Peru Surfing Guide
Peru is a must-surf destination for pro surfers all over the world. It has 1,500 miles (2,414 km) of coastline and a huge variety of waves and surfing conditions. World championships and smaller competitions take place at beaches near Lima, and Peruvian pro surfers have become recognizable national celebrities. Surfing has become such an important sport in Peru that in 2013, President Ollanta Humalla signed a law specifically designed to protect the beaches in Peru with the best surf.
If you’re interested in surfing during your visit, consider booking a lesson with one of the many surf schools in Lima or Máncora. Though there is excellent surfing to be found all over the country, the best surf spots are those with consistent breaks for both beginners and advanced surfers—that way, no one is left out.
For a good surfing experience, make sure you time your visit to the beaches wisely. July and August are the most popular times to visit Peru. Peruvians tend to visit beach towns on New Year’s, Easter week, and July 28th (Peru’s Independence day), so expect crowds during these times of the year.
On the North Coast, the waves are the largest between January and March. The north coast has warm water and consistent waves year-round, which is a large part of why it's such a good surfing destination.
The dry season lasts from May to October. The water off the coast of Lima is usually cold, so it’s best to visit during the warmer, drier months if you want to surf.
In general, September and May are the months with the nicest weather in Peru.
Surfing competitions have become increasingly common in Peru. Puntas Rocas beach in Lima is set to host the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games. Eduardo Arena, a pioneering Peruvian surfer, founded the International Surfing Association in 1964.
Surfing’s popularity is starting to catch up to that of soccer in Peru. As such, talented natives have become household names here. Sofía Mulanovich, a Peruvian woman of Croatian descent, won the World Surfing Championship in 2004. She and other well-known Peruvian surfers, like Cristobal de Col and Gabriel Villarán, have endorsement deals with large companies, including Red Bull.
Stars of the Peruvian surfing circuit come in all shapes and sizes. To the delight of newscasters everywhere, in 2010 a surf instructor in Lima taught an alpaca how to surf!
Surfing is dangerous, and there are a few things that you can do to ensure that you stay safe. Make sure to do your research about the beach you’ll be visiting—some beaches have waves that break over reefs, making them unsafe for novice surfers. Rip tides and submerged rocks are other common dangers to surfers. Along the northern beaches, be careful not to step on any stingrays, which can hide out in the sand beneath your feet. Do the 'stingray shuffle' by dragging your feet through the sand, instead of lifting them up and down—the vibrations created alert the rays to your approaching presence. If you do get stung, very hot water can help reduce the pain.
Some surfing destinations are still relatively unknown and lack local surf shops, so make sure to get all of your gear before heading to beaches away from a major city. Keep in mind that many of these beaches have challenging surf and no lifeguards.
Where To Go
If you are traveling anywhere near the coast of Peru, chances are good that you’ll be near a beach that’s worth visiting. The following list compiles the best surf spots along the north, central, and southern coasts of Peru. There are plenty of beaches between each of these destinations, but for this list we’re sticking to the beaches that best represent the surfing opportunities in each region.
Surfers treasure Peru’s North Coast for its cloudless weather and dependable waves. It also doesn’t hurt that the warm water makes it possible to surf at any time of the year.
Punta Sal (Tumbes)
At Punta Sal visitors can enjoy small waves. If you’re more interested in swimming or boogie boarding, this beach is a calm alternative to the massive surf that’s found a little farther south. The nearest city is Tumbes, which is about an hour away. This beach is known for its lack of crowds and tranquility.
Máncora and Las Pocitas
Máncora is one of Peru’s most famous beach towns. According to pro surfers, it’s relatively easy to get into the surf. Waves don’t usually get higher than 10 feet (3 m), making it a great spot for new surfers to practice. Surfers describe the waves here as “mushy,” meaning that they break slowly and aren’t too intense. The surrounding town has a laid-back, happy-go-lucky vibe, and offers great accommodations. Because of its growing popularity, the beaches of Máncora often get crowded, especially on the weekend.
For a more secluded surfing experience, drive south to the beaches of Las Pocitas. These beaches are very close to Máncora, but have fewer crowds and more greenery surrounding the beach.
Vichayito, Los Órganos, and Punta Veleros
Vichayito is another good destination for beginner surfers. Unlike many beaches in Peru, there are no rocks near the shore, allowing for a safe surf. This is a quiet beach, but is not too far from Máncora’s nightlife. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are also popular here.
