The Best of Mancora, Peru

Mancora is Peru's Caribbean beach. Its peak season is during the summer months of January and February. Surfers come here to surf the peak of Mancora wave, partiers come here to live it up on the beach of the ‘eternal summer’, and travellers come here to relax and enjoy life.

I have eaten a lot of Ceviche, and I had the three best ceviches of MY LIFE in Mancora. In fact, this post is inspired by the incredible gastronomic scene of Mancora, and I hope it serves as a basic guideline for those with a desire to travel Peru’s ultimate hot spot.

Where to stay:

Loki’s Hostel: this is the ‘it-place’ to party and to get to know people from all around the world. It's rooms are usually sold out, so I would recommend booking in advance if you want to stay here. However, for those looking for a good night’s sleep, there is a huge variety of hostels and hotel nearby. Parties at Lokis run every night, until at least 3-4am. Entrance to the parties are usually FOC, even for those not staying at the Hostel.

I stayed at Hotel Don Giovanni, which was close to Loki’s great night parties, the closest hotel to the ultimate surf wave, and also very close to Mancora’s best gastronomic scene. Most bedroom furniture from Don Giovanni is imported from Bali, which is why it is self-proclaimed as Balinese Styled Suites.

View from Don Giovanni Balinese Hotel & Suites

For those looking for cheaper options, Misfits Hostel and The Point are two other hostels with great recommendations from locals and travellers alike.

Surf and KiteSurf:

Mancora is home to some of Peru’s best surfers and kite surfers. People live here to enjoy the constant stream of great weather, in which no wetsuit is necessary. A rash suit is advisable for surfers to avoid sunburn as you will likely spend long hours out enjoying the waves.

Beginner surfers can get a private lesson for an hour for 60 soles from the main beach. The surf instructors are well-experienced and will ensure all learners catch one of Mancora’s great waves.

Punta Sal and Los Organos are two nearby beaches to Mancora, for those looking for a more chilled-out vibe. These beaches are reputable as some of Peru’s most beautiful beaches and deserve such a reputation. Punta Sal offers no waves for surfers, whereas Los Organos offers some great waves- albeit, this is dependent on the day and climate.

Gastronomy

Mancora is a laid-back tourist town, which can sometimes imply that some restaurants are overpriced with poor service. The following restaurant recommendations provided very attentive service and great flavours.

The best restaurant, without a doubt, is La Sirena d’ Juan. Here, I had the best Ceviche of my life. The menu offers some of Mancora’s most refined cocktails. The mastermind chef, Juan, is a Mancora local with a reputation as one of Peru’s finest chefs.

Atun a La Parilla ceviche at El Aji was absolutely mind-blowing. The plate was served with a salted fire in a shell (see picture). The mastermind and owner behind El Aji worked in the fishing industry in the Pacific Islands for over 16 years, then Tex-Mex style cuisine in Hawaii, as it was the closest style he could find to Peruvian cuisine. It is safe to say you will enjoy the best Tex-Mex flavours Peru can offer, and better yet, with the freshest fish found.

For a more simple, authentic Peruvian restaurant, the Restaurant Espada is highly recommended. You will be served ceviche in a more traditional northern-Peruvian style, in which the flavours are faultless.

I also very much enjoyed the Tuna Sashimi at Tokuyo, a restaurant offering international-styled Peruvian and Japanese fusion. Service was extremely attentive.

El Aji, Atun A La Parilla
El Aji, Atun A La Parilla
Useful tips...
Mancora is best known for its fish, limes and fruits.
It is advisable to not eat vegetables unless very well cooked. The hot weather in the North of Peru attracts mosquitoes and unfortunately contaminate fresh produce very easily. It is recommended to take Bactrim (available at local pharmacies for 2 soles per pill) if you obtain a stomach infection from the food- it is very common.
Mancora is very hot at all times of the year, and it attracts mosquitoes at night, so you will need repellent and a good quality sunscreen. Bringing long-sleeved, light clothing, dresses, sarongs, towels, wide-brimmed hats, and Bluetooth speakers are always a good idea.

