Gokarna; A Potpourri of Beaches, Temples, Caves, Forests and Fort
Hello my Lovelies!
Running towards the end of 2020, the lack of travel was getting onto me. At the right moment, like a ray of hope, my friends Harish and Aishwarya ask me if I were up for a trip. After mulling over a few destinations accessible by road from Bangalore, the dart ended on Gokarna! This place has been eluding me for a long time, and I wasn’t about to let go of it now. So we set off on this dreamy trip; barely any research, barely any plans. This blogpost is going to be long, but it is the perfect guide to Gokarna. If you do not want to read the whole thing, I have broken it down for ease.
Gokarna is a potpourri of beaches, temples, caves, forests and fort. You need to be there to see how the town holds all of it together so gracefully! I have tried to capture this essence in my video given below.
Reaching Gokarna from Bangalore
You can reach Gokarna through bus or train from Bangalore. We started at around 8 PM from Jayanagar and reached Gokarna bus stand at around 8 AM the next day. From here we took an auto (Fare – Rs. 150) to the guest house which was around 6 Kms from the bus stand. The bus journey towards the last 4 hours was not very pleasant due to the hairpin bends. If you have motion sickness, you should remember to carry a plastic cover. You also have the option to take a train to Gokarna. However, the last time I checked, trains take way longer than buses. So you might want to weigh in time vs motion sickness.
Stay Options in Gokarna
There wouldn’t be a dearth for hotels, hostels and homestays in Gokarna as it is a prominent tourist location. We booked a cottage through Airbnb – Shivaprasad guest house. The cottage for four (Priced at Rs. 1500) is just 5 minutes away from Kudle beach and is nestled amidst a lot of greenery. The path towards the beach from here is exquisite (Watch the Video for a glimpse of it). Due to the proximity to the beach, you can spend as much time in the night at the beach as you want.
Commute in Gokarna
With the help of Mr. Mani the Homestay owner, we got two wheelers for rentals from Gokarna town. They charged us Rs. 250 per two wheeler per day. However, during the peak season, the rates would go way up. In Gokarna, you have two activities – The beach activities and the town activities. The beach hopping wouldn’t require bikes and so ensure that you book bikes only on those days you visit the temples, fort and the caves.
All about the beaches in Gokarna and the beach Treks
- There are five main beaches in Gokarna – Kudle beach, OM Beach, Half Moon Beach, Paradise Beach and the Gokarna Main Beach and the highlight is that you trek through them.
- I thought beach treks meant walking through the shoreline from one beach to another. Apparently not! You get to weave in and out through forests and you get to play in the water in every beach. A flimsy beach footwear wouldn’t be enough. So get something that is both water resistant and has a good grip.
- If you want to catch a sunset, it’s better to be at Kudle beach, OM beach or the Main Beach.
- You can start your trek from Kudle Beach, go on to OM Beach, then to Half Moon beach and Paradise beach.
- Remember that Half Moon and Paradise are secluded beaches and you’ve to trek through forests paths to get to these points. So if it’s late in the evening, it’s better to stop the trek with Half Moon Beach, return and cover Paradise beach the next day from the other side.
Good Eateries in Gokarna, Thank me Later
I wasn’t very happy with two of the restaurants named ‘Pai’ in Gokarna but the cafes and the shacks were way too expensive for budget travelers. We managed to scour through a few eateries both in the beach and here are the ones that you shouldn’t miss.
- Dattaprasad tiffin canteen – It is a tiny hotel in Car Street that serves South Indian breakfast items. Their poori masala, set dosa, podi dosa, plain dosa and the accompaniments were all delicious and light on the pocket.
- Fishland – To satiate your sea food cravings, this is the right place. We tried their salmon fry, prawns and chicken and they were all delicious. For a sea food restaurant in a coastal area, the prices were a bit too high. But hey! You really wouldn’t say no if you got good food at slightly higher prices right?
