Tumbes is also the closest city to the astounding north–south ecological corridor of nature reserves, which includes ecosystems unique to Peru and a good variety of both mammals and birds. There are interesting mangrove swamps to visit, with the only crocodiles in Peru, from the small fishing town of Puerto Pizarro.
But that said, all of these reserves are serviced primarily by Máncora-based companies , and you shouldn’t stay long (or at all) in Tumbes, a rough-and-tumble coastal town that has a history of hassling foreigners since Pizarro arrived here for the third and final time in 1532. Up until then the resident Tumpis Indians, with their knowledge of the surrounding mangrove swamps, managed to turn back the Spanish army that later defeated the Inca.
Pizarro left only a cross on the beach (at present-day Caleta La Cruz, Bay of the Cross) before moving his troops farther south, where he founded the city of San Miguel de Piura . Little has changed for foreigners in Tumbes, who continually complain of scamming money changers with rigged calculators, young pickpockets, and lousy service at local restaurants.
For Máncora , taxis can be rented at the airport (US$29, 1.5 hours). Or take a US$2 taxi into Tumbes to Transportes Carrucho (Tumbes and Piura, 5 a.m.–8 p.m.), where US$2 buses leave every half hour for Máncora and nearby beaches.
Sertur (Tumbes 253, tel. 072/52-5305) shuttles 12-seat modern vans to and from Piura . But these expensive combis are only worth their price if they aren’t crammed full.
Cruz del Sur (Tumbes 319, tel. 072/52-6200, www.cruzdelsur.com.pe , 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, US$34–43) and Oltursa (Tumbes 307, tel. 072/52-6524, www.oltursa.com.pe , 8 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–6 p.m. daily, US$26–43) have daily buses to Lima . The direct trip is about 16 hours.