pilgrims first go to the Maha Ganpati temple dedicated to Ganesh. Then they move on to the Mahabaleshwara temple dedicated to Shiva with a 1500 year old statue of lord Shiva. Other temples are the Bhadrakali temple and the Mahalassa temple.

Gokarna main beach

The main beach is the most important place to visit in Gokarna. Not because of its beauty, but because all pilgrims visiting the Maha Ganpati and Mahabeleshwar temple have to take a dip in the ocean before praying at the temple.

The temple ceremonies going on at the main beach are interesting to watch. However, it can be a bit crowded and unfortunately there is a lot of garbage. This makes the main beach not one of the most idyllic places to visit in Gokarna.

Logistics: the beach is right behind the Mahabeleshwar temple and a short hike from Gokarna town

Gokarna main beach is among the best places to visit in Gokarna
Gokarna main beach

Kudlee beach

Kudlee beach has the right mix of a scenic long stretch of sand that is far enough from everything to feel remote, but easy to acces and with a decent choice of restaurants and guesthouses. Although not the most picturesque beach, it is the best place to use as a base. Everything you need is nearby and during the day you can explore the other places to visit in Gokarna.

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, but is within walking distance of Om beach.

Kudlee beach in Gokarna is among the best places to visit in Gokarna
Kudlee beach

Om beach

Om beach was one of my favourite places to visit in Gokarna. 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 during the day, but it’s easy to escape the crowds as the beach is long enough to walk to some quiet corners at the end.

That makes this the best beach in Gokarna for those that love a beautiful palm fringed beach with enough facilities around. There are a few guesthouses and restaurants, but not as much as on Kudlee beach. This means that in the early mornings and late afternoons it is very quiet and serene.

Logistics: It is a 6 kilometer drive from town over winding roads with splendid views over the ocean. Alternatively, its a short hike from the southern entrance to Kudlee beach over the rocky cliff.

Om beach is one of the best places to visit in Gokarna
Om beach

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.

This is now the most quiet beach near Gokarna. There are only a few basic beach huts and restaurants. They only open in the tourist season that runs from november till february.

Half moon beach in Gokarna is among the best places to visit in Gokarna
Kingfisher at the beach in Gokarna

Paradise beach

In my opinion this is the best place to visit in Gokarna for those that love solitude, because you will have the beach all to yourself. The only people that come here are those that have finished the Gokarna beach trail or those that come by boat.

There is absolutely nothing but sand and palm trees. It’s not for nothing that this beach is called paradise beach. There are no facilities so bring along everything you need.

Sustainable note: This beach is getting more and more popular and people now use it to camp here during the night. Unfortunately, they leave a lot of trash as well. Be a responsible traveller and don’t add your own trash. An even better idea is to help the environment with a clean up once you are there.

Belekan beach

Belekan beach is the least visited beach of all, because it is the furthest from Gokarna. Most people use this to start the Gokarna beach trek in the early morning when it is just you and some fishermen. This beach is once again connected by road so you can ask a taxi to drop you there and walk back to Gokarna’s main beach.

Gokarna’s market

Gokarna town has a small market with fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also a great place to buy souvenirs and has some nice local places to eat.

Market in Gokarna
Market in Gokarna

Things to do in Gokarna

Gokarna beach trek

If you love hiking you should consider the Gokarna beach trek. Also known as the Golden Trail. It is a moderate 8 kilometer path connecting Gokarna’s beaches with each other. From Gokarna’s main beach all the way to Paradise or Belekantan beach.

Most of the trek is along the shore of the Arabian sea with beautiful views on the ocean. There are also rocky and hilly stretches that requires a bit of climbing, but nothing too difficult.

Wear some sturdy sandals that can get wet, bring enough water and enjoy. Don’t forget sunscreen and a sunhat as well, because it can get warm and there is not a lot of shadow.

crabs on the beach in Gokarna
Gokarna beach

Spot dolphins

In Gokarna it is possible to go dolphin watching. Boat men are ready to take you out to the sea to spot dolphins in the early morning. You can arrange a boat on Gokarna’s main beach, Kudlee beach or Om beach. Your best chances to see dolphins are near Paradise beach.


Gokarna is also a great place to practise or learn more about yoga with a number of yoga retreats and yoga schools. At Kudlee beach you have the Namaste Yoga farm that is a good option for comfortable short and long term stays in Gokarna. The Shankar Prasad foundation offers free chanting sessions every morning and also basic accomodation in its spiritual center. For more proffesional courses you can take a look at the Shanti yoga school and the Shiva Darshan yoga school.

Gokarna Travel Tips

The best places to sleep in Gokarna

I think the best place to visit in Gokarna for accomodation options is Kudlee beach. It is tranquil, but still easy to reach and with enough facilities. It is also within walking distance from Om beach where you can take boats to the more remote places to visit in Gokarna.

Zostel hostel: A good budget option is 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.

Namaste Yoga Farm: The Namaste yoga farm is a good place if you like yoga. It’s scenic location in a lush green garden at Kudlee beach make it well worth the price. You can even sleep in a tree house here. Especially if you like yoga, you will love this place.

Uma garden: 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.

Uma Garden at Kudlee beach is one of the best places to sleep in Gokarna
Uma garden

The best places to eat in Gokarna

Unfortunately the culinary scene in Gokarna isn’t as good and varied as in Goa or Varkala. The restaurants can be a bit hit and miss, depending on the owners mood that day.

When I was there, the season was already at its end 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, making this beach the best place to visit in Gokarna for restaurant options. The Zostel hostel cafe also served great food.

The 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.

