Gokarna is a small town in Karnataka which is primarily a temple town but emerged as a tourist destination with time. The town has 5 beautiful beaches which make it an ideal relaxing destination. This place is more popular among tourists from outside India and in fact you will find here more westerners than Indians.
Gokarna can be reached either by bus or train. Since we had friends coming from Hyderabad and Bangalore, we used bus services from both cities so that we reach almost same time. You can take a bus either from KSRTC or use a private bus operator to take a direct bus from Bangalore to Gokarna. The bus starts around 9:30 in night and reaches Gokarna early morning 7:30 around.
It’s a bit longer and trickier route from Hyderabad as there is no direct bus service available. You can either go to Kumta or Ankola. We used VRL travels evening bus and would highly recommend it. It’s a bit costly (Rs. 1400 one way for a semi sleeper volvo) but the bus was in excellent condition. I would give 10/10 points for punctuality as it started sharp 5:30 from Hyderabad and reached Kumta 6:30 in the morning. From Kumta its around 36 KM and buses are available every half an hour from bus stand. It’s better to get down at Kumta as by the time you reach, it will not be dark. It takes around 30-45 minutes to reach Gokarna from there.
Once you reach Gokarna you can either stay in town or at one of the beaches. If you plan to stay at the beach then pre-book your accommodation if going on a weekend as majority of the huts will be full. We didn’t get any place to stay at beach and had to go back to town. There are no proper hotels except Gokarna International hotel at Kudle beach. Your staying options are limited to huts with only facility available is a single bed :). If you want comfort then you can stay in town which have plenty of guest houses at very reasonable prices. A room with 4 bed and TV facility cost us Rs. 1000.
The first beach we visited was Kudle beach which is the best beach in Gokarna for swimming. It’s a clean sandy beach with lots of huts on beach side providing food and accommodation options. It’s a completely westernized beach and will remind you of Goa. Since its very crowded, water may not be very clean at the banks but move some distance in water and you should be fine. We ended up spending up majority of the time on this beach.
The most popular beach of Gokarna is Om beach which is around 8 KM from town. You can take autos from town which cost Rs. 150 one way. A shorter route is through Kudle beach. You can first trek to Kudle beach which is around 4 Km from town and then trek further to Om beach. It’s named Om beach as beach is in a shape similar to Hindu religious symbol Om
The beach is marked as unsafe for swimming by local police but we could see plenty of people in water. This is unsafe because of rocks on the beach. You can also spot some water sport options on this beach but they are very limited. This is an ideal beach for witnessing sunset with rocks and small boats in water.
View of sea on trek towards OM beach
Sunset at OM Beach
The very secluded beaches of Gokarna are Half Moon and Paradise beach. They are majorly Hippy beaches and not ideal for swimming due to rocks. But the are very beautiful. You can hire a boat at Om beach to reach here or do a long trek of around 4-5 KM. We took the lazy boat way as it was hot in afternoon. You need to bargain really hard with boatman. The boat costed us Rs. 1000 after some bargaining and still it was a bit overpriced for a 2 hour tour of two beaches. We also saw a dolphin coming out of water for few seconds near Dolphin view point in sea.
Strong waves at Paradise Beach
Gokarna also has a fifth beach called Gokarna beach which is near to the temple. We couldn’t go there due to lack of time but caught a view from a distance. It’s mostly visited by Pilgrims who come to Gokarna to visit temples.
Gokarna is an ideal weekend destination and in fact a long weekend destination if you want a completely relaxed vacation. If you don’t want to go to expensive and crowded Goa, head towards Gokarna. Sit back, relax and enjoy is the tag line of this place.
- If you are vegetarian then have your meals in town as you will find plenty of pure veg restaurants.
- Walk from town to Kudle beach and then Om beach to enjoy trek route. While returning take an auto to town if you are tired.
- If you have older people in group then Kudle beach will be tough to reach as there is no direct road and you need to walk for 10 minutes downhill on uneven rocky route. Also if you plan to stay at Kudle beach then carry minimum luggage as carrying it will also be a problem on the same route.
- Be prepared to stay in very basic huts with common bathrooms if you plan to stay near beaches.