A Huacachina sandboarding tour is a lot of fun – even is you aren’t into sandboarding (and actually, even if you don’t really know what that is!). I knew very little about sandboarding, not to mention about Huacaghina, before I visited, but quickly decided to join in the fun when offered the opportunity to do it.
I was touring Peru with my friends when we heard about Peru’s Oasis in the desert, and since we were in Ica on our way to Nazca, we decided to check it out. We were expecting to find a heavenly place, away from everything, and instead found Huacachina to be a very popular destination for backpackers and adventure travelers, drawn by the chance of some adrenaline filled activities. With them, came plastic and more pollution than you’d hope for – pictures of the pond in the oasis may portray it as a pristine place; but the putrid stench that comes off the water is truly less than pristine.
But we didn’t regret visiting. In fact, I recommend you go – even if just for a day. If you know what to expect and lower your expectation about the actual oasis, and focus your attention on the sand dunes, you will get the best that the place has to offer: breathtaking sand dunes as the perfect backdrop for an adrenaline filled day.
Curious to discover more about Huacachina and what it has to offer? Continue reading and I will tell you how to pick your Huacachina sandboarding tour, and how to plan your visit.
Why Visit Huacachina?
Huacachina is situated in the middle of a coastal desert. Located around five kilometers from Ica (about three miles), the village of Huacachina – the name meaning “Hidden Lagoon” – is actually built around a beautiful oasis that is surrounded by towering sand dunes. It’s this natural setting that draws visitors from far and wide.
The village itself is tiny – home to just a hundred people – but thousands of tourists make their way here every year.
The lagoon itself is a rich green color, dyed by the lush vegetation that surrounds it. The whole scene is completely tranquil: devoid of vehicles and with a mild year-round climate, it’s climbed high up on the bucket lists of many travelers.
People are drawn here not only for the nature, but also because of the world class sandboarding that you can get up to here. Anybody who is keen on skiing or snowboarding, or any other adventure sport, should definitely have this place in mind.
What To Do In Huacachina
There are a number of different ways to spend your time in Huacachina, most of them sand-related. Peru has many sand dunes (there are some incredible ones near Nazca, and even up north, close to Trujullo), but none of them are quite as amazing as those found in the region surrounding Huacachina.
Here you can slide down, or otherwise explore some of the tallest sand dunes in the whole of South America – and there are a couple of the best ways to do it.
Dune buggy tours
Dubbed carro tubular (literally “tubular car”), hiring out a dune buggy is an exceptionally adventurous way to hit the dunes at full speed. When my friends and I did it, we laughed so much (and screamed just as much) that our stomachs hurt at the end of the ride!
These orange dune buggies are one of the best things to do – especially if you’re a fan of life in the fast lane. While sandboarding allows you to slide down, dune buggies give you the scope of driving up the dunes too.
However, you won’t be driving them (may I add: thankfully so!). These are driven by professionals, trained drivers who know how to tackle the slopes, while you are seated behind them, or next to them.
Tours in these dune buggies accommodate up to six people. And will lead you to some of the top sights around the dunes, taking you to overlooks to get some astounding vistas out across the desert.
It’s best done in the early morning or late afternoon. If you really like your thrills turned all the way to 11, one top tip is to take a seat right at the back, as you’ll be thrown around more than if you sit directly behind the driver. But don’t do it if you are afraid!
Sandboarding in Huacachina
Aside from the dune buggies, sandboarding is the main event at Huacachina. The mountain-like sand dunes to be found here are probably the closest sand equivalent to snow as you’ll find, so keen snowboarders should love it. It’s literally just like snowboarding, except it’s sand – not snow.
And if you’re a big fan of skiing, then don’t worry: you can also embark on sand skiing. Huacachina is such a destination for sandboarding (and skiing) that it is often listed on the top places in the world for hitting the sandy slopes.
If you’re not skilled at boarding, whether that be sand or snow, you can opt to lie down on a board and slide down on your stomach – no practice or special abilities needed – though be ready to get lots of sand on your face, hair, ears, mouth… you name it! That’s what I did for the first few rides, and it was fun – but then I tired sandboarding (some companies will offer a short training) and it was simply the thing!
What You Must Know About Huacachina Sandboarding
Cost of sandboarding in Huacachina
No matter where you are in town (and it’s a small town), you will come across people trying to tout you sandboarding tours or rentals. But be warned: there are signs in shops and elsewhere that advise you to not buy tours from touts. That is because they are illegal.
The best thing to do if you want to go sandboarding – especially for the first time – is to opt for a tour company that comes with plenty of good reviews.
There are also some amazing shops in town, such as Dito Sand Xsports, which is run by a sandboarding champion who will give you advice and kit you out with the best stuff to suit your needs.
Sandboarding tours around the dunes usually cost around $20 – $25 USD, which offers up to two hours of sandboarding with a guide. Some tours will include a dune buggy tour too, and those are a bit more expensive.
Choosing a Huacachina Sandboarding Tour
The best way to choose a Huacachina sandboarding tour that is right for you is to read reviews. Reviews will tell you everything you need to know about a company.
But first things first: what kind of tour you should opt for depends on your ability. For example, if you haven’t got any experience sandboarding, then you will need to go out with an instructor.
You can book your sandboarding tour that includes some training with an expert here.
There are some sandboarding schools in town that will arrange not just for the rental of equipment, but for a tour as well. Opting for a service like this will get you clued up to feel safe when you’re out on the dunes. The bonus is that you’ll be learning a new skill as well!