A Top 5 Park in Lima: Parque de la Amistad!

Parque de La Amistad/Friendship Park, Lima

The most recommended park in Lima is the Magic Water Circuit park (Circuito Mágico del Agua), which is a definite must-see. The circuit is large and beautiful, and totally photogenic. However, there are nearly always large crowds of tourists, lovers and families.
My best friend from Peru took me to another park in Lima, located in the neighbourhood of Surco, which is a relatively well-developed neighbourhood. The park contained cute steam trains, a Spanish Moore Arch from 1924, tiny lake boats for hire (5 soles), and clean park benches to sit down and chat with your friend, family member or lover!
Unlike the Magic Water Circuit Park, which is a park practically designed for tourists, entry to the Friendship Park is absolutely free of charge.
There are fewer people at Friendship Park, compared to Parque del Amor (Love Park) or the Magic Water Circuit, as it does not generate a top tourist attraction hit on Google search engines or tourism sites. Yet, it has possibly one of the most beautiful artificial lakes I have seen at night. There are lights, soft music, people riding on boats, and various street styled gourmet vendors of food and trinkets. There is also a well-developed restaurant situated to the side of the lake, which I didn’t get to try*, but the food looked super amazing, and you can get set main plates for 15 soles; around USD$5.
How to get to el Parque de La Amistad:
The friendship park is located just off a main road ‘Avenida Alfredo Benavides’ which extends from Miraflores to Surco.
It is a 1 hour and 20-minute walk from Parque Kennedy in Miraflores, or a 15-minute cab or Uber ride. The cab should cost no more than 10 soles (USD$3-4) from Miraflores.
There are various buses and colectivos which go directly past the Park, by which I would highly recommend using the application ‘Moovit’.
Open from 0900-2100, Tuesday to Sunday
*I had just been to Bembos, which is a Peruvian version of McDonalds, and so much better than McDonalds, FYI!

Why Santiago? Reasons for Why I Fell in Love with Santiago

I had a lot of people ask me in Chile, “why are you in in Santiago, if you come from one of the best countries in the world?”

It is true that New Zealand is beautiful- it is rated as the second-best place to live according to the Legatum Prosperity Index. According to Deutsche Bank, my city, Wellington, has the highest rating of ‘quality of life’ in the world. New Zealand has a delicious, fresh gastronomic scene, the famous All Blacks, a large and clean coastline, and mountains filled with wildlife and greenery. Kiwis live without worry, in a super-chilled out way. New Zealand has a special place in my heart, and I will always consider it my home for life.

The Sunrise from Mount Victoria, Wellington City

The Sunrise from Mount Victoria, Wellington City

However, there are lots of things in Santiago de Chile, a city of 6 million people located on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, that I have grown to love. When I leave this city, I will miss these things very much.

For this reason, I would love to explain the things that I love about Santiago de Chile, covering its cultural, food and customary aspects.

I will start with the Andes mountain range. Never in my life have I lived in a city surrounded by a range like the Andes, which is not your typical mountain range; we are talking about THE ANDES. When the sun sets in Santiago, the sun rays reflect pollution colours onto the surface of the Andes, converting the mountains into  beautiful colours of violet, pink, yellow and orange. In winter, it is possible to ski on the Andes; this was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. After skiiing on the Andes, it is actually possible to go to the Chilean coast in one hour and a half:  there are very few cities in the world with this kind of advantage.

I could talk for years about the wonderful Andes mountains, but it is not the only thing I loved about Santiago.

Santiago has lots of parks, but what I liked most was how the people use the parks for their day-to-day activities: to play, share food, chat, partake in exercise. In my country there are lots of green spaces, but they are not used like the green spaces are Santiago. The way these parks are used depicts a lot about the Chilean way of culture and attitude, which is to always spend a lot of time with family, friends and acquaintances. I was surprised when I attended university in Santiago, in which I bore witness to all the students playing football, volleyball, or dancing Salsa or K-Pop during the (compulsory) lunch hour. They really love to embrace life!

