We notice with some dismay that many gother travel guides give poor write-ups about the beaches just south of Lima. The general thought is that they are dirty, crowded, treacherous, and, in general, not worth visiting. Though it is true that the white sands and subtropical climate of Peru’s north beaches are more alluring, it takes 20 hours by bus to get there.
If you are in Lima and in need of a beach fix, head south for a half hour to Punta Hermosa or San Bartolo. You will find sandy beaches, world-class surfing waves, protected beaches for safe swimming, rocking nightlife, a few good hostels, and lots of cebicherías. The only time to visit these beaches is during the summer months from mid-December to the end of April—they are cloudy during the rest of the year.
Make reservations well in advance, especially January–mid-March, when surfers from around the world flock here along with Peruvian students on summer break. The best time to go is Sunday–Thursday nights, when beaches are empty and hotel prices are often 30 percent lower than those listed.
There are other options besides Punta Hermosa and San Bartolo—check out the Guia Inca de las Playas, for sale at Lima bookstores, for more details. Santa María, at Km 48 of the Panamericana, is an upscale beach with a control point that admits only residents and respectable-looking day-trippers. If you want a fancier, clean, but fairly snobby beach experience, this is your place, though there are few or no lodging options here.
Pucusana is a picturesque fishing town at Km 58 of the Panamericana.
Puerto Viejo, at Km 72 of the Panamericana, is a long beach good for beginning surfers—including a left point break that ranges 1–2 meters.
Leon Dormido (Sleeping Lion) at Km 80 has a calm beach that is often crowded.
The best parties, however, are at Asia, Km 97, which becomes an explosion of discos, condos, private clubs, and even car dealerships in the summer. Teenagers here for the parties pack the beach and the discos at night. Near Asia’s beaches, and close to shore, there are several islands with great sea kayaking and possibilities to see Humboldt penguins and sea lions.
Finally, Cerro Azul at Km 128 is a forgotten port, with a small fishing community and pleasant beach with both pipeline and beginner waves for all levels of surfers.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition