A remotely, small holy town in the state of Karnataka, Gokarna is popular for its pristine and secluded beaches. This hidden gem attracts adventurers, pilgrims and inquisitive holidaymakers from the world over to its gorgeous beaches that have been nestled amidst the holy sites and lush green mountains. For experiencing a laid back and less-commercialized vacation, pack your bags and head to Gokarna. The town is renowned for its religious importance. A few holy spots in the town include The Mahabaleshwar Temple, Bhadrakali Temple, and Maha Ganapati Temple. These are known for their religious significance in Hinduism as well as for their unique history. The picturesque beauty of the beaches and the amalgamation of culture is what makes Gokarna actually stand out as a tourist destination. Here is a list of 25 things to do in Gokarna, the lovely coastal town in Karnataka.
- Visit the pristine Kudle Beach
Located on the western coast, the Kudle Beach is just 6km away from the town of Gokarna. This pristine beach is lined with eateries and simple huts enhancing the experience of visitors. This white sandy beach lined with palm trees is the prime attraction here. Water sports activities are also conducted at the beach which is a great crowd-puller. Motor boats are available at the southern end of the beach which ferries people to the Om beach from Kudle. The charm exuded by the beach resembles the ones exuded by the beaches of Goa back in the 80s. You should definitely include this in the list of things to do in Gokarna.
- Indulge in water sports at the Om Beach
This resplendent beach is in shape of “Om” symbol and is located 7 km from Gokarna. Tourists visiting Om beach can indulge in banana boat cruises, skiing and surfing among other activities. This beach has been a center for sports activities such as parasailing and surfing for years. Miles of white sand greets the visitors on this beach. There are several places near the picturesque beach where visitors can dine and relax for a couple of days. If you are going to Kudle beach, you might as well include Om Beach in your things to do in Gokarna.
- Embark on a scintillating bike ride in Sirsi
This tranquil town is dotted with Hindu temples, Jain Basadis, and terracotta-tiled houses. You can ramble in the evergreen forests and explore the coastline with its immense natural offering while in this hilly town. You can catch a hint of wildlife and indulge in typical Malanad Cuisine. Sirsi houses the Marikamba temple which was built during 1688. Millions of devotees from all over the country visit this temple to attend the magnificent fair that is held every alternate year at this temple. Being a part of heritage trek, scintillating bike ride or nature photography at Sirsi – all are going to enhance your experience in this quaint, little town which is located 78km from Gokarna. While cycling in Gokarna countryside, you can visit a lot of other rural things to do in Gokarna.
- Visit Murudeshwar
Murudeshwar is a dream destination for mythology aficionados and Shaivites. This place is dotted with numerous temples of Hindu deity, Lord Shiva. The prime attraction of this place is the Murudeshwar Temple. It is believed that pieces of Atma Linga fell on this spot where the temple currently stands today. This destination offers a plethora of options to holidaymakers. Individuals can indulge in snorkelling, water sports, treks, visit the pristine beach and forts while in Murudeshwar, which is located about 76km from Gokarna. Murudeshwar may be a bit of a drive as compared to other things to do in Gokarna, it is still worth it.
- Experience tranquility at the Mahabaleshwar Temple
This temple is an important pilgrimage center for the Hindus. Here too, the Atma Linga is worshiped and this temple is considered to be as holy as any Shiva temple located at Kashi and Varanasi. As per the legend, Ravana was tricked into placing the Atma Linga on the ground while returning from Mount Kailash; and furious at this circumstance, he tried to destroy the linga where parts of it were scattered at Gokarna. This temple is one of the seven sacred Muktikshetras in India where death rites are performed by the Hindus. The temple has been constructed in Dravidian architectural style with white granite stones. A 1,500 years old carving of Lord Shiva is also worshiped at this temple. You should definitely include this temple on your list of things to do in Gokarna if you have a religious inclination and appreciate the beauty of temples.
- Explore the mystical rock formations at Yaana
Yaana is popular for its peculiar rock formations and is also a popular pilgrimage center. Two huge rocks adorn the majestic waterfalls and the lush evergreen forests of the Sahyadri ranges. The rock formations made of crystalline limestone are referred to as the Mohini Shikhara and Bhairaveshwara Shikhara which are 90 meters and 120 meters in height respectively.
