When you think of luxurious beach resorts in northern Peru, what comes to mind first? If you’re like most Limeños, you think of Punta Sal. You might head to nearby Máncora for a night on the town or a fancy meal, but the truly exclusive stretch of beach in these parts is Punta Sal.
Many years ago, Punta Sal was the secret getaway for rich Limeños, who were able to invest in building vacation homes on beachfront properties, and over time a number of luxury hotels have sprung up along the coastline. Because the area occupied by Punta Sal is so expansive, there plenty of resorts located away from the crowds, a quick drive or taxi ride away from the center of town.
The good news for travelers like myself is that Punta Sal’s magic is easily accessible and available for people of all budgets. It’s against the law to prohibit access to water and carve away private beaches, so these long stretches of sand are open game for visitors.
Even still, Punta Sal does require a commitment to visit. If you have a car, life is easier; you can drive down to the waterfront, passing through a security control as you leave the Panamerican Highway.
If you’re coming on public transportation like me, don’t worry, there are plenty of mototaxis and shared colectivo taxis waiting to take us down to the water. The frequent shuttles between Tumbes and Máncora pass right by the entrance to Punta Sal.
Although there are miles and miles upon MILES of accessible coastline throughout northern Peru (as well as several beaches like Canoas de Punta Sal that are close to the highway and perfectly nice places to spend an afternoon), I suggest you check out Punta Sal for yourself. You can hang out with the crowds right at the entrance to the beach, or you can do what I did and spend about 30 minutes wandering down the coast, accessing your own exclusive beaches.
As you keep walking past the vacation homes, you’ll see only a couple of hotels along the way, and then suddenly, you’ll just see the cliffs behind you. But if you’re like me, you’ll be paying more attention to the beautiful pristine ocean views spreading out in front of you.
Although this region is known for its year-round sunny skies, the El Niño phenomenon meant there were a lot of clouds during my visit, but thankfully, the skies started to clear as the day went on and I was able to appreciate the sunshine and blue skies.
There are lovely pockets of rocks where you can relax in the warm pools of water, as the gentle waves flow over you. It was here that I ran into a friendly couple saying they’d found their throne, and asking me to snap a picture of them appreciating this natural luxury. For the record there were only about five people on this stretch of beach!
Continuing along my way, I chose to just observe the vastness of the ocean. I watched the seabirds flying over the water and waded into the water. For some reason, when I travel, I appreciate this sense of near-isolation, as it provides me a chance to truly take in and appreciate our natural surroundings and the wide, wide world we live in.
Seriously, is this an exclusive beach or what? You could spend the whole day just listening to the waves crash on the shore while reading a book in the soft sand.
Awww! I thought this little guy was so adorable. I forget his name in Spanish, but it translates to something like “useless crab” because he’s not one of the ones worth eating! This photo also shows you just how amazingly fine the sand is. This makes the beach pretty pristine!
While I was soaking it all in, the couple I met earlier caught up to me and invited me to have lunch with them in their family’s beach house! Yet another one of those random travel opportunities, and a chance to experience the luxury of Peruvian beach culture from the inside. As I mentioned on Instagram, I felt rejuvenated from hearing the stories of people two and three times my age and connecting for a brief moment in time.
After a lovely afternoon on the beaches of Punta Sal, it was time to head back to my hostel in Zorritos. I was totally smitten with Punta Sal’s more hidden corners. If you decide to visit, be sure to leave the main stretch of beach and keep on walking to the sandy white beaches just a short wander away.
Recommendations for Punta Sal, Tumbes, Peru:
- Although I was not a fan of overrated Máncora, I would still argue that it’s worth visiting Punta Sal. Unless you’re staying in one of the luxury resorts right in Punta Sal, you’ll probably base yourself in Máncora, or, if you’re like me, Zorritos to the north. There are frequent van shuttles (combis) that run between Tumbes and Máncora, as well as some that do the shorter, more lucrative run just between Punta Sal and Máncora. Just wait for a bus on the Panamerican Highway.
- To enter Punta Sal, get off your bus at the entrance shown in the photo below. There are mototaxis waiting to take you down to the beachfront that cost about S./3. You’ll have to pass a security checkpoint, just a way to keep that exclusive feeling within the community.
- The mototaxi will drop you off at the main entrance to the beach. Although I didn’t spend much time wandering around the main part of town, I noticed a number of restaurants and other shops. Walking food vendors are technically not allowed on the beach so you’ll have to head into town to buy a snack.
- As I have mentioned a few times, be sure to walk beyond the main section of public beach in the direction of Máncora, past the resorts and vacation homes, and get to the wide open stretches of beaches with very few visitors. It only takes about 30 minutes to walk that far but the pristine sand is totally worth it!
- There are several other beaches in the area. The exclusive resorts are located to the north of the public beach and even have their own special entrance. You can also reach the beachfront by stopping in Canoas de Punta Sal, also known as Cancas, and you’ll notice that Tumbes locals tend to enjoy the beaches there. They aren’t too crowded, are right off the Panamerican, and there are lots of small shops on the route. You can see a map and some information about entry points (in Spanish) here.
- If you’re looking for another amazing beach without having to go this far north, I highly recommend visiting Tortugas near Casma, Peru.
- Just FYI: When you enter the department of Tumbes north of Máncora, you will go through a immigration/customs checkpoint. If your van happens to be stopped, you will need to show ID and they will ask for your immigration card. Be sure to have it with you!
[Punta Sal, Tumbes, Peru: January 31, 2016]
Entrance to Punta Sal