Goa, overcrowded? Head to Gokarna instead!


What happens when all plans for Goa fail? When Lakshadweep is too expensive and Bali is way out of our league? We head to Gokarna! Dismissed as Goa’s quieter counterpart, in the recent years Gokarna has been abuzz with touristy activity! When my friend and I decided to head to Gokarna, it was a well thought out decision. We knew we will be missing out on 4 awesome days in Goa and yet a little peace is what we wanted. Here’s what happened:

We arrived in Gokarna, a little tired, a little sleepy but with a lot of hope for the next 4 days. We were staying at Hari Priya Residency and to our surprise, it was just perfect. Situated very close to the city centre, the hotel is an unimpressive structure at the corner of the road. All that we hoped for were clean rooms and clean bathrooms and we were in luck!

Photo of Gokarna, Karnataka, India by Kirat S

After a quick nap, we headed towards our first destination and the most popular – Om beach! The beach owes its name to the sacred symbol it looks like. As the beach is popular, I thought it’ll be extremely crowded but I was in for a pleasant surprise with only a few tourists enjoying the afternoon sun.

Quiet and peaceful, the beach offers a mesmerizing view of the jagged peaks. Brimming with numerous cafes, the beach is perfect if you are hungry and are looking for a nice, relaxed time. The usual water sports including banana boat ride and surfing take place at the beach (and shouldn't be missed!)

This was all that we had planned on this day since we were tired and quite honestly too lazy to explore the other beaches.

Day 2

Day 2 began with more energy and even more excitement. After a hearty breakfast at the lodge, we decided to begin our day with the unlikely choice of Anshi National Park. Considered to be one of the most endangered parks in the country, it’s a treat for bird watchers with over 200 species of birds.

The first thing that hits you about the thick forest is the chill. Since it isn’t very high up on the lists of ‘places to visit’, the forest doesn’t have well marked out walking trails and you need to be very careful when exploring this natural habitat. Keep aside at least 2 hours if you want to walk around and admire the rare sightings of birds or revel in the melody of the constant chirps.

Photo of Anshi National Park & Kali Tiger Reserve, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka, India by Kirat S
Credit: Miran Rijavec

There is also a guesthouse close by, incase the wildlife enthusiast in you awakens! We were quite content with our little walk and I definitely was proud of myself to choose this over another visit to Om beach since this was completely worth it!

Our next stop was Paradise beach. Mostly because I love the name and also because I was starving! Also known as the Full Moon beach, this one is even quieter than Om beach with fewer tourists. To reach this beach, you either need to take a ferry (not expensive) or trek through the forest. We chose the former. We were hungry, remember?

This beach has no water activities but is ideal for swimming! Dotted with myriad cafes and extremely happy hosts who promise you a taste of the best fish ever! They are not lying since the food here is exceptionally awesome. Time here passes swiftly and before you know it’s almost dark. Though the beach is very safe, you may want to ask when the last ferry leaves since we were on the verge of missing it!

If you are in the mood to spend the night here, you can ask one of the shacks to play host! Bonfires are allowed on the beach as long as there is easily available wood and the police don’t have a problem with you staying the night. It’s best to first ask the locals before planning a long-ish stay on the beach.

We headed back to our lodge with happy faces and happier tummies!

Day 3

The morning of day 3 began with a sinking feeling – this was almost my last day here and it sucked! So for those of you who have planned less than 5 days in Gokarna, do think again. Though there really is nothing to do here, it’s beautiful and peaceful.

For the adventurous lot, there is also a school in Gokarna that helps you learn surfing. With various options, you can choose a course that is for as less as 7 days. For others who like things a little laid back and slow paced – you can try the many massage parlours and spas! Traditional oil massages and therapies aside, some of these also teach yoga and/or conduct short yoga sessions. Trust me, spending an afternoon meditating in one of their beautiful gardens is bliss!

Photo of Paradise Beach, Gokarna, Karnataka, India by Kirat S
Picture Credits: Jo Kent

And yes, as you may have guessed after a short massage and meditation session at a centre close to the lodge, we made our way to Gokarna beach. Situated very close to town, this is another popular beach here. Owing to its popularity, it was fairly crowded and we decided to make a quick stop before exploring further. The quick stop turned into a 3 hour meal but that’s the best part – no one is in a hurry to go anywhere in Gokarna! The beach is huge so you can find your quiet spot or be in the midst of all the action; it’s your choice.

Next we made our way to Half Moon beach. Now all the beaches in Gokarna are fairly close to each other. If you want, you can also reach from one beach to another through a trek. The trek is graded as moderate to difficult and is actually a lot of fun. If you are in the mood to try this out, a lot of shops in the city can arrange this for you.

Half Moon beach is separated by a small cliff from Om beach. Like all beaches in Gokarna, it’s sparsely crowded but immensely beautiful. The colour of the sky in Gokarna is always playing tricks and at the cost of sounding poetic, you’d think the colours are dancing! And no, we weren’t high on anything just completely taken in by the beauty of the beach. It’s also one of the few beaches that allow you to spend the night here at reasonable tariffs. You can also camp here and most tourists were also preparing for the night. After asking around, we discovered, you can set camp here but it’s best to get your camping gear from the city since camps here are a tad bit expensive.

We stayed at Half Moon till about midnight before making our way back to the lodge not at all looking forward to the next day!

Day 4

The first thing I did once I woke up was to delay the cab by at least 3 hours. We were supposed to leave at noon for Goa but I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. The next two days which would be spent in Goa were of no help either!

Not in the mood to waste even a single moment, we made a plan to head to Yellapur. About an hour and a half away from Gokarna, Yellapur is home to the beautiful Lalguli Falls. Before heading out, we had requested the people at the guest house to pack us a tiny bag of food and I am so glad we did!

Though Lalguli Falls has become quite popular in the last few years, finding food here might still be a little bit of a hassle. The source of the falls is River Kali and it’s a sight to behold. Find a quiet picnic spot here and spend your afternoon here!

Photo of Lalguli Falls, Lalguli, Karnataka, India by Kirat S

Since we were in a hurry to head back, we gobbled our basket goodies and made our way to Gokarna.

Sadly 4 absolutely beautiful days came to an end but I am definitely going to come here again!

Other places of interest:

Kudle beach



How to reach:

We were travelling from Delhi. The best way to reach by air is to take a flight to Goa’s Dabolim airport and hence take a bus (most reasonable) or a taxi to Gokarna. If the driver knows his ways, there aren’t any unprecedented stoppages; it should take you about 5 to 6 hours to Gokarna.

One of the most famous beaches in Gokarna, this one is worth a visit for its food!

A little further from Gokarna city, if you are in the mood to explore around, this one should definitely be on your list.

Though not on the list for most travellers, this is a must visit for bird watchers.

Visit for the food, the beauty and the laidback charm!

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