There is a cave beneath Bhairaveshwara Shikhara which is known for housing a Swayambhu Linga. Natural caves have formed in the region owing to fast winds, scorching heat and heavy rains. The scenic beauty of the region makes it ideal for rappelling, rock climbing, and trekking. While you are visiting Yana rock formations, you can also visit Vibhooti falls. This waterfall is considerably evergreen as in, you will find water across the year. Including this spot in your things to do in Gokarna, you will get a close encounter with nature.
- Visit the Niagara of Karnataka: The Sathodi Falls
Located 74km from Gokarna, the Sathodi falls witnesses an amalgamation of several streams that join together at the Kallaramane Ghat. This picturesque fall further joins the backwaters of the Kodasalli dam that has been built over river Kali. The Sathodi falls are known as Mini Niagara and are a part of the Ganesh Gudi forest range. This waterfall surely makes one of the most offbeat things to do in Gokarna.
- Explore the architectural beauty of the Mirjan Fort
Located on the west coast of Uttara Kannada district, about 11km from Gokarna, the Mirjan Fort is known for its architectural elegance. This fort was built during the 16th century by Queen Chennabhairavadevi of Gersoppa. This remnant of this fort reminds one of the glorious parts of the region. The fort has witnessed several battles. A tributary of river Sharavathi runs beneath the fort making it a scenic location near Gokarna. By including this fort in things to do in Gokarna list, you will be able to appreciate Karnataka’s rich history and culture.
- Witness the majestic Jog Falls
These magnificent falls are the second highest plunge waterfalls in India. The spellbinding view offers a memorable experience to the visitors. The Jog Falls is a major attraction in South India and is also known as Gersoppa Falls. This fall drops down to 253 meters in a single drop. You should definitely include this beautiful waterfall in your list of things to do in Gokarna. However, these falls are not exactly in Gokarna but to reach here, you might have to plan for a quick and short road trip.
- Go dolphin watching in the coastal town of Karwar
The coastal town of Karwar is located at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the Kali River. This town is dotted with beaches that are overshadowed by its neighbor Goa. Despite this, the town is not any less interesting than Goa. One can go dolphin spotting, snorkelling, trek along the rocks, go river rafting and explore the mesmerizing beaches of Karwar. The unique beaches with dense vegetation offer a plethora of opportunities for indulging in water sports. This spot is out of the many things to do in Gokarna where you can spot dolphins.
- Bathe in water from a thousand springs at Kotitirtha
This is an artificial water tank which is located at a short distance from Mahabaleshwar Temple. The name Kotitirtha implies a thousand springs and is considered to be a sacred spot for the Hindus where idol immersion and ritual bathing takes place. The surroundings of this sacred water tank are ancient and offer an incredible experience to the visitors. While shortlisting the things to do in Gokarna, you can include this attraction along with Mahabaleshwar Temple. However, out of all the things to do in Gokarna, I would not put this on top of the list. You can just club it with Mahabaleshwar temple and if you are not visiting the temple, you can give this place a miss.
- Do beach trekking at Gokarna beach
If the activity beach trekking sounds quite obvious at a beach, then think again. There is a lot of difference in trekking the beaches of Gokarna. This quaint town is located amongst the hills and the beaches are usually on the other side. The excitement and fun lie in ascending and descending the hills to reach the beaches. Gokarna has five stunning beaches. Ride in boats for traversing the beaches during your trekking trip.
This beach trail in Gokarna is quite popular in the adventure and trekking circle. Due to the accessibility issues of this trek, not many tourists are seen on this beach trails. Sometimes, you need to actually explore and figure out a way out of the woods. This sense of discovery is what makes this beach trail a worth inclusion in your list of things to do in Gokarna.
The trek starts at Kudle beach and can go on till paradise beach or lighthouse. The total trekking distance is 4 KMs, one way. You can choose to take stops in between at the beaches and enjoy the ocean views.
- Explore local cuisine
With good local restaurants and shacks on the beaches, Gokarna offers a multitude of options to foodies. Everything is served best right from Indian thalis to Italian pasta in Gokarna. Do not be mistaken by the shabby looking boards that most of the shacks feature at the beaches. They may be serving the best tasting delicacies you have ever come across in your life as the menu of these places defies the appearance. The mouth-watering delicacies coupled with the ambiance of the sunny beaches offer an incredible experience to the visitors.
