Mancora and Punta Sal Travel Guide

Mancora, Peru has quickly become a thriving destination for the surfer and hippie class of backpackers. The beach town, however, is also a popular destination for South Americans to spend at least a part of their summer vacation (December-March). Although the main wave in Mancora is good, the water is warmer than the rest of Peru, and the beaches are soft, don’t expect absolute paradise. Mancora has become busy, the beaches often crowded and hassled, and the party non-stop. However, many people do fall for the charm of Mancora, and it remains a destination worth stopping in to indulge.

If you’re looking for a little bit more peace and quite head about 10km north of Mancora to the village of Punta Sal which remains traquil, relaxing and much more chilled out. Development is happening rapidly in Punta Sal as well, but I can’t imagine it will ever become as bustling as Mancora.

Punta Sal

Punta Sal Sunset

Things to do

  • Beaches: Of course, the most popular activity to take part in at a beach destination is the beach itself. The climate always seems conducive to sun bathing, and the waters are nice and warm (by South American standards). The main beach at Mancora is decent, but to escape the crowds walk up the sand north of town or catch a taxi to the beach at Punta Sal.
  • Surfing: There are a number of surf shops in Mancora that rent both surf and boogie boards as well as offer lessons. There is a good simple break right at the main beach and this is where most beginning surfers head.
  • Horseback riding: If you’ve ever dreamed of trotting along the beach on horseback watching the sunset, it is possible here. However, be prepared to be dragged along be a guide on foot. My advice is to convince a guide to lend you a horse for an hour or so rather than tagging along. Sometimes it takes some convincing, but they’ll usually agree. You won’t have to find guide with horses, they are everywhere and they will find you.
  • Deep Sea Fishing: If you can find a group willing you can often hire a fishing boat for a half day for about 100US$. This is a fun activity and there are quite often some good catches to be had.

Where to Eat

Surprisingly to me, I have found a number of great restaurants in Mancora during my many visits to town. There are a lot of cheap restaurants near the beach selling ceviche and other dishes, but I have listed below my favourites which are a little higher end, but well worth the price.

  • The Beef House: At the southern end of Mancora is a restaurant called the Beef House. I swear by the BBQ Bacon Burger they serve being the best in South America and is well worth the 8US$ it costs. The menu also includes steak, surf and turf, shark steak, and a number other meals. The price range is usually in the 10-15US$ range for a main but the portions are huge and the staff is awesome. Stop in for a reservation before hand as it packs up nearly every night.
  • Mexican: Tucked away on a back street on the way to the beach, the Mexican restaurant in town does deceent Mexican food, but is famous for its surf and turf which is well worth the 10US$ it costs.
  • Hua Punta Sal: The hotel on the beach in Punta Sal has great freshly caught seafood, amazing ceviche, and other meals. The service can be slow at times but this is the place to eat in Punta Sal, as well as one of the only ones.

Where to Stay

Basically there are three options of places to stay in the Mancora area: Mancora, Mancora Chico, and Punta Sal. If you don’t mind the noise, Mancora will do fine. If you want to be close, but still escape a bit Mancora Chico is just to the south of town and easily accessible to town via a walk on the beach or a quick tuk-tuk ride. And, of course, Punta Sal sits about 15minutes to the north and a 10-15US$ taxi ride if you want to get away.

  • The Point Hostel: Famous for being the party hostel in Peru, the Point is also the biggest hostel in town and the most popular backpacker’s spot. It can be chaotic but a dorm will only run you about 6US$ and there are private rooms for about 15US$.
  • HI La Posada: The Hi-affiliated hostel in Mancora is also nice, and a little bit quieter than the Point. They have dorms for about 7US$ and privates for between 10-15US$.
  • Del Wawa: Among those looking for private rooms this is the most popular spot, and my personal favourite in town. The cost of a private room is between 15-30US$.
  • Punta Ballenas Inn: In Mancora Chico this is one of the cheapest places but has a pool and a nice piece of beach. Rooms are about 50US$.
  • Hua Punta Sal: This is my favourite spot and is run by a very friendly family. The rooms don’t have hot water, but there is wifi and the spot right on the beach makes it the perfect place to stay. Rooms cost between 35-60US$.

Mancora

  • The View from Mancora Chico

Getting out of Town (Peruvian destinations)

There is no main bus terminal in town and you’ll have to go to the office of each specific bus company to buy tickets and to catch the bus. No buses start their voyages here but stop on their way through. As such, it’s best to book ahead of time as you cannot be assured a ticket (especially on weekends and holidays). I have listed local destinations below and information for getting to Ecuador is listed a little later.

  • Lima: Down the coast to the capital (12-14 hours; 30-50$) is a simple trip and best taken with Cial, El Dorado or Cruz del Sur.
  • Trujillo: Buses heading to Lima also stop in Trujillo (8-9 hours; 20-30$).
  • Tumbes: Heading north collective buses run regularly to the capital of the region Tumbes (2hrs; 2$).

Getting to Ecuador

The border to Ecuador is quite possibly the worst in all of South America. It isn’t a whole lot of fun to cross and if you’re not careful it can be slightly dangerous. In fact, if you take liberties, this is probably the place your most likely to be robbed in all of South America. However, if you take the necessary precautions you’ll be fine, and likely wont even notice the dangers.

From Mancora you can take a direct trip with Ormeno to Guayaquil or Quito, but you’ll have to switch buses at the border, and is fairly basic and makes the trip simple. However, the trip is quite expensive and does you no good if you’re heading to Cuenca or other Ecuadorian destinations.

To do it on your own you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Catch a series of “collectivo” mini-buses to the border via Tumbes.
  2. Get off before the border at the Peruvian Immigration office to get your exit stamp from Peru.
  3. Next, take a taxi (2US$) to the bridge and the official border. Taxis are not allowed to cross the bridge from Ecuador into Peru or vice-versa so you have to walk from here. The bridge area is chaotic so watch your gear. **Note: Do not walk the 2-3km from Peruvian Immigration to the bridge as this is the mistake most backpackers make. There is little security in no-man’s land and robberies happen all the time.
  4. Once across the bridge walk to the office of the bus company of which you hope to take to your next destination (most likely Cuenca). Buy your ticket and tell the driver/ticket agent that you’ll meet the bus at Ecuadorian Immigration.
  5. Take a taxi (2US$) the 2-3km to Ecuadorian Immigration office where you’ll get your entry stamp (which is actually an ugly type writer imprint) and then wait on the side of the road for the bus to pass. There is also a couple shops there to buy snacks. **Note: Do not catch the bus at the office because it’s unlikely that the driver will wait for you to get your stamp at immigration, especially if the line is unusually long. And make sure you get your entry stamp as I’ve heard countless stories of people getting all the way to Quito without realizing they haven’t been stamped into the country.

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