Updated March 3rd, 2020.
Imagine an oasis in the middle of the desert with massive sand dunes all around that doubles up as one of the coolest backpacker hangouts in Peru! Welcome to Huacachina… where adventure, partying and relaxation delight!
Just half an hour from the city of Ica, the ‘oasis’ has become a popular resort destination for locals and travellers alike. Despite its popularity – whether you’re young or old, newbie backpacker or hardened traveller, it’s hard not to like the laid-back charms of Huacachina.
Head off into the dunes in a sand buggy for a crazy sand boarding experience or just climb the dunes in the early evening and watch the crimson sunset looking down onto the perfect palm-tree fringed oasis.
There are also trips to nearby wineries and pisco distilleries that will have you feeling merry in the early afternoon, or how about a visit to the nearby Islas de Ballestas to see penguins and seals at play? After a fun-packed day, head back to your lively backpacker hostel for a BBQ and a few more Chilcanos (pisco cocktails).
Where to stay in Huacachina?
The town is small and there are several hostels that are all within walking distance of each other.
Our pick: Bananas Adventure Hostel
Bananas has a great atmosphere, friendly staff and a cool set up. Backpackers hang out around the small pool during the day and chat by the outdoor bar in the evenings – it’s a social kind of place and many people book tours to the sand dunes or wine trips as part of an accommodation package. The rooms are extremely comfortable and the whole stay is very good value.
Located right in front of the oasis, Desert Nights Hostel is in the perfect spot. There is a great outside communal area to hang out in and a pool for guest use. Beds are comfortable and the showers have hot water. Guests get 10% discount in the restaurant and bar. A dorm bed starts at 25 soles per person.
This is a good option for travellers looking to party. They have an outdoor pool and evening activities for guests. The staff are friendly and helpful and can also help guests organise tours. As you would expect from any good party hostel, there is also a bar with happy hour deals. Not the place if you are looking for a quiet night! Dorms start at 29 soles.
This relatively new hostel is attached to an Italian restaurant, where guests benefit from a 10% discount. There are great communal areas for meeting other travellers as well as a large kitchen where you are able to cook. Breakfast is included in the room rate and even includes a pancake option! Both dorms and private rooms are available, starting at 30 soles for a dorm and 100 for a private.
Check out more hostels in Huacachina on Booking.com.
Things to do in Huacachina
The number one adventure in Huacachina that is not to be missed! For just 30 soles ($10 USD!) you can book a sand-boarding tour from your hostel. The tours take place in the late afternoon / early evening when the heat of the day has died down and the sand won’t burn your feet!
The trip lasts three hours and may just be the most fun you’ve had since you were a kid! You’ll head to the dunes on a dune buggy… which is all part of the adventure, as you are tossed from side to side teetering of sand cliffs and praying that the roll cage will save you.
Your driver then deposits you at various height dunes, starting small to big (the last one is huge!) and you just… go! No training, no helmet or knee pads, it’s just you and the board! Whether you choose to stand up to slide down or go head first on your stomach – you’ll end up going faster than you anticipated! It is a little scary and so much fun!
Wine and Pisco Tours can be booked from your hostel or arranged with a local agency. You’ll spend an afternoon sampling local Peruvian liquor, Pisco, and a whole load of sweet Peruvian wines! To be honest, you might not learn that much about how the Pisco is actually made (depending on which winery you visit) – but you are guaranteed to get a little tipsy and have a fun day with some very entertaining tour guides!
The famous cocktail, Pisco Sour (made of Pisco, lime juice, syrup, egg white and angostura bitters) is obviously a must try whilst in the area!
Visit Islas de Ballestas
From Huacachina, you can take early morning trips to this ‘Galapagos Islands of Peru’ where you’ll see seals, penguins and various other seabirds. Trips leave around 5 am from Huacachina and get back around 2 pm, with a boat ride taking around an hour and a half. You won’t get off the boat during the trip and it’s more of a ‘looking from the boat’ kind of experience – but a pleasant one – just make sure you haven’t done the wine tour the day before!
Drive a 4WD, ATV or Dune Buggy
Although being driven in a dune buggy is usually included in most sandboarding tours, there is also the option of renting one of the above for a driving adventure over the dunes. You will be shown the route by a professional guide who is on hand to keep you safe and to stop you running anyone over! Although this is quite a pricey experience, (from $75USD per person) it is sure to be a fun couple of hours!
Best places to eat and drink in Huacachina
Desert oasis Huacachina is a destination built on tourism. As a result, food and drink options tend to be more expensive than elsewhere in Peru. Expect to pay upwards of 15 soles for a set menu lunch and around 25 soles for a western main. Happy hour deals are a common sight and will be promoted by many bars in the area – now you have no excuse to turn down that drink!
Bananas Adventure Restaurant
Bananas is so good, it gets the honour of being featured in our destination guide not just once but twice! Not only is this the best choice for backpackers in Huacachina but there is also an amazing restaurant on site that is open to the public as well as guests. Serving both Peruvian and international dishes for reasonable prices, Bananas prides itself on delicious food and good portion sizes. Vegan and veggie options are available. Don’t forget to check out the mammoth barbecue buffet that they offer nightly.
HFC Resto Bar (more commonly known as Hucacf**kingchina)
Located directly opposite the Huacachina oasis, this is your usual type of tourist bar. However, the staff here succeed in making HFC a cut above the rest. Whilst the food is nothing special, this is a great choice for a few drinks.
Waiter Javier is without a doubt the bar’s main asset, he is simply hilarious and will go out of his way to make sure you enjoy your time there. Happy hours are dotted all over the clock (potentially from the moment you walk through the door) which makes it a good choice for cocktails. Be warned though, these are strong!
La Casa de Bamboo
Serving food around the clock, La Casa de Bamboo offers well-priced food in a cute setting. There are gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes which are every bit as tasty as the meat versions. The menu is varied and offers the chance to try quirky spin-offs of traditional Peruvian dishes. The mushroom saltado comes highly recommended! For all of you craving western favourites, they also serve burgers and pizza which you can customise to your own tastes.
Where to go next?
Paracas: This beach-resort town has a decent beach, some great hostels, a national park and an elongated head museum! (You have to see it to believe it.) It’s super easy to visit Islas Ballestas from here. If you’re heading back to Lima, it’s a great place to chill out for a few days by the sea.
Nasca: Famous for the mysterious ‘Nasca Lines‘, there’s little else to do in this town apart from going to see the lines! You can either climb to the top of a rickety viewing tower to see a few of the shapes or take a small light aircraft to see the lines in all their glory. Prices start around $70 USD for a flight and the lines are around one hour outside of Nasca City. Around two hours from Huacachina.
Cusco: The ancient Inca capital in the mountains is the cultural heart of Peru and is not to be missed on a backpacker trip to Peru! Gateway to the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu and a beautiful colonial city to explore with great restaurants and a rich culture. An overnight bus of 17 hours from Huacachina.
Arequipa: The white city is just an overnight bus ride away – around 10 hours. You’ll find great restaurants, nightlife and opportunities for trekking in the breathtaking Colca Canyon.