The unique thing about cuisine in Gokarna is the influence of both Karnataka and Goa. Located at a distance of only 140 KMs from Goa, the locals here at Gokarna have started using the Goan-based recipes as well. Do explore the eateries in and around Gokarna and ensure you make these spots top things to do in Gokarna while jotting down your final itinerary.
- Cocopelli Surf School
This is the first and the only surf school in Gokarna which has been offered recognition by the International Surfing Association. All the instructors are ISA-Certified. If you are looking for an exciting yet relaxing vacation, then visit the Cocopelli Surf School where perfect waves greet you by the Gokarna Main Beach. The pleasant streaming and light current ensure that you do not run out of breath from padding. The ideal time to visit this place is between October and May which is the best time for surfing especially for beginners. Daily surfing lessons are provided during the season by experienced instructors who ensure complete safety of beginners during the program. Surf trips along the hidden coastline of India are organized by this surf school. They as well offer long boards, short broads, board shorts, wet suits, body boards and flippers. If you love water based adventure and feel like learning a new skill during your trip, you can surely consider surfing here as one of the things to do in Gokarna.
- Bhadrakali Temple
This temple is dedicated to Goddess Uma and is located just a kilometer away from Gokarna. This temple is known for its historical significance associated with Ravana. There is a myth that Ravana performed penance to please Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash. Ravana was blessed with a beautiful wife and Atma Linga for his efforts. Lord Vishnu met Ravana in a disguise of a Brahmin while he was on his way back home. Ravana started boasting about the woman in front of the disguised Brahmin. Lord Vishnu made the lady look aged and exhausted which made Ravana leave the lady behind feeling enraged. The lady meanwhile was asked by Lord Vishnu to reside in Gokarna and is worshiped by devotees as Bhadrakali. This temple is again a good recommendation if you are looking for religious and spiritual things to do in Gokarna.
- Lalguli Falls
This waterfall is located in Uttara Kannada District and is named after a nearby village. It is 250 feet in height and is fed from the Kali River. The stepped Lalguli falls inside the forest offers scenic beauty of unprecedented levels. The best time to visit this place is from October to December as it dries up during summers. These falls might not be as majestic as Jog falls or amidst a very dense forest like Vibhooti falls. But, it is worth a visit if you have already covered the other waterfalls in your things to do in Gokarna.
- Practice yoga by the beach
You can indulge in yoga by yourself or you can consider joining groups. There are various resorts such as Swarswara resort or the Namaste Yoga Farm which offers incredible experiences to the visitors. You will feel revived by practicing relaxing forms on the OM beach or the Kudle beach. You can pick courses that last from a week to several days while in Gokarna for a distinctive experience. An interesting set of things to do in Gokarna includes beach retreats like these. You can relax and do some soul searching while focusing on breath and monitoring thoughts. Yoga by the beach is a great experience and you should definitely attend an hour session if not the entire retreat.
- Experience white water rafting in Kali river in Dandeli
Another excursion from Gokarna can bring you to this lovely location in Karnataka. Dandeli is a haven for adventure enthusiasts. The rapids in Dandeli river rafting are not as intense as Rishikesh, but the entire experience of rafting becomes amazing due to the constant company of alluring forests. To read more about my Dandeli River Rafting experience, read my blog: River Rafting in Dandeli
Dandeli is a popular vacation spot in North Karnataka and it appeals especially to those who love spending time in the lap of Mother Nature. It offers an unparalleled experience to the visitors. The modern town is surrounded by deciduous forests where rare species of animals and birds roam the hilly terrain and deep valleys. Dandeli is famous for night camps, bird watching, nature walks, boating, crocodile spotting, eco-tourism, white water rafting and a lot more. Canoeing, kayaking and water rafting offer an unforgettable experience to adventure seekers. The wildlife sanctuary offers a glimpse of Malabar giant squirrels, bison, sambhar deer and black panthers. For adventurists, this activity should certainly be one of the things to do in Gokarna or around.
