Tumbes is a gateway for beaches, mangroves, and inland nature reserves along Peru’s northern Pacific coast. It’s somewhat isolated location has kept the number of visitors down.
The Tumpis Indians, who gave the city its name, inhabited Tumbes during pre-Inca times. The Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro made three visits to Tumbes between 1528 and 1532 and was turned back each time by the fierce locals. He did manage to plant a cross on the beach (at present-day Caleta La Cruz) before moving south to found the city of San Miguel de Piura.
Tumbes is about an hour north of Máncora, a laid-back town that’s near a number of good beaches. The beaches here are fine places to swim, sunbathe, and surf. Kiteboarding, snorkeling, and fishing are also popular.
Tumbes is also close to an ecological corridor of nature reserves that collectively make up the Reserva de Biósfera del Noroeste. These inland reserves harbor Peru’s only mangrove swamps, which in turn protect Peru’s only crocodiles and a number of endangered species. Parque Nacional Cerros de Amotape, southeast of Tumbes, is another important park in this area. It protects some of Peru’s only Pacific tropical forest, as well as endangered species like the Tumbes crocodile and a local howler monkey called the mono coto. The El Caucho region of this park is spectacular.
Travelers can catch flights from Lima to Tumbes and then take shuttles to nearby hotels or head south to Máncora.