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Gokarna, The Best Beach Town In Karnataka

Searching for the ideal hippie beach town? If you’ve been looking for the Goa of the 90s, then you’re going to enjoy Gokarna for everything it has to offer! Clean beaches, blue water, lush greenery, village charms and of course, the beach shack and cafe culture will convince you to never leave the seaside town. So when will you head to Gokarna?

You’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Gokarna in this blog post. This guide contains details on what to see in Gokarna, where to stay on the beach, doing the Gokarna beach trek and which cafes to chill at. We’ve also put together the perfect itinerary for Gokarna.

Gokarna Karnataka Kudle Beach
Our experience of visiting Gokarna

We love coastal Karnataka because of how beautiful and green it is! We’ve made road trips, bus trips, train journeys to this region often looking for the best places to share with you. And thats how we landed in Gokarna on a hot summer day in April.

We spent three days in Gokarna and made our plans to explore the place, impromptu. We spent a day doing the amazing Gokarna Beach Trek, another day exploring the local sights, checking out the cafes and playing on the beach. On the last day we camped under the stars on the beach and enjoyed the outdoors to the fullest!

The thing that makes Gokarna special is not the beaches or the water sports or the temples – of course, they are all a part of what makes Gokarna popular. Its actually the small town vibe that inspires a small sense of freedom and peace, that we’d never really felt in places like Goa or Pondicherry. If you’ve felt that before, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about! And if you don’t, its all the more a reason to experience Gokarna for yourself, as soon as possible!


So come checkout this post and plan your trip to Gokarna! 😍

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Best beaches in Gokarna

Gokarna is a beach town and thats the biggest reason for its upcoming popularity. There are over seven beaches along the western coastline and they all offer unique landscapes and backdrops. For instance, the Middle Beach is the northern most beach in Gokarna and is home to some incredible hostels, home stays and cafes. It is also very close to town and easily accessible. The neighbouring Gokarna Main beach is the most popular among tourists and pilgrims because the Gokarna Mahabaleshwara temple is located a few hundred meters from the coast.

Badami Cave Temples
Attur Saint Lawrence Church Karkala Karnataka
Badami Cave Temples

Further down south, Kudle Beach is very popular with the younger crowds. There are many cafes and shacks, but the beach is popular for beautiful cove and lush greenery. There is a great viewpoint atop the cliffs too!

Om Beach is also southward from there and is Gokarna’s most visited beach for its unique shape. When seen from a viewpoint, or from a bird’s view, the beach resembles the Hindu symbol ‘Om’ in shape. The Half moon and Paradise beaches can only be reached on foot (trek) or by boat from Om Beach (north) or Belekan beach (south-east). 

The water in all these beaches is great for swimming and sometimes, surfing. The shades of blue water at Om Beach, Half Moon Beach and Paradise beach are absolutely stunning! 

Tip: Devote one day to the Gokarna Beach trek and you can visit all of these pristine beaches one after another. 

Badami Cave Temples

Holy temples and history

The Gokarna Mahabaleshwara temple is a very holy temple in India. It features an Atmalinga, a very powerful type of Shiva Linga idol. In fact, it was on account of this very idol, that the name Gokarna came to be.

Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, once prayed very sincerely to God Shiva who endowed him with the atmalinga idol. He also placed a condition that if the atmalinga were to be placed on the ground, it would remain fixed there forever. So Ravana carried it on his body from the Kailash mountains (Himalayas) on his way to Lanka.

The other Gods were worried that Ravana would use that to fight the heavens and decided to recover the atmalinga from him. While Ravana was midway at Gokarna, he decided to stop to refresh and pray. Then, God Ganesha appeared as a cowherd boy to Ravana and offered to hold the Atmalinga while he finished his evening prayers. He also told Ravana, that if the idol proved to be too heavy, he would call out to Ravana three times before placing it down.

As Ravana began his bath and dipped in the sea, Ganesha timed his three calls for three of the dips, and kept his word, before keeping the idol down. When Ravana realised that the idol was placed on the ground, he ran to catch the cowherd boy who escaped. Ravana only managed to catch the ear of one of the cows and that ear remained petrified. And thats how the name “Go” (Cow) – “Karna” (ear) came to be.

Temple rules

The Gokarna Mahabaleshwara Temple houses the Atmalinga and it features a unique design. Men are expected to be bare with a covering waist downwards. Although pants are allowed, you can buy a dhoti or panche (lungi) just outside the temple for INR 50, if you are wearing shorts. Women are expected to enter the sanctum in traditional clothing only.

There is another Ganesha temple behind and well worth a visit. There are many small stores selling clothes, spices,  trinkets and even tattoo/piercing parlours. You can also checkout the hole-in-the-wall cafes there.