- OM DS Cafe, Kudle Beach – We chanced upon this Bob Marley themed shack late into the night. While their drinks were weak, they prepared an amazing spicy chicken squares and we were absolutely floored. The shacks by the beach are expensive and so we just thanked heavens for the lovely food and kept going. This was THE best food and ambiance we had in Gokarna.
- Namaste Cafe and Nirvana Cafe, Om Beach – I read raving reviews about these cafes. I’d pin them into the average category when it comes to food but the ambiance and the beach front views earn them a lot of points.
Gokarna Itinerary – Our Three Day Trip and How We Covered it
We spent about first half of the day in Kudle beach which was right by our homestay. We then walked over to OM beach, had lunch and started the trek towards half moon beach.
As the names suggest, OM beach is in the shape of an OM and half moon is in the shape of a half moon. There are no roads connecting Half moon Beach and the only way is through the ocean or forest. We sat here for a while and set out in search of Paradise beach. We trekked through the rocks for a while to realize that we couldn’t find the right path. We were on dangerous grounds. As it was getting late, we decided to head back to OM Beach.
The next morning we woke up early and went to Kudle beach. The plan for the day was to visit Mirjan Fort, and Yana Caves. We took an autorikshaw to the town, got our two wheelers, had breakfast at Dattaprasad Tiffin Center and set out to Mirjan Fort.
Mirjan Fort is about 25 Kms from Gokarna and the road is long and winding and absolute bliss, more so when you head towards Yana caves. Karnataka and Kerala have so many forts and if you have visited a few, there is nothing new about Mirjan Fort. So this part of the journey can be avoided if you are an absolute beach bum. But Yana caves, had me! The road to the caves got cooler (literally) by the minute. Occasionally you’d pass tiny bridges with a stream weaving through, forming beautiful tiny waterfalls and a view to die for.
From the base point of Yana caves, there is a tiny trek of about 1.5 Kms to reach the caves. You walk amidst a lot of greenery, and through the tiny stream of water that cuts the path. As you go further, you can see the caves looming above you. It isn’t the typical dome shaped cave, but a limestone rock formation towering above you.
The caves nestle a Shivalinga which formed on its on accord (Swayambhu) and has water dripping over it all the time, making it auspicious. It is believed that Lord Shiva took refuge in these caves when the Demon Bhasmasura was after him to test the boon that the former had bestowed upon him.
You can enter the caves from one side, walk through and exit on the other side. It is a small walk, but while you are inside, the caves loom over you, engulfing you, the limestone feels so very solid beneath your palms and as you stand there, the magnanimity of the universe hits you. The caves, the path through the forest, the road leading towards it are all a package experience. If you love this face of nature, you shouldn’t miss the caves.
After Yana caves, we decided to catch the sunset at Paradise beach as we had missed it the previous day. We took the road to the other side of Paradise beach and once we parked our bikes, a gentleman told us that we had to trek a bit to reach the beach. We set out in the direction he pointed. It was 5.45 PM and the Sun was sinking. We huffed and puffed through the designated path until we reached the light house with a sign that said ‘No Public Allowed’ and the road ended there. We took the path by the side of the light house that lead into the forest and kept going. There were no humans in this area. So we guessed our way through the bushes, under the low lying branches and in the direction of the ocean until the path started getting tricky and deep.
The moment we realised that we had lost our way, we became conscious of our surroundings. We were engulfed with lush, fresh, greenest of greens and the view was the vast ocean before us. We abandoned our quest for the sunset and the beach and decided to sit there and enjoy the view. We had indeed gotten lost in style.
We got back to Gokarna town, had our dinner and went back to our room. But the day wasn’t over yet. At about 10 PM, we went to Kudle beach and I had one of the most beautiful nights! The breeze was just right, the ocean had embraced most of the shore and the shacks were bejewelled with multicolor lights. We walked along the shore line for a while and then decided to try out the funkiest cafe open then; OM DS Cafe. We watched the beach go to sleep; the lights began to go off, the people began to leave, the Dogs circling the beach was settling down and so were the cows. There was behind us, one leaning onto my lap and a couple of cows next to us, and seemed like they were enjoying our company. But now that I think of it, perhaps they were forming a protective fort around us.