I love the diversity in Santiago. Santiago is a really big city, in which you can find practically anything… from the worst coffee (AKA Nescafe) located in the Central Station, to the best V60 coffee in Barrio Lastarria.This diversity includes, for example, the miles of shops located in the city center which specialize in spectacles. To the side of these shop, are shops that specialize in spare cellphone parts, or hairdressing tools. It’s random, but really convenient if you are after a very specific or cheap product. Furthermore, the recent immigrant flows from other South American countries have caused an explosion of international cuisine and foreign goods. I love that I can buy a lomo saltado(a Peruvian dish) at the restaurant to the right of my apartment, or arepas (Venezuelan street food) in the store located to the left of my apartment. As well, the immigrants are super friendly, and I have been able to converse about the histories, current affairs and cultures of Latin America with them. I think that diversity can be wonderful thing if we accept and celebrate differences between countries and cultures.

Latin America is a really fun region, but it is also a region that is known for being disorganized and slow. Chile is the regional economic leader. Due to their economy, Chilean institutions and organizations are comparatively reliable. Specifically, the Carabineros de Chile (the Chilean Police) are trustworthy. Recently the Carabineroshave been given a bad reputation, due to the shooting of (indigenous) Camilo Cantrillanca and the violence institutionalized in these armed forces, especially during political protests. Nevertheless, as a foreign, young woman, I truly feel safe when I see a Carabineropatrolling the street. For me, this particular institution represents the organization and security that a well-developed economy brings to a country.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Chilean language. The official language of Chile is Spanish, but at first their language appears nothing like Spanish, due to the amount of slang (which consists of mostly vulgar words) and the accent. It is hard to learn the phrases and understand the accent, however, I learnt to have fun with the culture that is the Chilean way of speaking. Your friend is a ‘wea’(use this word with a lot of caution), and if you want to know if the guy understood you, you say “cachay weon”(do you get it, dude?)  where he should respond “ya po” (yeah mate) or “no po) (nah mate).

Chile is the place for you if you do not like healthy food. Do you want to eat ice cream for dinner? This is acceptable. Do you want to eat pasta without vegetables, and with a huge serving of avocado? Chile is the place for you. Do you hate drinking water, and only want to drink Coca Cola or alcohol? You should really consider moving to Chile. Chilean food, according to me, is great ‘drunk food’ or ‘food kids eat when their parents aren’t looking’. It was difficult to eat well at times, but I fell later discovered Santiago’s magnificent street food. In summer there are huge cups of chopped-up watermelon, rock melon, strawberries, or grapes. You are able to buy (Chile’s attempt at) sushi for less than USD$4, an empanada for less than $1.50, or a bag of avocado for less than $1.50. Due to the huge amount of food and safety regulations in New Zealand, there are very few street sellers, in which they sell this type of cheap, convenient and fresh food.

Chilean Street Food

The Chilean metro is one of the best public transport systems in the world. There are 6 lines of metro, and all of them operate efficiently, punctually, and frequently. The metro runs from 6 in the morning, to 11 at night. I love that everyone uses the metro, regardless of whether one is a high-ranking diplomat, a CEO, or a street seller. EVERYONE uses the metro. Not only is it great for the environment, the metro is a super-efficient way of commuting (NZTA should learn a thing or two). It is possible to go from one end of the huge city to the other in less than one hour.

Santiago is a progressive city in terms of urban and environmental policy. Two examples: the electric buses that were implemented last month in December 2018, and Chile as one of the first places in the world to ban plastic bags. When I go to the supermarket now, I have to bring my reusable tote bags, which is super cool for the environment.

Every city of such a large size has its bad aspects; city people have a reputation for being not as friendly; cities generally contain large amounts of pollution or smog;  and a lot of insecurity and robbery at night… but these are not factors that should represent Chile, they are factors that should represent large cities in general. Nevertheless, the local and central governments of Chile are trying to be a role model for the world in terms of the environment and for this, I respect them very much.

Thank you Santiago for being super Bacán! Hasta Luego!