In the off season most hotels and restaurants close down. Kudlee beach is the best beach in Gokarna if you visit during that time as there are some facilities that are open year round.

Safety in Gokarna

Gokarna is in general a safe place to visit and common precautions apply. For example, although petty theft is rare, it can happen and it is better not to leave your valuables unattended at the beach.

However, the biggest danger in Gokarna is getting a sunburn or getting bitten by mosquitoes. Bring enough sunscreen and insect repellent. The locally available odomos works perfect against mosquitoes.

Also remember that Gokarna is a temple town where a lot of religious pilgrims come. It’s appreciated if you are respectful of local traditions and culture. Wear modest clothing, especially at the main beach and temple areas.

With tourism increasing there is a developing drug trade in Gokarna. Being under influence does not only increase your chances of becoming the victim of a robbery it is also frowned upon by the local community.

solo female travel in Gokarna

For solo female travelers it is even more important to respect the local culture in Gokarna. It is better to wear a bathing suit rather than a bikini and when going into town it is best to dress modestly.

You might encounter some unwanted attention from men on the beach. Try to avoid walking alone at night and when you feel a man is following you, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

With this advice in mind there is no reason not to visit Gokarna as a solo female traveler.

Language in Gokarna

Gokarna is in Karnataka and the main language is Kannada written in it’s own alphabet. Kannada is a dravidian language related to Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam and very different from Hindi.

You can get by with english, especially if you stay in the more upmarket hotels or resorts. Elsewhere, the level of english is basic.

Money matters in Gokarna

There are a limited numbers of ATM’s in Gokarna town, but they sometimes run out of money. Make sure you bring enough cash with you when you visit Gokarna.

Om beach is one of the best places to visit in Gokarna
Om beach

How to travel within Gokarna

To travel to all the places to visit in Gokarna you have three options to choose from.

On foot: The first way to travel within Gokarna is on foot. I already mentioned the Gokarna beach trail with spectacular views. Furthermore, half moon beach and paradise beach are only accesible on foot or by boat.

By boat: Another way to travel within Gokarna is by boat. This is the easiest way to travel between the different beaches in Gokarna.

By tuk tuk: To walk from Gokarna town to Kudlee beach or Om beach is a 15 to 20 minute walk on the road without any shade. Tuk tuks are a good way to travel from Gokarna town to Kudlee beach and Om beach if you want to skip the walk.

Tuk tuks are also the best way to travel between the train station (10 kilometer out of town) and the centre of Gokarna. A tuk tuk should not cost more than 200 rupees.

How to get to Gokarna

Gokarna is the main beach destination in Karnataka state. It is relatively east to visit from either Goa, Bangalore and Mysore

By Train: Trains at the Konkan railway stop at or near Gokarna train station making the train a convenient way to travel to Gokarna. Most trains stop at Ankola station though. Ankola is about 20 kilometers from Gokarna. From there you can either take a bus to Gokarna town or a taxi straight to your accomodation.

You can check time tables and book your tickets online directly through the Indian railways (IRCTC). Unfortunately this is not always a straightforward process. For a small extra fee you can use 12goAsia or Makemytrip

From Bangalore to Gokarna: the daily Karwar express takes between 16 and 17 hours and is the cheapest way to travel from Bangalore to Gokarna

From Goa to Gokarna: the Matsyaganda express and Maru sagar express take less than 2 hours from Goa to Gokarna. The Matsyaganda express stops at the Gokarna train station rather than the Ankola train station.

By bus: There are frequent bus connections with Goa (4-5 hours), Mangalore (5-6 hours), Bangalore (10-11 hours) and Mysore (11-12 hours).

You can check redbus for comfortable night buses from Gokarna to Bangalore, Mysore or Hampi.

Sustainable Travel to Gokarna

Gokarna is not yet as touristic as Goa, but is getting more popular every year. Traveling sustainably to Gokarna is essential to minimize your environmental impact.

Support the local community: You can support the community by purchasing goods and services from local vendors. It is better to try South Indian Cuisine that uses local ingredients rather than imported foreign foods. South Indian food is vegetarian friendly and it is very easy to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Stay in small scale sustainable hotels: It is also better to stay in locally-owned guesthouses or homestays to support the local economy directly. These accommodations often have a more positive impact on the environment compared to large hotels.

You can try to look for guesthouses or homestays that prioritizes sustainable practices. That said, environmental awareness is still low. It’s up to you to use water sparsely, turn off lights and air conditioning when leaving your accommodation.

Sustainable Tours: If you want to go on a dolphin tour, do some homework to make sure you go with a responsible company. Check the reviews online to see if they follow guidelines that take the animals welfare into account.

Use public transportation: Karnataka has a well-developed public transportation system with trains and buses. It is easy to reach Gokarna by train or bus. Opt for public transport, whenever possible, instead of taxis or private cars to reduce carbon emissions.

Leave no trace principle: I encourage you to take all your trash back with you from the beach and dispose of it responsibly. In other words, leave no trace of your visit. Even better is when you bring something to pick up any of the trash that other people left behind.

To avoid single-use plastics, invest in reusable items. For example, you can bring your own water bottle with a filter. At last, use biodegradable and eco-friendly personal care products to minimize pollution of water sources.

Respect the culture: Besides environmental concerns, it is also important to be sensitive of the community’s way of life. Although Gokarna is used to tourists, it is still a conservative town that also attracts religious pilgrims.

People will appreciate it, if you dress modestly. Learning a few basic phrases in Kannada, can go a long way in building meaningful connections and to learn more about the local culture. Not everybody is happy to have their picture taken. When in doubt, ask permission.

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