Máncora, Peru: You Have More Time Than Money
There isn't much to do in Máncora, Peru. And that's the point. Nestled beneath the pale, desert cliffs on Peru's North Pacific coast near its border with Ecuador, it feels like one of the world's last truly chill beach towns: dusty, cheap, and easygoing, the kind of place where a three-day visit stretches into three weeks. "Hang out, eat ceviche, and drink — while staring at the water" is how Javier Swayne, a three-time national surf champion who runs Inside, a local surf school, describes the town's ethos.
Máncora doesn't look much like the Peru most people experience. Unlike the Andes and the Amazon, the northern coast is mostly desert, and the Incas didn't have an impact here. But a more modern tribe — surfers — certainly has, thanks to the coast's consistent, near-perfect waves. Máncora is also a playground for vacationers from Lima, who flock to the town during the country's summer break in January.
For lodging, head about 10 minutes south of town to Las Pocitas Beach. A beachfront room with hammocks and a private terrace can be had at Punta Ballenas Inn for about $50. There also are a number of stylish new boutique hotels, such as KiChic, with its yoga classes and vegetarian restaurant (from $200).
You can surf right in town at Playa Municipal. But anyone with a more fervent interest in the sport, as spectator or participant, will want to head about an hour south to Lobitos, home to a series of long, left-handed point breaks. If that's not your thing, rent a horse from a beachside stable. As you slowly make your way beneath the pale cliffs, keep an eye out for dolphins and humpback whales cresting just offshore. About a half-hour south is Cabo Blanco, a mellow fishing village that's a must-see for any serious fisherman. In 1953, a Texas oilman caught a record-setting 1,560-pound marlin here. Soon, celebrities like Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, and Ted Williams followed. In 1956, Ernest Hemingway spent 10 months here during the filming of The Old Man and the Sea. The town has lost its glamour, but the marlins still bite. Pacifico Adventures can set you up with a fishing or whale-watching charter.
No matter how they spend their days, everyone tends to wind up at Playa Municipal at sundown for a cold Pilsen lager from a thatched beachside bar hut. Here, you'll soon feel like a local yourself.
Distance from Airport: From Lima, fly two hours to Tumbes, then drive about two hours south.
Best Time to Go: Any time but November, the rainiest month.