Punta Veleros, in the town of Los Órganos, has a large reef close to the shore, so you should only surf here if you are experienced. Los Órganos means “The Organs,” a name chosen because of the musical noises the wind makes up and down the coast. Punta Veleros is known for its mixed bag of pipelines and easier waves.
Continuing south, you’ll find a number of beaches that are often absent from guide books. Some of the towns surrounding these smaller beaches are not picturesque, and may be home to oil and mining industries, but the water off the beaches is usually clear, blue, and surfable.
43.5 miles (70 km) south of Máncora, the beach at Lobitos has 4 different points for surfing, offering a wide variety of waves. Because of the variety, it offers good waves to a range of different surfing skill sets. This is also a popular destination for kitesurfing.
Cabo Blanco is best known for its tricky pipeline, a type of wave that breaks in shallow water, forming a smooth tunnel for surfers to coast. According to legend, it was at this beach that Ernest Hemingway found the inspiration to write The Old Man and the Sea. This is a lovely spot and has started to draw increasing numbers of surfers, although it typically remains uncrowded. Surfers must be wary of the rocks on the shore.
Chicama is best known for its very long waves. Waves can measure a mile in length—some of the longest in the world. The waves here are also very fast and frequent, no matter the conditions. Because of the long waves, this is another beach that’s best left to more experienced surfers.
Peruvians have been drawn to the waves of the Pacific since time immemorial. The best surfing destinations in central Peru are often near significant archeological ruins.
Huanchaco and El Brujo
For the surfing archeologist, these two sites are a dream come true. Even if that doesn’t quite describe you, visit the burial site at El Brujo before you hit the playa. Archeologists discovered the mummy of a powerful female figure here, covered in tattoos and shrouded in gold. Be careful to avoid the rocks where the waves break.
In 2013, the 'Save the Waves Coalition' declared Huanchaco the world’s 5th surfing reserve. Huanchaco received the title as a reward for their ongoing dedication to preserving the coast. That same year Huanchaco hosted the ISA World Longboard Championship. This beach typically has good waves for surfers of all ability levels. Once you’ve explored the waves at Huanchaco, visit nearby Trujillo to see Chan Chan, the ruins of a pre-Columbian city and a massive archeological site.
This is for experienced surfers only! The waves here are tricky and break near a dangerous coral reef. Experienced surfers will appreciate Playa Grande’s fast waves. While not too far from the Pan-American Highway, this beach is often completely empty.
San Gallán (Paracas)
If you find yourself in the Paracas National Reserve, consider arranging a boat to visit the island of San Gallán. Although it takes some planning and time to reach these waves, experienced surfers consider this one of the best spots in all of Peru. The water here is quite cold, so bring a wetsuit.
Lima and Lima Province
Most visiting surfers eventually end up on the beaches at Lima—it’s usually a major stop on the itinerary. There are plenty of surf shops to choose from, and its beaches are clustered close together. Just south of Lima, you’ll also find a good selection of beaches in the town of Punta Hermosa, a common destination for beachgoers who’d like to surf a little bit outside of town. Water here is often colder than in the north, so surfers usually wear wetsuits.
La Herradura is accessible from Lima’s Circuito de Playas. Because it’s so easy to get to from downtown, it’s often quite crowded. Surfers at this beach are typically experienced locals.
Puntas Rocas is the site of the ISA World Class Championship. But don’t be intimidated. Novice surfers will find plenty of waves they can ride here too.
This is said to be the beach where champion surfer Sofía Mulanovich got her start. Beware of urchins! The spiky sea creatures pose a severe danger in the event of a wipeout. Expert surfers flock to this beach on the weekend for the fast, steady waves.
Named for the impressive height of its waves, Pico Alto translates to “High Peak,” and has waves that range from 12 to 30 feet (3.5 m to 9 m) tall. Obviously, surfing this beach is best left to the most experienced surfers. But these are some of the most impressive waves in the world, and worth a trip just for the spectacle.
Two hours south of Lima, this beach is a good day-trip spot for inexperienced surfers who’d like to sample a beach with easy waves that’s away from the hustle and bustle of Lima.
Ready, Set, Surf
Because of the sea urchins and rocks in Peru, it’s a good idea to bring sturdy water shoes or old sneakers that will make it safe for you to wade into the surf. Bring a wetsuit if you have one, but don’t worry about bringing any other equipment. We can set you up with surfboard rentals and an instructor. And don’t be intimidated by the experienced, sun-bleached Peruvian surfers. Even if you’re a novice surfer, Peru’s waves are something that every visitor should take the time to experience.