Best Peru Beaches 2023
Peru has 2,600 kilometers of Coastline, which includes a variety of landscapes and climates, the latter being influenced directly by the confluence of two important marine currents, El Nino to the North and La Peruana or Humboldt to the South.
There are beaches all along the Coastline ideal for all kinds of water sports such as, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, coastal fishing, spear fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, skiing, sailing, rowing, yachting and jet skiing.
Brazil may have more popular recognition as a surfing destination, but wave connoisseurs dig Peru, with 2,000km (1,200 miles) of Pacific coastline and a great variety of left and right reef breaks, point breaks, and big-time waves.
According to myth, the lagoon at Huacachina , about 5km southwest of Ica, was created when a princess stripped off to bathe, but, on looking into a mirror, saw that a male hunter was watching her; startled, she dropped the mirror, which turned into the lagoon. The princess eventually became a siren who still comes out at night under the full moon to sing her ancient sacred songs.
More prosaically, during the late 1940s, it became one of Peru’s most elegant and exclusive resorts, surrounded by palm trees, sand dunes and waters famed for their curative powers, and a delightfully old-world atmosphere.
Since then the lagoon’s subterranean source has grown erratic and it is supplemented by water pumped up from artesian wells, making it less of a thick, viscous syrup. However, it is still red in colour (and apparently radioactive) and retains considerable mystique, making it a quiet, secluded spot to relax.
The curative powers of the lagoon attract people from all over: mud from the lake is reputed to cure arthritis and rheumatism if you plaster yourself all over with it; and the sand around the lagoon is also supposed to benefit people with chest problems such as asthma or bronchitis, so it’s not uncommon to see locals buried up to the neck in the dunes.
Sand dune surfing on the higher slopes is all the rage and you can rent wooden boards or foot-skis for around $2 an hour from the caf?s along the shoreline.
Lima is a boisterous, macho city, relaxed and laid-back, yet having an underlying energy, with money and expensive cars ruling the roost – you can buy anything in Lima if you have the cash, particularly in Lima Centro, the colonial zone of the city.
The city’s population has increased dramatically in the last thirty years, swollen with people arriving from the high Andes to make camp in the shanty towns that line the highways.
The climate in Lima seems to set the mood: in the height of summer (Dec-March) it buzzes with energy and excitement, though during the winter months (June-Sept) a low mist descends over the arid valley in which the city sits, forming a solid grey blanket from the beaches almost up to Chosica in the foothills of the Andes – a phenomenon undoubtedly made worse by traffic-related air pollution.
Stretching out along the coast in both directions, the Panamerican Highway runs the entire 2600-kilometre length of Peru, with Lima more or less at its center. Towns along the sometimes arid coastline immediately north and south of the capital are of minor interest to most travelers, though there are some glorious beaches – with next to no restrictions on beach camping – and a very impressive ruin at Pachacamac.
Mancora is an enjoyable stopover when travelling along the north coast, well served by public transport and, though spread out along the Panamerican Highway, parallel to a pleasant sandy beach with safe swimming.
It’s also the north coast’s current major surfing center, and you can hire gear from the Godwanaland restaurant for around $1.50 each per hour.
All the main hotels are located between the bridge at the entrance to town and the plaza towards the north end, though there are several cheaper basic hostels strung out along the southern end of the Panamerican Highway.
For eating, there’s a surplus of restaurants in the center of town, mainly along the Panamerican Highway.
A little more than an hour and a half away from Arequipa, Mollendo is a pleasant old port with a decent beach and a laid-back atmosphere.
It’s a relaxed spot to spend a couple of days chilling out on the beach and makes a good base from which to visit the nearby nature reserve lagoons at Mejia, also known as the Mejia Bird Sanctuary . These can be easily reached, only 4kms south of Mejia, by colectivos from the top end of Calle Castilla (every 10min).
As befits a coastal holiday town, Mollendo has a good selection of restaurants. First choice is the superb seafood restaurant Cevicheria Alejo, Panamerican Highway South, Miramar – it’s a little out of town, but worth the twenty-minute walk for excellent, reasonably priced seafood. At the lower end of the budget, there’s a decent pizzeria on the Plaza de Armas, or try the excellent Chifa Restaurant, Comercio 412, serving tasty Chinese meals.
Punta Sal Beach
Punta Sal, considered by many to be to be the best beach in Peru, has extensive sands and attractive rocky outcrops, swarming with crabs at low tide. It’s a safe place to swim and is a heavenly spot for diving in warm, clear waters.
Several hotels here were destroyed by the 1998 El Nino, but for now the best place to stay is the friendly Hotel Caballito del Mar, overlooking the sea at the southern end of the beach, with its own swimming pool by the beach, a restaurant, sun terraces and comfortable rooms. Less expensive is the Hostal Hua, towards the midlle of the beach, an older more rustic wooden building, where some rooms have sea views and the service is decent, plus there’s a restaurant; camping is also permitted.
