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Relaxing In Peru's Best Beach Town: Mancora
If you'd like to make the journey in style and comfort, my recommendation is to take the Cruz del Sur bus company. Backpacking six countries in South America, I definitely had my fair share of questionable bus rides; however, Cruz del Sur was the best company I traveled with on the entire continent. Not only do they check bags and do body scans for safety reasons, they feed you a delicious hot meal, show movies in English or Spanish with subtitles, have comfortable reclining seats and provide you with a pillow and blanket. And, the bathrooms were clean and stocked with toilet paper and soap, something almost unheard of on bus transportation in South America.
If flying, the closest airports are in Piura, Tumbes or Talara. When flying internationally, you'll need to travel to Lima first, and then take a national flight to one of the three cities.
Luckily, there are many typical Peruvian restaurants in town. This means you'll be able to easily find and enjoy local, affordable eateries. The most I ever paid for a meal in Mancora was 5 nuevo soles (about $1.80) on a set menu, which includes a starter, entree and refreshing glass of juice. A usual lunch would be a large bowl of chicken noodle soup followed by either baked chicken with rice and potatoes or goat or beef with rice, salad and beans.
Mancora is also a great place to sample some fresh ceviche, or cebiche, as you'll see it written on restaurant signs.
When in Mancora, the best thing you can do is absolutely nothing. The town is very different from many of the popular tourist spots in Peru, and has an amazingly laid-back vibe and stress-free atmosphere. Walking down the main street, you'll see people browsing beach-inspired markets, locals relaxing with a newspaper, playing cards or enjoying a delicious meal, and travelers with dreadlocks and baggy pants twisting each others' hair and weaving bracelets in the sun. At the hostel I stayed at, many of the staff were backpackers who had simply fallen in love with the lifestyle of the area and didn't want to leave.
Still, there are things to do if you so please. Most importantly, spend time on the beach. Here you'll not only be able to sunbathe and go swimming, you'll also be able to partake in a range of water sports and adventure activities, like surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, kitesurfing and horseback riding. I'd also recommend watching the sunrise or sunset at least once while you're there, as the beach is such a peaceful place to watch the colorful show of nature.
If you're in town during August, September or October, it's definitely worth it to book a whale watching tour. During that time, humpback whales swim from Antarctic waters to breed during reproduction season. Participants have an 80 percent chance of seeing the whales diving, breaching, swimming and playing.
In Mancora, there are also many places to partake in yoga. You'll pay about S/.20 for 90 minutes, and will feel invigorated for the rest of the day. To find a center, just walk along the beach near the hotels and you'll find signs advertising the service. I recommend checking out Samana Chakra and Mancora Yoga: A Center for Radiant Living.
To help you relax even further, getting a massage is an option in this chill beach village. The most reputable spa in the area is Origenes Spa, which offers holistic and specialized treatments – like cooling cucumber for sunburn if you're like me and forget how strong the sun is in Mancora. Depending on what you get will depend on the price, but some examples include a 60-minute aromatherapy massage (about $58), a honey and cucumber facial (about $52) a 2-hour fertility ritual (about $112) and a 30-minute floral bath (about $52). To see the complete menu, click here.
There is also a woman named Sarah Lane who was recommended by my hostel, who gives massages on the beach from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can find her near the Quebrada entrance of the beach – email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website.
Located about an hour out of town is Cabo Blanco. Here, you'll find the charming fishing village where Ernest Hemingway used to hangout and drink Pisco Sours while writing brilliant text like "Old Man and the Sea." The location is also where the author caught a 700-pound Marlin fish. If you'd like an informational tour, Pacific Adventures offers a "Hemingway Route" trip that visits all the spots that inspired this legendary writer. For surfers, Cabo Blanco is also known as one of the best places in Peru for the sport.
Another day trip option is to travel about 30 minutes northeast to Poza de Barro, where you'll find a natural hot spring and mud bath. Not only is it relaxing, a soak in the bubbling, sulfurous water is said to be good for your health, curing skin ailments, mineral deficiencies, rheumatic conditions, stress and eliminating toxins. The trip costs about S/. 35 (about $13) round trip.
Most of the nightlife scene revolves around the hotels and hostels. Loki Mancora is the most notorious party spot in the city, and visitors should get there before 10:00 p.m. or risk being charged an admission fee. The Point Mancora Beach also puts on regular theme parties, including their monthly Full Moon Party, which features a live DJ spinning near the pool (shown right). After 2:00 a.m., head to Cocos Beach Club or Charlie Brown's in town to finish the night.
[Images via Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, Pacifico Adventures, JFK Library, The Point Mancora Beach]