The South Indian state of Karnataka is gifted with some stunning locations. From Hampi to Udupi, from Bandipur National Park to Jog Falls, and from Agumbe to Coorg, there are so many places worth visiting within the majestic state. My most favourite of all the places that I have been to in Karnataka has to be Gokarna. It is a clear winner by a huge margin. In fact, according to me, the petite beach town, nestled just south of Goa, is a better alternative to Goa. It is funny because, until 365 days ago, I had not even heard about the place. Following are some of the reasons why I believe that Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa:

1. The local people

The first thing that comes to my mind every time I think of Gokarna is its people. The locals of Gokarna, in general, are honest, trustworthy, helpful, and kind. They truly live by the phrase, 'Atithi Devo Bhava', which means that guests are equivalent to the Gods. During my week's stay in Gokarna, I met quite a few locals who had one thing in common - they would not cheat people at any cost (not visitors, at least). And I am saying this out of personal experience. Goa, on the other hand, has a scammer per 10 kilometers square (metaphorically speaking, of course). If you lose your faith in humanity, visit Gokarna. The town will restore your faith.

Why Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa
A short and a bit dangerous trek between Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach
A short and a bit dangerous trek between Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach

2. Exotic beaches ... sans the crowd:

There are not many beaches in Gokarna. The town is home to just five beaches - Gokarna Beach, Kudle Beach, Om Beach, Half-moon Beach, and Paradise Beach. But these beaches, overall, are better than the beaches of Goa. Sure, the beaches in Gokarna do not really offer much activities or water sports, but they are more clean, more pristine, and, of course, a lot less crowded in comparison with the beaches in Goa. Head to Half-moon Beach or Paradise Beach, and you will fall in love with the tranquility of the place.

Why Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa
A short trek between Om Beach and Half Moon Beach
A short trek between Om Beach and Half Moon Beach

3. Watch Dolphins ... for free:

There are a number of of tour companies that can take you for a boat ride to spot Dolphins. But not for free, obviously. There are a couple of tour companies that can take you for Dolphin Watching in Gokarna as well. However, in Gokarna, one can spot Dolphins while hiking from Om Beach to Half-moon Beach in the morning or in the late afternoon. The price? A short, but a little dangerous hike.

Tip - Just do not get too excited when you spot a pod of dolphins. Be careful as you hike.

Why Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa
A Dolphin viewed from a trekking trail near Om Beach
A Dolphin viewed from a trekking trail near Om Beach

4. Back to the roots:

Gokarna is not at all developed compared to Goa. There is no private hospital, no multiplex, no shopping complex. During my stay at Half-moon Beach, I (and other inmates of the small beach) would have to take a shower inside a fragile bathroom which did not even have a ceiling. A lot of time during the day, we would get robbed of basic amenities such as electricity and hot water. Inside the shacks, there is no fan. If we needed to make a call, we would have to go towards the edge of the beach, closer to Om Beach. In spite of all that, the week that I spent there was one of the really good weeks of my life. Now, however, many developers have started to show interest in this beach town, especially the more secluded Half-moon Beach and Paradise Beach. Zostel has already installed their hostel in Gokarna, and they are considering expanding their brand around the region.The more the town develops, the less charming it will be.

Why Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa
Waterfall at Yana Caves
Waterfall at Yana Caves

5. Surfing

Goa has Scuba Diving sites, Paragliding, Parasailing, Jetskiing, and many such activities in its store. But there is something that Gokarna has but Goa does not - a good Surfing spot. Although not as good as the Surfing spot in Pondicherry, Varkala, or Manipal, the waves at Gokarna Beach are pretty good for Surfing. If you want to learn Surfing, there is also a Surf School in Gokarna which goes by the name Cocopelli Surf School. The school also rents surfboards to Surfers.

Why Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa
A mesmerizing view of the Kudle Beach
A mesmerizing view of the Kudle Beach

6. Night trek:

One great thing about staying at Half-moon Beach is that it is not connected with Gokarna market (the heart of the town) through a road. And because of that reason, one has to do a short trek, covering either Om Beach and Kudle Beach to get an auto-rickshaw, or do a shorter, but scary trek to an undisclosed location to take an auto-rickshaw ride through an unpaved road (even Google Map and Maps.me does not know about road) which connects with Kudle road that will lead you to Gokarna market. Both the treks are absolutely adventurous, especially at night. So if you are up for an adventure, do a night trek. Just carry a torch and beware of the snakes and leeches. I did not spot any, but I was warned about them. Did I mention Gokarna is still underdeveloped?

Why Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa
Sunset at Om Beach with horizon view taken from height
Sunset at Om Beach with horizon view taken from height

7. Ice cream

There is nothing that I love to have more than ice cream. The most scrumptious ice cream I have had till date was in Gokarna. In the center of the town, there is an ice cream parlour that serves homemade ice cream named Delicious. I tasted quite a few flavours the shop offered, but the one I liked the most was mango. Price? Rs.12 per cup or scoop. Come to think of it, it was aptly named.

8. Sleep under millions of stars:

I have never spent nights that have been more peaceful than the ones I did in Gokarna. Sleeping on a blanket of soft sand, under a gazillion twinkling stars, whilst listening to the lullaby sang by the waves of the Arabian sea was something that I had never experienced before. All that, in spite of having my own booked shack. That is not all. On two consecutive nights, I got to witness planktons, illuminating the sea. Also, on the 29th of November, when the Earth witnessed the closest Supermoon in the past 69 years, I was in Gokarna, getting a great view of the moon while sleeping in the beach. All that is quite difficult to experience in Goa because of certain restrictions.

So, in case if you do not completely believe me, go, and experience all that yourself. Gokarna will charm you with its raw beauty, and I can vouch for it. No wonder I spent a week in the euphoric coastal town.

Why Gokarna is a better alternative to Goa
Sunset at Om Beach
Sunset at Om Beach