Looking for fun and cool things to do in Huacachina, Peru? Well, I *accidentally* spent 4 days there! And now I want to share with you everything I learnt about exploring, partying and eating your way through this hidden Peruvian gem.
Huacachina is a desert oasis, nestled deep in the massive and mesmerising sand dunes, accessible by 4-hour bus ride from Lima or 12-hour bus from Arequipa. Buses arrive at Ica, and you need to take a taxi to oasis itself. Uber works just fine and costs around 10 soles.
This blog post is packed with insider tips on what to do in Huacachina, tours, prices, hotels and hostels. And as I big foodie, I also included recommendations where to eat in Huacachina.
All sprinkled with humour and personal touch. Save this for later, keep reading, and hopefully, you will have tons of fun in this small cosy oasis just as I did!
1. Huacachina sandboarding: what to expect and tour cost
You may have heard of Huacachina sandboarding, one of the most famous things to do in the desert. Usually, it is included in the price of every dune buggy tour. However, you can also hire a sandboard separately without going on a tour. It costs around 3 to 6 soles an hour (depends on your haggling skills).
Yes, it’s cheaper than your every day Pisco sour, but you’d need to carry your own board all the way up the dune. And climbing those sand dunes is hard, so you will possibly spend 80% of your time hiking than sandboarding.
When you go on a dune buggy tour, there will be about 50 to 60 minutes dedicated to sandboarding. The driver drops you at the top of the dune, and once everyone in your group slides down, the driver will collect you at the bottom and drive to the next dune. Usually, there will be 3 to 4 rides, starting with the smaller slope.
Huacachina Sandboarding Tip: About 90% of people lie on their tummy to slide down the sand dunes. Don’t be scared! Your driver will give instructions and fix your pose before giving you a friendly push. Please, close your mouth, or else wise you will end up eating sand on your way down. Enjoy the ride!
Do not expect to develop a really high speed. The sand isn’t a particularly friendly surface; thus, it will be (much) slower than skiing or snowboarding. This oasis is a place for sandboarding in Peru. It is a relatively safe and super cool thing to do in Huacachina.
There are usually different time slots available for Huacachina Sandboarding / Dune Buggy tours. Still, I recommend you to take a sunset one which starts at 3 pm.
The cost of the tour starts at 30 soles / 9 USD / 8 EUR per person. It’s quite affordable, hey!
Did I go on a tour twice because why not? You can book it right there on the spot a few hours ahead. First one was ~60 soles as I reserved it at the hostel reception. The second one was only 30 soles thanks to my Peruvian friends who found a tour company with a hole in a wall office on the local market. Both were equally safe, fun, and there was not any difference in the tour quality.
2. Dune Buggy in Huacachina: tips and recommendations
As you read above, Sandboarding tours and Dune Buggy in Huacachina are usually bundled in one 3-hour tour. Oh boy, how crazy and thrilling these dune buggy rides are!
Definitely for adventures seekers, who are ready to be flying up, down, left and right in a buggy across the desert. The drivers are really good and crazy! Yet you feel safe while adrenaline courses through your veins as these Peruvian men throw their buggies over massive dunes, then balancing them on two wheels while you are screaming on top of your lungs. Sounds fun, hey!
They don’t mindlessly drive you across the desert for 3 hours (they only do it for about an hour). From time to time you stop at different spots to enjoy the beautiful views of Huacachina Oasis, take those IG-worthy photos, sandboard and enjoy the sunset.
Dune Buggy Rides Tip: Be careful with your belongings, especially your phone or camera if you want to film the dune buggy ride. You don’t know which turn and twist come next. You might drop and lose your precious phone in a split second as it sinks in the sand.
I highly recommend going on the afternoon tour, which includes sunset watching. All buggies drive to the same spot, and people can climb on vehicles’ roofs. This way, you get to enjoy the beautiful view with minimal distractions and appreciate that feeling of being in the immense desert somewhere on the west-side of Peru.
Don’t forget to bring a light jacket or a long-sleeve shirt as the weather gets chilly once the sun disappears.
As I already mentioned above, the total price for the Dune Buggy tours in Huacachina ranges from 30 soles / 9 USD / 8 EUR to 60 soles / 18 USD / 16 EUR per person.
Don’t overpay! Booking a tour on the spot in Huacachina is usually cheaper than pre-arranging it online.
3. Huacachina Sunset: hunting for the best spot
If you opt to do Dune Buggy ride tour earlier in the day or perhaps arrive in Huacachina in the late afternoon, you can still watch beautiful Huacachina sunset!
The dunes on the left next to the buggies parking are perfect for staying at, drink your beer and watch the sunset changing sand’s colour from beige to gold to amber to red.
These dunes are the crowded ones due to the approximate location to many hotels and hostels in Huacachina. I’d recommend you to start hiking at least 30 to 45 minutes before sunset time as those sand dunes only seem to be easy to conquer.