- Mahaganapati temple
This temple is located close to the Mahabaleshwar temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh who tricked Ravana and took the Atma Linga from him. A black stone of Lord Ganesha is worshiped in this temple every day. If you are looking to experience peace, then witnessing the daily worship is going to offering you some. You can club this attraction with Mahabalewhsar temple and the hot springs. This might not be the most recommended stand alone entry in your list of things to do in Gokarna.
- Swim in the clear beaches of Gokarna during sunset
When you visit the beaches, feel free to take a swim in the ocean. But, make sure you ask the locals or lifeguards whether the water is safe to enter. Some areas of these beaches have treacherous terrain. You can enjoy all the things to do in Gokarna, but being safe is always recommended. The swim can be enjoyed best during sunset which is my personal favorite.
- Explore Yellapur
This stunning town is known for its natural beauty. Nestled amidst thick forests in the Western Ghats, Yellapur is famous for its wonderful waterfalls that gush down the scenic valleys. The Magod falls brings alive the beauty of its surroundings. The fall is surrounded by a dense forest which is notable for its rich biodiversity. Embark on a trek into this forest which houses several species of flora and fauna. The Kavi Kere pond located in the heart of the forest possesses a tranquil charm.
- Visit the ancient temple town of Banavasi
The roots of this ancient temple town can be traced back to as old as 4,000 BC! Tucked away in deep forests of Western Ghats, Banavasi is located on the banks of river Varda. This is one of the oldest towns in Karnataka. Visit this place for the cultural festivals organized and for exploring the rich tradition of this ancient town. The Kadambothsava festival organized by the government is the prime attraction during the month of December. There are several temples in Banavasi of different antiquities. The Madhukeshwara temple is the most important and oldest of all. This temple is the epicenter of Banavasi as the entire town has grown around it.
The temple was believed to be dedicated to Lord Madhava. However, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshiped in his linga form at his temple. The color of the linga resembles that of honey which is referred to as “Madhu” in Sanskrit. The temple has undergone several alterations and additions from the period of Chalukyas when it was established. Visit the Banavasi Fort which is one of the earliest in the state of Karnataka and very few vestiges are left today. A lot of excavation have been carried out in the region which has resulted in important discoveries. Inscribed pottery dating back to third century BC has been found during excavations. 11 coins of the Satavahana rule and two idols have also been found at the site. There is a museum which helps one get acquainted with the glorious past of the region.
- Visit Idagunji
This is an extremely important place of worship for Hindus. The prime attraction of this place is a temple devoted to Lord Ganesha which features a two-handed idol (a rarity since Ganesh is worshiped having four arms). Free lunch is offered to all the devotees visiting this temple. It is believed that the wishes of devotees are fulfilled by visiting this temple. Over 1 million devotees visit this temple on an annual basis. Do add this temple to your things to do in Gokarna if you want to offer prayings to the rare Ganesha idol.
- The Half Moon Beach
Off the beaten tourist trail, the half-moon beach is a lesser known beach in the town of Gokarna. This beach can be reached either by foot or by a boat from the Om Beach. This beach is divided by a cliff from the Om Beach and it offers a beautiful view of the Arabian Sea. The beauty of this site is enhanced by the classic Indian huts alongside the beach. Although there are no water sports offered on this beach unlike the other beaches of Gokarna, visitors can indulge in volleyball, camping, swimming and paintball in this picturesque little beach. If you are a fan of offbeat attractions, this beach goes right to your list of things to do in Gokarna.
Byndoor is a beautiful beach village located in the Udupi district of Karnataka and is located 113 km from Gokarna. It is famous for its glorious sunsets and beautiful beaches. This village is home to Sri Someshwara temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The stunning sculptures and the unique setting of this temple make it a prime attraction of this place. This village has several legends associated with it. The place has received its name from Saint Bindu who undertook a hard and long penance in the vicinity of this village. This village offers mesmerizing views of the sea.
When you visit this village, don’t expect a lot of restaurants and tourists. This village is much lesser known than Gokarna. When we visited this town, there almost no touristy soul. A true manifestation of heritage and culture. Ask locals for sights here. A visit to Byndoor can be a good addition to things to do in Gokarna if you are okay with excursions.
I hope you liked my suggestions and recommendations here. Do feel free to add your recommended things to do in Gokarna in the comment section below. If you have already visited Gokarna, kindly share your experiences with me.