When I hear the name “Peru”, I don’t normally think about beaches. Like most people, I think mountains and the Inca Trail. But when you remember that Peru is on the edge of South America and therefore has a long coast line, you realize that of course there are beaches!

Northern Peru has a number of “beach towns” from which to choose. As my sister and I were coming from Chiclayo and were heading towards Lima, it made the most sense to check out Huanchaco, rather than heading further north towards the more popular Mancora.

Huanchaco is popular in its own right, famous for being the probable birthplace of surfing. It lies near the city of Trujillo, making it a perfect tranquil base for exploring the region. The beach here is not the prettiest but it is pleasant enough by which to pass the time when not sightseeing. The pace of life here is slow, especially if you visit during the shoulder or off season like we did. If you ever wanted to get a feel for the “beach bum” lifestyle, this is a place in which to do so!

Where to Stay in Huanchaco

I’m not normally a big fan of hostels but I found hotel prices in Huanchaco on the expensive side. Casa Abuela, a well-priced hostel, was perfect for me especially since we were able to secure a private room with bathroom. Casa Abuela is a cute place with a view of the ocean and is conveniently located.

Where to Eat in Huanchaco

Being on the coast, it is no surprise that Huanchaco is popular for its ceviche. However, I’m not a fan of the dish and nor do I eat seafood (yes, I know – sacrilege) so here are my recommendations for budget non-seafood and non-ceviche meals:

  • La Barca: Decent Peruvian dishes at decent prices. If you can, get a seat with a view of the ocean.
  • Trattoria Italiana: Need a change from Peruvian food? This small restaurant serves delicious Italian pasta dishes. Definitely recommended.
  • Otra Cosa: A vegetarian hippy kind of place with a nice view of the ocean. Food is decent at good prices.
  • Chocolate Café: A cute, congenial place with good breakfasts. Definitely recommended.

What to do in Huanchaco

Surf: There are tons of surfing schools here so take your pick. If surfing doesn’t interest you, still head down to the beach and watch the locals surf the waves with their caballitos de totora, traditional narrow reed boats.

Watch the Sunset: Of the three nights we were in Huanchaco, we had three fantastic sunsets. The colours were amazing!

Explore the Town: There isn’t a whole lot to see in Huanchaco but there is an ocean pier with some fun people watching, lots of colourful street art, and many beach vendors that sell all sorts of knick knacks.

What to do near Huanchaco

The town is conveniently located near several important archaeological sites. Two that you should definitely visit are:

Chan Chan: It is the second largest adobe city in the world and was the largest city of the pre-Columbian era in South America. Built around 850 AD, Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimor Empire until 1470, when it was conquered by the Inca Empire. Not long after, the Spaniards arrived; they, of course, looted this city, famous for its riches. As Chan Chan is adobe, it is slowly eroding away – so go see it before it all turns to dust!

Huacas del Sol y Luna: The former is an adobe brick temple built by the Moche civilization; it’s pretty much all in ruins now so there isn’t a lot left to see. But at one time, it was largest single pre-Columbian structure in Peru! The smaller but better preserved Huaca de la Luna lies nearby. Here you’ll find awesome examples of what made the Moche people well-known: polychrome friezes. Oh and by the way, these huacas are more than 700 years older than Chan Chan!