Spoiler alert: it’s hard to reach the top! Your feet will keep falling into the sand, making it’s more challenging to pull your feet out after each step. This climb uphill will easily replace one HIIT workout and burn one Pisco Sour you drank that day.
Alternatively, there are dozens of higher dunes on the other side with fewer people. Perhaps you’d want to challenge yourself to climb them for unforgettable and truly spectacular Huacachina Sunset.
4. Partying it up in the oasis: Huacachina’s nightlife
Do you know that Huacachina party is a heart of Peruvian nightlife? Huacachina Party is wild, period.
I was surprised, just like you! Even though I was warned that nights there might get wild, I never thought I’d end up staying there for 4 nights
destroying my liver drinking happy hour Pisco Sours and dancing on the tables until my feet hurt.
All thanks to *notorious* Wild Rover Hostel. If you don’t know, it’s the most famous party hostel chain in Peru. And arguably the craziest Wild Rover is located in Huacachina, in the middle of beautiful lagoon.
When everyone is done dancing and hooking up at Wild Rover at 2 am, people move… ta-dam, next door! There is a night club right there, you pay the entrance fee for foreigners and get a free drink.
Inside you’ll find equally drunk yet non-aggressive backpackers and Peruvians befriending each other. At the same time, they both pretend to dance to absolutely random music until 6 am. That’s pretty much how Huacachina Party happens every day.
Craving those nighttime munchies? You will find couple local eateries open at night, including a food bus just outside Wild Rover. Get your burgers, fries, skewers and other local snacks there as you finish your 10th Pisco Sour.
If you want to escape the party and have a quiet night sleep (which is impossible in Wild Rover), book your accommodation on the other side of the oasis. You will thank me next morning as you wake up energised and ready to start your day. Meanwhile, partygoers like me and other backpackers will crawl back to their coffin-like dorm beds in Wild Rover to catch on some sleep.
5. Fancy a Wine and Pisco Tour in Ica?
Can you believe that just a few years ago there wasn’t much happening in Huacachina? Now it’s famous for buggy rides, partying, wine and Pisco tours and tourists flooded this small oasis.
I firmly believe Pisco is one of the national treasuries of Peru along with Machu Picchu, ceviche and Lomo Saltado. You must try this grape brandy with 30% to 45% alcohol, which is the main ingredient for most of the cocktails in Peru.
Pisco Tour Tip: The best time for this activity would be March to May as you can also witness famous grape-stomping. If you are visiting Peru in different months, then you can still visit distilleries and vineyards to learn more about Pisco-making process.
Well, I travelled to Peru in summer, so I failed to see beautiful grape plantations as there are no crops in August. However, my friends and I had the most fantastic lunch. Then we sampled one Pisco after another, trying over 10 different variations, in El Catador winery/distillery. There is even Pisco ice cream available at nearby shops.
The cost of Pisco Tour in Huacachina, Ica for half-day starts at 50 soles / 15 USD / 14 EUR per person. It includes transportation, guided tour (either in English or Spanish) to two different vineyards.
6. A leisurely stroll around the Huacachina oasis
Have a few spare hours in between the tours? Then I highly recommend you to wander around Huacachina Oasis on foot. It will take you 1-1.5h to explore this small quiet town with extremely chill vibes. And you can sit by the lake at one of the cafés around to sip on a fresh smoothie.
But wait, there is more! You can even dive into a history of Huacachina oasis as you visit the state of a half-naked mermaid. The legend says there was a beautiful Inca Princess Huacca China, which means The Girls Who Cry in the Quechua language.
She was a naive young lady, who was approached by a male hunter, when she took off her clothes to bathe (I mean… anyone showers fully-clothed?). She saw his image in the mirror and fled the area, leaving behind her mirror, which then became a lake. But just as with other city legends, there are a few more versions of this legend.
Nonetheless, strolling around Huacachina Oasis is relaxing and calming thing to do in a desert. You can even kayak in the lake, but it’s so small that perhaps staying outside and watching people is more fun.
Walking around Huacachina tip: If you pull out 50 soles banknote, you will see Huacachina Oasis on it! It makes a pretty cool photo comparison you can try it yourself.
7. Visit the local market and try local food for less than 2 USD
People who love to eat are always the best, as Julia Child said once. And I can’t agree anymore! The local market is narrow and small, compared to the ones you come across in Cusco or Lima. However, it is just as charming, touristy and occasionally local when you take one of the narrow turns and get lost.
If you are a backpacker or travelling Peru on a budget, you need to look out for local eateries spread across this tiny oasis. I found that hole-in-a-wall kind of places serves enormous portions, and their “Menu del Dia” usually doesn’t cost more than 2 USD.
I have never gotten a food poisoning during my travels in Peru even though I ate in some ridiculous diners. The credits go to my iron stomach and choosing places where they cook right in front of you (when it’s 2×2 m space you really see everything, don’t you?).
