The Northern Beaches
There is a secret about Peru that is jealously guarded by surfers around the world: The country has fabulous beaches, especially in the north, where the frigid Humboldt Current veers off into the Pacific and leaves behind a subtropical coastline bathed in balmy waters. Picture desert hills that ease into a winding, varied coastline of white sand and palm trees.
There are many half-moon bays and beaches where odd volcanic formations break up the surf. These are safe for swimming: no currents and no sharks. But there are also many thundering point breaks and some of the best lefts in the world. Surfers flock here when waves are highest between January and March.
There is a lot of new development on these beaches, but the result, so far at least, is a pleasingly eclectic blend of mom-and-pop options—especially in the 25-kilometer stretch of spectacular coastline that includes the beaches of Órganos, Vichayito, Máncora, and Punta Sal. You can find excellent value for food and lodging, ranging from US$5 surfer bungalows to exquisite bed-and-breakfasts for honeymooners.
Unless you love huge parties, do not come here during the major Peruvian holidays (New Year’s, Easter week, July 28 Independence Day weekend), when rates double and beaches overflow with Limeños. If you value empty beaches and deep discounts on lodging, try the off-season between April and mid-December (in October, whales pass here on their way to southern Chile). The sun still shines, even through the occasional overcast day, and the temperatures are plenty hot (80–90°F, or 27–32°C).
For surfers, there is always a wave at Máncora, which ranges from gentle beginner waves to six-footers when the swell is up. And for other adventures, there are local tour operators who tackle any trip from fishing off the Máncora coast to rafting the Río Tumbes.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition