By Catriona Spence
Peru’s northern coast gets most of the glory as beach & surf destination, leaving the far more isolated southern coast as a getaway for locals and independently-minded travelers.
The southern coastline stretches south from the department of Lima all the way to the border with Chile. The sea is cold, thanks to the Humboldt Current which brings icy waters north from Antarctica, but this doesn’t stop the locals and more than a few tourists enjoying the numerous beaches.
The department of Arequipa, well known for beautiful Arequipa City, has some of the beast beaches of the southern coast.
Those wanting to relax can find peace and tranquility in the natural beauty at Puerto Inka. Calm, clear waters await and there are accommodation options for all, from camping to hotels. With the naturally green desert hills as the backdrop to the town, it is an idyllic setting.
Those seeking action can hire jet skis and kayaks from the hotel Puerto Inka, while those interested in history can visit the archaeological site of Quebrada de la Waca, at the southern end of town.
Established during pre-Inca times, the site grew as an important source of fish and other coastal resources for the Inca Empire, with trading and supply routes reaching high into the distant Andes towards the ancient capital, Cusco.
A further option for visitors looking for a pleasant spot to relax is the quiet beach of Jihuay, very rarely visited by foreign tourists.
Both Jihuay and Puerto Inka are relatively off the beaten track and have patchy public transport services, so travelling by private transport is the best option. Puerto Inka and Jihuay are located off the Pan American Highway at kilometer 610 and 601 respectively.
For surfers the best waves lie in the far south, in and around Ilo. There are three good beaches: Gentilares, La Cruz and Piedras Negras. The waves break right and left, hold up to 3 meters and are consistent year-round. Although facilities at the beaches are relatively non-existent, the town of Ilo located just minutes away has numerous restaurants and hotels to suit all budgets. It can also be reached directly from Lima and Arequipa with the bus companies Tepsa and Flores.
The small town of Boca del Rio has a few pleasant beaches, which can be reached from Tacna and Ilo by bus. The town comes to life in summer when wealthy locals come to their holiday homes but, like many of Peru’s beach towns, it almost shuts down in winter. Surfers can enjoy the waves here too, with three breaks near the town. Most foreign tourists to Boca del Rio come from within South America so Western tourists can live an authentic Peruvian beach experience at this town.