Mancora, Perú is a short 8 hr ride from Cuenca, and the best place I’ve found to escape when Cuenca decides to rain and freeze the buns off one poor gringa with lamentably poor circulation.
Check out my video tour Mancora, Peru video tour
The main action is the principal street running through town (avenida Piura), and the pedestrian only Malecon leading off Avenida Piura to the beach. There you’ll find a touristy mix of travel agencies, restaurants, handicraft shops, and sandal/bathing suit stores. The travel agencies sell buses to nearby Piura, or epic überbuses with flat beds to take you to Colombia, Lima, Cuzco and beyond, not a bad option if you can sleep for 2 days straight. The restaurants are an eclectic mix of seafood, seafood and more seafood. No, but really you can find Italian (with shrimp pasta), Pizza shacks (seafood pizza anyone?), Sushi (did I mention seafood?), and the token American coffee cafe (which also serves ceviche).
The party area is about 6 dive bars all side by side overlooking the Mancora Beach, unfortunately competing at night whose speakers are loudest, such that you can get some interesting “fusion” music experiences standing outside. Reggaeton and other music that will make the young drunk and hyphy, and will likely give the older generation a veritable headache. Another tip, unless you plan to join the party and close the bar every night I strongly recommend finding a hotel not in the town center. reggaeton music travels surprisingly far (plus the buses and mototaxis are really loud too).
The beaches are the star attraction really. The main beach of Mancora can be too crowded, although its the best place to find ceviche, and take surfing or kitesurfing lessons. If you walk south along the beach you will quickly find the crowds tapering off. Get past the fish dock and marina (smells like fish in the bad sorta way), keep walking and you’ll reach Las Pocitas Beach (where rocky outcroppings form cool pools for soaking without the waves). Another 45 minutes and you will find yourself at El Mirador de Vichayito, my personal favorite beach here, where the lack if people, sandy beaches and slightly warmer water make it ideal for swimming. The Mirador and attached hotel has a nice sushi restaurant, a bar and comfy lounge chairs. Another hour, and you can arrive in Playa Oreganos (which has its own small town center). Mancora to Oreganos is total 13 km, so it makes for a nice all-day beach hike. To get back from Oreganos, take a mototaxi (15soles) or a shared “carrito” (3 soles) – the cars that will yell out their destination (Mancora! Mancora!) and leave when they are crammed full (6 people in a compact, plus one dude in the trunk.
Before you leave, make sure to try all the local specialties. The restaurants along the beach are a great place to try the local food, although it can all taste the same after a while. For a more upscale experience my favorite was La Sirena de Juan, along the main road.
- Parijuela-a savory seafood soup with fish, shrimp, calamari
- Jalea mixto – a deep fried whole fish topped with mixed deep-fried seafood
- Majarisco mixto- mixed seafood mixed with fried green plantains
- Ceviche-raw seafood “cooked” in lime, usually server with “chifles” or banana chips.
- Tiradito-raw fish like ceviche but served in a strong garlicky /mustardy sauce
- Camote-a side dish of sweet yucca
- Jugo surtido-mixed juice, get papaya, melon, pineapple super fresh
- Pisco sour -the trademark drink of Peru, made with egg whites
I took the Pullmam Sucre bus there ($15) which drove 4 hrs to Huaquillas where we had to transfer to a CiFA bus, the second bus drive us to the immigration office (10 minutes from Huaquillas) where we all got off to do our paperwork and wait in a horrifically long line (tip, do NOT go on a Friday). 2 hrs later, the bus leaves immigration. A brief stop later we go through customs (ie get off bus, walk through building and leave 5 minutes later). 4 more hours and the bus pulls into Mancora, total travel time including immigration 10 hrs. To retutn I caught the overnight semicama bus (60 soles) but no stop in Huaquillas and immigration was much faster in the dead of a Thursday night. Total travel time 7.5 hrs.None found.