8. Yummy in my tummy: Where to eat in Huacachina
Look, Huacachina is a small oasis, and people usually spend only 1 day there. Thus eating is included in one of the things to do in Huacachina, okay? Because that’s what I did. I kept trying different places during my 4-day stay there and can share Top 5 restaurants in Huacachina.
I mentioned about local market foods, which is the number 1 choice for most backpackers in Peru. However, if you don’t fancy it, you can visit these restaurants instead:
- Wild Olive Trattoria & Guest House – Pricey but lovely Italian restaurant with a lake view. Mostly liked by western tourists.
- La Casa de Bamboo – I had my breakfast there for 2 days in a row. Maybe slow service but still a decent venue for a meal.
- Wild Rover’s Hostel – You can eat there and chill by the pool if your lodging doesn’t have any. But it will be blasting music from 11 am and hungover backpackers around getting another pint of beer.
- Restaurant Oasis de América – Tired of street food? Then get ready to splash on a meal in this restaurant. Jokes, it’s not as expensive as cafés in Lima. 20-25 soles for a set menu.
- Desert Nights Restaurant and Bar – Mostly international food, big portions (to be honest, I was never even served a small meal in Peru).
Well, that’s about it really. Most of the cafés and restaurants open from 10 am and close rather early. You can get night time bites from a food bus next to Wild Rover Hostel.
If you are up for a walk around the oasis, check the menus, see which place appeals the most to you. This will take you 20-min in total. Enjoy your meal!
9. A Day trip to Paracas and Islas Balletas
Stay in Huacachina for 2 or more days? Then you can make it a base for your day trips! You can visit Islas Ballestas, aka Poor Man’s Galapagos, and Paracas National Reserve. It’s one of the rare places on earth where you see the desert and the sea coming together.
Located just 1.5h away from Huacachina, they make a perfect destination for a day trip!
Bonus points if you are a wildlife lover! By taking a boat trip to Islas Ballestas, you can watch Humboldts Penguins and turtles, seabirds and sea lions minding their own business.
Playa Roja is a pretty spectacular beach. There are a couple more famous beaches of Paracas National Reserve. Still, most of them aren’t swim-friendly due to jellyfish and the jagged coastline. Be careful!
Expect to pay 25 soles / 7.5 USD /7 EUR per person for a boat trip, if it’s not included in your tour. You will need to pay port tax and entry to the National park separately (Peruvian “tradition” to have separate payments for everything). Then again, hop around different tour companies to see which ones can offer better prices.
While you can attempt a DIY trip, it’s sometimes easier to just pay for a pre-arranged tour.
10. A Day trip to the Nazca Lines
Have you ever heard of those mysterious ancient geoglyphs in Peru? Yes, I’m talking about the Nazca Lines! To this day, scientists, archaeologists and ordinary people try to find an answer to the origins of the Nazca Lines. What’s their purpose?
UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994, the Nazca Lines continue to attract thousands of tourists travelling in Peru. It’s not every day that you can access mysteries earth drawing dating back to 5th century.
Though keep in mind that Nazca isn’t a particularly budget- or backpacker-friendly destination. Simply because the best view of the lines is accessible from an aerial view, which will cost you a minimum of 300 Soles/ 88 USD / 80 EUR, excluding additional charges and tax. You will be up in the air on the tiny plane for 30 minutes.
Day trip to the Nazca Lines Tip: Pre-book your day trip to Nazca a few days ahead. You must bring your original passport with you, and a good camera to capture the magnificent views of the Nazca Lines. Peru Hop and FindLocalTrips offer a good deal, check it out.
11. Wait, what about paragliding?
Surprise-surprise! Soar high above the desert oasis as you paraglide over Huacachina. This is another form of extreme adventure. If you are down to try it, prepare to pay about 380 soles / 118 USD /104 EUR for the tour.
You can learn more about this tour on FB page of Icaro Paragliding. Have fun!
12. Chill by the swimming pool in your hotel or hostel
This one is short: Huacachina is a desert, so it gets hot there during the day! Paying for lodging with a swimming pool will be an investment in your wellness and happiness, I swear. Put your feet up and enjoy the view, sip on your cocktail or smoothie. Meet other guest and be social, after solo travel is about meeting people from all over the world!
I met a group of young Peruvian students in my dorm in Wild Rover, and they were the main reason I stayed in Huacachina for 4 days instead of 2. We had so much fun together! Literally spent all time together, including heading back to Lima AND hanging out there until my flight to Europe. Solo travelling is fantastic, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to meet awesome people.
And that’s my take on things to do in Huacachina, Peru. Usually, people spend 1 to 2 days in this small oasis, and weekends are the busiest as local young Peruvians from Lima visit Huacachina.
Let me know what you enjoyed the most during your stay there. Have fun!