Tip: We recommend visiting the temple around 11 am so that you can also visit the Bhojanalaya (free holy meals) at 11:30 for delicious temple food.

The Gokarna Beach Trek

A visit to Gokarna is incomplete without doing the legendary Gokarna Beach Trek. It’s an easy trek which takes about 5 to 6 hours covering a distance of 12 kilometres. The trekking trail passes through six beaches, two of which (Half Moon beach and Paradise beach) can be reached only on foot or boat. There are no roads leading to either of those two beaches.

It is best to start the trek early in the morning, at 6 am from Middle Beach. It is the northernmost beach on this trail and where most Hostels and camps are located. By starting early, you can cover that portion of the trek which is under open sky and avoid the harsh sun. By the time the sun is beaming overhead, you will likely be trekking through the forest route to Paradise Beach.

The Gokarna Beach Trek route:

Middle Beach (start) > Gokarna Main Beach > Kudle Beach > Om Beach > Half Moon Beach > Paradise Beach > Belekan Beach (finish). You can also do this trek in reverse in which case, it might be easier to start the trek in the afternoon to avoid the sun under the forest cover of Paradise Beach to Om Beach.

Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples
A few points to note about the Gokarna Beach Trek:

Middle Beach (start) to Gokarna Main Beach – this is the easiest section of the Gokarna beach trek as the trail is on a flat beach and there is no harsh sunlight when starting early. It takes 20 mins.

Gokarna Main Beach to Kudle Beach – The trail merges with the small alleys and roads of Gokarna town. Since there is no direct path between the two beaches, you’ll have to get off the beach and walk towards the Gokarna Mahabaleshwara temple and turn right at the Maha Ganesha temple. The upward alley will take you to Kudle Hill top, passing Zostel and a few other hotels en-route. Towards the end of the road, a stairway descends into Kudle Beach. You will pass by some small houses, graffiti walls and lush green gardens before reaching Kudle beach. It takes around 40 mins to hike this route.

Kudle Beach to Om Beach – This part of the trek has some climbing to do but the path is well maintained. There are stairs along the incline so you will not find it difficult to walk on. It takes around 40 mins while climbing up with short breaks.

Om Beach to Half Moon Beach – This is where the trek begins to get interesting. The trek route enters the forest behind a cafe at the south end of Om Beach. As you go higher up, you will notice many lookouts or view points from where the Om shape is clearly visible! Take some time to sit at the ledges and enjoy the morning breeze and the view. You may be here after 9 am, so the colour of the water will also appear very beautiful. This section takes about 30 mins to trek as it is a forest route.

Half Moon Beach to Paradise Beach – This was our toughest section of the Gokarna Beach Trek. It was not because the path went through the forest, but because it is less used and not marked very well and we ended up taking longer routes to cover short distances. But if you follow the walking trails on Google Maps you will get there fine – just make sure to download the offline version of the map before hand. It takes between 30 mins to one hour depending on the deviations you take on the path to reach Paradise Beach.

Paradise Beach to Belekan Beach (finish) – The first part of the trek is an upward climb to the top of the Paradise Hill. From there, the path is mostly through a well cleared path along private estates, to reach the road by Belekan Beach. It takes about 30 minutes to cover this part of the trek.

Tip: It is also possible to do the trek over two days by camping at Paradise Beach. It is safe and well maintained. The beach also feels very private with only trekkers passing by and fellow campers staying on site. There are water sports, one cafe and a boat service which can take you to the mainland anytime you need.

Aihole Karnataka temples

The Gokarna Night Trek

The night trek is very popular with younger crowds because of two reasons. One is the chance to witness bio-luminescence in the sea. It is a natural phenomenon where phytoplanktons (tiny, harmless oceanic creatures) produce a blue light when agitated by the crashing waves. Its a sight to behold in the dry winter months when it is very easy to spot them in dark beaches like Half moon beach and Paradise beach. The other reason is that trek also includes a beach bar crawl from 11 pm until 2 am!

Most hostels organise group beach treks which are much safer than going alone. For a charge of INR 400, the tour includes shared transport to and from the last road point before the 2 km trek to Half moon begins. It also includes a guide who will accompany the group and lead through the forest patches safely.

Must do: We highly recommend this guided trek if you are spending more than one night in Gokarna!

Best sunset view points in Gokarna

Gokarna is on the west coast of India. Nearly every beach has amazing sunset views. But it is the Kudle Hill Top which has proved to be the best sunset view point! The spot is thrilling because of the jagged coastline and the sheer drop from the ledge. To get there, you need to walk from Gokarna town towards Kudle Beach. The incline will bring you by Zostel and a few other resorts. There is an open patch of land with a path leading up a hill. Take that to reach the hill top and spend an hour enjoying the sunset!

