Update: I originally wrote this post right after I visited Huacachina back in November 2016. I was able to come back in November 2019 and boy, have things changed. I wanted to keep the essence of the original article while adding updated information that might be useful, so the original article remains in normal text while I’ve added updated information in bold lettering.
Huacachina is a cool, little desert oasis just outside of Ica. I’ve never seen an actual oasis before, so despite Huacachina being a tiny town of maybe 100 residents, it still blew my mind. I planned for it to be a quick stop on my tear through southwestern Peru, but it almost managed to drag me for significantly longer than I expected.
The Best Things To Do in Huacachina
What attracts people to Huacachina is none other than the surprisingly scary and strenuous sport of sand boarding. It’s like snowboarding but you have to trudge up sand dunes for several brutal minutes for a few exhilarating seconds… unless you’re like most tourists who underestimate the difficulty of it and end up going down on their butts the entire way. Huacachina is surrounded by huge sand dunes, and even bigger ones are just a heart-pumping dune buggy ride away.
Simply popping into Huacachina will attract every tour guide in town, so don’t bother trying to plan anything beforehand. Dune buggies and sand boards are plentiful and easily accessible.
In the three years since I’ve written this post, I returned to Huacachina and things have definitely changed. Aside from dune-buggying and sandboarding, both of which have soared in popularity, you can also do things like paragliding or even skydiving. A tour of a pisco vineyard is also a popular tourist tack-on to try to get people to stay for longer than they need to in this small town.
Check out my sand boarding and dune buggying video here.
How To Get To Huacachina
First off, how do you get to Huacachina? Peru’s bus system is probably the most reliable and comfortable in all of South America, so I highly recommend just taking a bus. Find one that is going to Ica, which will be about 4 hours from Lima, an hour from Paracas, or 10-12 hours from Arequipa. Once you get to the bus terminal in Ica, take a taxi or tuk-tuk to the oasis of Huacachina. If you’re lugging around a big backpack, you honestly don’t even need to tell the driver where you’re going. It’s a quick ride and shouldn’t cost more than 10 soles.
Another option is to take PeruHop, which many travelers on a fast pace choose to do. It is one of the most convenient ways I have ever traveled, and Huacachina is set up perfectly for PeruHop passengers. You get a discount at the new Wild Rover hostel and get picked up right at the hostel right at the 1 PM checkout. Whether you’re doing a quick cycle through Peru or doing the full south all the way down to Cusco, PeruHop serves as a convenient alternative to normal bus transport.
Where To Stay in Huacachina
Staying in the actual town by the oasis is pretty cool, but there’s really only one decent hostel in town, which is Banana’s Adventure. It’s quite pricy (because it includes an activity, your choice between dune buggy and sandboarding, a winery trip, or a ticket to their pretty poppin’ barbecue) but worth it for a night or two. It was one of my favorite hostels I stayed at, mostly because I hadn’t had a chance to sit by a pool in weeks at this point. There are other, significantly cheaper accommodations throughout town, but I can’t speak for how nice they are. Besides, most backpackers stay at Banana’s Adventure, so for a solo traveler like me with an insatiable itch for social interaction, that was the most reasonable option.
When I was in Huacachina three years ago, Banana’s Adventure was quite literally the only option for backpackers. There was one other cheap hostel next door but Banana’s was the place to be. When I came back in November 2019, there were dozens and dozens more accommodation options. Wild Rover opened a location in Huacachina, arguably the best one of their party hostel chain.
There is also now more than one nightclub in the village. Why does Huacachina need more than one? I don’t know, but now there are multiple. Development in Huacachina has really accelerated thanks to the tourism boom that was unfathomable to me.
When I went on a sunset mission to the big dune three years ago, there was a grand total of four of us backpackers up there. Not a dune buggy was in sight. When I went this year, there were close to a hundred people along the dunes and hundreds more surfing the dunes in the dune buggies. It felt like watching a go-kart course in the desert with how many dune buggies were out there. There’s even a huge dune buggy parking lot just above the city. None of that was there three years ago.
So in short, Huacachina has changed a lot and is constantly changing. That’s not to take away from how great of a destination Huacachina is. Those desert sunsets are something else and the party scene is surprisingly wild.
There really isn’t much else to say about Huacachina. It is a quiet town during the day, and possibly quieter at night. There is a club, Huacafuckingchina, but it is consistently empty and only filled with other tourists and backpackers. The town is only good for about a day or two, unless you move slowly or are taking some time off between any of Peru’s incredible, but tough, treks. It is 100% worth the visit, though, and make sure you catch the sunset from the top of one of the bigger sand dunes. It is beautiful, and seeing how massive the desert is, catching a good view of the town, and sharing a beer with your amigos is well worth the extreme difficulty of hiking up sand.