A considerably more laid-back base from which to independently visit the ruins around Trujillo  is Huanchaco, an ancient fishing village that has exploded over the last few decades into a favorite resort for Peruvians and a well-worn destination on the Gringo Trail. Even as new adobe homes fill the 14-kilometer gap between Huanchaco and Trujillo, this beach town still maintains a good bit of its village charm. Huanchaco has an excellent assortment of inexpensive and well-run hostels  and restaurants  for a range of travelers.
Huanchaco is the mythical landing spot of Takaynamo, the bearded founder of the Chimú empire who reputedly ordered the construction of Chan Chan  around A.D. 1200. Even before Takaynamo’s arrival, however, Huanchaco’s fishermen were using their exquisitely crafted caballitos de tórtora, reed rafts with gracefully curved bows that are depicted on 2,000-year-old Mochica ceramics.
About 80 full-time fisherfolk straddle their caballitos each morning, legs dangling into the water on each side as they fish with line and hook or drop weighted gill nets. The anglers surf in on the waves in the afternoon and then stand their boats upright to dry.
Called patacho in the native tongue spoken first by the Moche and later by Chimú, the boats are made of tied bundles of reeds, which are cut from the marsh (wachaque) at the north end of town. A few residents still speak the nearly extinct native tongue, including one elderly woman who is known for singing Moche ballads.
Most visitors to Huanchaco come for a rest from the rigors of travel and enjoy a relaxed nightlife that includes occasional bonfires on the beach, roving musicians, and a few pubs. Brazilians cram into the hostels along the beach, sure proof of good surfing. This is a great place to learn how to surf with gentle waves, surfboards for rent, and quality instructors.
There is an important historical site on the hill above the town: Santuario de la Virgen del Socorro, reputed to be the second-oldest church in Peru. The yellow church with colonial facade and large bell tower has served as a landmark for sailors ever since the Spaniards built it atop a Chimú temple in 1540.
After a Spanish caravel sunk one late night in a storm off the coast, legend has it that a box floated to shore containing the Virgen del Socorro (Virgin of Rescue). It sparked the conversion of Huanchaco’s natives, so the story goes, and has been venerated ever since.
A word of caution: Any beach spot popular with foreigners will have its share of bricheros, delinquents who specialize in ripping off tourists. They will often befriend travelers by offering free surfing lessons, only to end up in a bar later that night where the gringo is left with the bill. Travelers who wander the streets of Huanchaco—or most other cities in Peru for that matter—late at night either drunk or on drugs are asking to be robbed.
From Trujillo , US$0.75 colectivos run along Avenida España before heading to Huanchaco. A taxi for the 10-minute drive will cost US$4–5.