Máncora: Hate It or Love It?

After a long, colorless journey from Piura, the bus begins stopping at little beach towns along the coast. I warily take in my surroundings as my stomach sinks  – have I really traveled this far to get to a beach in the middle of a desert in the middle of nowhere?

Mancora Peru

not exactly tropical…

We finally pull into the terminal just as the sun is leaving angry orange streaks on the darkening sky. Exhausted and sticky, we flag down a young tuk-tuk driver with a trustworthy face and he scoots us to our hotel. He motions towards a few dusty alleys that we should avoid on the way, all of which seem to be identical to the next. How to identify one from the other seems to be a learned skill I don’t possess.

The hotel we had booked was full, so we end up staying in an overpriced hole at the end of the Malecón. Trying to overcome the initial setback, we dump our backpacks and venture out into the world of Máncora, a major destination in Peru for cheap holidays.

——

“Yeah man, all this used to be dirt,” he says, gazing towards the paved sidewalks, concrete amphitheater, and rows of handicrafts.

The old hippie from the Midwest, his long, dirty-blonde dreadlocks tied loosely in a half bun, is no newbie to Máncora.

“It wasn’t like this before. The Americans and the Europeans came and built hotels, but the people here still didn’t have sewage. I really feel for them. I slept on the ground for like three years in the mountains. Yeah, I know what it’s like.”

I mask my look of confusion, wondering what his extended camping trip has to do with waste disposal in Peru.

He had attached himself to a young group of artesanos 20 to 30 years his junior. As evidenced by his colorful Spanglish-speaking abilities, I doubted the group had much in common besides chipping in on high-grade Peruvian weed together.

The hippie continues his oration, quickly spurting out random fragments of memories collected here and there, the pace of which reveals he is a little bit lonely and happy to have an English speaker around. My interest wanes when he starts recollecting how back in the day “squares” would never smoke weed. Now, “everyone is doing it – actresses, politicians, you name it.” He is not impressed.

I tune out his ramblings and focus on the scene, trying to ascertain what the big deal is about Máncora.

——

Groups of excitable children line the amphitheater, watching in awe as  backpacking fire twirlers and comedians perform for a few extra soles to pay for their overpriced hostels. A few are repeats from Montañita – not surprising, as both offer opportunities to make money off tourists, drink alcohol in excess, or a custom mixture of both.

Mancora Beach Peru

the best part of Mancora is the 1 sole street snacks

On the boardwalk, clusters of international and domestic visitors stroll through the temperate night sampling the cheap street snacks while vendors wait in anticipation for their next clients. Tuk-tuks race along the street Asian-style, scattering pedestrians trying to survive the street crossing.

From my jaded position, I see Máncora as a haphazard dose of bedlam mixed with an excess of entertainment, consumption, alcohol, and hustling – in other words, just another overrated beach destination. Others might be seduced by its promise of sun, lawlessness, and good times.

But you tell me – is Máncora an awesome party or an overpromoted pit of hedonism?

  • Bess

    I don’t much like party destinations either. It’s kind of freeing when you’re young, but when you get older, I think it feels better to truly connect with people and experience another culture, which you seem to have a real knack for. I personally still like to have drinks with my friends, but it’s all about balance. I’m interested to see how long you stay and where you go next!

  • You’re right. I think it really depends on what you’re looking for… for instance, a spring break vacationer would not be doing the same things as a history buff.

    I only stayed 2 days! I like my beaches tropical and tranquilo :)

  • Karen

    Mancora sucks – the little beach town up the road Punta Sal is much nicer. Mancora is dangerous but they dont like to tell travellers that. I got attacked on the beach by a dude and some other tourists got held up at knifepoint. If you go there be careful.

  • Do you know of any specific areas to avoid for those planning on going to Mancora who might read this?

  • Thanks for visiting Katherina :) You’ve seen more of South America than me! I’m the one that should be jealous ;)

  • Katherina

    HI! I recently stumbled upon your blog and love it. I’m spanish and unfortunately haven’t seen much of Latin America yet – I went to Mexico on a road trip, have been around Brazil, spent 3 weeks in Uruguay for work and a far-too-short weekend in Buenos Aires. Going through your blog really makes me jealous and I hope to visit the rest of it soon!

  • jenna

    hey jasmine,

    i have to say that i had the best time in mancora, but it was mostly because of the people i met there and the good times that i had with them than anything to do with the scenery.

    and, i have to say that the sushi bar, just off the main road going south, served some of the best sushi i’ve had.

    unfortunately, in response to your safety question, i also got robbed in mancora- had my camera stolen off me on the beach at 3am. but, quite honestly that was my own fault, as there had been police officers on the beach earlier that had warned me about being robbed, and obviously i didn’t take what they were saying that seriously.

    so basically, i think people should definitely be alert if you’re wandering around the beach at night, and be sensible, unlike me.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, Jenna. Every place holds a different experience for everyone, and I’m sure there are tons more people out there who will love Mancora… and hate it :)

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  • David

    Mancora has great surf.
    But if you’re not a surfer I would give it a pass.