Mancora: Beach Gem of the Northern Peruvian coast
January 1, 1970
by Salma El Husseiny
A perfect spot for beach lovers and surfers
If you are a beach lover, surfer or looking for an escape from the big city, Mancora is an indispensable spot on the Nothern Peruvian coast. The sun shines all year, with average temperatures ranging between the 30s at day and 20s at night. The beaches are sandy, and the water is as warm as it can get in the cold Pacific ocean.
At all times during the day and afternoon, dozens of surfers chase the waves, adventure-lovers drive off in rented jet skies, and fall off banana boats. For those looking for water sports, in the winter the winds run strong making it perfect for kite-surfing. For the folks who would rather not lift a finger during their vacations, the beach is also perfectly suitable to laze away under the sun.
The sunsets in the ocean are indubitably breath-taking and worth watching every day. The skies turn into different shades of flaming red with cloud formations making it seem that the sky is filled with pink cotton candy. At night, the beach is a perfect place to star gaze as there is scarce light in the surrounding area.
Mancora has a reputation among Peruvians of turning into a giant party especially in the high season: New Years Eve, summer vacations (January-February), Easter and the week of the 28th of July. On the other occassions, the parties only fill up on weekends, mostly with locals and the dozens of travelers and tourists passing by.
Delicious Peruvian cusine
With its optimal location on the coast, the seafood is as fresh as it can get. A must-try dish is “pescado a la macho”(S/25): fish fillet with a delicious aji (garlic) based sauce garnished with octupus, shrimps and squid. A quiet heavy soup that is guaranteed to knock you out into a siesta is “chupe”: a fish soup that can come with shrimps, fish, or crab (S/20-22). Another basic dish that is common along the whole Pacific coast, with variations, is the “ceviche”: raw fish soaked in lime juice and onions, recommendable to be eaten during the day (S/10-50 depending on size of the plate).
To the North of Mancora
A typical dish from the Northern coast is “ceviche de conchas negras”: a dish of raw black seashells covered in lime juice and onions. These black seashells only grew in the mangroves in Tumbes (1 hour and 30 minutes from Mancora) where the Pacific Ocean mixes with Tumbes river. Every day when the tide lowers down, the fisherman in Puerto Pizarro walk up to the mangroves with their spcecial leather-gloves to cut out the black seashells from the trees under water.
When the tide is high in Puerto Pizarro, the fisherman and tour agencies as well, rent their boats out to visitors who want to take a tour of the mangroves. While the islands are increasingly being drowned in the ocean, there are a few still surviving, including an island that hosts a reserve of over 350 crocodiles. Any tour booked in Mancora to the mangroves usually includes the entrance fee of the crocodile reserve, and even raw meat to feed the crocodiles! Other islands have jet skies out to rent. The Mancora-booked day tours (S/40 per person) usually include a stop by the beaches of Punta Sal and Zorritos as well.
To the south of Mancora…
Lies several spots worth visiting during the day. Los Organos (15 minutes bus ride, S/2) is a quiet town by the beach, popular with sufers because of its waves. It has quiet a family atmosphere and finding a supermarket or restaurant open during the afternoon can be a challenge as the towners go home to have lunch followed by a siesta.
Another 15 minutes taxi-ride (S/3) south of Los Organos, lies an even small fisher-man town, El Ñuro. The beach is almost deserted with a few calm waves, and a reserve of sea turtles. There is a dock to jump in the water, swim and play with the sea turtles, who stay in the same spot as they’re being fed constantly. It’s also perfectly possible to avoid the S/5 entrance fee and swim up to the turtles, which is not very far from the shore. The turtles are fairly big and they are not shy to touch you! Any mermaid-type childhood dreams can easily be fullfilled in a day. Be sure to bring your water goggles if you don’t want to rent them.
At a 20 minute walking distance (or 5 minute taxi ride, S/5) from the center of Mancora, walking by the beach to the south, the hotels will start to look much fancier. Then, you’would realize you have reached “Las Positas”, the luxurious part of Mancora. Dozens of 5 start hotels dot the beach with hammocks and pools overlooking the ocean. When the tide is low, usually before midday, the shore looks like it has been transformed into small natural pools. This is due to the rock formations covering this part of the beach. Although it’s pretty to look at, it’s not recommendable swimming amongst the rocks as some can be hidden and with an unexcepcted wave, accidents are prone to happen..
Mancora: catering to the backpacker and the luxury traveler
The center of the town lies in the main avenue, the Panamericana highway that crosses all of Peru. Others have claimed that it actually starts in Argentina and crosses all of the continent. The main avenue is dotted with boutiques and restaurants of a wide range of cuisines for all sorts of budgets. In the promenade, dozens of hippie travellers line up their hand-made products for the passing tourists.
Mancora and it’s surrounding towns cater to all audiences: from the shoe-string backpacker to the luxury traveler. For those travelling on a tight budget, the central market provides a decent and delicious lunch meal for S/6 including an entrance, main dish and a refreshment. For dinner, the beach-front restaurants set up their bbq grills offering a range of fresh fish and seafood for just S/10 including 2 garnishes. Cheap accomodation including camping is not scarce, although in high season, everywhere books full and it is advisable to book in advance. Camping with your own tent should set you back S/7 a night, but if you want to rent a tent, it’s just S/1 more! A hostel bed costs in between S/10-20 per night. Economic private rooms can range from S/15-50.
For those looking for more luxury and can afford to spend a bit more, hotel rooms can cost S/40 until hundreds of US dollars (especially in Las Positas).
For sushi lovers, do not miss to try out the fusion sushi at Ganaha Restaurant located in Psygon Camp in Playa del Amor (open everyday until 11PM, except Mondays). For pizza lovers, do not miss to try the pizza of the Argentinian “Santiago” located just opposite the bridge on the beach in the center of town. For vegans or Thai-food fans, Gordo Gorilla in the main avenue is both economic (S/10-18) and delicious.
For those who want to escape the stress and noise of the city, for those who want to laze away by the beach all day and party at night, foe those looking for a relaxing family holiday and delicious cuisine, and for the long-term travellers looking for a spot to rest for a few weeks, Mancora will not disappoint.