Other sunset points include the cliffs on the Gokarna Beach trek. These cliffs are located between Om beach and Half moon beach. These cliffs are also perfect for watching sunrise, provided you time your trek well!

Do you like sunset points? This one is only an hour away from Bangalore.

Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples

Chill out at the best Hostel in Gokarna

A hostel or camp stay is the best way of experiencing Gokarna. It brings a very free and youthful feeling to anyone! In fact, the design of the hostel, the laid back atmosphere, the cafes, a couple of happy doggos, the reggae music playing from the reception desk all make the experience exponentially better. And we can hands down say, that we experienced the best of it at Trippr World Gokarna!

The hostel featured a few private cottages (with and without AC), shared dormitories in beach cabins (wow!) and even private tents pitched on the beachfront property. We experienced all the options and enjoyed staying in the tent on our last night the most. It was a little hot to camp out in summer, but the starry sky and sea breeze made up for it at night.

Tip: Book ahead on the Trippr World website to get priority beach front rooms and tents.

Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples

At Trippr World, we ended up befriending many other travellers. Some came from Kerala, some from Bengal, some from Gujarat, some from Rajasthan.. and some even from our own neighbourhood in Bangalore. We got together to do the Beach trek together. With a few others, we headed to the sunset view point at Kudle Hill top. We did cafe crawls and played card games in the hot afternoons. Shishira and I shared travel tales with the curious souls while they told us about their love stories and played the Ukulele. Sometimes, this went late into the nights after dinner, when we just sat on the soft beach sand talking.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and recommend Trippr with heartfelt honesty! Just make sure to book ahead. The tents and dorms start at as little as INR 350 a night and get booked out on most weekends. 

Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples

Best cafes in Gokarna

Gokarna’s cafe cultute is awesome! Its got a great variety of cafes – not just with cuisine but the ambience and vibes vary so much too! We loved cafes with the whole beach and jungle theme. Lush gardens, surf boards, great music, fairy lights and tree house patios… cafe designs are beautifully wild and ambient! 

Menus are perfectly curated too. We dined at Trippr’s inhouse cafe and enjoyed the classic Jeera rice and Dal fry. And the Gobi manchurain was lip-smacking! We also chilled out at Sunset cafe right next door for lunch. They served the most delicious Veggie burger and Lemonade.

But thats not all!

Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples

For dinner, we headed to Freedom Cafe. The ambience there will ferry you to a soulful tropical island experience. Food was good and reasonably priced. We had a veg pizza and a generous portion of spicy peanut masala.

On our return from the Kudle sunset view point, we stopped at Mahalaxmi Restaurant in front of the Gokarna Mahabaleshwara Temple for delicious rice meals, coastal buns, a plate of roti and hummus (it was nice!) and some refreshing lime sodas! In addition, they also served delectable north Indian dishes. Overall, the food was good and five of us dined for two hours and spent only INR 650 for the group! 

We spotted many other cafes while doing the Gokarna beach trek. Popular ones include:

  • The Rock Cafe, Little Paradise Inn and Uma Maheshwari Cafe at Kudle Beach.
  • Namaste Cafe and Ganesh Cafe on Om Beach.
  • Mantra Cafe in Zostel (Kudle hill top)
  • Shiva Moon Cafe and Half Moon Garden at Half Moon Beach.
  • Om Shanti Garden at Paradise Beach.
  • Om Shanti Paradise at Belekan Beach.


Petra Treasury
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples

Other places to visit nearby

Gokarna is surrounded by many incredible places. If you want to see surreal nature, you should do a day trip to Yana caves and Vibhuti Falls. Mirjan fort is worth a visit in early and late monsoon months. Karwar is only an hour away and is a lovely port city. On the south side, you must not miss Honnavar which is truly an untouched paradise.

The famous Jog Falls is only couple of hours away by road. Murudeshwara is also about the same distance southward. You can rent a bike or take a public bus to reach these places. And if you want to cross the state border, the best place you can head out to is Goa!

Check out the best places to visit in Karnataka here

Murudeshwara Temple close to Gokarna
Aihole Karnataka temples
Aihole Karnataka temples

Stay, food, transport, weather and budget

Stay: Gokarna has innumerable hotels, hostels, camping sites, home stays, jungle huts and a few premium resorts. You can check them out here. We stayed at Trippr World Gokarna, a budget Hostel with options for private cottages, shared dorms and private beach tents. Prices start at INR 350 per person, per night. And the vibe is just amazing!

Food: Food was absolutely delicious. Gokarna has a great cafe culture. Dishes are reasonably priced and varieties are available too! We ate local Karnataka dishes, north Indian, South Indian, Mezze and even continental – it was all good.