Most tours start with you getting sized up and fitted with your professional board and boots. And you’ll also have the option of signing up for either an individual or group lesson. The cost of tours includes the hire of skis and boards, and the rest of the equipment (boots, poles, helmets, etc.). It is also the norm for tours to have more than one guide – depending on the size of the group.
This sort of sandboarding tour allows you up to 3 hours on the beginner slopes, and will sometimes also include a dune buggy ride.
When it comes to booking a tour, it’s a good idea to book it in advance to ensure that you are able to read reviews before you choose. It is also a good idea to pre-book to make sure that you have a spot guaranteed.
Best time of day for Huacachina sandboarding
Since this is a desert we’re talking about, the climate is usually pretty warm. However, temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day – from roasting highs and chilly evenings.
Most of the time, it would be best to schedule your trip to the dunes for the morning (around 8:30 am) to avoid the heat of the day. Alternatively, you could opt to go in the late afternoon (4:30 pm) so that you are also able to catch cooler climates as well as a beautiful sunset.
What to wear for Huacachina Sandboarding
Make sure to gear up appropriately when sandboarding in Huacachina. Here are a few items to consider:
- Long sleeve shirt – It’s good for when it’s cold, and it stops you getting burnt so much in the sun
- Close-toed shoes – Protect your feet from the hot sand
- Scarf – To protect your mouth from the sand
- Loose fitting clothes – Allow for air flow and also help protect from the sun’s UV rays
- Long thick socks – For the sandboarding boots (a must)
- Shorts or trousers with pockets – Something where you can keep your money, phone, etc. safe will work fine.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Huacachina
There are a few other things you should know when it comes to visiting Huacachina, which should help your journey run a little smoother.
How long to stay in Huacachina – can you visit on day trips?
It’s a good idea to stay in Huacachina for at least one night. But, I would recommend staying two or three nights. The beautiful setting means being able to experience the natural environment, and having more time means you get to take it all in without having to rush. You can also use Huacachina as a base to explore other places – ie Ica, Paracas and Pisco.
Plus, if you end up liking sandboarding you may want to stay even longer to hone your skills out on the dunes!
However, it is possible to visit Huacachina on a day trip from Lima. There are many options for full-day tours from the capital to this sandboarding wonderland. If you opt for a tour, make sure to do research on the different companies and read reviews. Tours departing from Lima will also typically include a tour of the Islas Ballestas and some even go to Nazca.
If you’d rather opt for a private tour, click here.
For a tour that also includes a flight over the Nazca Lines, click here.
How to get to Huacachina
There are many different routes from various towns in Peru that lead to Huacachina. Here are a few of the most common routes.
How to get to Huacachina from Lima
Getting from the Peruvian capital of Lima means a four-hour bus ride to Ica (I recommend Cruz del Sur as it’s the most reliable company with the most comfortable buses), then a taxi ride to Huacachina. While there are no public buses that go directly to Huacachina, it is possible to book a private bus.
Private companies like PeruHop have direct buses between Lima and Huacachina, and booking through them (or other companies) makes the journey smooth and easy. It basically works like a hop-on hop-off bus service, around the country, and it’s perfect even for budget travelers.
How to get to Huacachina from Paracas
If you are in Paracas, you can take the bus to Ica. It takes an hour and a half to reach Ica, after which you have to change to a taxi to reach Huacachina. Alternatively, you could get the PeruHop bus, which is direct and means you won’t have to deal with a taxi from Ica.
How to get to Huacachina from Nazca
Nazca and Huacachina are also connected by PeruHop. The journey takes two and a half hours – simple!
Where to stay in Huacachina, Peru
Even though Huacachina is a small town – or more accurately, a village – there are still a surprising amount of places to stay here, that allow those traveling on all budgets to find something that suits them. Here are a few of the best examples of accommodation in Huacachina.
If you’d rather go glamping in the desert, click here.
One of the most budget-friendly places to stay in Huacachina, this bright and colorful hostel is perfect for your base of operations for your adventures in the dunes. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, making for the perfect place to relax after a day of sandboarding.
Hotel Curasi is another accommodation option in Huacachina that boasts an outdoor pool. This one also comes with its own onsite restaurant for delicious evening meals. Guest rooms here come in a range of types and sizes, and boast views of Huacachina’s central lagoon.
For a more luxurious stay in Huacachina, opt for a room at DM Hoteles Mossone – a former colonial mansion facing the lagoon. It’s an oasis in this oasis town, with lush gardens and palm trees making it feel like the ideal place to chill after a day exploring the dunes. Rooms are clean and polished.
Weather in Huacachina, Peru
Summer in this area, as it does all over Peru, runs between December through March. At this time of year, temperatures in Huacachina can reach 30°C (86°F), and such scorching temperatures will affect what time of day you set out to hit the dunes. Protecting yourself from the sun is important when it’s at its highest, too.
Huacachina is coldest in winter, with August being the chilliest month. Don’t expect snow – temperatures fall only to around 11°C (51°C) at night – you will need to bring layers for the evening.
In terms of rainfall, Huacachina doesn’t see very much. In March, the rainiest month, it receives an average of just 3 millimeters.
For help in planning your trip to Peru, make sure to read these other posts:
- What To Pack For The Inca Trail
- The Best Things To Know Before Visiting Peru
- The Best Things To Do In Peru
- The Best Things To Do In Lima
- Where To Stay In Lima
- A Short Guide To Paracas
- A Guide To Visiting The Islas Ballestas
- The Best Things To Do In Nazca
- A Short Guide To The Nazca Lines Flights
- The Best Hikes In Peru
- A Guide To Hike Marcahuasi