There are no shops in Punta Sal, so you unless you want to be totally dependent on the hotels and restaurants, take some food and drink with you. In the low season you’ll probably have a beautiful beach pretty much to yourself; in high season it’s a good idea to book your accommodation in advance.
Southern Beach Towns
Beyond Pachacamac lie some of Lima’s most attractive beaches. Closest of these, just a couple of kilometres outside Pachacamac, is Playa San Pedro, a vast and usually deserted strip of sand. Constantly pounded by rollers, however, it can be quite dangerous for swimming.
Much more sheltered, the bay of El Silencio, 6km to the south, was one of the most popular beaches in the 1980s but, suffering at the hands of bad regional planning, it has lost its edge due to the low-level pollution that occasionally appears here from new local beachside developments. Drinks and snacks are sold from hut-cafes at the back of the beach, excellent seafood restaurants sit on the cliff above, and a couple of smaller, more secluded bays lie a short drive down the coast.
At Punta Hermosa, about ten minutes on the bus beyond El Silencio, you come to an attractive cliff-top settlement and, down below, what’s becoming Lima’s leading surf resort, Santa Maria, a great family haunt, with plenty of hotels and a reasonable beach. Finally there’s Pucusana, an old fishing village, gathered on the side of a small hilly peninsula, which is now perhaps the most fashionable of the beaches – a holiday resort where Limenos stay rather than just driving out for a swim.
Continuing south, the road cruises along the coast, passing the long beach and salt-pools of Chilca after 5km, and the curious lion-shaped rock of Leon Dormido (Sleeping Lion) after another 15km or so.
About 10km on from Chilca on the highway, where it bypasses the town of Malfa, is the cafeteria Dona Paulina, a great place to sample the best chicarones (chunks of deep-fried pork) in the region.
Asia , 10km down the road and spread out along it from Km 95 to 103, is essentially a small agricultural town, producing cotton, bananas and corn; the long beach here is ideal for camping, particularly its southern end.
About 20km on from Asia is Cerro Azul, located where the dual carriageway from Lima ends and becomes a single two-way road; another developing resort, particularly for surfing.
Another 8km and you come to the larger settlement of Canete, an attractive town with a colonial flavour, surrounded by marigolds and cotton fields, though probably not a place you’ll want to stop in, unless you happen to arrive during its annual festival (August 21-31), which consists of ten days of wild dancing to black Peruvian music.
The city, just eight hours north of Lima along the Panamerican Highway, looks every bit the oasis it is, standing in a relatively green, irrigated valley bounded by arid desert at the foot of the brown Andes mountains. It hardly seems a city of nearly a million inhabitants – walk twenty minutes in any direction and you’re out in open fields, hedged by flowering shrubs
The closest of the coastal resorts to Trujillo is the beachfront barrio of Buenos Aires, a five-kilometre stretch of sand southwest of Trujillo – very popular with locals and constantly pounded by surf. Like other coastal resorts, its seafood restaurants are an attraction, though it doesn’t have as much style or life as Huanchaco or Las Delicias.
Two kilometres south of Trujillo, after crossing the Rio Moche’s estuary, you come to the settlements of Moche and Las Delicias, both within an easy bus ride of the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna. Moche is a small village, slightly inland from the ocean and some 4km south of the city, blessed with several restaurants serving freshly prepared seafood.
Although no longer exactly a tropical paradise, Huanchaco is still a beautiful and relatively peaceful resort, 12km west, or twenty minutes by bus, from Trujillo. Until the 1970s, Huanchaco was a tiny fishing village, quiet and little-known to tourists. Today it is one of the fastest growing settlements in Peru, and is slowly spreading back towards Trujillo as half-finished adobe houses, concrete hotels and streets appear beside the main road.
About 30km from the Ecuadorean border and 287km north of Piura, Tumbes is usually considered a mere pit-stop for overland travellers. However, the city has a significant history and, unlike most border settlements, is a surprisingly warm and friendly place.
On top of that, it’s close to some of Peru’s finest beaches and the country’s only serious mangrove swamp, Los Bosques de Manglares.
Along the coast around Tumbes you’ll find some of the best beaches in the country, with pleasantly warm sea. Among them are Caleta de la Cruz, 23km southwest (45min), reputed to be the bay where Pizarro first landed, Punta Sal, 50km southwest (1-2hr), Zorritos, 34km southwest (1hr) and Mancora, about 100km to the south (2hr).
Buses to all four resorts leave daily from the main market in Tumbes, on Ramon Castillo, but return buses aren’t that frequent, so check return times with the driver before you leave Tumbes.
Nor Pacifico and Santa Rosa buses also go to Mancora from their offices in Tumbes.