Mancora, Peru – Not Your Average Beach Town

The beach town of Mancora, Peru is as rowdy and boisterous as nearby Vichayito was quiet and tranquil.  Mancora doesn’t have a particularly pretty beach either, but then again, people don’t flock from all over the world for the picturesque beaches (though there are plenty very nearby) .  They come for the surfing and nightlife.

Mancora... Surf Town

Here, in Mancora surrounded by desert on one side and a beach on the other, it’s easy to feel both cold and hot at the same time, at least this time of year (Peru’s winter). The sun beams down and trust me, will burn you, yet there is always a brisk, cool breeze blowing.  Indeed, after attempting to surf my 1st day here, I never got 100% warm again.

Kon Tiki - Desert on one side


View of beach and town on the other

I stayed at the beautiful if rustic Kon Tiki bungalows, which sits high on the hill with an incredible view of the town and beach below. To get to town and the main beach area from Kona Tiki you must walk down a twisting and turning (and if you happen to be very intoxicated or really clumsy, potentially perilous) path of steps and dirt until you get to the bottom. About a 2 minute hike down.

My bungalow @ the Kon Tiki

Once at the bottom you navigate through a narrow alley, which in the almost pitch black darkness of night, could feel intimidating for 1st time visitors, but is completely safe, as families live all along the alley.

The biggest danger was the unpredictable, small and old dog who couldn’t figure out if he liked me or hated me. Half the time he growled, barked and acted like he wanted to rip my face off and the rest of the time he seemed to forget the previous incident and completely ignored me as if I never existed.  To steady my nerves each time it was time to pass the old guy, I made a game out of it trying to predict what his response would be. Though I had a 50/50 shot of getting it right, I rarely was.  By the end of the trip I had figured out he was harmless.

Loves me? Hates Me?

Of course climbing back up the Kon Tiki is not as much fun as going down and even a seasoned runner like me was a little winded when arriving at the top, but it was good exercise. Sort of like living at the top of a 5 story walk up in New York City, without all those silly handrails to hold on to.

Besides the surf and partying, the locals here are perhaps another draw. While not aggressively friendly, they are not overly pushy either. A simple “no gracias” is all it takes for someone to stop offering to sell you something.

The path to town from the Kon Tiki

I also couldn’t sense any of that awkward tourist vs. local vibe you get in some heavily traveled areas.  The locals are laid back and very non aggressive and the tourist, which consist largely of young backpackers, hippies, surfers and the occasional older tourists from around the world, seemed for the most part respectful in return.

Fresh food in Mancora

Speaking of hippies, I discovered a lovely Vegetarian restaurant called Angela’s and it became my top stop for almost all my meals while in Mancora. They had a good vibe and killer Wi-Fi but the main draw was the food which is healthy and like most things in this town, very reasonably priced.  Their vegan sandwiches were as big as a plate and cost about $3.50. Maybe I’m making up for lost time after so many months of struggling to eat healthy in Latin America but I do believe I’d never eat meat again if I could simply take the chef/cook from Angela’s back to the U.S. with me.

Moto Taxis - Cheap way to get around

On the weekend I was there, I was approached by a trio of Argentine teen girls from Cordoba who were selling “happy cookies” to make some travel money. If you don’t know what makes cookies happy I won’t spoil the surprise. The girls seemed to be traveling with a larger group of gypsy like Argentines who were performing music, comedy, fire dancing and more for tips. A traveling motley crew of Argentine circus performers if you will. The entertainment was actually pretty good and well worth the $2 soles (about 66 cents) I provided as a tip.

Mancora was pretty much in a party mood every night of the week that I was there (Thursday-Monday) and if you’re not, well tough luck. Try though I tried I could not get away from the discos throbbing beats and incredibly annoying music (all music is annoying when you’re trying for some shuteye no?) no matter where I went. The noise traveled so well up the hill to Kon Tiki that some nights I literally felt I was in the disco. Ear plugs, especially purchased for the occasion, did little to stop the assault of cheesy electronica and reggaeton beats vibrating the walls.

Moncora's main beach

Now it may be that most of the townspeople don’t mind this assault on the senses in the middle of the night EVERY night. Maybe they’ve built up a tolerance to the noise by now or maybe they see it as a tradeoff for the tourism dollars that float Mancora’s way. But I couldn’t help but feeling the whole town of a few thousand was held hostage to a few people (maybe a hundred?) who wanted to party the night away listening to God awful music turned up to well beyond necessary volume.  Mancora’s mostly bamboo structures do a poor job of keeping noise out (or in, if you’re the disco in question) and you’d think there would be some kind of town ordinance to control the sound at least a little.

What Mancora has going for it, besides its surf and party vibe is its size. It’s big enough to offer almost anything a traveler can want… a bus station with frequent service, cheap moto taxis to get to surrounding sites (isolated beaches, thermal mud baths, etc), good restaurants, regrettably the aforementioned disco row and even a small gym where I had a decent workout.  Yet it’s small enough that if you stick around for more than a couple of days, you’re going to make friends with some locals for sure and you can get from one side of town to the next by foot.

