Huanchaco is famous for a style of reed boat that dates back more than 3,000 years (some of them are still in use today), world-class surfing, and for being the possible birthplace of ceviche. In other words, Huanchaco is one of Peru’s best beach towns.
Huanchaco, just 7 miles (12 km) from the city of Trujillo, was founded in 1535 by Spanish conquistadors and it functioned as the main port for Trujillo until 1870. The beach in Huanchaco–a wide expanse of gray sand–is not lovely. However, surfers, fishermen, and anyone looking for some coastal relaxation will find plenty to love.
Travelers and surfers hang out on the beach and loiter on a long pier and a small beach town sprawls inland from the Pacific lazily making room for locals and tourists. A visit to Huanchaco is a worthy day trip from Trujillo, but an even better idea is to plan to spend a few beachy, breezy days there. Here’s how.
What to do in Huanchaco, Peru
If you make it onto the list of World Surfing Reserves (there are only nine of them in the world), then the surfing must be good. Huanchaco made that list in 2013 and surfers–from newbies to pros–come here in droves. Don’t surf? There are plenty of surfing schools in Huanchaco.
Huanchaco is also famous for its caballito fishing boats which have been made and used for thousands of years. These “Little Reed Horses”, made from tightly woven totora reeds, got their name because people sat on these handmade boats as if they were straddling a horse (though all of the locals we saw were kneeling on their reed boats).
Rent a caballito and give it a try yourself (about 20 soles, or about US$5.50, per half hour), or find a place to sit on the beach and watch local fishermen (some of whom still use these traditional boats) show you how it’s done.
There aren’t really any sights to visit in Huanchaco (it’s all about the beach vibe here), but you can hike up the bluff overlooking town to visit the Santuario de la Virgen del Socorro. Completed in 1540, it’s said to be the second-oldest church in Peru.
As you’re strolling along the malecón waterfront walkway, don’t miss the metal sculpture of two enormous fish. It was done by Victor Delfin, one of Peru’s most notable artists.
Huanchaco also makes a good base for exploring the many archaeological sites in the region including the Chan Chan archaeological site and the Brujo Archaeological Complex.
What to eat and drink in Huanchaco, Peru
Researchers have claimed that ceviche, that iconic Peruvian dish, may have been invented in Huanchaco. There are certainly still many places to enjoy ceviche and other seafood dishes in town and on the beach. It can be difficult to find ceviche after lunchtime since it’s made with the day’s fresh catch and when that’s gone you’re out of luck.
For us, the real food find in Huanchaco was Bassano Pizza al Leña where you can get legit wood oven pizza. The pizzas here have a thinish crust that’s slightly charred, crunchy, chewy, and salty. A wide range of fresh toppings are on hand including cherry tomatoes and arugula that the owners grow themselves. And prices are reasonable at from 25 soles (about US$6.50) to 38 soles (about US$10) for a large pizza that yields eight slices. Personal pizzas are also available.
Where to sleep in Huanchaco, Peru
We spent a few nights at the Bracamonte Hotel where the Bracamonte family created a serene resort environment in the 1970s.
Just back from the beach, a wooden gate opens onto lush gardens, a big pool, and two levels of airy and fastidiously clean rooms (we saw housekeepers cleaning the outside walls when they were done scrubbing inside) with ceiling fans. What began as one room for surfers to rent turned into one of the first hostels in Huanchaco and eventually evolved into this lovely mid-range hotel (149 soles or about US$38 for a private matrimonial room with a private bathroom) that’s still run by the Bracamonte family.
A more budget-friendly option is Hostal Camping Naylamp where 60 soles (about US$16) got us a small, basic, musty (but clean) private room with a bathroom and a hard mattress (breakfast not included). The common areas here were great including furnished patios with electrical plugs and views of the ocean just across the road. There’s also a large and secure parking area and they allow camping.
Here’s more about travel in Peru
Here’s more about Beaches in the Americas