Budget and costs: Food is reasonably priced in the town. Expect to pay INR 30 for a plate of Idlis, INR 50 for a dosa, INR 30 for lemonade. Pizzas cost INR 200. Expect to pay about INR 100 for north Indian dishes and for full meals. However, there are many small street food stalls in and around the major tourist attractions. Street food is generally safe to consume. In addition, fresh coconut water costs about INR 40. Stay is cheap too. You can find even jungle huts from as little as INR 150 per night but may need to compromise on a few luxuries there. Local transport is under INR 10 for bus and INR 50/km for auto. See more on that below. 

Must eat: “Buns” and veg meals at Mahalaxmi Restaurant near the Gokarna Mahabaleshwara temple!

Transport (local): Most of Gokarna is easily accessible on foot. If you need to explore farther or visit neighbouring towns and cities, you can hire a scooter for INR 400 per day. Bicycles are available in town too. Local buses are very efficient. We took the bus from Gokarna Road railway station to Gokarna town which is a 10 km journey. It cost us INR 12. Autos charge INR 300 for the same journey. If you want to take a ferry between Om beach and Half moon beach or Paradise beach, one seat costs INR 300 (minimum 15 persons).

Weather and best time to visit Gokarna: Gokarna is hot and humid all year round. Although it is a little uncomfortable during the day, the sea breeze makes up for it in the evenings and nights. October to March is the best season to visit Gokarna. The monsoon months are not the best, especially if you want to do beach treks.


How much we spent on our trip to Gokarna: We spent about INR 1,700 (USD 23) per person for three days and two nights including stay, food and drinks, local travel including bus and auto rides where we needed them. We took the train from Bangalore to reach Gokarna for INR 250/person. Of course, some of these expenses could be even lower, but this should give you a general idea of the cost.

How to get to Gokarna

Gokarna has excellent connectivity with most major cities in Karnataka and in South India. Here, we’ve broken it down by mode of transport to Gokarna:

Buses: There are daily overnight buses from Bangalore, Mangalore, Bijapur, Hyderabad and even Mumbai. In addition, KSRTC buses connect Gokarna with nearby cities like Karwar, Honnavar, Kumta, Udupi and even Goa. Even the famous Jog Falls near Sagara is only a few hours away! For instance, the Bangalore to Gokarna AC sleeper costs INR 700 while a non AC sleeper costs INR 600. 

Train: Gokarna Road is the name of the railway station. Trains from Bangalore, Mangalore, Goa and Mumbai stop at this station. Seater trains from Bangalore cost INR 250 while sleeper berths cost INR 450 and take 12 hours to reach Gokarna. If you travelling from Goa, then a train will take under 1.5 hours to reach Gokarna.

Airport/Taxi: The nearest international airport is in Dabolim, Goa. You can either take a bus, or train or even a taxi from the airport into Gokarna. Other nearby airports include the Mangalore airport and Belgaum airport.

Love road tripping? Check this list of weekend getaways from Bangalore

Wearing a Bikini in Gokarna

Gokarna’s beaches are mostly bikini friendly. It is one of the main reasons why Gokarna feels so chilled out and makes you carefree! You can wear a bikini or any swimsuit comfortably on all beaches, except for Gokarna Main Beach since it is a pilgrimage spot and devotees take a holy dip in the sea.

We also recommend carrying a sarong and a cover up in case you are swimming at Half Moon beach or Paradise beach since some trekker groups may not be the friendliest. Above all, the locals are comfortable with swimwear, but its best to avoid it on crowded beaches.

Checkout good quality swimwear here

Petra Treasury

Itinerary for Gokarna

Download our FREE three-day itinerary, complete with working hyperlinks! Its got a simplified day by day plan that you can execute or keep handy for reference on your phone, tablet or even print it out.

This is the perfect itinerary for Gokarna and includes visiting Beaches, doing the Beach Trek, exploring Gokarna Town, doing cafe crawls and so much more over two days!

Click on the image to open or download by clicking the button below.  

Karnataka is indeed a very beautiful part of India! It is very popular for its greenery and architecture from the yesteryears. In fact, it is our home state and we’ve explored a few other places which you might just find just as appealing to explore! Check it out here.

If you have more questions or want to explore Gokarna with us, please write to us – we’d be very happy to help!

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This article features in the Asia, Beach, India, Karnataka, South Asia, Weekend Getaway categories
Last updated on April 10, 2021

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Shishira & Navneeth

Shishira & Navneeth

The Backpacksters

We're a fun, travel-loving duo from Bangalore, India. We've been exploring the world with two backpacks and a lot of curiosity as The Backpacksters since 2017
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