Gokarna is a town of contrasts, as it is a temple town and also a holiday destination by the sea. Gokarna is full of coconut and palm trees, blue seas and clean sands. It is an attractive town with two main streets having shops and traditional tile-roofed brick houses. Gokarna is a hippy paradise with drums, guitars and hammocks. The beaches near Gokarna have shacks (huts) for rent. Kannada, Konkani and Marathi are the main spoken languages in Gokarna.
Gokarna is also an important centre of Sanskrit learning and houses Bhandikeri Math and Toggu Math. It is a place where Sanskrit knowledge is passed down from generations in Brahmin families. Many Hindus also perform the last rites of a person here. Mahabaleshwar Temple is a famous Shiva Temple and it houses the ‘Athmalinga’ . Named so after Ravana referred to the linga’s great strength. It is situated at the western end of the main street. In the sanctuary is ‘Athmalinga’ in between the Saligrama Peethaa.
South of Gokarna beach, and accessible by a short downhill walk from auto drop off points at the northern and southern ends of this beach. The northern drop off point is closer to Gokarna town, but the southern drop off point is suitable if you are planning to stay at a place in the southern stretch of Kudle beach.
Om Beach is further along the coast from Kudle, and named for its shape as it is split by a rocky island. It is the most popular tourist beach in Gokarna and may be visited all around the year. It can be reached by auto, the nearer half is dominated by the Namaste Cafe and an expensive hotel development.