Surrounded by golden sand dunes and bathed in perpetual sunshine, the tiny town of Huacachina is quickly becoming a favourite destination for visitors to Peru’s Pacific Coast. From sandboarding and dune buggy rides to paragliding over the desert, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had—but the relaxed beauty of South America’s only oasis is just as sure to blow you away! Most travellers spend 1-2 days exploring Huacachina, so here’s absolutely everything you need to know to make the most of your visit, including what to do, how to get here, where to stay, and more.
What to do in Huacachina
The indisputable highlight of any visit to Huacachina is the adjacent desert, best enjoyed by hopping on a board and soaring over the golden waves. I was initially dubious about the idea of flinging myself off the top of a dune at breakneck speed, but almost everyone cruises down these slopes on their belly (the dunes are massive), which means even uncoordinated individuals can get involved. And honestly, it was insanely fun!
Dozens of tour operators in town run essentially identical trips out to the dunes, which cost about S/50, last for 2-2.5hrs, and also include a wild dune buggy ride. You’d have absolutely no trouble booking something last-minute when you arrive in Huacachina (or even on-board the Peru Hop bus), but if you are really keen on reserving in advance, Arenas will let you prepay through Find Local Trips.
Watch the sunset over the desert
Every single tour operator in town offers sandboarding and dune buggy trips in the morning and the afternoon, typically departing around 4/4.30pm. I’d highly recommend the afternoon option, as the end of the tour coincides perfectly with both golden hour and sunset, making for some phenomenal photo ops out in the desert.
In case you haven’t joined a sandboarding tour or you want to catch some additional sunsets on your own, a quick hike up to the top of the dunes will afford equally spectacular views of the fading sun. Just be sure to pack a light jumper or a long sleeve shirt, as things get chilly when you lose the light!
Climb up the dunes
Even if you’ve already explored the desert on a sandboarding tour, I’d still highly recommend climbing up the dunes by yourself to get the best vantage point over Huacachina and the oasis. From town, walk towards the water tower (where all the dune buggies are parked) and then climb the large dune on your right. It takes less than 15min to get all the way to the top, but expect to be doing a little huffing and puffing— for every two steps up, you’ll slide at least one back down in the loose sand.
When you do get to the top, though, all the effort will have been worth it! On a clear morning, I’m sure sunrise would be spectacular, but it’s pretty common for low-hanging fog to obscure the view until around 8am when the sun starts to burn it off. Still, climbing around 8 or 9am will practically guarantee you the dunes to yourself, as most of Huacachina will still be sleeping off the previous night’s hangover. The only downside is that you may have to wait awhile if you’re looking for someone to take your photo!
Walk around the oasis
Huacachina town is little more than a few blocks wrapped around a green oasis, so it doesn’t take long to walk around the shoreline and admire the view from all angles. I wouldn’t recommend going for a dip, but a great way to enjoy a sunny afternoon in Huacachina is to hire a boat for S/12 per hour and paddle (or pedal) your way across the water.
Lounge by the pool
There’s a reason most of the tours and activities around Huacachina only operate in the morning and the late afternoon— the middle of the day is absolutely sizzling in the desert! Escape the heat by lounging around your hostel pool for a few hours (bonus points if you’ve got a cocktail in your hand).
If you’re staying somewhere without its own pool, you can still come visit Wild Rover and enjoy their facilities by buying drinks or food at the tasty on-site restaurant.
For even more spectacular views of the oasis, book a tandem paraglide departing directly from the dunes. Flights cost $70-90USD depending on the duration (anywhere from 5-20min) and typically operate in the mornings around 7-8am. A few operators have online booking systems, but this is also something you can organise whenever you arrive in Huacachina for a better price.
Tour a Pisco vineyard
Amazingly, one of Peru’s main wine-producing regions lies only a short taxi ride away from Huacachina, making Ica an extremely popular half-day destination for those looking to sample some local alcohol. Ica’s desert heat creates impossibly sweet wines (even their “dry wine” is like syrup) and strong brandy (pisco), both of which you can taste at any of a dozen or so wineries. If not for fear of broken glass in my backpack, I easily could have hauled several bottles away with me!
Tastings are typically free, so you just need to organise transport out to one of the wineries in a taxi or with a tourism agency. If you’re travelling with Peru Hop, though, you’ll actually get an awesome free pisco tour included with your pass! Check out all of the Peru Hop passes here or read my comprehensive review of Peru Hop.
Check out the Nazca Lines
More than 300 enormous geoglyphs, primarily animals and plants whose origins continue to inspire wild theories of alien invasion and paranormal activity, were carved into the desert sands of southern Peru by the ancient Nazca civilisation. If you’re spending a few days in Huacachina and looking for an interesting day trip, heaps of travel agencies in town offer tours out to the Nazca Lines, some including scenic flights and others just a quick climb up the viewing towers.
