Surf . Eat . Drink . Party . Repeat
OK, we may not be the surfing or partying kind, but with these few words you get the drift of how this beach town rolls. I mean, what more is there to do here?
Máncora is a destination well-known by vacationing locals, and it’s bound to be on the backpackers agenda if seeing more of Peru outside of Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco, the Nazca Lines and Titicaca is of interest. It’s a big old place, this Peru, so why not poke around in a few of the tucked-away corners?
You could easily spend a day and a night in Máncora and say you’ve done it. Not much to it, you see, although it is a good spot to drop your bags and recharge for at least a couple of days. Or go the whole hog and park here for a month.
The main highway, or Panamericana Norte, bustles with eateries, tour operators, souvenir stands and a few places to stay; a strip easily walked within ten minutes. You barely need to walk five metres before being offered a taxi, and once you say no, the next question from these guys is of the weed or coke variety. Yup, many taxi drivers in Máncora peddle drugs, too.
Then there’s Avenida Centro Veraniego, a block-long road that connects the highway and the beach where, it too, is lined with eateries, the odd t-shirt and liquor store and a couple of hotels.
The beach isn’t the most beautiful we’ve seen, but it’s relatively clean and a nice place to walk along and wet your feet. Surfers may learn that the waves in Máncora are pretty gentle, and for the three days we were in town, they barely stood on their boards for four or five seconds. I can’t say it’s like this year-round, but that’s a whole lot of sitting around waiting for something to happen.
My kind of sitting around involves food and beverages, so I’ll leave the waves and non-waves to the experts and Barney’s. If you do want to surf, or learn how to, there’s a popular rental joint – one of many in town – on the beach in front of the colourful cluster of wooden beach cottages (The Bird House Centro Comercial) on Pasaje 8 de Noviembre.
Here you’ll find a tiny massage joint, a beach shop and these two places. First there’s Papa Mo’s on the ground floor where you can chill with a fresh juice, some booze or tailor your own cooling sundae. Perfect spot to hang out, be mesmerised by swaying coconut palms and listen to the rhythmic surf just metres away.
Then there’s Green Eggs & Ham, upstairs from Papa Mo’s. Here you can take a seat on the lofty deck and partake in a hearty breakfast of Spanish omelette or one of their other gringo-friendly choices.
The lunch menu can feature the likes of ceviche, tuna steak and maracuya juice – all for a wallet-friendly 15 soles. You’ve gotta love that.
Green Eggs & Ham, The Bird House Centro Comercial at Pasaje 8 de Noviembre
Set lunches can be found all over Máncora, especially along the highway. On the west side of town is Acholado, a resto-bar that’s a bit different from the cookie-cutter lunch menus about town.
15 soles buys you a starter, main and a fresh juice – starters like ocopa, a cold potato dish smothered with spiced green sauce or paita rellena, half an avocado filled with shredded chicken, peas and corn.
Mains cover the likes of filete de atún (tuna) or penne al pesto. There’s a full bar with a few local craft beers, plus some refreshingly cool frozen fruit drinks.
Acholado, Avenida Piura 240
For more of a local set lunch, a few can be found on the main highway along the strip where the tourist tat stores are. The menú economico at El Cangrejo Sabroso costs 10 soles and is much like every other place around it.
There’s a starter of ceviche, soup or causa – a mixture of mashed yellow potato, lime juice, oil, ají amarillo something like chicken, tuna, avocado or boiled egg.
For mains – a bunch of easy, local dishes like chicharron, lomo saltado and pescado al ajo (fish with garlic). A juice of some description also comes with the meal.
El Cangrejo Sabroso, Panamericana Norte 464
Of what we tried, the best coffee in Máncora can be found at Monkey Coffee up on the highway. The upside of this place is the excellent espresso, which you can enjoy in-house or even buy the beans to go. It’s actually some of the best coffee we had in Peru and I can confidently say some of the best in all our South American travels.
For something to sink your teeth into, there are sandwiches made with homemade bread and a few breakfast choices up for grabs.
The downside – the opening time needs to be taken with a tardy grain of South American salt. We turned up at opening time, hung around for a bit and left. Half an hour later the door was still closed. It still makes me wonder whether business owners on this continent even care about the income they lose by not opening their doors when they say they’re going to.
Monkey Coffee, Panamericana Norte 404
Life on the beach increases significantly in the afternoons and nights. There are more people enjoying the sand, surf and cooler temperatures, the restaurants fill with drinkers and the atmosphere is energetic.
The strip of bars along the beach between Avenida Centro and Green Eggs & Ham do their best to outdo the bar next door by playing the loudest, most obnoxious thumping music they can. The volume is actually ridiculous and seems more of a deterrent than drawcard.
Still, people sit in front of the bars at tables in the sand, drinking anything alcoholic whilst having fun, people watching and waiting for the sun to set.
If anyone loves their grilled seafood, there’s a line-up of barbecues in front of a few restaurants on the right side of the beach when you walk down Avenida Centro. These guys get cranking late in the afternoon, and it’s as easy as looking at what they have in their cabinets – be it whole fish, octopus, lobster etc. – pointing out what you want, then leaving it to them to grill it for you.
All seafood – or chicken or beef, if you choose it – comes with rice, veg and salad. The best part – it’s incredibly cheap. Even those lobsters.
How to get to Máncora from Trujillo.
Cruz del Sur bus runs from its Trujillo depot at 11.55pm and arrives in Máncora at 10.30am. Cost per person is 102 soles.