Best accessed by 4WD but somewhat accessible with regular 2WD vehicles, the Paracas Reserve is the only marine reserve in Peru and encompasses 700,000 acres of rugged shoreline, mountains, and desert. After driving for about 20 minutes with a caravan of locals and feeling like we were truly in the middle of nowhere, we came to an overlook and got our first taste of the breathtaking scenery of the reserve.
A couple of SUPers were already enjoying the 4-6′ wave conditions but the wind was picking up as we arrived and they came in as we headed out. We rode here in 10-20 knot conditions for a few hours. I was stoked as I was not expecting any waves until we headed north. The potential for riding spots, both flat water and waves, are ripe for exploration in the reserve and kept us down south for another unplanned day of exploration.
Our detour caused us to forfeit our flights from Lima to Piura ($225 round trip per person), so we had to take the bus. Jose’s partner, Rein Peterson, who runs Peru Kite’s Mancora operation (www.perukitemancora.com), met us at the station and tickets were under $40 per person each way.
The thought of taking a 19 hour bus ride up north freaked Holt and me out a little, but in the end, the ride did not drive us crazy and was actually quite comfortable. I’ve had worse food on airplanes and a constant stream of movies with badly dubbed English kept us entertained. The seats folded down so you could sleep more or less fully prone.
Upon arriving in Mancora, it was immediately evident that the vibe and feel here was much different than Paracas. While Paracas had more of a resort and upscale yet laid back feel, Mancora was definitely a surf resort town with a lot more foreign tourists whose median age looked to range somewhere between 20 and 30.
Our home base for the rest our trip in Peru was Samana Chakra (www.samanachakra.com). Located about 10-15 minutes walking distance from the center of town, we would come to appreciate its location after just one evening. Mancora goes off at night with businesses cranking loud music and people partying into the wee hours of the morning. We couldn’t hear a thing as we laid our heads down on our fluffy beds and awoke to an amazing breakfast served at the hotel’s full service restaurant overlooking the beach.
Since the swell forecast was a mere 2-4 feet, we decided to chill out in Mancora for the day. I kited in front of the hotel all by myself before heading upwind to the point. The point offers a nice left with waves averaging from 2 to 7 feet (2 meters) on a good day. The wind blows side shore to side onshore from 10 to 25 knots and up to 30 knots on some days. As the average temperature is around 80°F year round, many surfers and kiters go without wetsuits. I get cold super easy, so my old beat up 4/3 wetsuit provided the perfect layer to keep me warm.
I then kited upwind for about 20 minutes to the point and goofed off in the waves for a bit before seeing Holt and coming ashore. We then met at my old friend Skip Schippidinni’s school, located directly on the beach in front of the point. I knew Skip from my Cabarete days. Shortly after I left there in 2004, Skip rediscovered Peru and being a pure wave and goofy foot kiter, relocated to Mancora and opened Peru Kite Camp (www.perukitecamp.com). We enjoyed one of Skip’s BBQs, made plans for the next day, and then took a mototaxi back to Samana Chakra to chill and retire for the evening.
We woke up early and had another fabulous breakfast at Samana Chakra before heading down to Skip’s place. Skip had a group in, so we tagged along with him for the next two days checking out Lobitos, Tres Cruces, and Los Organos, all conveniently located within a 20 minute to 1.5 hour drive.
I definitely recommend hiring a local guide for Northern Peru. Besides saving yourself from a heart attack because of the crazy drivers who play chicken on the two-way highways, the locals know the best places to go according to wind/swell direction and the best places to eat, plus they know the way! We didn’t experience any ‘epicness’ but we had an amazing good time with Skip and his crew.
So after 14 days in Peru, we did not get to experience monster swell, rolling point breaks, or get tubed, but it did not matter. The people, the geography, the culture, the amazing food, and the potential for great wave riding will definitely bring us back. We only got a small taste of what Peru has to offer and it left us savoring for more.
Special thanks to the following for their hospitality!
www.perukite.com : Located in Paracas, just 2.5 hours south of Lima, Paracas is an especially good location for couples, families, and non kiting traveling partners. The bay offers flat water while the reserve offers waves and beautiful beaches and coves awaiting your exploration. Paracas is also home to Isla Ballestas, said to be the Galapagos of Peru and the Museum JC Tello which has an excellent display of Paracas artifacts.
www.perukitemancora.com: Peru Kite’s north location is your one stop contact for planning your Mancora vacation. Peru Kite Mancora specializes in lessons for every level, gear rentals, tours of Northern Peru to places off the beaten track, lodging options for every budget, and more! Co-owner Rein Petersen has teamed up with the KITES resort, Mancora’s most luxurious and newest hotel for package deals starting at just $85/night.
www.perukitecamp.com: Focusing on down-the-line wave riding, Peru Kite Camp caters more to intermediate,advanced, and professional kite surfers. Skip’s custom 4×4 vehicle will provide access to even the most remote & inaccessible breaks ensuring you are on the water riding and not digging yourself out of trouble.
www.samanachakra.com: Directly on the beach, Samana Chakra offers you a peaceful, tranquil, and rejuvenating environment to base your Mancora holiday from. Healthy meals, daily yoga, and beautiful but comfortable rooms await you at this little slice of paradise in Peru.
www.doubletree.com: Many people skip Lima as they want to get directly to the action on the water. I recommend you stay in Lima for at least one day as the city is worth exploring and the Indian markets offer the best gifts for you to bring home for yourself and loved ones. In Paracas, the Doubletree is directly on the water in front of the main launching/landing area with a reasonably priced restaurant. Treat yourself to the Doubletree experience!