Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Huanchaco Beach

Several years ago while visiting the archeological site of Chan Chan at Trujllo we made a very brief stop for lunch at a small town I later learned was Huanchaco. After lunch we walked on the pier, took a few photos, and went back to Trujllo. We didn’t think about the town at the time or after, until just recently when we decided we wanted to go somewhere for a few days to relax.

I’ve never done a laid-back vacation. I always want to see and do whatever the area offers. I don’t want to return to Chiclayo only to find that I missed seeing the world’s largest concrete sombrero, or drove right past the oldest fossil tamale in the Americas. Now, don’t get the idea I’m a Clark Griswold…I don’t go that far but I am a planner and list maker.

There was to be no planning for this excursion…no schedules, no agendas, no list of things to see and do; no nothing. The only requirements for our getaway were a decent hotel with a pool, bar and restaurant, and a small quiet community on the ocean. With the hope that Huanchaco was the town we were looking for, and that the Las Palmeras hotel would provide the remaining wants, Maribel, Brian and I boarded a bus for the four hour ride.

Huanchaco is not what I expected. It is fairly quiet, but not what I would call a sleepy little village. Our impression is that it is a larger, more modern and civilized version of Mancora; a popular beach community north of Chiclayo. Actually it’s as if there are two towns, with the pier serving as the dividing line. South of the pier the road becomes a modern four-lane highway bordered by upscale hotels and restaurants on the east, and a groomed beach (rare in Peru) to the west. North of the pier the road, beach and buildings have noticeably deteriorated. To walk the entire malecon including both north and south stretches takes about an hour at a leisurely pace, and is well worth the time.

It is definitely a tourist town, with most tourists congregating on the malecòn near the pier. There are large numbers of non-Hispanics milling about; taking photos, buying souvenirs from street vendors, and sampling food offerings in the many small restaurants. One puzzling observation was that a majority of the town’s restaurants and artisan shops closed at about 7:00pm…exactly the opposite of what we’d expected given the large numbers of tourists and slightly Bohemian feel to some sections of the malecòn. If there are night life locations, we didn’t see them.

I can’t suggest things to see and do because we didn’t do anything. Maribel and Brian spent lots of time in the pool and ocean. We walked the malecòn twice daily. We ate each meal at a different restaurant. We watched people catching fish on the pier, or wading in the ocean to harvest an edible weed (mococho) in the early morning. I did a lot of reading. Incidentally, I highly recommend “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen to anyone interested in a captivating, well-written and easy to read novel.

We spent hours on the beach watching people, pelicans, waves and sunsets. I listened to the sound of bowling ball sized rocks colliding together as the waves first placed them on the beach and then alternately reclaimed them for the sea. For how long have they been caught in that cycle? Years? Decades? Centuries? With very little effort I could invest them with human qualities. Did they prefer the beach or the water? Was the sound I heard actually their voices, perhaps rejoicing or lamenting their return to the sea?

Huanchaco turned out to be exactly what we wanted. Brian would like to move there. I suspect his meeting 18 year old Alejandra has something to do with that. We’re probably not going to move there, but present plans call for us to return in March. Huanchaco is a great place to do nothing.



  1. I think you are supposed to wear shorts to the beach ;)


  2. Jim… actually I did wear shorts on the beach, but there is no way I’m going to post photos :)

  3. Tell me more about Las Palmeras -- was it everything you wanted/needed? I'm thinking about staying there 3 weeks from now. Can't wait!

  4. Las Palmeras is a good hotel. I would recommend it with one caveat: do not reserve a triple room. What you will get is a standard double room with an additional bed, making the living space so limited it is nearly impossible to walk. And the additional bed/mattress put in our room smelled as if it had been in storage for a very long time.

    Beyond that, the service is good; the rooms and public areas attractive and clean, and the restaurant food is as good as any other restaurant we ate at. The hotel is located on the north end of the beach, isolating it a bit from other hotels and congested central area, which is a plus for me. Enjoy your stay!


  5. Tom, I have not moved to Peru yet, but already have a large home in Trujillo, (I come for 2 or 3 weeks every couple of years to visit my wife's lovely family) and will be moving to Haunchaco (across the street from the pier in Huanchaco) after I sell some properties in Peru and the US, and build the new place on the beach. Nice article!! Thanks, Steve