Our plan to visit the temple was royally shattered when we got to know that we had to adhere to the dress code. So we decided to go postcard and post office hunting. I have been sending postcards to myself from my travel destinations so that I can compile them as souvenirs. In addition, I also send postcards to a few friends from wherever I go. Once this was done, we set out to catch the now infamous Paradise beach that has been evading us for 2 days.
The bike ride to Paradise beach had this long stretch by the side of the Sea that reminded me so much of Fort Kochi. Once again we reached the base point of the trek and started off. We walked on, uncertain but determined. We lost our way again but we doubled back and corrected our paths, and in no time we reached the Paradise Beach. This is a secluded piece of beach with barely any people, extremely clean, and beautiful rock formations! Much like half moon beach, it is inaccessible by road. If we had gotten here on the first day, we’d have gotten stranded or would have had to trek through the forest path after dark! Paradise beach is both beautiful and eerie at the same time!
Since it was the last day, we badly wanted to catch the sunset at Kudle beach. So we left Paradise beach, had lunch at Fishland, and then went on Souvenir hunting. This is where we ventured into the Gokarna market and were introduced to this other side of Gokarna. Very traditional South Indian houses, the Halakki tribe women in their traditional attires, standing outside the temple selling flowers, the wide varieties of shops selling Pooja items, lamps, happy drums, funky shirts, and the smell of spices wafting amidst all these from the shops selling them; this is a single path that leads you into the Gokarna Main Beach which is yet another beauty. I kept wondering how a tiny town could have such myriad cultures; traditional and hippie without letting one affect the other. How could all the beaches in a small town look so different from each other?
We returned to our room and then to Kudle beach, caught the sunset, deliberated on whether or not we need to extend our stay because we hadn’t had enough. Return, we did and here I am to tell you that Gokarna has something for everyone. If you haven’t visited before, you have to make that trip!
Are there more places to visit in Gokarna?
Mahabaleshwar Swamy Temple and Murdeshwar – are the temples Gokarna is famous for and they have dress codes. Men have to wear dhoti/mundu/veshti and women must wear saree or salwar. Jeans, shorts or Bermuda aren’t allowed. Also, keep Kumta in the charts as it is on the way to Yana Caves. Also, if you are experimental, there are many more tiny beaches along the shoreline that you could explore with the help of maps. Vibhuti falls is another beautiful addition you could make to your list. There is also a Dolphin point in Gokarna which you can reach by a boat, if that would interest you.
Safety Aspects – COVID and Otherwise
- If you ask me, no place is safe for women. But that cannot stop us from living. Be cautious. Move in groups and if you are alone, carry a knife, taser or pepper spray. This is my generic point.
- In Gokarna, ensure that you take up treks earlier in the day. Even if you trek in the afternoon, start the trek back latest by 5 PM because many of these beaches are secluded and aren’t connected by roads. The forest path could be confusing if you don’t have a guide.
- With respect to Covid, the crowd was very less and so social distancing wasn’t a problem. We got lucky there.
- Sleeper buses are safe because you don’t come directly in contact with anyone. Keep a sanitiser handy and anytime you touch a common surface or leave or enter the bus, use it.
- We took Shreekumar Travels from Bangalore to Gokarna and Greenline back. The former was dirty and lacked any kind of Covid precautions but Greenline was impressive. They gave sanitiser, checked temperature, gave us a disposable sheet for the pillows and they kept the bus very clean.
This is your perfect guide to Gokarna being wrapped up for you. I hope this post of mine helps you plan your trip well. If you have anymore questions or comments, please let me know below and please share this post so that it helps many more travellers. Also, which part of our trip did you like the most?