As a result, Mancora feels really safe and what parts aren’t safe for tourist (isolated beaches on the fringes of town), the police warn you away from. They even have one poor soul who patrols that part of the beach to warn unsuspecting, wandering travelers like me away and back to my assigned beach area.

Yes, Mancora has a lot to offer but quiet and tranquility on the weekends (or possibly any time) isn’t one of them.  But if your easily bored by endless stretches of isolated beaches and crave things like fast Wi-Fi, excellent food choices and a pretty iron clad guarantee of a party going on no matter the time of year, then Mancora is your spot. Just remember to bring your earplugs!


Vichayito- Hard to spell… easy to love.

Northern Peru’s Coastal Gem!


My Cabana or AKA Sleeping Chamber!

Last night I fell asleep to the sound of surf in my ears without another bit of noise within earshot.  I slept almost 10 straight hours, uninterrupted. I can’t recall the last time that happened. I’m visiting the Marcilia Beach Bungalows in Vichayito on the north coast of Peru just 20 minutes by moto-taxi from the party/surf haven of Mancora and about an hour from the nearest airport, Talara, where I had hailed from.

Marcial, the owner and host, greeted me when I got out of the moto-taxi , camera in hand. He had been filming the whales jumping in the ocean amid a perfect, bright orange sunset.

Moto-taxis - a cheap alternative to walking

I remember living and working in New York City when so often it felt things were going comically wrong (i.e. late for the airport, just missed a free taxi and it started raining the moment I was leaving, etc.) and I would wonder if God wasn’t messing with me, conspiring against me. Getting some laughs at my expense perhaps? Yes, a bit self important I’ll admit, but I also admit I wasn’t thinking rationally.

I’d try to tell myself there were no coincidences and that perhaps it was my guardian angel working overtime to possibly save my life or for some other greater societal good. Maybe had I actually caught that taxi there would have been a horrible accident or maybe the flight was doomed to crash, etc. but deep down I didn’t believe that stuff.  It was just a run of bad luck and I was pissed off about it.

Well, last night, after a journey that began in Lima, Peru at noon, with me once again almost missing my flight, but eventually arriving at Marciela at the pitch perfect time, I was wondering if God was conspiring FOR me (as I’m sure he has done many a time just to have me not notice). Well this time, God, I noticed.

Lulu - Marcielas' unofficial host

I could not have arrived at a more picturesque moment and a more perfect spot. Backpack in hand, watching the whales jump at what seemed just a few hundred feet away and hardly any other souls around, I knew I was in the right place at the right time and there was for once, nowhere else, I craved to be. No other person I craved to be with. No what ifs… just a sunset, a beautiful beach, jumping whales and good energy all around.

I only booked one night at the Marcilia, once again by accident. My accommodations in Mancora had been booked up for my first evening so I needed another cheap spot to spend the night. I had assumed that Marcilia was within walking distance of Mancora and… it is if  walking an hour one way is your idea of walking distance!

What a happy accident! The hosts, Marceil and Cecilia (hence the name Marcilia) both hail from the cruise ship industry and it shows in their hospitality. They could not have been nicer or more attentive. The food was excellent and the accommodations immaculate, especially for bamboo beach bungalows (and especially for around $15 U.S. per night).

My kind of beach... isolated!

I thought I was the only guest until a young, traveling couple from the north of England bounded up from the romantic bungalow just below mine (right on the beach) the following morning.  They had already edited together a nice little video of the whales from the evening before. They, like another British couple I had “coincidentally” met on the way from the airport were raving about their previous trip to Bolivia? Hmm.. 2 young British couples in a row raving about the same spot? Is God telling me to go to England or Bolivia? I’m confused.

Shortly after my arrival and subsequent sunset I ran on the beach for 40 or so minutes. I could have gone for much longer but my tender bare feet were getting sore from the course sand. Towards the end I was no longer jogging, I was sprinting but I swear I wasn’t even breathing hard and it was so mild and cool that there was no sweat coming out of my pores whatsoever. The stars were bright and beautiful and everywhere! I felt really strong, healthy and full of vigor.

There was not another soul around, I couldn’t help but do the “Rocky… getting stronger” dance.. and while I didn’t scream “Adrian, Adrian!” I felt like screaming “I’m free. I’m free!”  The joys of travel have never felt more tangible than this night.

Super cool, super friendly fellow travelers...

Today I head to Mancora. A totally different vibe, an actual town full of  surfers, partiers and hippies with restaurants, bars and ATM machines. That’s cool too. But if it gets too noisy or touristy or bad energy I’ll head back to Marciella’s in Vichayito in a heartbeat.

I have  a feeling I’m going to be revisiting the place many times in the years to come, either physically or in my mind for sure. Especially when God inevitably starts to mess with me again!