I enjoyed seeing the Nazca Lines from the viewing tower, but I think you have to book a scenic flight if you want to really appreciate the scale and complexity of these drawings. I actually met a number of travellers who said that flying over the Nazca Lines was the highlight of their entire trip, so book a tour out to Nazca for around $100USD and discover these enigmatic geoglyphs for yourself.
If you’re travelling with Peru Hop, a visit to the Nazca Lines viewing tower is included for free with your pass. Alternatively, the staff will gladly help you organise a scenic flight through a trusted operator. Check out all of the Peru Hop passes here or read my comprehensive review of Peru Hop.
Take a day trip to Paracas
If you haven’t already spent time exploring Paracas on your way down the coast to Huacachina (but if your itinerary allows, that’s definitely my first recommendation), it’s still possible to take a day trip with one of the tour operators in town. Most tours include a visit to the stunning Paracas Nature Reserve and the Islas Ballestas (“poor man’s Galapagos”), both of which are super worthwhile and full of great photo opportunities.
Getting to Huacachina
Until recently, the only way to reach Huacachina was by taking a bus to the nearby town of Ica from either Lima (4-5hrs; Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, PerúBus, and Tepsa operate dozens of trips daily) or Paracas (1-2hrs; Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, and PerúBus) and then grabbing a taxi up the road to Huacachina (15min). Use the RedBus website to check exact times or book tickets online.
Thankfully, Peru Hop now offers a direct tourist bus to Huacachina on their passes, which is a great way to save time and get straight to the oasis. The Peru Hop bus from Paracas arrives into Huacachina in the afternoon (around 2pm) and departs for Nazca the following afternoon (around 1pm, with buses running every day), which leaves plenty of time to go sandboarding, climb the dunes for sunrise, walk around town, and relax in the hostel pool. Check out all of the Peru Hop passes here or read my comprehensive review of Peru Hop.
Where to stay in Huacachina
- Wild Rover Huacachina: This raucous party hostel is primarily aimed at people who want to spend every day hungover and every night back on the sauce. If you can tolerate the noise, though, their pod-style dorm rooms are super comfortable, they have a great on-site bar and restaurant, and the pool is incredible on a hot afternoon. Dorms start at S/26 per night.
- Banana’s Adventure Hostal: My friends really enjoyed their stay at this hostel, which was quieter than Wild Rover, but still with an excellent pool. Dorm rooms are S/60-80.
- Hostal Curasi: If you’re willing to splash out a bit on your accommodation in exchange for a peaceful night’s sleep, Hostel Curasi has a beautiful pool, excellent views, and well-appointed private rooms starting at S/120.
Where to eat in Huacachina
- La Burguesa: There are 2 burger trucks parked on the street outside Wild Rover hostel and both serve super delicious, cheap burgers with heaps of sauce and miniature crunchy fries. If you want to feel like you’re still eating local, try the Peruano burger with Andean cheese!
- Wild Olive Trattoria: Peruvians are absolutely obsessed with pizza, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find it (with widely varying degrees of tastiness) everywhere you go. Thankfully, this Italian restaurant in Huacachina is a real hit!
- I felt like 2 days was enough time in Huacachina to do absolutely everything I wanted to do, although it should be noted that I didn’t take any long day trips, which would obviously necessitate extra time (e.g. if you’re not staying in Paracas, add an extra day in Huacachina so you can enjoy a full day tour!). If you’ve been travelling for a while and just want to relax by the pool, that may be another reason to hang around a little longer, but otherwise just keep scooting down the coast to your next destination.
- Even as a solo female traveller, I felt totally safe carrying my camera and handbag around in Huacachina. As long as you take basic safety precautions, you’ll be totally fine (so leave the weird nude-coloured money belt at home).
- Pack light-weight long sleeves and pants for any sandboarding or dune buggy tours into the desert, as it’s all too easy to end up with painful sand burns (or sunburns, for that matter). A buff or small scarf is also really useful to keep sand out of your mouth and nose!
- A basic knowledge of Spanish is definitely helpful in Huacachina, but it’s no where near as essential here as it is in other cities. Given that the town subsists entirely on tourism, most hostel staff and waiters will speak a little English (and some are actually American or European backpackers who arrived in Huacachina and never left). Still, you’ll need to know some Spanish if you want to hire a taxi or buy anything from the little food vendors around the oasis, so don’t get too lazy!
- When I visited Huacachina in mid-2019, there was still no ATM in town, which means you must make sure to get cash out beforehand in Paracas, Ica, or wherever else you’re travelling from! Some of the hostels here will accept card (although the fees tend to be quite high), but you’ll definitely want cash for food and activities.
- Get a SIM card when you arrive in Peru, as this will give you access to Google Maps and WhatsApp— highly useful if you decide to take any day trips outside of the hostel’s wifi range. Claro and Movistar are the main providers, but Bitel also offers good prepaid SIM packages specifically for travellers: get 20GB of data, 500min calling, and international call credit for S/49.