From Trujillo to Tumbes, and Chiclayo to Piura, the Peruvian coast provides a permanent feast of perfect waves for every type of surfer, whether beginner or expert, in an area of enchanting villages, extraordinary scenery, open beaches, and secret spots. There are innumerable options in northern Peru, mainly between Piura and Tumbes. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a desire to find the wave of your life.
A glimpse of our adventures while with the waves
At dawn, we dart inside of a tube of crystal-clear water and white foam. Beside us, along the shore, rocks heave with life; local fishing boats bob with the waves and bump against each other. The sand is warm and wonderful. There’s a sea breeze and constant sunshine. Taking in the smell of the sea and the sound of waves at night can serve as the perfect guide that we need in life, therefore allowing us to follow our instincts.
Surfing in Peru is old school, way-back old school
We now have definitive archeological evidence to show that as far back as 2,000 years ago, people were surfing waves along the coasts of Peru. Along with being great fishermen, navigators, and experts of the sea, pre-Hispanic cultures in northern Peru, Perparticularly the Moche, were expert surfers as well.
The hotspots for wave hunting in Peru
When you head up north to the department of Piura, the best place in the country for finding with the largest number of world-class waves, you’ll find three spots worth stopping to see: Huanchaco, Chicama and Pacasmayo.
The beachside resort of Huanchaco, known by many as land of the caballitos de totora, produces a left-hander with various sections that you can surf almost every day. Nearby, you’ll also encounter the pre-Hispanic city of Chan Chan is our first landmark to investigate, which is a mere fifteen minutes from Trujillo.
614 kilometers north of Lima on the Northern Pan-American Highway, we reach Chicama (Malabrigo), which boasts the largest wave in the world: a 2.2 kilometers long left-hander with six distinct sections (El Cape, El Point, Las Dos Tetas, El Hotel, El Hombre, El Malecon). This unique wave acts like a perfect machine: wherever you leave your wave you can catch the second in the same place. There is an offshore wind all along the wave which is strongest on the El Hotel and El Hombre sections, the latter being the most tubular of them all.
At 681 kilometers, the mid-point between Lima and Piura is Pacasmayo: a beautiful resort with a wave similar to that of Chicama, except it’s shorter, bigger and stronger. Be aware that there’s a strong current in all its sections, so you have to save your strength for your trip through the water.
For waves in Peru, a best bet is to be in near Piura
If you want to get straight to the epicenter of surfing, Piura is a paradise of perfect waves. From Talara to Mancora there are endless possibilities. The most emblematic waves in the region are perfect tubular left-handers, although occasionally you find a right-hander with the same characteristics.
Lobitos is 1,104 north of Lima, a district that seems to have survived from another age when American oil companies came to Peru at the beginning of the 20th Century. Another fun fact: this sleepy village is the place where the first cinema in South America was built.
Lobitos has waves all year round. There are several breakers, all with different characteristics, within a radius of twenty minutes walk. The Lobitos wave, at the tip of the beach, is a world-class, long and tubular left-hander, and some of its sections are suitable for novice surfers. Near here is El Hueco, a very powerful and tubular wave that reaches the tip of Lobitos beach when the conditions are optimal. El Muelle, another world-class wave with perfect tubes every time it breaks is located at the north end of the beach. You might also want to check out baterias and Piscinas, located north of Lobitos. These waves are known to be good when the others are not so great. They are left-handers with a perfect shoulder. Occasionally the waves break into tubes.
Further north, 1,137 kilometers out, is Peru’s cathedral of surfing: Cabo Blanco and Panic Point. These two waves are very close to one another and have similar characteristics. Put simply, they’re perfect, solid tubes. They are difficult waves that break late at different seasons, and almost never together. These waves can reach three and a half meters, with wide and powerful tubes that are ideal for experienced surfers.
Sixteen kilometers further north is Los Organos, a beautiful beach with a spot known as La Vuelta, which produces great waves: a classic wave, consistent and tubular, permitting surfers to try many maneuvers. Other options include Punta Veleros, Organitos, and Casablanca. These waves are better for novices and beginners; they’re smaller and break practically all year round.
20 minutes by car or by taxi will take us to Mancora, the most famous resort in Piura. The wave is pretty and fun, suitable for anyone, with long walls just waiting to be drawn by all who fall under its spell.
In Tumbes, just a few kilometers north of Mancora, we find the Peña Redonda and Santa Rosa waves. The first one breaks when the sea is calm and there are no waves in practically any of the other beaches. The second wave breaks just a few times a year, and only when the sea is rough.
Diego Oliver is a Peruvian writer and author whose work can be found in the travel magazine Ultimate Journeys. He loves to focus on Peruvian culture both modern and classic, traveling the country, as well as social responsibility.