While Northern Peru is known for its endless lefts fronting dry, dusty deserts, the surf in Southern Peru is of a different flavor, with the beachside desert being the only common denominator. Although Lima isn’t technically in the far south, the capital city and nearby Punta Hermosa have the highest density of surf spots in the country, and are generally referred to as “southern surf spots.” There is a lot of history in this area, from the early Club Waikiki and its collection of beach boys to the 1965 world championships held in Punta Hermosa. More recently, local girl Sofia Mulanovich won the women’s world title in 2004 and Pico Alto has gained a reputation as one of the world’s best big-wave spots, with a local event featuring on the Big Wave World Tour.

The Surf: Mostly soft/average rocky points and reefs with perpetual fog and light onshore winds. This area is more quantity than quality—unless you are a beginner to low intermediate surfer, for whom the waves would be perfect. Of course, the “average, soft, beginner to intermediate thing” gets thrown out the window if you are coming to surf Pico Alto.

Five Waves Worth Surfing:

  1. Punta Roca: Widely considered to be one of the better waves in Punta Hermosa, Punta Roca is just what its name suggests—a rocky right hand point that can run for around 100 meters and ranges from playful to rippable.
  2. La Isla: Smack dab in the middle of Punta Hermosa and one of the first waves to be surfed in the region, La Isla is a consistent right reef that breaks in pretty deep water and typically has a crowd.
  3. Kon Tiki: The original big-wave spot in Punta Hermosa, Kon Tiki has taken a back seat to its bigger, more famous brother Pico Alto, but still packs a punch for those looking to charge waves in the double to triple overhead range.
  4. Waikiki: A beach in the Miraflores district of Lima which emulates the Hawaiian landmark of the same name, Waikiki was one of the first places surfed in Peru and is home to the infamous Club Waikiki. Although this isn’t the best wave you’ll ever surf (by a long shot), it is worth it for the historical value.
  5. Pico Alto: One of South America’s best big-wave spots, Pico Alto (literally “tall peak”) breaks a half mile out to sea over a deep water rock reef. Although it is a peak and the lefts are definitely rideable, the right is the real prize, handling waves of over 40 foot (on the face) and providing some of the longest big-wave paddle-in rides in the world.

The Water: Cool but not cold, the water in the Punta Hermosa region ranges from 57–68 F (14–20 C), and although dark and dingy isn’t exactly dirty. In general, a good 3/2 wetsuit will cover you for winter, and many people can be seen trunking it in summer.

The Season: The consistent big-wave season stretches from April through September, although Peru picks up waves year round from both the north and the south.

The Vibe: Lots of local surfers in Lima and lots of visiting Brazilians in Punta Hermosa, but the lineups are surprisingly mellow. On land, it’s best to watch your back—Peru is notorious for petty theft and harassment

Things To Do: Peru may have more to offer in the way of non-aquatic activities than any other destination frequented by surfers. Cuzco is a gateway back into the time of the Inca, and is a good hub from which to check out Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley. The Andes are a great attraction as well, appealing to the trekking/backpacking crew, and Iquitos rests in the middle of the Amazon river system. Rest assured that, in the unlikely event that the surf goes flat, you won’t be bored.

Where To Stay: Fairly priced hostels abound, especially in tourist areas (which include all the major surf hubs). You should have no problem finding cheap accommodation upon arrival, but can also pre-book online if you are more comfortable doing so.

What To Bring: A wide, stubby shortboard or hybrid, plus a gun (locals ride 9’0+) if you plan to charge Kon Tiki or Pico Alto. A 3/2 wetsuit and boardshorts. Hiking boots and cold-weather gear for the mountains, hot-weather gear for the Amazonian jungles. Finally, a copy of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Peru will come in handy if you plan to see more than just the lineup.

Getting There: Lima is a major international airport, and flights from the US west coast can range between $500 (at the very lowest) to $1000 (more common). From Lima, you can catch a taxi for the 45-minute drive to Punta Hermosa. For in-country flights, Peruvian Airlines has a dodgy reputation and can be difficult to book online, but tickets are very cheap, and the airline is actually quite comfortable and user-friendly once you are on board. Tacna and LAN are nicer but more expensive, and both charge an extra “tourist fee” on top of their normal prices (roughly $175). Tourist visas are available upon arrival. Airport code: LIM.