At 65 kilometers from Piura, this is the favorite local beach destination, a pleasant stretch of white sand with gentle waves perfect for swimming. The beach is fringed with stilted beach homes built during the 1950s, classic old wooden structures with long balconies facing west. There are few services (Internet, restaurants, etc.) outside of several resorts, which are all but dead in the off-season late March–early December.
The beach is presided over by Iglesia San Lucás de Colán, the first church the Spanish built in Peru, near the small town of Esmeralda. This magnificent and unique stone church, recently restored to its original thatch-and-mud roof, has ancient wood columns and, with typical Spanish shrewdness, is built atop a Chimú huaca—inside you will find the coats of arms for the royal Spanish Hapsburg line.
Another 10 kilometers south along the coast is the picturesque fishing town of Paita, founded in the 16th century by the Spanish and the place where Manuela Saenz, Simón Bolívar’s mistress, spent her final days ostracized from Lima society. This area’s clear, starry skies at night and pastel clouds at sunset have given rise to the oft-repeated Peruvian saying: “Nada como la luna de Paita y el sol de Colán” (“There is nothing like the moon of Paita and the sun of Colán”).
Good lodging options are: Playa Colán Lodge (Ayacucho 585, Piura tel. 073/32-6778, www.playacolanlodge.com.pe, US$45–65 bungalows for two; US$55–75 for four; US$65–85 for five) is on the southern tip of the beach town, with cozy bungalows right in front of the ocean. Amenities include a big swimming pool, hammocks, and tennis courts. The restaurant is probably the best deal in all of Colán.
Sol de Colán (Piura tel. 073/32-1784, www.elsoldecolanhotel.com, US$30–45 d, US$45–70 for six-person bungalow) includes brick bungalows and six rooms set back from the water along a stone walkway. Each tile-floored bungalow has a kitchen, separate sitting room, and covered terrace. Some of them have cable TV. The poolside restaurant serves excellent fish. Ocean water comes right up to the hotel, so no sandy beach here.
Getting to Colán
Transportes Dora, third block of Sánchez Cerro in Piura, has frequent US$0.75 taxis to Paita, where you can take another US$0.50 combi farther north to Colán.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition